Thursday 6 May 2021

It's Not Boring! An Open Letter to My Best Friend on Our 10 Year Anniversary

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. (Anais Nin)

Sunday, May 2, 2021.

Dear Fran,

I’m writing this sitting on the bench that’s been my regular stopping / thinking / journaling place since we first went into lockdown last March. I’ve had calls with you here many times, and I’ve taken you along on my walks — sharing my world in photos and chat, and voice and video calls. We’re three thousand miles apart but we still use all the tools and means available to us to bridge the distance and keep our friendship and lives vibrant, aligned, and alive.

Ten years ago we’d not yet met. That was still a few days into my future and yours. (It’s a constant reminder that transformational change can appear at any moment.) And then that evening came — May 6, 2011 — and I posted seven words to a friend’s Facebook wall. A friend who was struggling. In pain. Suicidal.

Flooding light and love into your world.

Unknown to me, you were there too, at the same time on the same Facebook wall. How my naive words, intended to soothe our mutual friend, enraged you! Had my words been less hopelessly inadequate, you might not have been moved to respond as you did.

Sometimes, even too much love can be overwhelming.

The irony isn’t lost on me. Had I shown even a little more empathy and care, you and I would never have met. Likewise, if I’d not dared to post on her wall at all. How easy it would have been for me to just click away. It’s a scary thought. I can’t imagine my life without you in it. It is upon such moments that our lives turn. Our friend isn’t here to share our anniversary with us. She knew of our meeting that night on her page, though. It pleased her, I think. She is not forgotten.

You’ve told me many times that you’d not be here if it wasn’t for me. If not for us. I take you at your word, and there are no words to express what it means — how it feels — to believe you. And I do believe you. I would be here today, even if we'd never met. But the person I am today — the man sitting here writing to you — did not exist ten years ago. Or perhaps he was always there, but not yet awake.

“Does anyone call you Marty?” you asked. No, I replied. And in that moment the new me was born. I didn’t save you (No pedestals!, remember!) but we have helped each other save ourselves. To become, together and apart, who we truly are.

Most days, we meet for evening calls, but today you’re out visiting friends on Peaks Island. Your life on the mainland is much richer, but I miss those days on Peaks. Your little house. Walks on Centennial and around the island, me following along in photos, words, and the tracking app we used to use. We’ve come a long way since then. So much has changed, and so much hasn’t. We are here for each other as much now as back in those early days. We’re stronger. We have grown, in trust, and in maturity.

I was looking back over our ten years to pick out some highlights. Our first and only day together in person, in Southampton, is right up there, but there are so many more! Many of our moments and memories are private but a good deal of our friendship has been lived out on a wider stage. I’m writing this letter, for example, with the intention of sharing it on our blog. And it is ours, even though these days it’s me who provides most of the content and maintains the site itself. Pretty much everything we do in the wider mental health space is “us.” Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say. Gum on My Shoe is our creative and public platform, and it’s an important part of our story and journey together.

I know there’ve been times when you regretted suggesting I write a book about what it’s like to be friends with someone living with mental illness — but you did suggest it, and I (we) did write it! As you reminded me once when I was doubting myself: “You wrote a book.. A whole fucking book.. Don’t you give yourself credit for that?” High Tide, Low Tide is our great endeavour and achievement. I will always be proud of that. I refer to it a lot myself, to remind me of things we got right — and things we got wrong! Republishing it this year (and our book of blog posts) was an act of pure love.

Our blog. Our two books. Our online presence on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. I’m deeply committed to them all. But they are not us. They share our story and our message of hope, but we know the stories, tips, strategies, and techniques we write about because we have lived them. Day in. Day out. Ten years. 3,653 days. (And yes, I looked it up, to be sure I had the leap years right!)

I’ve loved it all, Fran. Not always liked it or found it easy — we’ve had our share of hurt and darkness, some of it our doing, some of it not — but I’ve always loved being with you. I told you once “I never don’t want to be here,” and that’s still true, no matter what is going on for you or for me. That commitment has kept our friendship strong and endlessly reinventing itself. The dark times and the light, the low and the high, the well and the unwell; they are all part of what we’ve shared and continue to share. As I’m sure I’ve said once or twice along the way, it’s not boring, being your best friend!

Thank you, Fran, for every one of the 3,653 days we’ve shared. Here’s to the next 3,653!



1 comment:

  1. It’s amazing how meeting the right person can bring about such profound change in those who are blessed with a good friendship. A friendship of such magnitude is a force, much like the tides of the ocean. It’s definitely a force to be reckoned with in the best possible of ways. Clearly your friendship with Fran is as constant as the waves caressing the sand. Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter.