On Holding Pieces of Each Other’s Hearts

She waited on the front porch on her 16th birthday. She waited for her friends to arrive and for the party to begin.

Instead, the calls came in, one at a time. 

The “sorry, I can’t make it” calls. The “not coming, after all” calls. The “oops, I double booked” and the “something came ups” and the “I have to wash my hairs.”

In the end, no one came.

No one.

And she left her porch to go practice driving with her mom.

Party abandoned.

Heart… well, as you might imagine.

I don’t know how long it took my friend Melanie to start telling the story of her 16th birthday. How long it was before she talked about what happened and what she thought it meant about her value as a person and a friend.

I remember she told me last year, at the beach, in her quiet voice as we watched the waves crash, their magnitude powerful and overwhelming. And it’s a funny thing about stories; when you listen to the true ones, they crash over your heart. Powerful. Overwhelming. And my heart broke for 16-year-old Melanie, even though it’s been 30 years since she lived it.

I knew it was a gift Melanie offered. The vulnerable things always are. The ways we unpack the pieces of our soul and hold them delicately in our hands, like the small, wild things with nervous eyes and twitching wings and hearts running away in their chests. We hold them carefully, trying to communicate they’re safe. That we won’t hurt them, at least not more than they already have been. And then we whisper to our most trust-worthy friends, so softly we can barely be heard, “Come look what I have,” and “Shhhh… don’t scare it.” The best friends look. And are gentle. And say, “Oh, sweet thing.” And try to help.

I don’t remember what I said to Melanie when she told me the story of her 16th birthday. Probably wow. Or I’m really sorry. Or that sucks. Or some other inadequate thing to acknowledge that 30 years may pass, but it’s still important to nod at the pain. To hold the vulnerable pieces. To communicate, somehow, “This piece is precious. Do you know it? I’m so sorry it was broken. You didn’t deserve this. You should’ve been treasured.”

My friend Melanie turned 46 recently, and I was invited to attend her birthday party last weekend.

Her friends threw her a Sweet 16 Party.

Another shot at a Sweet 16, except they called it a Sweet 16…+30. 

And here’s my guess: I bet there was a part of Melanie that was afraid. I know a part of me would have been. Because what if no one shows up again, you know? After they’ve seen the piece of her heart, held carefully in her hands. They have the power to hurt it. 

But Melanie said yes to the party. 

She took the chance at having her heart handled with care, which is the most trusting move I know, to say, “This part was hurt, and I’ll let you hold it with me.”

photo 2 (76)We brought Melanie little, ridiculous gifts, like Hello Kitty loot. And nailpolish. And candy and socks. And sparkly bags. And cards that said stuff like, “I’m so glad I got to come to your party! My mom is such a bitch. It’s not like she said I couldn’t take the car to go out with Jake. I thought I’d be grounded forever.

And we laughed and played and laughed the night away… until we got tired and went home before midnight because we’re old.

And we sang happy birthday, the twenty or thirty of us who came. The twenty or thirty of us LOUD women who came. But first, to the light of a birthday candle already lit, my friend Leslie asked Melanie to tell us about her 16th birthday. And so, in the candle-lit kitchen, with the lights dimmed low and all of us crowded around, she did.

She held out her heart. And she let us hold it with her.

And then we sang happy birthday. Loud. Because that’s who we are. And because we meant it. And Melanie buried her face in her hands and wept. And laughed. And wept. 

And I know I say this every time I talk about authentic, compassionate community. I know I do, but I mean it.

It was a holy moment.

A holy, redeemed, painful, precious, beautiful moment.

And then someone yelled, “FUCK THOSE BITCHES who didn’t come to your party!” And the rest of us chorused, “YEAH. FUCK THOSE BITCHES.” 

And we laughed and laughed. Not because they were bitches, necessarily. But because we were together. And life gets better. And we find our tribe after too much searching. And we find out we are, after all, deeply worthy of love, and worthy of celebration, and worthy of people who show up.

And that was holy, too. 

……..

In honor of Melanie’s birthday,
and in honor of holding pieces of each other’s hearts,
please use the comments to let us hold a piece of yours.

What’s your story?

If you need a gentle friend, this is your space.
I’ll monitor the comments section closely, but I have a suspicion, based on the kindness you continue to show each other here, that I won’t have much monitoring to do.
You are some of the very best heart-holders I know.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
134 comments
  1. Today I’m grieving the loss of a dear friend and colleague who died suddenly just days ago. This post really encouraged me, I am so glad to know that Melanie received this encouragement and is surrounded by a community of love and care.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, Hannah. Love to you and yours.

  2. Hey, this made me cry, because I could relate and I felt bad for her. Yesterday, the 15th, was my birthday, but it was the worst I’ve had yet. On the 14th, I sprained my ankle, then on the morning of my birthday, my fiancée and I were apartment shopping and he mistook my grunt and wince of pain as criticism and started yelling about his everything was always a fight with me and what not. He made me cry, and while he did apologize, the damage was done. We’d already had a huge fight earlier this mono the because he misunderstood and then didn’t wait for me to talk and clarify. I’m pretty sure he forgot it was my birthday as well, which wouldn’t have been a problem, cause I’m used to my birthday being forgotten, but on top of everything else, it just hurt more. Then he only offered to treat me to a meal after my grandparents mentioned it was my birthday. He’s a really great guy and he’s only acting this way cause he’s stressed, but I’ve become his emotional dumping ground. I spent my birthday crying and in physical pain cause of my ankle. He knows he messed up bad and is taking steps to try to fix things, but it still hurts.

