16th April 2020
I cannot speak for Matilda, although she has shared some of her thoughts regarding her past friendships with me, but for me, I find myself, finally in the space of being completely myself in this friendship. That might sound like an odd start to this post, so lets go back to the beginning.
I met Matilda in 2007, at the end of the year. She was already home schooling her two children and I had just decided to take my son out of school to home school him too. We got to know each other through a mutual friend. In those early days, although I always loved Matilda (what’s not to love? She’s always sweet and kind), I found her quite mousy – not in her appearance, although she didn’t make much effort in that department either (neither did I at that stage of my life), but more in her manner. I felt she had some very different ideas about life, but whenever she tried to share them, she would be cut off, sometimes mid-sentence by some of the friends in our group. This was a group of mothers and children who gathered together on a weekly basis, to participate and initiate activities around our children. Matilda would start to share a new idea or thought, and I can’t ever remember her being able to substantiate her findings, before she would be quieted by another friend or more. Needless to say, we never really bonded over friendship in those early years. I speak under correction, but I think Matilda found me very opinionated at that stage of our relationship, for want of a better word. I think she went as far to say she thought I was confident. I’m like that now, but certainly didn’t feel that way then.
Over the years, even though we never felt a particularly strong connection, we did develop a friendship separate from our initial one which involved the home schooling group. Our sons are similar ages and have always shared a friendship, so even though I had moved cities, we stayed in touch. My pattern was one of visiting the city where Matilda lives every second month. I would let friends know where and what time I’d be at a specific restaurant, and they would pop in and out through the course of the day. That way, I felt I’d get to see more people in one visit, than going to their homes individually. Matilda almost always showed up.
It was during these visits, that we started to form a deeper bond. So much so, that I eventually would visit her home when I went through to that city, and over the years, the friends I saw became less and less, so the few that were still in my life, would visit with me at Matilda’s home. This shift in our friendship dynamic, was so natural and organic. There was no forceful effort made by either of us. It just happened.
Fast forward to my 50th birthday event. I invited six ladies to go away with me to our holiday home in Mozambique, a neighbouring country to South Africa where we reside. Four of those six women, committed to the holiday. We left on a Monday morning, very early, and came back to South Africa on the Friday. Matilda was one of those ladies who pledged to come with. Before this holiday, although our friendship had naturally progressed, we were still more just buddies than deep, heart-to-heart friends.
I do feel that our friendship reached a new depth on this trip. As a group of women, we shared heartfelt issues and stories with each other. We allowed ourselves to be very vulnerable with one another during this time. We all found out deep secrets about one another, and experienced the power of sharing with no fear of judgement. It was a powerful week. Matilda allowed herself to share her truths, which are different to mine, but I found myself in admiration of her. For the first time, I saw her authentic self. She allowed all the masks to slip, and I was impressed, amazed and surprised by who emerged! This was a woman I wanted to more deeply connect with. I saw for the first time, a strong woman, with strong beliefs and weird and wonderful ideas. I knew she was someone I needed in my life. She added something, and I couldn’t yet put my finger on it.
About 18 months after that trip, I asked Matilda to come into “MSJ” with me. She brought a far more sustainable approach to the business, because of how she lives her life. Our friendship has reached such depths of trust and vulnerability. There is really no one else I trust more with the stories of my heart. I could finally put my finger on what she brings to my life. She brings balance. She is more fun than my serious self. She laughs more. She finds lightness in dark situations. She allows me to be my bossy and very organised self, without taking offense. She doesn’t get upset when I disagree with her. She allows me to speak my mind, even if it’s difficult to hear. To date, there’s nothing I’ve shared with her, that has shocked her or made her want to run away. She is a rock! For that, I am truly, endlessly grateful. She sees me! She hears me! And who doesn’t want that?