A few years ago, on a hazy golden afternoon, I looked at my husband with nothing but love, and said, “I adore you.” Without missing a beat, he coolly replied, “Adore Jesus. Love me.” And that was that. Never again, have I uttered those words to him. Except to occasionally replay the conversation, as if laughing about it now, will take some of the sting out of it then. Like a pinch of white pepper, I throw those words sparingly into the mundane soup pot that is our life. “Adore Jesus.” I say, with as much snark and arrogance as possible. Sometimes, my husband laughs, then says, “Man, what jerk said that?” And then I chuckle, filled with relief that he agrees with me. But also out of desperation to cover my rejection with a salve. Forgiveness at my house frequently sounds more like nervous laughter than cleansing tears.
Luckily, my life is filled, filled, to the brim, running over the sides, and pooling at my feet, with people who are worth adoring. People whom I greatly admire, and hold, not just in esteem, but in my heart. These people make me a better person, in the same way that Pinterest makes me a more creative mom. Like, oh my gosh, so that’s how you do that, whoa, I didn’t even know that was possible, ways.
In the forest of life, I feel grateful to be surrounded by such greenery of health and strength. Women who are brave and vulnerable, who use their voice and listen to others. Women whose hands are caked with the mud of trying to build something lasting. Who do not waste time, and who don’t get enough sleep, who wear out pairs of shoes comforting children and doing the mommy sway. Women who encourage other women, and lift each other up. Women who are real, and alive, and who know how to love. Those women, are my favorite.
Like Keilani, my very best friend. She is real and raw, and filled with courage. I call her Free Therapy because she talks to strangers, all strangers, like she has known them for years. She tells our waiters things that most people hold back until their fifth session of counseling. And she listens. She really hears the Me under the things I am saying. I can say, “I hate him.” And she’ll reply, “I’m sorry. I know that it hurts to love someone that much. I know you’re disappointed. I’m on my way over.” She is telepathic in a way that only people who are great at loving can be. She knows the real me, and still loves me with a fierceness that I never have to question. She always believes in me. Even when I have been rain gutter low, she sees the best in me, and doesn’t stop looking until she finds what she was looking for. She is my personal Pollyanna, without the broken legs. She is the prism that I hold to the light, when I have lost my way. Being her friend feels like following a path lit by 10,000 Chinese lanterns. She fills my life with adventure, encouragement, and unspeakable beauty.
And then, there is Jen. Such a short name, for so much person. She is lovely and kind. She is the treasurer to my darkest sides. She has this way of making everything better, just by being my friend. When I first met her, I thought, oh, she’s new here, I can help. But have now spent about a year and a half learning how it feels to be loved. Jen is the kind of human who calls everything out. She is passionate and talented, and fiercely loyal. She speaks the truth and expects it of others. She challenges my beliefs and doesn’t mince words. She brings care packages when my kids are sick, for me, not them, knowing that’s the part I wouldn’t have done. She meets me at the park, with iced coffee, then walks for two miles up and around, spilling uncoated truths on the concrete ground. When we became friends, we skipped forward several years, there was not a lot of weather chatting, and there still isn’t. I find her company, as well as her honesty, quite refreshing. Which is a huge understatement.
I have a Krysann who reminds me of all the world’s beauty. A friend and fellow writer, whose soul echoes my own, and whose life cuts the guile out of me, so gently that I find I don’t miss it when it’s gone. She is humble and generous, kind and giving. She sparkles with Special, in a way I can’t word right. She is a sun finder. If you put her in a dark room, she’ll be the first to turn the light on. She is like looking into a mirror and always seeing the very best you. She is the Jacob’s Ladder, among a sky filled with clouds. She can’t help it, light just radiates through her. Against the world’s cruelty, she wages a war of hand written kindness. She is clothed with sunflowers, where others wear bitterness.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that there are too many others for me to do justice to them. There are the people I look forward to at my children’s school. The Kristina’s, and Patty’s, the Jill’s and the Hilary’s. People who I admire, albeit from afar, who live authentic lives, and do a great job. Women who are doing their very best, and raising children who add goodness to this earth. These women are real, and beautiful. They dare to love and encourage. On days where my feet are cemented in Mommy Muck, I so appreciate the ways they smile and offer conversation like a lifesaver, to help me out of the mud.
I have my writing group, who I’ll write about later, because there is not time to say how much they mean to me. Nine other women, who I admire so much. My words are too feeble to encapsulate all that I owe to them.
There are friends at work, at church, and at home. My GBF in Portland, (that’s Gay Best Friend, for those who don’t know). My Jay, who I love, love, love, love, love. Who teaches me to enjoy life, and to laugh, and go on.
There are people around me, who help me stand up straighter, who remake my brokenness into something better. That is what and who, (or whom?,) I admire. The people who risk, the people who give. The people in my life who don’t bow or shrivel to the howl of the wind. The ones that speak life, and do the hard things, only to wake up the next day, and do it all again. The real super heroes, are the people who love. So, maybe my husband was onto something, after all. Because the people I adore, are the ones who lay their lives down. Those who don’t strive for power, but wear an unseen crown.