    1. OH, that sounds awful, Tessa. I’m so sorry. Happy Day AFTER Your Birthday, and here’s hoping for a much, MUCH better day from here on out. xoxo

  3. My third grade teacher hated me. And I tried so, so hard to be likeable. I tried to be neat and tidy and care about what she told me to care about, but I’m a messy, creative person and I think outside the box. And when trying to change didn’t work and she still hated me, I checked out. I read books under my desk and made paper pyramids with spit-wad canopic jars and mummies wrapped in torn up tissues. Which always ended up in the trash because that’s where she put them.
    Fortunately when my Dad heard her speak to me he saw what was going on and told my Mom I never had to go to school again because NO ONE should be allowed to talk to his daughter that way. And Mom did a happy dance and two weeks before the last day of school I woke up late and asked Mom if it was a no-school day and she told me I never had to go back again.
    They kept to their word and homeschooled me and it was GREAT! Because they let me decide the pace and the direction and how I wanted to learn and I DEVOURED it. I read EVERYTHING and helped Dad fix the car and looked up fractals with my Mom. And I learned that my teacher was wrong. I wasn’t bad at learning. I was bad at school. I was bad at what my husband calls “bulemic learning” where you cram what you need to know to pass the test into your head, regurgitate it onto the paper, and then leave it there like the disgusting mess it is.
    What I was good at was diving into something passionately and connecting it to EVERYTHING and so where school tried to tell me that reading was a subject and history was a subject and math was a subject, to me it was all one, big, wonderful thing and I could read a great book and it would mention the square of the hypotenuse and I would look it up because I was curious and then I would find out about math in history, and then I would be learning about ancient roman war machines and that would send me off into politics and how our government is modeled on ancient ones and I couldn’t do that in school the way I could on my own.
    But then I learned that just like people shame fat people for eating too much, people could shame you for learning too much. And I didn’t fit in because I loved learning too much and I just couldn’t put the books down and I wanted to TALK about all the AMAZING things I was learning!!! And I couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to talk with me and share what they were learning. I couldn’t understand why it was so important to be able to quote the latest TV show when there were so many other interesting things to dive into.
    Fortunately I found a wonderful friend who made me feel that even though I was that one person, you know, the one who never quite fits in with everyone else because they’re different? Even though I was that person, it was okay. Because I was wise and kind and had brilliant ideas and I could understand the dark, messy parts of life and turn on the light and help clean up. And she gave me a place to shine and be myself, so I didn’t have to turn down my light to fit in. I could use big words and talk about art and disagree with pop-culture.
    And then I moved and I didn’t fit in because I had the strength to refuse to change what was best about me. And I got called four-eyes and people woke me up by throwing the falafel I brought to the sleep-over at me, because it’s a cardinal sin to wear glasses and read books and try new foods. I was so lonely. I learned to put up a wall around myself to shield other people from my intensity because they just couldn’t handle it.
    It is SO hard to deal with this wall. I’ve let my husband in, and he thinks I’m amazing, and there are the people who were there before I built it or snuck in before it was done, like my parents and my childhood friend, but it’s so tough to meet new people and figure out whether to let them in when I’m talking from behind my wall. But I don’t like taking it down because that’s when people get really awkward around me. So I keep behind my wall to make them comfortable, and I move fairly smoothly through life, but I get kinda lonely for kindred spirits sometimes.

    1. I love this, Aiden, because it’s so TRUE. The connections and disconnections. The walls and the people we let in. The ways we’ve been hurt and healed. You are SO GREAT. I love that your parents honored who you are and how you learn, and I love that you love to learn. I love the books and the falafel. And I hope there’s a chink in that wall somewhere, because I know there are lonely people out there waiting for you to be their friend.

      1. In some ways it’s kind of like an awesome clubhouse with a rope ladder. I talk to people a bit and try to get a feel for whether it’s safe to let down the ladder and invite them in. It’s kinda hit and miss though. Some people come up and are freaked out and run away, some people come up look around, politely say “cool place ya got.” and never come back, and some people love it and want to come back again and again.

  4. Last October my son (who is high functioning autistic) turned 5 and no one came to his birthday party. Some gave valid excuses, some where no-shows. I was able to cover it up well enough with a fun last minute activity with our family, but my heart hurt so badly. I am so nervous this year because now he knows what birthday parties are supposed to be like and is already talking about what he wants. What if no one comes again? There’s no way I’d be able to cover it up this time. I’m going ahead and doing it and praying that we won’t be forgotten this year.

