Teresa is falling apart. On the verge of divorce, unemployed, caring for a special needs child, she fears she cannot hold it together for another day. She picks up the phone to hear the words that will give her strength until the next phone call. I tell her she is strong, and she believes me enough to find a lawyer.
I am not the only person that Teresa will call. Over the next few months, her best and dearest friends will come out of the woodwork to offer comfort, advice, and a shoulder to cry on. With their love and support, Teresa will eventually get through the hard times, and build a better future for herself and for her child.
Throughout our lives, events happen which make us realize with sudden intensity that not only newborns are fragile. Even the strongest people we know experience weakness and vulnerability during times of hardship. We can be physically fragile with pneumonia, or emotionally fragile after heartbreak or being laid off from work.
Recovery is not impossible alone, but it is always easier with company. True friends -- and not the temporary, convenient, while-we-happen-to-work-together kind -- have often helped put me back together. With them, I feel safe enough to admit I'm falling apart. With them, I feel brave enough share my secrets and personal disasters. Because they know me better than anyone else, their confidence and understanding give me the strength to face situations head-on.
My kids and I once watched an episode of the tv show Mythbusters, that tested the fairy tale of Rapunzel. Would it really be possible to climb up or down a tower using only human hair? As bizarre as it sounds, a cast member braided enough hair to reach the the ground from the roof of a County Courthouse. The braid actually supported her as she climbed to safety! A few strands may have snapped during the climb, but in large numbers (carefully braided), those tiny hairs bore a lot of weight.
It occurred to me that like a single hair, a single phone call would not have supported me the day my grandmother passed, or even the day I flunked my driver's test. I rely on my friends for multiple phone calls, hugs, and visits, and together they make the braid that keeps me from falling from the mythical tower. Likewise, my one phone call with Teresa could never bear the weight of her emotional burden. She, too, requires a braid: the intermingling of positive messages from the friends who mean the most to her, and upon whom she's come to rely.
Our strongest relationships are, in fact, woven like a braid over years and miles. My closest friends live scattered around the country, yet we always find each other in times of joy and sorrow. When my children were born, when my grandmother passed, when I got my first job offer...I called these friends. I was there for their graduations, their weddings, and their mothers' funerals. In between all of these milestones, we stay in touch when we can, and fall out of touch when things get busy...always knowing that separation is temporary, and caring is permanent.
Teresa is part of my braid, and I am part of hers. I was a member of her wedding party, and now, sadly, I will be there for her during the divorce. Together, apart, together again, we keep each other strong.