I have made a choice to follow a man, a beloved man, to Tanzania. In doing so, I chose to leave behind great friends, friends that have defined who I am, where I am today, who have witnessed my stumbles, my misery, my glory days, my mistakes, my good deeds and who have loved me regardless.
I chatted to my best friend on Skype last night, our first chat since I left where we were able to see each other, and apart from the physical changes I could witness, like her hair that has grown longer, I detected a firm resolve on her part to embrace life in a more open-minded way and even though the conversation started haltingly, we soon felt so at ease that we chirped on like excited kids for hours until her power supply called a stop to the conversation. I felt sad, but good, and realised how much I miss her.
So what defines a friend? And right now it is becoming very relevant in our lives again as we need to establish a new circle of friends or become hermits. Nicki has been a friend for about 28 years, and in this 28 years I have grown from a child-woman, to a mother, to a business woman, divorced, and now happily married again. She in turn went through similar changes in her life, and we found each other divorced, two kids each in our early forties. We went through days of crying on each other’s shoulders when yet another frog did not turn into that prince we were hoping for, we covered each other with cloaks of love and we were never afraid to be brutally honest with each other as well.
Before I met Nicki, Linda and Shirley became firm, life-long friends. I first saw Linda when I walked into the new job I landed, and with her being a couple of years older than me at that time, to me, my young impressionable me at age 19, she looked ever so smart and self-assured – never a hair out of place, always in control of her job, her life and her emotions – unlike me who soon after starting the job had a major scene with another lady who joined same day as me, about racial divides, which turned out to be a huge misunderstanding. Thankfully, Marion and I remained friends for years to come and until I left Cape Town, Marion loyally supported me in every business effort I made.
Then Shirley happened – there is no other way to describe Shirley as a “happening”. She swirled into the room, with me being 23 at the time, her being a few years older, but heavens!! a whirlwind of energy. Pretty, petite, divorced at the time with three lovely young boys. And that first day I felt rattled, as at that stage I was the young queen bee of the office – on top of my game, hour-glass figure, head so big I hardly managed to clear door-frames. And here I saw a threat. BUT, she turned into a best friend!! And we walked up and down Adderley Street in Cape Town, taunting the presidential guard and singing the jingle to an old deodorant advert that went something like: Ain’t she sweet, now she’s walking down the street, and I ask you very confidentially, ain’t she sweet. And we got sore toes from Lady Di court shoes, and we had big Farrah Fawcett Hair – after all, it was the heady ’80’s!
And the three of us had all the Free State boere-boys throwing all the flowers on the tables on stage where we had just done a modern-dancing rendition of “Beat It” by Michael Jackson – carefully choreographed and worked out in my lounge for weeks beforehand, only for us to make so many mistakes on the night, but missed by a mad crowd who thought we were just the bees’ knees in our Jane Fonda style leotards, leg-warmers and sweat bands.
Over the years I gained some more wonderful female friends – the Deanna’s, Gina’s, Rowan’s, Audette’s, Mel’s, Wendy’s, Orette’s and Theresa’s of the world and many more – including inspirational clients like Sheila, Erika, Grace to name but a few, and love them all!! And they have kept me sane, we have commiserated with each other through a recession recently, I bought a yacht with a Louise and a Louisa, I joined a friendship circle with many like-minded adventure seekers via Glynnis. I got inspired by Reanna.
And Tharina moved into my garden flat and taught me to look at life through younger eyes again, she brought me tea in bed many a morning and sat legs-up on my lovely blue chair and we discusssed life, love and the meaning of it all. And she comforted me when my dog died.
After my mother passed away I had the wonderful blessing of Willi coming into my life – not to fill my mom’s place, but to become a firm friend for life, and she in turn taught me that we may grow older in body, but never in spirit. And we would go out every Tuesday night for our usual dry white wine and honey chicken, and some evenings we held each other up down the stairs if we could not resist that second glass of vino, but we laughed, we cried, and she is very dear to me.
And my sisters, Linda and Marietha and their friends and daughters and daughters-in law, and my own beautiful daughter Belinda – the most clever cookie I know – they all are my friends, my best friends. And I want to sing like Queen a la Freddie Mercury (ya, I am a huge fan, and come from that era) – “Oo you make me live now honey, you’re my best friend….”
So then, living in a new country, a new city, new everything creates the need for making new friends. And to the lovely South Africans who have opened hearts and arms to make us feel welcome, I say thanks so much, and may we become good friends, if not best friends.
To all my friends – a reminder of what it takes to be a friend, and a thank you for being my friends for so many years – I quote from Oriah Moutain Dreamer – The Invitation:
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
THANK YOU WITH LOVE, FROM SULETTA
- Divorce Day Revelations. ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer (elephantjournal.com)
- Taj Hotel Cape Town wins illustrious award, South Africa (south-african-hotels.com)
- Jackie – An African dog’s travel (b)log (suletta.com)
- The Year After Separation. ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer (elephantjournal.com)
- Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town (south-african-hotels.com)