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  • ellenwohl712

SNAP! You've Got To Have Friends

Having a support system is beneficial. While I have the support of my family, I often feel like my sisters and children are too close to my husband's never-ending troubles. Especially with our children, besides all their adult responsibilities, I don't want to pile any more on them. I keep my concerns under wraps, not sharing every gory detail. But I can only disguise so much when my husband hits a rough patch. I'm sure the exhaustion on my face and the despair in my eyes is visible to anyone who knows me.

At the end of every day, my body and my brain ache. I have a wonderful remedy. I drag myself to the tranquility of my bed, crawl under the covers, and call my friend Rhonda (who I know stays up late). Even though she moved to Florida forty-five years ago, when we talk, I feel a sense of normalcy. I am Ethel to her Lucy. Whenever we are together, we laugh and get into some sort of crazy I Love Lucy shenanigans.

Talking to her every night is a good distraction. Under normal circumstances, we talk about our kids, our past, and stupid stuff going on in the world. Now, when I pick up the phone to call her, she’s always ready to help me let loose. Sometimes, she calms my rants and hysteria, but mostly she listens.

Film producer Ed Cunningham observed, “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, then wait to hear the answer.” Our friends don’t have to be psychiatrists or social workers. They just have to know us and love us. The rest will follow.

“There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound,” wrote author Diana Cortes.

My cherished friend Linda lives in England. We’ve never met face-to-face. She’s been my pen pal since we were ten years old. Linda introduced me to the Beatles back in 1963, long before I Want to Hold Your Hand was sung on The Ed Sullivan Show. Over the years, our eagerly awaited airmail letters were filled with teenage gossip, secrets, and aspirations.

Once the Internet came into our lives, communicating became frequent and instantaneous. I write to Linda almost every night, knowing there will be a response by the next morning.

Throughout my husband’s many illnesses, Linda became my unintended confidante. She is my sounding board and shoulder to cry on. I think the ocean between us gives her a viewpoint that no one close to me could have. Of course, she is only reading my emails as I’m imploding with desperation. She hears my confessions of guilt for not being strong. She feels my frustration.

Sometimes, I’m afraid that all I do is “vent” in my letters to her. I just think that writing what I feel is easier than saying it out loud. Despite living across The Pond, Linda is always on my side. Maybe the miles separating us make it easier for her not to judge me. But I can’t imagine that kind of empathy from anyone else.

Turning to someone who's non-judgmental is essential. When you just want to work out your feelings - being questioned, judged, or advised isn't the cushy landing place you need. Whether it's a sounding board, a comfort, or a welcome distraction, the kind of boost I get from family and friends is instrumental in keeping my head in a safe place.

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