    1. We’ve been there with our kids who have special needs, OregonMum. These days, when we plan a party, we do so around one friend’s schedule. We pick a friend, contact his/her parents and say, “Our daughter is having a birthday party, and your kid is the one friend she said is most important to her. Is there any chance we can schedule a party around what works for both of us before we send out invitations?” Everyone’s been incredibly gracious about it, and it means our kids have one person they can count on coming. I don’t know whether that helps, but I want you to know I feel your pain. It’s hard to watch our kids without friends and wonder when they’ll have them.

      1. Great way to handle the party arrangement!

    2. My kids are 3 and 4, but we have never done birthday parties for them. My husband is a SAHD so my kids don’t go to daycare, and my husband and I don’t have any parent friends (still looking for our village, I guess.) For each birthday, we doa social family outing, to a museum or the zoo and then do a small pizza, cake get together with family and maybe 1 or 2 close friends. Maybe that is something that would work for your family?

    3. I am an Oregon mom with a 5-year-old high-functioning autistic child. I think I love you, in the non-creepy, I’ve been there way. It is SO HARD for Rowan to make friends, and it doesn’t help that Mommy and Daddy are both extreme introverts who don’t connect well with the parents of other children. Almost no one ever comes to his parties, even family. 30 minutes is just too far to drive. He goes to his cousins’ parties and sees all the friends they have and has fun, and I think he’s starting to wonder why there aren’t so many at his. I have tears in my eyes typing this. I felt so alone as a child and I can see it happening to my son.

  5. So, can I call you my new best friend? Please? I just about died when I read through all your posts and when I came to the one of you writing happy birthday with indelible marker on your butt, well, that sealed the deal.
    I found you through (In)courage, by way of your guest post by Shawna.
    Thank you for a wonderful beginning to today.
    Blessings to you!
    xo
    lynn

    1. Absolutely, Lynn! That’s my favorite thing about this space! LOTS of best friends! Like my friend Tiffany always says, “I have lots of best friends because they’re all best at something different.” I can be your Writes With Indelible Marker on Her Butt best friend. 😉 Welcome here. I can see you’ll fit right in.

  6. My oldest (9) has Autism Spectrum Disorder. He’s very high functioning. So high functioning, in fact, that he realizes his neurotypical classmates think he’s weird because he crouches in his chair and says odd, random statements at odd, random times and talks forever about obscure things. He knows that’s he’s different but he can’t quite put his finger on why. It breaks my mama heart.

    My 2nd oldest (7) is a very angry little girl who bites and spits and screams. She’s hurting and anxious and lashes out because of it. She thinks I’m the worst. mom. ever. I want so desperately to soothe her but she kicks against me. But then, then she’ll hold out her own tender heart to me and I remember that the reason she’s so angry is she’s so scared of getting hurt. In her odd way she’s the most tender of my children.

    I have 3 smaller children also (5, 3, and 1). I know they will grow and have their own issues emerge. I worry about their unknown futures. I worry I’m neglecting them in the meantime. I worry that I’ve had so many children because I’m selfish…I just love babies so much and want to give life to as many of them as I can handle. What if I’ve already surpassed that limit without realizing it?

    I need to pray more. I need to read my scriptures more. I need to connect more with God. I know these things. Somehow it just feels like another thing on my already overflowing to-do list, though.

    I’m so overwhelmed and I so wish I knew how to be the best mama to these 5 special souls. I’m lucky enough to have a fabulous, strong, loving Village, a few of which are dealing with their own autism challenges, all of which are dealing with their own children challenges. No one can live my life, though. No one can tell me how to raise my children…what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right.

    Praises be for zoloft, right, Friends? 😉

    1. Oh, Whitney.
      I am praying for you. Connecting with God IS another thing to do on your list-know that He sees you. He knows you and He cries out in intercession for you. Sending you a hug.
      lynn

    2. Oh, I SO identify with this, Whitney: “What if I’ve already surpassed that limit without realizing it?” TOTALLY. And I DON’T KNOW. STILL.

      I will say, I let go of all the praying and Bible-reading and even church-attending expectations for a while, and it turned out to be a really healthy decision. I mean, I had a chat with God about it. About feeling guilty and less-than. And I felt this overwhelming response that it was OK to take a rest. A Sabbath from the Have-To’s. And that resting was a form of prayer. And angst is a form a prayer. And learning to be the me I’m created to be – with all my weirdness and wildness and inappropriateness and laughter – is a form of prayer. All of a sudden, my experience of God became broader and bigger, because I found Love in freedom. Now, I did go back to church eventually and I do pray with words sometimes, and I join my friend Heidi’s Bible studies off and on, so I didn’t abandon those things forever. And the Sabbath was a true gift. There is, I think, far more freedom in faith than we know.

