I have a friend. Her name is Sharon, but I call her Shaz. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but she’s really Scottish. Luckily for me, her family migrated to Australia a few years before we met during my first year of high school.
Shaz is like a breath of fresh air on a sweltering day. She’s grounded and practical, yet also open to new ideas and alternative possibilities. She can make me laugh till I cry and my cheeks ache, yet she has an extremely sensible disposition. She’s also a dreamer. Artistic and creative at heart, her brushworks are extraordinary and she’s smart – numbers are her thing and she excels at it.
What I like most about Shaz are her gentle and positive qualities. She has this beautiful, calming energy and she’s as loyal and patient as they come. And when it comes to me, she doesn’t play games or mince words, even when it comes to delicate matters. She has a way of expressing the truth without cutting to the bone. I love that about her. Seldom will she allow anger or frustration to influence her reactions, and this was true of her nature even when we were kids.
I can always count on her honesty. I hate guessing games and fart-assing around, so I guess we suit each other. Generally, we all like to know where we stand with others. With Shaz, I know where I’ve stood, still stand and will always stand. In turn, she knows where she stands with me.
We’ve had our differences over the years. Like, how best to cook baked beans. Yes, that’s as far and as heated as our disputes have ventured. We were 16 years old and she was holidaying with my family on the Gold Coast. The debate got heated that day. We stalked from the kitchen in opposite directions and didn’t talk for hours following that argument. Baked Beans almost ruined a good friendship, but it didn’t. Good friendships practice forgiveness.
Shaz is an excellent listener. She’ll listen until there’s nothing left, then she’ll offer an opinion if asked. Let me tell you this about Shaz. Her guidance and advice never originates from a self-satisfying or judgmental position. She has this ability to see a situation from all angles, keeping the bigger picture in mind and still often surprises me with her insightful suggestions.
Good friends have our backs when life gets tricky and keep our stress in check.
We flew to New York city once and spent a week exploring together before parting ways – she on a pre-booked North American tour, while my sights were set on a trip to Canada. We’d spent the week sharing a hotel room the size of a peanut and sleeping in a double bed that caved in the middle beneath our weight.
That’s another of Sharon’s abilities; she can sleep soundly even in the most uncomfortable circumstances. I’ve always envied this about her. Then again, she didn’t have to listen to herself snoring through the night.…
On our second last night in New York, we had recovered enough from jetlag, sightseeing and shopping to hit the town. We had a plan – we would start out some place near Times Square and make our way through as many bars across the city as we could squeeze in. A NY bar-crawl.
Out came the heels and lipstick; in came the delicious alcoholic sour concoctions served up at our first stop, an Irish bar called the Playwright. Truth is, we never had a chance at that planned bar-crawl. It began and stopped right there, in a cozy little bar on West 49th. Yep, we got talking with the barmaid, the charming Irish owner named PJ, the locals and the drop-ins, and it wasn’t long before we’d settled in for a night of – well – you know.
That night was packed with laughs, unusual proposals and surprises. I was asked out on two dates, hit on by a local hustler, rescued by the bar staff and offered a bed if I agreed to ditch my Canadian plans and instead stay a week longer in New York – thanks PJ. A guy from the NBC asked me to join him in the basement for a couple of lines of coke, and my foot was savagely squished and injured by Sharon’s heel when, at the end of the night, we raced through our extraordinary long hotel corridor toward our door in an effort to secure the bathroom first. I think I lost.
I could barely move the next day, and it wasn’t because of my swollen foot. Last day in New York city and I spent it in bed nursing the hangover from hell while Shaz took a helicopter ride over the Hudson river, almost puking mid-flight. Heee!
Early next morning I left her standing on the sidewalk in a foreign city as I set off for LaGuardia airport. That was one of those moments that stick with you. I’d said goodbye to her a million times before that, but that time was different. That time it felt more profound.
Good friends accept us for who we are during the good and bad times. Good friends don’t expect, demand, manipulate or control.
I had another friend once. I loved her. But she was too controlling. She gave me ultimatums when my choices didn’t suit her. She’d tell me how long I could keep a man in my life, for example – husband.
My current husband and I had a rocky start. Passionate, yes, but our union resembled a spinning yo-yo for the first few months. Round three, and this friend gave me the hard word – him or me. I mean, whaaaat?
Umm .… see ya, hun. I’m not in the business of ultimatums. My life, my choice. Family members do the same kind of thing. My brother stopped talking to me too. When he realized my man had really manned-up, was sticking around and in it for the long haul, he backtracked and turned his decision into something else. I talk to our mother, you see. He doesn’t. Another story, same shit. His hang-up, not mine.
Good friends are respectful and supportive.
Regardless of the personal choices you make in your life, a genuine friend will support you through adversity. They’ll also tell you when you’re being a dick, but they won’t use emotional blackmail as a means of control. Good friends won’t bring you down or try to hurt to you, but they’ll keep you humble. They will celebrate your accomplishments and remind you of your roots. They will uplift you, and in turn, you do the same for them.
Real friendship knows no time.
There have been long stretches of time when Shaz and I haven’t spoken. Not because we’ve had a disagreement, simply because life happens. You know you’ve found a good friend when time means nothing. When you can pick up the phone after a year and talk as if you’ve spoken yesterday. That’s the kind of people I want in my life. The kind of people that have time for me.
In Shaz I know how fortunate I am to experience the rich and beautiful friendship that began in high school and continued to grow and strengthen with me over the years. I must have done something right to score a friend like her, I must have.