For most of my life, I have placed extremely high value on female friendships. I think I am one of those women, who is fiercely loyal and who expects the same from her friendships. As I have aged, and also due to my divorce and subsequent remarriage, I lost many friends. For many years, this hurt me deeply and I persisted with many women to try and maintain some level of friendship.
I don’t know when exactly it happened, but I did have a subtle light-bulb moment – a moment when the person I was becoming, had begun to mean far more to me, than my female friends. It felt that to keep certain friends in my life, would cost me the ferocious and strong woman I believe I was always meant to be. I no longer wanted to sacrifice her! She was too important to trade for another’s acceptance, and that was surely the way it would have had to be, had I pursued friendship above myself. I had become too much for those women who used to be in my life. Too opinionated, too headstrong, too loud, too courageous, too outspoken! But I loved this ‘me’ I had uncovered. And I was no longer willing to tame her so certain people could feel comfortable around me.
I do believe I am now the person I was always meant to be. My memories of my childhood are often dotted with uncles (especially), who told me I was too loud. I knew what I wanted from a very young age, but that was not accepted in my family I was born into. I often heard I should not ‘answer back’ to adults in my life. One word that comes up in my childhood memories, that I remember with shame, is that I was ‘cheeky.’ Looking back, I felt unheard. That was my biggest wound as a child. No one listened to me.
This was possibly not the truth for everyone in my life, but certainly for a large portion of my childhood, I did not feel understood. I know I’m not alone. I have a daughter who reminds me so much of myself at different stages of my life, and I am so grateful that she has found her voice. It’s sad for me to admit it, but I perpetuated what had happened to me. I parented my two daughters very much the way I’d been parented – and they would have none of it. I am so glad and eternally grateful, they spoke up more than I ever did. My eldest is especially outspoken and head-strong, and that makes me proud, that despite my parenting, she came into her own at an earlier age than myself.
Enter, my healing friendship. Matilda and I, have been friends now for just over 11 years. Way back when I first met Matilda, she never shared her opinion with others. I got to know her through a home-schooling group. We were a group of 6 moms with 11 children between us that we were currently home-schooling. Matilda was quiet. She used to teach the Science group. The kids adored her. I think between all of us, there were only 3 girls, the rest were boys, so the science group was particularly fun for them.
I have always admired her. She never gossips, or speaks meanly of or to anyone. Matilda is someone who finds the bright side of life most of the time. Little did I know then, that she too, felt unheard. I had already worked through much of that in my own life, and there was a time that I was becoming ‘too much’ for this group of women. After I left my first husband, it became impossible to remain part of this group. I did try for many years to follow, to keep connections with some of them but it was not reciprocated, except for Matilda.
Imagine my surprise when she started to share with me, her own struggles with religion, her own questions about the type of church we used to belong to. (We were in different but similar styles of churches.) We began to connect on a different level, one that was not about breaking down the system we had both by then, decided to leave, but more about LIFE and what it was becoming to mean to us. We were discovering and learning and questioning and growing – and there was no judgement from each other. Till this day, we believe different things, but we are open to hearing the other. What a beautiful gift this is! To be heard.
Little did I know that we would seek each other out more and more. Eventually, after trying to build with all those women, I found myself more and more drawn to spending time alone with Matilda. It was such a natural progression, very organic and unforced. I don’t think it was a friendship either of us actively pursued, but it felt like we were drawn to each other, because of all the unanswered questions we had. Also I think we found in each other, the safety of being heard without retribution.
To this day, I look forward to the new things she teaches me. I’m not afraid to disagree with her, because she accepts my point of view as mine. She doesn’t feel the need to take on my views and beliefs as her own, and the same is true from my side. I love that she stretches my mind with all her curiosity. She has taught me so much too. For that I am deeply appreciative. She can call me out when she thinks I’m wrong and this does not cause friction. In fact, I welcome her opinions. They are valuable to me. I know she can sometimes be brutally honest, but I am able to receive this, as she places the same value on our friendship as I do.
This unlikely friendship has taken me by surprise. I cannot assume to speak for Matilda, but when I met her, never did I think we would ever be as close as we are today. I have found in her, a heart turned toward me, a mind filled with more questions than answers, a voice that speaks kindly and a woman who’s opinions mean very much to me because I know they come from a pure place. I have found the type of friend in her, that I hope she experiences in me. She really does bring out the best in me, and challenges me to become a better person too.