Radical Friendship

Everything in life is better with a best friend. Friendship, like any other commitment, is more about choice than feeling. Feelings come and go. Friends ride or die.

Everything in life is better with a best friend. Friendship, like any other commitment, is more about choice than feeling. Feelings come and go. Friends ride or die.

My best friend is named Jason.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about the term “best friend.” It gets tossed around a lot. Not quite as much as “love” and a bit more than “I’m serious!” My idea of friendship has changed a lot over the years. Thank goodness for that. There was a time when I thought that friendship was measured by how often someone wanted me around. This is the perspective of a kid who was afraid of being alone and insecure in his own skin. A.K.A. a normal place for anyone to be at any given time. I thought that if you wanted me around you liked me and if you ever needed to be alone or wanted a break from me that you hated me and the sky was falling and errrrrmmaaagghhheeeerrrrddd!!!! This idea of friendship informed a lot of how I received and processed behavior from other people. For instance…have you ever thought that for a friend to “support” you that they have to agree with your position and reinforce it and be ready to throw down and fight whenever you’re upset no matter what its about? Yeah, I did too. My friendship with Jason has, over the years, gone through all of these phases and ideas and notions and come out stronger. So by way of a brief vignette, let me tell you what I have learned about unconditional love and support from my best friend, Jason.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about body image. In that post I talked a bit about how men also struggle with the way they see their bodies. It felt like shame over our bodies was something that wasn’t talked about amongst men very often and I wanted to create a conversation around it. I linked the blog post to my social media. I got a few comments on facebook.

One of those comments was “Man you look like you could use a few cheeseburgers…just kidding ha ha ha” or words to that effect. It triggered me big time. I was furious. So I called Jason. Jason knows every single shred of my backstory and so he listened while I told him how it made me feel. I had tears in my eyes and my fury had started to change to hurt as these things tend to do. Jason listened and reassured me and asked me to remind him of the reasons that I wrote the post in the first place. Jason’s thoughtful response to my emotional outburst here is so important. Because when I called him I was NOT in the least fucking bit “namaste” or “zen.” I was keeping it real with how I felt. I told Jason every single thing I thought about this guy that made the comment and how fucking bull shit passive aggressive it was and man I really let loose. I may have even entertained the idea of doing bodily harm to the guy the next time I saw him. Instead of reinforcing that low frequency and that hurtful space, my friend listened, heard, and then brought the conversation back to where it mattered. “Why did you write it in the first place, Bobby? Is it possible that this is part of the conversation.” Wow…fuck yes! Just that brief pause allowed us to unwind my emotions together. And so Jason and I talked about how my rage was really pain which was really shame. I spent most of my life feeling fat and disgusting and I was finally starting to love my body so much so that I did a boudoir photo shoot to challenge my own shame notions and now I was being shamed out of my own conversation!?!?! No way. Now here’s the really good shit. Jason asked me two questions that still stick with me today.

QUESTION 1: “Do you think his comment really had anything to do with you?” We spent a good while talking about this one. And what we came up with was…probably not, but who cares either way. If this guy really thinks I look like I need a cheeseburger or two, that I’m too skinny, well then he’s entitled to feel that way and to have that opinion and it’s really none of my fucking business. That’s real talk. As we fleshed that conversation out a bit more my ego looked for another way to justify my wrath. “But Jason, he came up on my Facebook page making these comments. Isn’t that inappropriate. Shouldn’t I type out a well crafted email explaining my position and why his comment was passive aggressive and…” I went on and on. Man I was hurting. We continued to discuss shame issues over our bodies. His and mine. We talked about sending emails, or phone calls (the commenter is actually an amazing guy that I think very highly of) and every other course of action possible for me to get my point across. But my heart was in the wrong place. I wanted to be RIGHT. I wanted to shame him for shaming me. And once that came out, my best friend asked me one of the questions I keep nearest to me every day.

QUESTION 2: “Bobby, is there a version of you that has already let this go?” As soon as he said it my heart burst open! I surrendered. I laid it down. I turned that pain over and over and over in my mind and in my heart until I realized that it wasn’t pain in and of itself. I turned it into pain. And Jason asked me the question that reminded me of my power to turn it into anything else that I wanted. My best friend didn’t commiserate with me or help me plan out a beat down for this commenter. He listened. He loved. And then he invited me to transcend. He already knew the answer to his question. So did I. Of course there is a version of me who has let it go. Of course.

The whole conversation is important. Because YOU ARE ALLOWED TO FEEL the shame and the rage and the anger. YOU ARE ALLOWED to share those feelings. YOU ARE ALLOWED to hurt and to feel and to ache and to cry. And YOU ARE ALLOWED to demand the kind of friendship in your life that helps you make sense of the sharp and the dull moments. My hope for everyone is that they have a Jason, or find one soon.

Our emotions arise for a reason. In this case, the shame trigger led me to a dark corner of my image of myself that felt unsupported and unloved. Through this beautiful conversation with my friend I was able to bring our mutual light into that space, and we shared a beautiful moment together.

From a 2 a.m. walk to 7-11 as kids with a $50 bill his dad had given him, to the recent birth of his second amazing child, Jason and I have seen it all together. We don’t always agree. We sometimes have moments where we don’t get along. But I would not have it any other way. We are raw and honest and we don’t let conversations go until we have gotten what we came for. That can be long and arduous work. And it’s the only work that matters. The work of drawing closer to those you love. The work of unwinding emotions to their trigger points and nurturing them into bloom with the love of two hearts instead of just one.

I could tell you more stories like this. And as I sit here writing and reflecting on this treasured friendship, a day after his 38th birthday, I cannot help but overflow with gratitude. How lucky am I that of all the people in all the world for this brief journey on this tiny little dot in space, we have shared the honor of friendship.

Robert PlagmannComment