you are my sunshine: when best friends drift apart, the love remains
About fifteen years ago, Ness and I were best friends, and she recently shared some news on social media that had me weeping, even ugly crying, on and off for days. Throughout the course of our close friendship, Ness and I shared a penchant for drinking lots (oh, those Midori shakers!). We danced, twerked and “went ‘round the outside” to Eminem and club bangers like we were fifteen and on our first night on the Vodka Cruisers (except we did it every Saturday). I’m pretty sure we could have taught Beyoncé a thing or two about moves back in the day.
Ness and I shared clothes, make-up and a mutual love of trashy movies. We always had each other’s back, which is probably a necessity at the front bar at the toughest pub in rural Australia. When a frenemy crossed one of us, they had double trouble guaranteed. We nursed each other’s broken hearts after many a crappy breakup. And, let’s face it, we had our fair share. When times were especially tough we had a dancing pot plant stuffed sunflower, which I had bought for her to convey my feelings. Back then that cheered us up and sung the lyrics to You are my Sunshine. Geez, that thing made us laugh.
At one stage, due to my suffering isolative depression, I think Vanessa was my only friend. She was my beacon of hope. More than just my lifeline to friendship, she let me sleep in her spare room when I got cheated on by some guy and had to run away. I cried buckets to her when I had depression and she understood when my anxiety meant I had to leave her house fifteen minutes after I arrived, or when I ate all of her KFC zesty wings.
We were both dreamers and we had business plans together. We were barely separable. We had ill-fated picnics indoors when the weather didn’t permit our plans. We knew each other’s secrets, and shared our hopes, dreams and fears and over the years. We could call on one another for help – and that continued even after I left the small country town in Australia we both lived in and headed back to university in Melbourne. She was supposed to be my bridesmaid when I finally did stumble across Mr. Right (which definitely didn’t happen in that at the pub in rural Victoria). I thought that we’d be best friends forever.
We’ve both had ups and the extreme lows life can throw along the way. Neither of us had it easy in terms of health, but also in relationships. But as besties we always shared a good sense of humour and above all a mutual respect. Heartbreakingly for me at the time, my bestie (who had been my only sunshine at times) and I drifted apart. I remember the loss like it was yesterday.
Over the years, communication between Ness and I became more one-sided (usually I’d initiate the contact) and conversations became sporadic, and then there was silence. Life took us down different roads. I felt devastated when she was unable to attend my engagement party and I remember thinking that this was the beginning of the end for us. Soon after, I discovered on social media that she had a new “best friend” and it broke my heart. What happened to us?
I was a young twenty-seven and not wise enough to realise that I didn’t actually need the distinguished label of holding a “best friend”. In fact, Vanessa’s friendship with someone else changed none of our experiences together. It certainly didn’t invalidate what we had shared. And, I could be my own “best friend” if I let myself. We stayed in sporadic contact via social media.
The other week I caught the tail end of some miraculous news about Ness. And the tears came – all of them. She has met her soulmate and her family is set to grow, and this is exactly the happiness she has always deserved, even when she didn’t know it. She always had it in her to achieve blissful abundance in love and success and I’m so glad that, like me, she never settled for second best.
The truth is, while I initially felt a bit sad to watch this fairy tale play out from the sidelines of social media, I couldn’t have been happier for my old bestie and true mate for life. I admire from afar the way she built a new life for herself through sheer grit, hard work, determination and always a touch of fierce independence and fire in the belly. I congratulated Ness, with the same love I have always held for her in a space of my heart. I am proud of her because I love her, adore her and wish her every happiness for her new beginnings.
I have been extremely privileged to share such a big and special part of her journey – the good bits, the bad bits, and everything in between – and now I look forward to watching and cheering with more virtual but genuine love when her bubba comes along. And I just know the newest member of her little tribe needs a dancing flower mobile to hang above the cot and make the little one happy while it sings,” You are my sunshine, my only sunshine….”
I’ve learned so much from being part of Ness’s life and from our friendship, particularly that the nature of life-changes means friendship doesn’t mean daily contact, or even necessarily sharing the ins and outs of daily life. Friendships are certainly not a competition. Mateship is about mutual respect, holding the space in your heart for someone else and above all else, still feeling that same love even years after your active communication has come to a standstill.
Your greatest friends in life will always be just that, irrespective of whether they have other friends, who are now closer than the two of you. We need to remember all of all the hearts we’ve touched, and that have touched us. Because it’s moments in time that make life worth it, not a current friendship status or “bestie” title.
Now every time I think of my fierce, independent and strong friend Ness, I think of ALL the love – from us, to us, about us. I challenge you to think of all the love you’ve received and been gifted from mates, past and present, over the years.
And next time you feel the pang of an unanswered text or an ignored phone call, don’t forget to be your own best friend. Then with the excess light you bring into the world, shine brightly! And always remember, you deserve that sunshine too.
Naomi Fryers is a freelance writer from Melbourne. She has been published by a number of globally celebrated publications including The Huffington Post and Elephant Journal. Back at university she served as an editor of her student newspaper a la Liz Wakefield and has also held an editorship at the illustrious social justice based publication The Good Men Project.
You can find her creative musings at: www.naomifryers.com