Today is my best friend’s birthday.  She is turning 40.  And her oldest daughter is moving out and into her first apartment while her youngest will be starting pre-K.  Yeah, rough for one day, I know.  I also know that if there is a person on the planet who can deal, it is her.

I am not on her level.  In my opinion, few people are.  She has this unique mixture of capability and charm that is impressive while in no way intimidating. 

Most of the time, when you meet someone who is able to handle things as well as she does and who is as smart and discerning, you find them to be, well… a bitch pretentious.  Not only are they just a bit better than everyone else, but they know it and are smug about it – and maybe even preachy.  Think Gwyneth Paltrow meets Oprah.  I think of those women with a contempt-tinged jealousy.  The ones who “do it all” cannot be good at it all and, in my experience, once you get past the perfect hard candy coating what you find inside is rarely melt-in-your-mouth Belgian chocolate, but a rotten bitter curdle.

Personally, I’d rather be sour coated high quality chocolate than a candy coated dog turd, but I have an ex-sister-in-law who would totally disagree. In her opinion only what is on the outside counts and once someone has bought the packaging and bitten through to the nasty center, well, they are committed then, uh?  And usually, as my ex-SIL in law proved, people just swallow the shit – at least until they cannot take it anymore.

But there are exceptions.  There are those who truly just buck up and do what needs to be done with aplomb and fortitude, something that others of us pitiably lack. Those who are truly beautiful people who manage to be good and make the rest of us better.  Those who, amazingly, do not understand how rare they are and in no way embody the judgment and pretension that has become the normal attitude of “together” people.  Think a blend of dark and milk chocolates with a sublimely smooth ganache center dipped in milk chocolate. Yum!

All this is not to say my friend does not have difficulties or make mistakes.  She is human, after all.  But she does not wallow (something I cannot say about myself) and she learns from any misstep she makes (something else I cannot say about myself).  Instead of letting negativity eat away at her, she realizes that there is too much at stake to allow yourself to be derailed by the past.  She gets that her children are too precious and her job as their mother is too important to default because you screw something up.  That is just one thing.  There are millions of others you still have to do right – or as right as you can. And you can’t do the others if you get hung up on the one.  I think she got that at 21.  I didn’t until 37 – or maybe not even until just now.

And, ooh my, at the times we have had!  I would tell you some of them, but she would probably rather I not.  I alluded to a few here.  Besides, what fun would it really be if everyone knew about it?

We have been through moves, marriages, children, divorces, boyfriends and flings, re-marriages, more divorces (ok, those were mine) and all sorts of craziness (any true insanity being mine, of course).  For five years we lived two miles from each other.  For a good deal of that time we worked together at the same law firm.  We talked every night (for a couple of hours – literally) and saw each other every day.  And on the weekends?  You guessed it.  We raised a bit of hell together, too.

We have also had our falling outs (my fault) and times where we have gone months without speaking or having any kind of communication whatsoever.  But not once in the last 20+ years has there ever been a time when I had any doubt that connection was there and available but for the asking.  And, believe you me, there have been plenty of times in those 20 years where my connection to my own self was more precarious than you can imagine.  The only time I have ever felt her to be critical of me was when I damn sure deserved it.  There is a quote from the movie Spanglish, “Lately, your low self esteem has just been good common sense.” Unfortunately, that has been true of me on more than one occasion.

The difference between us is hard to describe, although it is evident to anyone who knows, or even meets, us.  I tend to be darker and harder to take, I think, while she is more mainstream and easy.  She is also more outgoing and responsible while I skew inward and undisciplined.  She would be more likely to read and enjoy a Nicholas Sparks novel, while picking one of them up would, for me, be more akin to a vampire holding the Bible.

She is up at 6:30 every morning and on top of things while I, on the other hand, barely drug myself to the coffee pot by 7:30 this morning when I had to be out the door by 8 (and, sadly, that is no lie or exaggeration).  She exercises, runs a household of 6 (with a husband who travels more weeks than he is home), scrapbooks, knows all her neighbors and visits with them and does things like coach her 10-year-old’s volleyball team.

Yeah, I don’t do that kind of stuff.

A weekend at her house involves what would be a month’s worth of activity at mine. As a matter of fact, I have not managed to get her birthday card in the mail on time again this year.

However, this is not a comparison of me to her.  You should never compare yourself to others, but you should look at the quality and character of those who value you.  It has taken me a long time to realize that – and an even longer time to like myself.  Funny thing is, all the time I have struggled with it, she already did.


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