  7. After 17 years together I am facing starting over. My husband has fought alcoholism his whole adult life. I stayed by his side and was supportive as I could be. It was frightening, frustrating, isolating and it stole years of our lives. He was finally able to maintain sobriety for five years and I thought we were finally in a good place where we could start a family. Unfortunately by that time I found out I had PCOS and with no real reason I couldn’t get pregnant. But we were blessed to be chosen by two wonderful people to be their son’s parents through open adoption. He is as amazing and as beautiful inside and out as his birth parents. But my husband doesn’t deal with change well. So after seven years of sobriety, years of counseling and AA, he relapsed
    with cold medicine because his brain tells him that’s different than a beer, and sent our world into chaos. We have tried marriage counseling and AA and his anti depressants and him getting counseling again but his alcoholic brain lied to everyone. Now he is four months sober but the words “I just wanted a last hurrah” echo in my brain and the memory of the first 10 years of not knowing when the wheels were going to go off the track. I asked myself if this is the childhood i wanted for our son. If this was the life I wanted anymore. I care for him, but the disease has beat me. I am leaving him in the next month. My son didn’t chose this life of chaos and he deserves to have a stable home. I’m scared because I had never planned on being a single mom and he is only 2 and has had some developmental needs that need special attention and I have always been his stay at home mom. To be faced with making a life for us and make sure all of his needs are met and a new start is both terrifying and a relief. Hoping I will be enough to face it. Hoping things will fall into place. Everyone has told me how strong I am. I guess I am, but how wonderful it would be not to have to be strong all the time. But I have parents who will let us live with them while I get on my feet. But very bumpy months ahead. Surgery for my son this Wednesday. Physical therapy for him and a well deserved third birthday party in October. Just finished visit with my son’s birth mother. End of month brings a visit with his birth father. Feel like I am letting them down and will break their hearts. My husband’s family is a mix of understanding and fighting it every step of the way. Very scared and overwhelmed.

    1. I was married 13 years to an addict. we went through it all, counseling, sobriety relapses etc. He had been sober for a year. Then one pay day friday he didn’t come home till the money was gone. I had had enough. Our son was two, it was the hardest thing I have ever done but I kicked him out. Over the years his addiction had killed our marriage. I had the same concerns. Could I do this on my own? Is this the best thing for our son. That was ten years ago and the answere was YES. You can do this, you will find support you didn’t even know was there. I found that struggling without him was soooo much easier than struggling with him. Your son does deserve a stable home, as mine did. That has been ten years ago and I have not regretted that decesion one time, not once. You got this, you can do it.

      1. Thank you Jennifer. It really helps to hear from someone who has lived through this insanity for years. It gives me hope to hear you made it out the other side. I know it couldn’t have been easy. It struck home when you said it was easier to struggle without him than with him as even the simplest tasks are made ridiculously hard with him. The nights alone are hard but peaceful at least. I am scared but at the same time having dreams for myself and hopes for my son. I guess it’s just taking one day at a time. One task at a time until I’m out…until I’m employed and my son has the support he needs…until it gets easier and hopefully life falls into place. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. This disease has a way of isolating and destroying all in its path. I’m so happy you and your son are out from under it. Congratulations to you strong momma.

    2. Sending you love, Kristen, and holding your hand in the dark and the mud. Thank you for sharing your brave story.

      1. Thank you Beth. I come here because frankly your writing cracks me up and laughter and being in the same muddy messes can be medicinal. Today for instance my soon to be three year old has named his penis “Fluffy”. Even in the dark muddy places there can be beacons of laughter to help see us through.

    3. Many loving thoughts to you, friend. My husband is also a recovering addict. The last few years have been good, but I remember the dark times – the times that I thought we would both sink under the weight of his addictions. While I am thankful that he seems to be winning his battles today, I am hesitant to get too comfortable as there is the ever constant threat of relapse. I hope that if our situation changes, and he recedes into that dark place for too long again, that I will find the courage to leave, as you are about to.

  8. Dear sweet precious ladies, don’t give up. At 59, I have found such a good friend. We talk/text everyday. My husband says we are like teenagers. We don’t care. We are each the friend that the other has needed. Try to find a church with a woman’s Sunday School class or weekday Bible Study. Introduce yourself to parents of your kids’ classmates. Keep praying. Keep hoping. Don’t give up. You are so very precious! And don’t be afraid to reach out to an older woman, a surrogate mother or aunt. You are worthy. Don’t give up hope.

    1. I love this, Grace. Thank you for sharing hope.

    2. Thank you for the reminder to seek out an older woman. As I’ve grown older and met others, I’ve realized that there are many people around us that are invisible to others. You might be the only one to see the wisdom or fun side of that lady you may feel shy about approaching. Remember that they might need your friendship as much as you need hers.

  9. That happened to me, too, on my 15th. I don’t think I ever hosted a party for myself again, after that.

    1. My heart hurts for 15-year-old you, Jenn. Sending love to her and to you.

  10. Right now my story is this. I share custody of my 3 oldest children with my ex husband. It is very amicable and since he works so much, most of the time I have the kids. He ends up having them mostly on the weekends. Last night my kids told me how much better his house is because they don’t have a bed time , have to eat vegetables, make their beds, or read and they can watch as much tv as they want. It does sound awesome, I agree. I guess I’m afraid my kids won’t want to live with me someday cause I make them have bedtimes, eat vegetables, and limit screen time. They’d rather be with him, I can see that. Should I try to be more fun? The thought of not having my kids or of them not wanting me breaks my heart. I want so badly to be a good mother (don’t we all) but I’m afraid I’m doing it all wrong.

