Wingmen

Shortly after the tragic news about Robin Williams broke, when messages of shock flooded Facedbook, a friend of mine posted this:

Where was your wingman, Robin Williams? For all the joy you brought to people, all the fans mourning your loss and others condemning, who among us was there for you? We never really know what’s going on in the mind of someone else.

Over the next few hours, her words became a constant echo through my mind, poking and prodding, nudging, shifting into new questions: Who’s my wingman? Who can I call? Who can I lean on? Who’s there for me? But then…Whose wingman am I? Do they know? Do they know they can call me anytime…about anything? Do they know I am there for them? Do I demonstrate the things that I think in my heart? Do I reach out? Do I touch base and check on them? Do I let them know when I think about them?

For the past several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship. It started earlier this summer with my dreaded annual mammogram. I believe in them, but wow, do they stress me out. Because of that, I’d put this one off a bit. But I knew it was time to go, so I mustered my courage and went. Then I waited. A day went by with no phone call. Yay! Day two. The morning went by. Yay! Maybe I’m in the clear….but then…the phone rings. It’s the hospital…the nurse…they’ve found something…an abnormality…I need to come back…my head is spinning…I’m feeling dizzy…

Okay, maybe you know that drill. I do. It’s happened before. But I stood there, all barely able to breathe and freaked out and…alone. And I wanted to call someone. I needed to call someone. I needed someone to take my hand and tell me it would be okay. I needed a wingman.

But I had no idea who to call.

At first I thought about my husband…but he was working and I didn’t want to worry him while he needed to be focused on his job. Then I thought about my sister…but she’s got massive big stuff on her plate, and I didn’t want to stress her out. Then I thought about my sweet neighbor…but I didn’t want to lay that on her. Then…

I just stood there, because I honest to God had no idea who to call. Because somehow I’ve reached this point where I have lots of people with whom I’m friends, but I’m not sure I have…a wingman.

There, I said it.

It’s odd that I can be surrounded by so much, a loving husband and wonderful kids, by great neighbors and friends, but still sometimes feel alone. And I know that part of that is my fault, because sometimes I don’t know how to reach out, to say, hey, I’m scared. I’ve got a problem. I need help. I need someone right now. I need a friend. I need YOU.

It takes a lot of courage to make yourself vulnerable like that. It’s like standing before someone naked.

But just like you have to get naked with your spouse (or significant other or whoever you’re crawling in bed with), I’m realizing you have to get naked with your friends too (figuratively speaking, of course.) (unless you’re like trying on swimsuits or something.) (but maybe that’s a topic for another day).

Sometimes I wonder when things got so complicated. Maybe they always were, but it seems like marriage and careers and motherhood, LIFE, all add extra layers and pressures to our daily existences, and sometimes it’s friendship that takes the backseat.

Have you ever felt like that? Like someone just took their friendship away? I have. Maybe we don’t mean for that to happen. We don’t want for it to happen. Maybe we don’t even realize it’s happened. Then one day we realize it’s been weeks—months—since we’ve talked to someone. Maybe we’ve missed someone’s birthday or some other important milestone in their lives. Maybe we’ve hurt them and haven’t even realized it. Maybe they’ve hurt us. The next thing you know you’re estranged, and you’re not quite sure why. (Or maybe you are, but you don’t know what to do about it, because doing something about it is HARD and SCARY.)

Recently I’ve reconnected with two longtime friends (Hi, Stacey, Hi, Wendy…you better say HI back!) and having them back in my life has been like this great big GIFT dropped down in my lap. With them, there was no falling out, just a drifting apart. Our life paths diverged. Technology (okay, and baseball) brought us back together (thank you, Facebook!), and it’s been wonderful But there are two other friendships that did experience a fracture. I’m really not sure why, but I’m working on fixing those. And yeah, it’s scary. But that’s okay. Friendship is worth it.

Wingmen are worth it.

Make sure you’ve got one. Make sure you are one.

You never know just how important it might be.

(And oh yeah. The whole mammogram thing? Everything turned out fine. Cysts.)

9 thoughts on “Wingmen

  1. I just love how you write, Ellie! I can completely hear you speaking! Thank you for your refreshing candidness and honesty.

