We Get by with a Little Help from our Friends
By Camerin Courtney
Years ago on a Friday night, I sat with my friend Charlotte in a chichi Italian restaurant with tears in our eyes. Contrary to how the scene may have looked to the other diners munching bruschetta and tiramisu at nearby tables, that evening is one of my treasured memories of my friendship with this sister in singlehood.
We'd gathered to celebrate Charlotte's birthday, and we were at such a "swanky" place because my company gives us a gift certificate to a nice local restaurant on our service anniversary every year. Over mahi mahi and cooked-to-perfection pasta, we chatted about work, our families, my new volunteer position, her new dog, and, of course, men. It was when we were nursing after-dinner coffee and sharing some amazing caramel-drizzled dessert that things took a deeper turn. When I asked Charlotte if she had any new love interests, she chatted a little about this neat guy she'd just met at church. But then she got hesitant, and slowly revealed her fear of getting her hopes up again. What was to keep this guy from rejecting her as others had in the past?
With that fear voiced, she stopped talking and her eyes welled up with tears. As she looked away and tried to regain her composure, obviously a bit embarrassed, tears welled in my own eyes. When she heard me sniffle, she realized I was crying too. We smiled at each other through our tears, recognizing we were fellow saps, and I saw relief wash over her face when she realized I wasn't embarrassed or appalled, but that I was right there with her, grieving one of the tough parts of singlehood. This friend and I've shared many singlehood joys together—spontaneous excursions into nearby Chicago, going on vacation together—it seemed so fitting and right to now be sharing some of the not-so-great parts of this life phase.
I was honored that she shared these private fears with me. Not only did it allow me the chance to remind her of what a gem she is and how lucky some guy may be someday to call her his own, it also challenged me to be this real with the messier parts of my life as well—including those occasional singleness-stinks days. Though it's risky to be this vulnerable, it's also so rewarding to see another head nod in recognition of what you're feeling. Getting these things out in the open and allowing others to share our hurts and lift our spirits often takes a lot of the sting out of down days. It's amazing how often we think we're the only one wrestling with a certain problem, and that feeling of aloneness only compounds things. Sometimes hearing a heartfelt, "I feel your pain" or "You deal with that too?" is all we need to turn a corner toward happier days. But we won't hear those things if we don't first share the real us—our joys and our sorrows.
What's great is that by law of averages, we and our friends won't all be having a singleness-stinks day at the same time. Those who are in singleness-rocks mode can cheer us on, help us shift our perspective to the great things about this life stage, sometimes call us on the carpet for the times we just need to quit our whining, and spur us to milk the unique freedoms and blessings that come with singleness.
That's what happened years ago when I came home one day in tears just as my friends were gathering at my apartment with my roommate to celebrate one of the gang's birthdays. I was late and in tears because my then-boyfriend of three years and I'd just broken up. These dear friends listened to my story, gave me a much-needed round of hugs, then helped me laugh and enjoy myself over dinner, red puffy eyes and all. I couldn't think of a better way to handle my grief than spending quality time with dear single sisters in Christ. Surrounded by their friendship and love, I felt hope in the midst of my disappointment and pain.
Being real with the good, bad, and ugly part of life allows us to follow the biblical model for friendship found in Proverbs 17:17—"A friend loves at all times." This means on happy days and sad days, on first-kiss days and breakup days, on singleness-rocks days and singleness-stinks days.
My interactions with Charlotte that Italian-food-filled night became even sweeter when I was driving home and remembered that when I'd received the gift certificate for the restaurant I'd breathed a quick prayer for someone special with whom to share it. Though it may not have been how I'd originally envisioned, God had definitely answered my prayer.