    1. You are being a good mother. Trust me when I say, children do mature and grow up and they will eventually thank you for setting boundaries. My daughter in law has gone through the same thing. Her son has a step mother and she works very hard at turning him against his mother. But now at 15 he sees the truth and loves his mother very much. So hang in there. Of course it’s ok to have fun with your children. Just do not give up on your principles to please them. If you do, then in the end they will not respect you but raise them right and they will.

      1. Thank you , Mary. Your words greatly encouraged me today. Just what I needed to hear.

        1. Even without the different parenting styles, I’m pretty sure all moms are certain that “we’re doing it wrong”. There are fun things you can do without giving up your principles like “family game night” or reading cool books out loud together and doing the voices or acting them out. Have a “messy fun” day with crafts or water balloon fights or something else out of your norm—waffles with ice cream for breakfast a couple times a year? Something like that will get them thinking…. PS. You never know what they might be saying to dad about how you love them enough to give them limits (though probably not worded like that).

    2. Sending love, Audrey, and lots of mamaraderie.

      1. Thanks, Beth. Thank you for creating this space.

  11. Thanks for this post, Beth. I sat at my friend’s side tonight and listened while her heart broke over the way her marriage shattered this week. She is holding the broken pieces in bleeding hands that are extending both forgiveness and hope to her equally broken husband. And I felt honored that she allowed me to hold a piece of her heart tonight.

  12. I went to my twenty year reunion and at the time, my life was freshly falling apart. My partner of six years was in and out of the hospital with what was later diagnosed as treatment resistant Bipolar I disorder, and I was home alone with my anxiety about the future and a year-old baby. I was like an egg without a shell. I

    There was a woman there who was not one of my closer friends back in the day but I’d always liked her and we’d been friendly enough in high school; we had a brief conversation and as we wrapped it up I suggested we exchange phone numbers and get together sometime. Oh no, she said, I’m terrible at keeping in touch. And then she walked away to rejoin the lively group of friends that she’d evidently kept in touch with for the twenty years since we’d graduated from high school. It cut me to the quick.

    I looked around and realized that the people she was hanging around with were snotty jerks in high school,and it looked to me like they were just as shallow now as they were then.

    I’m sure that part of why it stung so bad was that I was so vulnerable at that moment in my life. It’s nine years later now; I had a birthday party a week ago and my house was filled with wonderful friends for hours. I do not lack for love and loyalty in my life. I am grateful and humbled.

    So, shallow girl from high school: you can suck it.

    1. “It’s nine years later now; I had a birthday party a week ago and my house was filled with wonderful friends for hours. I do not lack for love and loyalty in my life.” – I love this, Impetua. Also? Fuck that Reunion Bitch. 😉

    2. This is also the closest to my story; which I just recently decided to “let go.” I moved from VA to NJ to marry my husband. I left a lifetime of friends behind. When I tried to connect on FB to two of my closest ones, they completely ignored me. I tried a few times, I wrote them separate, personal letters asking if I had done something to offend them. Neither responded. Of course I internalized the whole thing, which was made worse by my inability to connect in person and on telephone with a friend from longer ago – someone who I hung out with all the time. It’s hard. I know I’m a decent person. I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people like me. At least I think they do. But I have grown, and if they don’t want to continue being friends with the new more fabulous me, oh well. Their loss.

      1. Argh. Heartbreaking, Cathie. But you’re right, and that Stuart Smalley was a smart, smart guy. 😉

  13. I just want to comment to everyone who shares a story that I hear you, so to speak. I can’t wave a wand thought the computer and fix all these things, but boy do I want to. And Beth, thank you for creating such a wonderful place to share and see and connect.

    I can relate to being ditched at your own party. When I was married 12 years ago? Well, my two bridesmaids showed up for my wedding shower, at least that’s someone, right? When I had my first baby? Nada. Nothing. Although, when babe did arrive, I have never had so many flowers in my LIFE:-) . I still kind of wonder what’s wrong with me though, that nobody wants to come to my parties.

    1. No one ever showed up to any parties that I put together. High school, college – nothing. My 1st kids’ 1st birthday, I invited a bunch of people figuring that only a portion would show up and everyone came. Not prepared for that.

    2. Sending love, Jessi, and the certainty that you’re 100% worth showing up for.

  14. My best friend, Shannon, died when I was in 6th grade. She was injured in a stupid accident while I was out of town and couldn’t recover from her injuries. I remember the night I was told that she wouldn’t make it; It was a Sunday night in late fall, early winter and my mom was driving me out to see her. The air was crisp and it seemed like you could see every star in the sky that night. She told me to say goodbye because it was the last time I was going to be able to see her. I held her and cried and cried for hours. I had to be dragged away when it was time to leave. She died on Wednesday. She was alive for 3 whole days and I wasn’t there for her when she needed me.

    I forgot to mention that Shannon was a horse, but it doesn’t matter. She was my best friend (at the time I considered her my only friend,) and 20 years later, even knowing it was through no fault of my own, I feel like I failed her.

    1. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking story, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Horses make the best, best friends. The horses that filled that roll for me heard all my pain, heartache, fears, insecurities, and then let me get on their backs and throw caution to the wind as we rode through the fields and woods. You could hear them say “I love you and nothing else matters. Look how brave and beautiful you are right now, riding in the wind, on my back.”

    2. You’re right, it doesn’t matter. Horses make the best friends (and like you, at times, he was my only friend). It’s been almost 14 years that I held my best friend as he took his last breath. 2 months later, I broke up with the guy I had been engaged to for almost 2 years. I started dating again 4 months later. I still have yet to get another horse. Hugs for your loss.

  15. Thank you for this beautiful story – I had to comment because it’s moved me to tears and filled me with hope. Nearly 8 months ago I was blessed with a beautiful daughter, and they have been 8 wonderful but very hard months, full of health problems for baby, and job struggles for my husband. In the midst of all this, depression struck, and it seems like every painful event of my life that was like Melanie’s has paid a visit, just to remind me that I have no worth (which I know isn’t true, but sometimes it’s so hard to believe). Things are getting better now for all three of us, but this has given me an extra piece of encouragement and hope that there is healing and redemption to be found. Thank you to both yourself and Melanie, and thanks for the honesty you always put into your writing – I too am always in stitches laughing or crying my eyes out!

    1. Love to you, Louise. I’m so very glad to hear things are getting better.

  16. This warmed my heart. I always think about commenting on your posts, but I’m usually being distracted by one of my own five children. Right now, however, is one of those rare moments when everyone is “in bed for the night.” I just wanted to tell you how much I love reading everything you share. Thank you for helping me end my day on a positive note.

    1. Thanks for this, Megan. Waving to you in the dark, fellow mama of 5!

  17. ok Beth here is my confession.I have no friends,not a one outside of my home(husband,mother,mother’s other half & my kids).If something happens,there is nobody to call.nobody at all.i lost touch with all my friends from school(i think it’d be weird to reach out now some 15-20 years down the road.cause i am not the same person now even.sometimes i am scared at how insignificant my life seems outside of my home & children.i get out but i have no freaking idea how to make a friend anymore it seems.

    1. You can do it. *do* reach out to ‘old’ friends. I cannot believe some people who I so rarely speak to, when I do call, it’s like no time has passed. The worst that would happen is to…leave a message and someone doesn’t call back. But I bet that doesn’t happen. I don’t know – I am always curious how people are doing, and if someone reached out to me, I would definitely call/email/facebook back.

      And…making friends when you are older is *really* tough. Especially when you have kids. You don’t always see the same people over and over, and you’re so busy with kid things you forget how to not be.

      Find something that interests you (maj jongg? knitting? kick boxing? volunteering at a soup kitchen? yoga class?) — and do it. Over and over again and again. Find something that is of interest and maybe look into it in some way and see how to do it where you are.

      There are a zillion meetups out there (meetup.com) — and if you have an interest there is almost definitely a group out there that wants to talk with you about it. We moved to a ‘new’ city two years ago and it’s really tough. But I get out there and do things (not always, missed an opportunity this past weekend, and regretted it a tiny bit). And it’s not easy, but I force myself to do it. So go!!!

      1. I wish I lived near you!!

    2. I have a suspicion, Shannon, that someone needs your friendship as deeply as you need theirs. It’s so hard, sitting in this jungle, wondering where the damn Village is. I think, though, that the Village is all wandering the jungle, too, and we find each other while we wander. I like pdxmom’s suggestions for finding people. Even more than that, my deep wish is for you to know this – you’re not insignificant. You’re precious. And worthy of friendship. You have something important to offer that someone out there needs. Love to you and yours, Shannon.

      1. I’ve read this story 3 times this morning, and have loved it every time. I am jealous of the woman in the story who has such amazing friends. Your comment about “wondering where the damn Village is” hit me hard. I feel like I have been wandering for a long time. I have a few friends, but not the kind who would do something like that for me. I’m getting married in 6 months and my own maid of honor hardly talks to me and I wish I had just eloped, simply for the fact that thinking about the wedding party makes me feel sad and alone.

        Where is my damn Village? It is so painful to try to make friends as an adult, because I feel most women already have their friends, so I am too afraid to try. It’s like dating– you want to ask for their number, do you think they’ll want to see you again? Should I text her, or will she think I’m being weird? I feel embarassed and ashamed to be so jealous of my 18 year old daughter and her best friend, who are so close.

        1. Holding this piece of your heart with you, Amanda. It really is so very hard to put ourselves out there over and over. And still, yes, text her and ask for her number and take the risk. Sending you lots of love.

    3. I wish I lived near you Shannon! I’d love it if you were my friend.

  18. I have depression. My son has mental illness which we are told has it’s roots in early neglect or abuse. Or his inability to receive the nurturing he was given. He’s 8. He’s pulled a knife on his brother and me. He’s been in a psych unit. He’s been suspended 3 times and on and off and on numerous meds. A brain wave scan shows markers for psychosis. He’s 8. He hits, kicks, screams and swears horrible things. He is sweet and kind and remorseful and loving and terrifying. He has tried to hurt himself and says he wants to die. I make the appointments, fill the prescriptions, fill out the forms, tell his story again and again to all the professionals. I go pick him up when they call because “he’s too disruptive” today. I fight the images in my head of sitting in a court room one day being “that mother”. I wonder what I did or didn’t do. How my depression hurt him. I am holding on by a thread some days. Everyone says how strong I am. It’s not strength. It’s desperation. And fear. And fighting tooth and nail for his sanity and mine. I grieve what I’ve lost with my other two children. I grieve the toll it’s taken on our marriage. Our finances. I look around at our filthy, cluttered wreck of a house and pray. Pray it’s all enough. Enough love, time, attention, help. Enough “I’m sorry’s”. Enough hugs and tears. I pray there is enough of me left to keep holding on. Very precious pieces these are.

