They say friends come into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
A reason, to meet a need you have expressed or just felt.
A season, because your turn has come to share, grow or give back.
A lifetime relationship, it’s to teach you lifetime lessons—things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.
For Sarah a reason or a season meant pain and disappointment. Yet when a lifetime relationship entered her world everything changed.
Enjoy Sarah’s incredibly inspiring story!
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
~Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I have a big heart. I am not bragging, okay maybe I am a little, but I always had a heart that could take many people in at once. I could care about people, and show them the kindness they needed, when they needed it. I have always been able to do that. I think, because I knew so deeply what it is like to feel unloved.
Because of this big heart, I have had some wonderful, beautiful souls in my life; people who have shared with me their pain, their sorrow, and their beauty. There has always been one problem though: I have never been able to let someone know or care about me in return. Not in full. No one knew my life, my fears, or my happiness. Of course, some got closer than others, but never deeper than I would allow them to go.
I just gave people the Coles Notes version of myself.
Some may argue that is was because of some deep-rooted self-protection mechanism I developed – but it wasn’t necessarily a wall I built that kept people out. I didn’t purposely keep people from knowing me. I think it was more of a learned behavior. I only knew how to give of myself, the amount that was going to keep me safe.
The two thoughts – built wall vs learned behavior seems quite similar but I can assure you that they are very different. Purposely keeping someone from knowing you is a lot different from not knowing how to let someone in.
I didn’t know how to let someone in. But I had reasons for this.
When I was 14, I was in a bad car accident. It was Christmas Eve of 1991…my family car was hit by what we are told was a drunk driver; the car that hit us had four people in it, my car had three. All four people in the other car died. In my car, my father died and my mother lived, but broke her neck, her back, and received a large head injury. She is also now blind and currently in the process of being diagnosed with Degenerative Muscular Atrophy…basically Mad Cow for humans.
I ended up paraplegic.
I was wearing a lap belt and was only 2 inches off of being cut in half. I had to have emergency stomach surgery that night to save my life. I had my appendix and 2 1/2 feet of intestine removed, as well as stomach repair surgery. The seatbelt was still inside of me in the ER and had to be removed as well.
As a result of the accident, I also broke my spine but they couldn’t fix that for a month, until my insides healed. Luckily enough, I came out of it with the only issue being paralysis from the waist down. Nothing life threatening. And truth be told – walking is highly over-rated. With physical therapy, I was going to be okay.
Without going into a lot of detail, this accident – speaking for myself only – was an okay thing to happen. I had a different childhood. My accident stopped a lot of horrible things from happening. I am, in an odd way, quite grateful. Not to say that I am glad so many people died – because I am not. But I was okay with what happened to me personally. I traded a time of abuse for a wheelchair. I am okay with that.
The trouble I had after the accident was that a) I was 14 and on my own. I bought my first house at age 15 and had no adult to guide me. I relied on no one. In grade nine – I was paying a mortgage, talking with lawyers, and keeping my mother and I fed, clothed, and housed. I was also going to school.
b) Because of my life pre-accident, I trusted no one. I couldn’t even hold someone’s hand out of fear. With two limbs paralyzed, and one given to a handhold, I felt I had no means of protection for myself if I were to need it. I couldn’t give a limb to anyone just in case they turned on me. It was impossible when things got rough – to let anyone help me.
c) I got to a point were I had a lot of friends, many friends, thanks to that big heart. The big joke when I went places was that everyone knew me. But that wasn’t me that they knew. I was really good at masking things. At being what people wanted. No one wanted the girl who couldn’t handle the car accident or her childhood. People needed and wanted to see positive responses so they knew that if an accident were to happen to them – they would be okay.
We all do it – we look to people to emulate a safe response to our biggest fears. I was okay with that. It meant not really getting close to anyone, which meant no more pain.
But then I met this friend. This out of the blue, complete opposite of me, beautiful mess of a friend that changed everything.
As an adult I married a beautiful woman. She is kind, loving, supportive, and not always really interested in deep conversation. It is perfect for me. She is my rock.
We adopted two kids with special needs. Emotional needs. Both were adopted…both with backgrounds of pain and sadness. My daughter has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. My son has Reactive Attachment Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and High Levels of Anxiety. My son is aggressive. He was physically beaten his first 3 years. But his soul is super intact.
We do well with the struggles they come with. They are amazing kids. But a lot of people don’t’ get it.
Then I met Cynthia. She knew my wife – they went to highschool together in the 90s. My wife introduced us knowing we would hit it off. My wife knows me like no one ever has and so if she thought we should meet – then I had to meet this Cynthia.
My wife was right – within minutes of meeting, we were telling our deepest secrets. You see, she has a child who is adopted and has similar issues as my son. On top of that – the stress from adopting a child with these needs (and let’s be honest – we love them but it is HARD) caused her to lose all of her hair. We bonded. We became best friends.
Before I knew it – I could tell her my past. I could hold her hand. I could cry in front of her. I could say that I wasn’t okay…and that was okay to her. I could be a paraplegic and not worry. She knew me. No one had known the real me up until her. And to be honest, I didn’t let her in. She opened the door and walked straight in. No hesitation, no fears, no apologies. She just entered my life and stayed.
Before her, with friends, talking often meant consequences…crying meant pain…and trusting meant disappointment. She changed every rule I was ever taught. And now, she has a different set of rules than everyone else. I can tell her things and I don’t want to run from this friendship. And damn, we do some pretty cool things together. We are two peas in one friendship pod. I am so grateful. She trusts me back and from what I hear, feels the same towards me.
How do you repay someone like that? I don’t know.
All I know is that life is complicated, it is messy, and at times it is ugly. Some people can be more so. But there is always something to celebrate. There is always something beautiful. Here is a girl that is completely different from me, who needs different things from a friendship than I do, who sometimes I wonder if we even speak the same language, yet it works. It works magically. We are the best of friends. The universe gave me a gift with her friendship.
Life can be amazing sometimes. You just need to stay positive.
If you liked this story you will love “It Made Me Feel Loved”
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