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A blog - but let's make this a group discussion!

With Friends Like These…

I have said before that I am blessed with some of the most amazing friends in the world, and days like today really remind me of just how true that is.

For the last couple of days I have been up in New York City for a work function—for my “paying” job. I like NYC. It’s a great city. I would like it even better though if I could manage to get my act together enough to visit JUST for pleasure instead of always around work. Unfortunately, going up there carries with it certain difficulty for me.

You see my dear ones, I suffer at times rather significantly from an anxiety disorder. Now there are those who hear that and will promptly say things like “you just need to learn how to relax” or “there’s nothing to be anxious about.” While I appreciate the (usually) well-meaning intent behind those sentiments, what they truly illustrate is a lack of understanding of what it means to have an anxiety disorder.

These things are not logical. They are not something you can wish or will away. Those of us who suffer from this kind of a condition generally live with it in silence because it’s embarrassing. We have been told so often in life that we essentially need to “get over” whatever is stress-producing for us and carry on. What the uninformed don’t grasp is that we would willingly do so if it were possible. But for many, and me in particular, anxiety manifests itself in very real, physical ways. For me it leads to vertigo, shortness of breath, cold sweats at times, nausea, and a whole host of other symptoms. Sadly, travel is one of my biggest triggers.

Leading up to this trip I was stressing about the anxiety (boy was THAT productive). I desperately wanted to enjoy this trip, but have come to grips with my condition enough that I knew I needed a game plan if I had any hope of that actually happening.

That’s where two of my amazing friends came into play. Our infamous publicity slut Kat and the other third of our trio, who I will call Smoke (both because she moves silently like smoke and because I’m not sure how she feels about having her identity revealed here), sat me down to discuss my anxiety and what steps could be taken to reduce it. It was a very non-judgmental, calm, supportive conversation that enabled us to come up with a plan that would address my biggest worries and make the trip easier on me.

With a plan in place, I was able to prepare for the trip calmly and found my stress greatly reduced. The two of them were a support system like no other. There was no embarrassment on my part, because there was nothing but understanding on their part. They reminded me that all three of us have various quirks and it’s part of what makes us unique. Smoke cannot sit with her back to a door and doesn’t like to be touched by strangers. So when we go out, she gets a strategic seat at the table and in social situations Kat and I try to run interference. Kat is a very process oriented person. So when we find ourselves starting a new project we give her space and respect to lay out a plan and then we follow it to the best of our abilities, or leave her alone to do what works best for her.

The three of us don’t agree on everything. Nor do we do things the same way. But what we have is a very profound understanding of one another and a largely unspoken agreement to respect each other’s needs and be as supportive as possible. THAT is what makes us good—no, great friends.

It also makes us amazing colleagues. We are literally a force to be reckoned with because we each bring different assets to the table that, when combined, enable us to achieve pretty much anything we set out to do. Sure, we argue. We have times where we have to take time away from one another to cool off. But in the end we always come back together, talk through our problems and move on. I can honestly say it is one of the most rewarding friendships I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of.

What I’ve realized tonight is that this kind of friendship is something that not everyone gets to experience, because so often we get in our own way. We tend to gravitate towards people who have so much in common with us, that we may ignore other possibilities. Friendships tend to be based on a narrow view and definition of who we are and what we are compatible with. But this very meaningful friendship I have is with two women who, while I have many things in common with, are from very different walks of life than me.

In spite of our differences though, we have all let down our guards enough to allow the others in, and are being rewarded for that lack of a defensive posture in spades. We have enabled ourselves to experience new and different things that we otherwise would never have been exposed to, and that is enriching all of our lives.

My point here is that you would be amazed at the perspective you can get by taking the time to get to know people that you may not immediately see a connection with. Sometimes they challenge you, sometimes they rub you the wrong way. But what is important is to take a chance and truly get to know people for who they are on the inside. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself in the process.

My trip may not have been completely without stress and anxiety. However, thanks to these two amazing women, I was able to manage it, feel supported and consider the trip to have been a success. So to the two of you I say:

Thank You, I Love You and I Appreciate You!

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