If chicken soup is good for the soul, then time with BFF’s is the ultimate balm for our sanity. When close female friends spend time together, it is one part relaxation, two parts therapy, a dash of education, and a heaping dose of entertainment. All mixed up in a big ol’ bowl of unconditional love and acceptance.
This weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with my BFF’s, and I realized there is an unspoken yet natural Code of Conduct when Besties are together. We tell stories, we vent about family issues, we discuss favorite books, shows, movies and celebrities. We shop. We marvel at our similarities and celebrate our differences. We have heart-to-heart discussions about life’s challenges like job changes and relationships. Sometimes we cry. But mostly we laugh. A lot. Because in any good BFF gathering, much silliness is required.
One of the other important elements in the BFF Codes of Conduct is honesty. After all, the members of our Personal Board of Directors are the ones who know us best. Honesty is required when trying on clothing, sharing decorating ideas, and considering new hairstyles. Honesty is required when asking advice about everything from men to professional situations, to shoes. Sometimes moments of honesty might push us outside our comfort zone. Even with BFFs.
The other night, as one of my BFFs and I were cleaning up the kitchen together, she bravely chose the quiet time we had alone to address something with me. She did it perfectly, saying “I don’t want to upset you, but I’m concerned…are you aware that you have developed a bit of a head shake?” Of course my reaction was something eloquent like “Huh? What? Really? When? How often? Is it really noticeable? Um, NO, I had no idea!” She kindly let me know what she had noticed and encouraged me to get it checked out.
I have been blessed to be very healthy all of my life. Sure, over recent years, there have been a few challenges like surgery and treatment for breast cancer, a bout with the flu, a few head colds, some aches and pains, arthritis in my knees, and currently an annoying ach in my shoulder and neck. But overall, I’ve been really fortunate. Last year I was happy (almost smugly so) to get a glowing health report from my doctor after my Physical. So to hear that something might be wrong, when I had no clue, and have felt fine, is unsettling at best.
That night when I went to bed, I told my husband what my girlfriend had said to me about my shaking head. He replied “Yeah. That’s been happening for awhile.” WHAT? Awhile? Like how long? “I dunno, maybe a couple of years?”. HUH?? A couple of YEARS? And no one had said anything? I raced to the mirror to look, but of course could see nothing happening.
In true R.W. fashion, I didn’t sleep all night, instead spending those quiet dark hours ruminating about this news. My mind raced between hoping it was just a side effect from the neck pain I’ve been having, to worrying I suddenly had some deathly serious neurological disease. I obsessed about how obvious it was, with visions of Katharine Hepburn nodding her way through my head. And why hadn’t anyone else said anything? Had everyone in my life noticed it? Am I doing it RIGHT NOW? No real woman’s thoughts at 2am are clear and logical.
I understand, of course, that in the grand scale of health issues, injuries and disabilities, this little tremor barely registers as even an issue. For that I’m thankful. But any time we women discover we may not be infallible, or we have a rude awakening to our age or our weaknesses, it is a tough pill to swallow. And of course, there’s vanity. Arthritis in my knees I can hide. A head tremor, well, that’s just out there for the world to see.
In the morning, I confronted a couple of my other BFFs about this news. Yes, indeed, they had noticed it, and for various reasons, had not felt comfortable enough to say anything to me. They each gave different versions to me of when it seems to happen, and even which direction my head shakes. One of my besties is a doctor, and told me that she’s fairly certain it is a benign condition called an Essential Tremor. I would much prefer it to be a wee bit less essential. (I have since been in touch with my friend Google and have determined this condition happens to 10 million other folks in the United States, with not much known about the why’s or the treatments. I will confirm Mr. Google’s prognosis with my real live doctor very soon).
At first I wanted to yell WTF, why didn’t you all say something?? Then I realized that honesty is not always easy. And the #1 BFF Code of Conduct is to make each other feel the best we can about ourselves, to be supportive, and help us all believe we are amazing. Having to point out some sort of potential flaw is not something any of us want to do. I also realized that it was only fitting that the friend who was brave enough to mention it is the one who has known me virtually all my life, since we were 10 years old. I also realized she was wracked with guilt about having said anything, until I thanked her and reassured her. After all, if she had not pointed it out, at what point would I have discovered it? When it became so constant and obvious that strangers stared at me on the street, or I was unable to put on my make-up?
That brings us to a new rule, one I will borrow from first responders: if you see something, say something. We have to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. If your clothing tag was sticking up, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you? If you had spinach in your teeth, would you want someone to tell you? If you have an involuntary head nodding, wouldn’t you want to address it as soon as possible? The answer of course is yes. Even if we don’t like it. The key of course, is how to say it. And no one is going to be able to deliver any kind of news like a BFF.
We had an amazingly fun weekend together, and can’t wait until the next gathering. Every time we get together, we grow even closer. By this morning, we were all laughing about my new little tick, and discussing how I could use it as an excuse for completely unrelated things. Burn a batch of cookies? Blame the tremor. Forget someone’s name? Blame the tremor.
So I will give myself about 48 hours to contemplate and worry. Then I will shake it off (no pun intended) and deal with it. Because I know I have a team of BFFs right there alongside me, and no matter what oddities and challenges life throws at each of us, we will always be there to help each other be brave, be beautiful, and pull up our Big Girl Pants and move on.
Even if sometimes those pants aren’t very comfortable.