    1. ((Hugs)) to you, my friend.

    2. Very precious indeed. Thank you for your openness. Although I fight different demons, your words rang true for me as well. The grieving, the toll taken, and the hope to keep holding on. Keep holding on.

    3. *hugs* from here too. Wow, you could be describing my kid. And I don’t have depression (not diagnosed, don’t think I do, etc).

      I have been from doctor to psychologist to doctor to psychologist since he was three. He is nine now. And I don’t really feel like anything has helped (I just called today to make an appt to put him on some sort of medication. We’ve been fighting doing that, but I don’t see any other way to continue).

      We *did* take him out of school and he is homeschooling (like his older brother). I know that not every family can do this for a million reasons (and we *were* that family that said: school! it’s the best thing ever! those people that take their kids out and homeschool are WEIRD. Really, we thought that not that long ago!). Schools are *not* set up for boys. They are just geared towards girls. And when you have one that is rambunctious (for lack of a better word) they really don’t seem to want those boys at all.

      Just know that *his* issues do not stem from *you*.

      Have you checked out the blog sizzle bop? that was a lifesaver for me.

    4. “And fighting tooth and nail for his sanity and mine. I grieve what I’ve lost with my other two children. I grieve the toll it’s taken on our marriage. Our finances. I look around at our filthy, cluttered wreck of a house and pray. Pray it’s all enough. Enough love, time, attention, help. Enough “I’m sorry’s”. Enough hugs and tears. I pray there is enough of me left to keep holding on.”

      Oh Karen. You have expressed my heart. My son is a teen. He does not have a mental illness diagnosis, but he does have depression, and anger, and rage, and a host of emotions and actions that spring from adoption and attachment issues. His little brother cries torn between love for his brother and anguish from the chaos. My husband is not well and the emotional stress exacerbates his physical condition. Like you, some days I hold on only because I don’t know how to do anything else. Today was good. The last 8 days have been awful. And yet. And yet. Compared to 5 years ago there is progress.

      Keep holding on, Karen. One day, one hour, one moment at a time. I will, too. And when one of my hands slips, know that I will use it to wave in the dark to you.

    5. Karen – your story made my heart ache. Our precious ones, how their troubles can fill our hearts with anxiety, fear, dread.
      You sound alone and afraid – I pray that you can find your tribe to help you fight this fight. A lot of things are not meant to be born alone. We so need other ones who can walk with us and help us slay the dragons.
      Big hugs. I pray you experience help and hope soon. God bless.

    6. These others have said it so well, Karen, but I wanted to add my love and voice to theirs. I’ll pray with you. And wave in the dark, mama.

  19. Well, just while reading, I thought… Ya, but it seems that I just can’t find that tribe, that community. I try, try to be vulnerable, do my best to be a sacred heart holder, but somehow never quite “fit”. Reading tonight, it’s difficult to keep thoughts at bay, that it’s me, and whatever the profoundly messed up parts of me that keep me from community. I always feel out of time, out of step. But I am truly truly happy, beyond happy for those who find it. And moved to tears for your friend. Especially love the explicits yelled!! Bet that felt great 😉

    1. I feel that way too.

    2. but it’s not you. you just haven’t found your community.

      I tell you – I didn’t feel part of anything til I was way past college. I could NEVER relate to my peers until I was much older (and I see that in my child). I was wanting to hang out with my peers’ PARENTS more than them.

      In any event, we just moved to this ‘new’ city. Two years ago. And I am just finding my way around and where I might fit in. It is TOUGH. but find something – anything – you like and you will find a group where you are for it (chances are high for that). And go do. It isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding.

    3. I can relate entirely…I just found out last week that my church of the last 4 years is closing suddenly, and I find myself without a community. I’ve struggled to connect there, but it was the best I could find during this season with 2 little ones, and now that’s gone too. This is the third church I’ve been a part of that’s ended, and living out of the country for most of my twenties has made it hard to reconnect with old childhood friends that have moved on now that I’m back. I really just want to do life together with a few other people I can call my friends…is that too much to ask?

    4. This was, frankly, my deepest fear in writing this, Diana. That someone might feel as though the lack of community points to something wrong, rather than toward the hope of community. The thing is – my community is made up of odd ducks. And we all wonder sometimes if we fit. STILL. Even while we create our Village. I still wonder all the time if I’m too much of one thing or not enough of another – too loud, too awkward, too big, too dumb. It’s HARD to learn to love myself well. And it’s HARD to make friends. And I just want you to know, Diana, that you deserve mad props for trying to be vulnerable and trying to be a sacred heart holder. You’re doing good, important work, and I hope you’ve found part of your Village here.