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    • Thank you so much, Elizabeth! This is something I’ve been mulling for awhile, but this week it just all crystalized. Friendship is so vital. We need each other to survive.

      Hugs to you!

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  2. I just went through the same thing two weeks ago. I had the mammogram and was sitting in the little room, in a gown of course, waiting to hear everything is great. Nope, we need some more pictures of the left breast… ok. They finished that and come back and say they need to do a ultrasound. Still sitting in the little and starting to worry, just a little, so I text my husband and tell him ” I am sure it is fine, but and tell him what is going on. He is my wingman and always will be. We have been together since I was 12 and he was 14. We got married at 15 and 17 and have been married for 36 years now. He is my person and I am his. Through thick and thin, through the ups and downs and everything inbetween. Always and forever. I also have a cyst. They will recheck in 6 months. We ecaped another down and thin, thank goodness. Happy yours was the same.

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    • Glad yours was cysts, too, Mary…but isn’t that the worst? Sitting there, waiting? Telling yourself it’s going to be okay? Telling yourself it’s not taking long than the other women who went back, then were told they could go home? Then getting called back to the sono room? Ugh. Such a nasty cold feeling 😦 😦 😦 That’s when you really have to work on that deep breathing.

      12 and 14!!! Wow, that’s INCREDIBLE! I can’t even imagine! My husband and I didn’t even grow up in the same part of the country! I think that would be so wild to share so much of your lives. Congratulations on a pretty awesome love story!

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  3. Great post, Emily!

    When my girls were younger I read a quote that I wound up printing out and taping to our kitchen wall as a reminder for us all:

    “To have a friend, you need to be one.”

    Simple, but so true. Swap “friend” with “wingman” and I think the saying fits your post today.

    I’ve been in a room full of people before and still felt alone. It’s not a good feeling.

    At other times, my life has hit an abyss (forget pothole, that’s too tiny for what happened) and I’ve wondered what the heck I was going to do, how I was gonna crawl out. Thankfully, I’ve had family and friends to lean on, to cry with, to laugh with. That’s a HUGE blessing.

    But, I have to remember, just as others have been there for me, I need to make sure they know I’m there for them.

    Makes me wanna send out a few texts right now– “Hope your day’s going well. Remember, I’m your wingman whenever you need me!”

    Okay, gotta run. I’m off to start reaching out! Thanks for the reminder!

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  4. Hi Ellie! SO glad to hear you are okay! My wingman and I are trying to plan to get both of our mammograms on the same day, by the way. We are both reluctant to do this as well as the annual pap…her mom is a breast cancer survivor and my mom is an ovarian cancer survivor. Neither of us likes going to these tests and both of our hubbys are too chicken to attend…We’ve only known each other for about 9 years (our oldest kids were in school together), and our youngest kids have been best buddies since diapers. We all need to have and to be a wingman. We all should have someone to turn to no matter what and we all should be that person to turn to. I certainly wish I had known her 11 years ago when my unborn son was diagnosed with severe heart defects. My hubby couldn’t attend all the myriad of appointments at the hospitals and the doctor’s offices (it was at least once a week over three months!). It would have been nice to have an extra set of ears to hear the things I missed because I was too dazed and stunned. Someone there to ask the questions that I didn’t think to ask…and maybe I would have been able to save my son’s life. He passed during surgery at 9 days old. My hubby and I both could’ve used a wingman at that time.

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  5. I’m proud to say that I have a fantastic wing-woman and I am a wing-woman for a friend of mine. My best friend Sara was the first one who popped into my mind when you asked who our wingman was. She is my rock and she’s had a bunch of crap happen to her but she’s still the best friend a girl could ask for and she’s always so happy!
    Being a wingperson is very important and something not all of us pay attention to. I’m glad that I am a wingperson to someone, but it’s only one person. I’ll have to work on being there for more people 🙂

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  6. So glad it turned out well for you. Yes, I have gotten that call back and its scary as all get out.
    I do have a wing(wo)man. She is the least judgemental person the planet. She knows things about me and me about her. We trust with those things. And it is amazing to know she is there.
    But it would be nice to have a league of her. 🙂
    Maybe I need to work on some mending as well. Thanks for the thought!

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