"I will hold on to hope for you."
This is what Gail said the day I told her what I was going thru. The biggest crisis I have ever experienced in my 33 years of existence. I didn’t understand what she meant, mainly because at the time, I had lost all hope. I nodded in disbelief. She held my hand and said it again, but this time, she looked directly into my eyes. I have to confess that up to that point I didn’t know what to make of Gail and our friendship. She has already established that during our first encounter I mentioned I wasn’t looking for any new friends and that I was perfectly fine with the few I had. In my defense, I have been hurt by friends in the past and was just trying to protect myself, for lack of a better excuse. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer, she was determined to prove me wrong, to show me that friendship was still possible. Her persistence frightened me as much as it captivated me. I am enormously glad that she didn’t give up.
What she didn’t know was that I was very impressed with her. We did have a lot in common, and there was an undeniable sense of peace in the tone of our first and very long conversation. But the idea of inviting her in to my life was one I didn’t even want to consider.
Week after week, we met at least two times, and I failed miserably at every attempt to walk away from her. She kept surprising me with her honesty, her insightful questions, and her ability to understand almost every situation. One thing that caught my eye was how much she pays attention to details, how much she observes. I’ll give you an example: Only a handful of people know that I was born left-handed and that at the age of 5, I learned how to write using my right hand, and I’ve done so ever since. Most of the time I use both my hands equally, but there are certain occasions where my right hand simply does not respond, and my left one reacts naturally. In all my 33 years, Gail has been the one and only person to notice that I am in fact left-handed. That might not mean much to you reading this, but to me, it meant a lot. I was finally convinced that I was in front of true friendship.
Although I did not recognize it at first, I later discovered that Gail is one of those people that come into your life to stay. After all the work she did to become my friend, the least I could do what to let her in on a little secret of mine. I said to her: “I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing you can tell me or do that would ever shock me or change the way I feel about you, I will never judge you, no matter what you do or say. Keep that in mind at all times”. She smiled and replied: “Yes, ma’am.
I must agree with Gail, our friendship hasn’t always been easy or smooth. I was terrified of “it” and once even asked her to please walk away. I know what you’re thinking: What kind of person does that? Why does she put up with me? I can only answer the first question, after a few really bad experiences my heart was in pretty bad shape, and I was convinced that in the end I would end up getting hurt yet again. But to my surprise, and showing tremendous determination and loyalty, she disregarded my invitation to leave and said: “I will not be the next person you push away”. I was shocked. She then gave me the opportunity to explain myself, which by the way, was really hard to do. I thought I was going to have to apologize a million times, but once was enough; she accepted my apology and smiled. The rest is history, I guess.
But the story hardly ends there. As a matter of fact; it was only the beginning of this wonderful, nameless, powerful, life altering adventure. We began to walk this road side by side. We have laughed together and also cried together. We have told each other many stories of childhood, university study, travel, friends we’ve had, and people we have loved. We don’t know where it will take us but we are enjoying every second of it.
Then life interrupted. This life is so unpredictable. One day I stumbled and fell in the middle of the road, and with me, my whole world came crashing down. I was forced to face the truth, to go into the basement of my soul and do a spiritual and mental “spring cleaning” right in the middle of June. Denial was no longer an option or a way of life. Needless to say I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, but at the same time, my thoughts, memories, feelings and emotions were fighting their way out. One afternoon right before Italian class, I confessed all my secrets to the person I least expected I would ever tell. Everything was out in the open. I was exposed - and it felt great! For the first time in a very long time, I was able to breathe without my invisible respirator, my airways were finally clear and so were my eyes and the rest of my senses.
A few minutes later, I heard those words for the second time: “I will hold on to hope for you.” I cried and simply said: “Thank you.” I was not really sure what to do next. The following two weeks were awfully challenging. I was in the middle of an emotional tornado, trying not to lose all my earthly possessions, while holding on to whatever I could. I am not very good at reaching out to people for help; even when I want to, the words just don’t come out. But this time, I knew I had to do something, I felt my life was on the line. I asked for help. I called my closest friends, and they gave me all the love and support I needed. They still do. They are praying for me right now.
But I have to give credit to Gail. She held my hand the entire time. She prayed for me. She sat with me in silence. She had tissues on hand every single time I cried in front of her, and there were, without a doubt, countless times. She also looked me in the eye repeatedly and said, “You will get thru this, I promise.” What was even more astounding is the fact that she gave me the courage I so desperately needed to reach out to the people even closer to me, my own family. The outcome has been very positive: the tornado has finally passed and peace has been restored in my heart.
So there you have it folks. This is the second part of this journey, the one where my friend Gail picked me up after I fell and helped me get back on my feet. The one where I understood that it’s ok to ask for help, that freedom is around the corner, and we just have to keep walking until we find it, that good things happen when we take chances on people. I am extremely grateful for this mind-blowing friendship and I don’t think I could ever find the words in any language to express my gratitude. I am doing a lot better these days, my wounds are healing nicely, but I know this path has many more twists and turns still to come, I will do my very best to be ready to face them and to prepare myself for whatever is next. But what a relief is to know that I no longer walk alone.
PS. If you don't know where part I of this series is, please go here to read it.