  20. CONFESSION:
    im expecting my 1st baby and im SCARED to have a baby shower. Not scared because peoole might not bring gifts or that they might bring too many plus 1’s but scared because WHAT IF no one comes.
    I mean I need one since we live on less than 30k a year but the thing is no ones ever offered or been excited to host one for me so every day I scour thrift shops, 2nd time shops and clearance racks buying everything I might need just in case I have a friend or ANYONE that throws me one and no one comes.
    If only we had as many real friends as we do facebook friends!

    1. Everyone bought clothes to my baby shower (Yay! for cutesy outfits that the baby will never wear!) I ended up doing last minute shopping on Craigslist because I had been convinced to wait until I had my shower to see what we got. I didn’t mind buying second hand, I was just irritated that I made a registry for nothing.

    2. Oh my dear, I wish I could be there to throw you that baby shower! I went through a similar situation with the recent birth of our daughter. Because my boys are 16 and 11, everyone kept asking me if I was having a baby shower, because we needed everything. I replied every time that I’d sure love to! And every time the I got the same response, “you really should, you need everything, and that would be fun!” But no one offered, no one. I’ll tell you, that felt bad, really bad. But I will say that after our daughter was born, we had some people give us quite a lot of great baby items and clothing that their children had grown out of. I was, and am, immensely grateful. I pray that the same happens for you, and that you and your sweet baby have everything that you need and more! Just wanted you to know that your not alone…

    3. Congratulations, Misty, on expecting Baby #1! And I’ll hope with you for that baby shower. xoxo

  21. Although Melanie’s 16 year old heart hurt certainly can’t be taken away or be forgotten, I love how God used all of you to redeem it. He made it right, somehow, through all of you. And what a wonderful thing it is to let God do that, to receive it. That’s grace.

  22. This made me cry! She is brave, your friend Melanie. Some of us aren’t brave enough (yet?) to take that second chance. What a beautiful story. What a beautiful friendship! Thank you for sharing

  23. Oh Beth, it’s either tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter or it’s tears because you touch my heart so.

    Life just isn’t turning out as I envisioned it. I know it seldom does. I guess I could just really use your gentle, tender heart-holding right now. I feel so inadequate, as a mother, a friend, a wife. Life just seems pretty hard right now, and so full of unknowns. Thank you for the space to share, even though I haven’t given much detail. I know you know some of it already, but I have too much fear to let it all out.

    I’m glad Melanie said yes to that party.

    1. Holding you in my heart tonight, Georgi. I think of and wish for and pray for you and yours often. Sending love.

  24. I got sick. And my husband got angry….at me. I was so very tired, falling asleep by noon every day. My eyes hurt like I had been punched and my legs would not carry me up the stairs. And every time I sat down to rest, he got short with me. He stopped talking to me, stop smiling. We fought about it. A lot. I said that his response to my being sick made no sense, and was not what people do when their loved ones get sick. Even after I was finally diagnosed with Graves disease it seemed as though he didn’t believe that the symptoms were so debilitating. I tried meds, I tried pushing through it, I worked full time as a special education teacher through it all. I got my thyroid nuked and started new meds. I went through doctors who would not listen when I still felt like garbage all the time. And he was still angry. And I could barely breathe through it all because my heart was just crushed. We are better, but maybe that is because I feel better? It’s hard to trust people with your heart again….

    1. I’m so sorry for your pain. All of it.

    2. I can feel your hurt in your words. I am sorry.

    3. I am praying for your heart tonight, Sherri.

    4. Holding this piece of your heart tonight, Sheri. It’s the hardest when the people who should love us well let us down. Sending hugs and lots of love.

    5. Sheri….he was probably frightened,that’s why he reacted the way that he did,the thought of you being sick probably petrified him.It’s not an excuse now,but maybe it’s a reason.I suffer from hypothyroid and I know awful that it can make you feel,sometimes my stairs feel like Everest…I hope that things get better for you soon

      1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments! It’s scary to share and think no one will care enough to say anything. Thinking and praying about it, I think he was (is) scared. His mom was very sick his whole life and I’m sure all those feelings (men get to have feelings?) took over. It’s easier to not take it so personally!

    6. Sheri, I am so sorry. I went through some of the same things. My doctor told me I probably had less than five years to live without surgery which we didn’t have insurance for. My husband didn’t believe me and told me I wasn’t worth it and he hoped I’d die. My mother gave me the money. Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer. His family blamed me (he’d been smoking since he was 13. How was it my fault!?!). I was in the hospital when he was diagnosed so they worked to keep me away from him and take away all of my rights as his wife. He died five months later. I work every day to forgive them. The good news is that I am (mostly)happier and more contented than I have ever been and even have a small circle of (mostly phone) friends who understand that some days I am too tired to even talk on the phone. My life may look boring to others, but I am happy and less stressed. Keep fighting for yourself and know that there ARE others who understand and support you, even if they don’t have a lot of energy to do so.

  25. This was absolutely beautiful. I think most of us have stories similar to this. Some pain that we carry around with us and think about at random times. How wonderful that she was able to relive it and create a different ending. Thank you for sharing this –

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