Best Friends and Blind Spots

Court, Selma, & Kate

After my journey through sleep deprivation last week, you’d think I’d be catching up on sleep this week.

But no. I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning with my brain suddenly on. Not pleasantly groggy. More like someone suddenly flipped the lights on. Instant alertness and a little adrenaline.

Normally, I can wait it out and fall back to sleep. But in this case my brain was writing. And my right hand can only flex so many times from wanting to write down a specific paragraph or idea before I break and head to a computer. So here I am at 3 a.m.

And I’m thinking about best friends and blind spots. Mine, in particular.

First of all, I have commitment issues.

I stopped having best friends in high school. Possibly because I was easy to get near but surprisingly hard to get close to. (Something I’m always working on.)

And because I was lazy in relationships. At the first hassle, I’d casually move on to a new person. It sounds callous, but I think it’s actually that illusion we’re all chasing so often in relationships–the illusive click. The tempting idea that somehow, someday, with the right person, it’ll just be easy. The perfect fit. And if it gets hard, then you’re supposed to keep looking. 

Anyway, I went almost a decade operating under this philosophy. Even in the four years that I’ve been part of The Rock community–where I’ve had the deepest, most consistent relationships of my life–I’ve been mediocre at commitment.

I had a very set pattern. I’d jump into relationships and explore them until I came up against some kind of resistance (consistent schedule conflicts, extremes of opinion, misunderstandings…. pretty much anything would work). Once I hit resistance, I’d leave that relationship stalled forever while I moved on in search of easier connection. Just look at all the new people around here whose secrets I haven’t uncovered yet. Maybe one of them will be the magic click, right?

Then I met Courtney Krogstad (formerly McCain, formerly… something else when we first met that I can’t remember). She’s the one wearing the pretty green dress in the far left in the picture above.

Let’s be clear… we were not friends right away. We’re opposite in almost every way. Outside, inside… every way. My sister saw a picture of us standing next to one another in a large group early in our relationship and asked about Court specifically because she didn’t look like anyone I would normally be friends with. (That’s sounds negative, but my sister didn’t mean it that way. And don’t worry, Court knows this story. We were laughing about it this evening.)

Luckily one of our opposite characteristics is that Courtney is incredibly persistent in relationships. And leads with her emotions. Without Christ, I lead with my intellect. We don’t fit? I move on. With Court if you don’t fit, she grabs you and refuses to let you go until you’ve worked through why. Or she doesn’t realize that you don’t fit and just keeps at it until you get addicted to her awesomeness and break years of habit to actually stick things out with her. A little of both, in my case.

Anyway, despite being very close friends for three years, it still threw me for a loop when she introduced me to someone as her “best friend.” It was comical actually. I had a very clear image of how a guy must feel when a girl suddenly introduces him as her “boyfriend” without discussing it with him first.

I smiled on the surface, but inside I was actually panicking. Best friend? What? But… what? I didn’t do best friends. Was this girl crazy? I had this irrational fear that I was going to get hurt if we were in that kind of relationship and I knew for certain that I would end up hurting her along the way.

It took me about six months to get used to the idea of being her best friend. Which is hilarious because Courtney loves a good label. Once she started calling me her best friend, she called me that all the time. Most people introduce me as “Kate Moss.” Courtney introduced me as “my best friend Kate.” To everyone. People who did not need to know that we were best friends. Like the grocery store clerk. Meanwhile, somewhere around month six, it stopped freaking me out.

At month nine, I discovered that underneath the part of me that preferred a relationship exit strategy and was having panic attacks, there was a fragile part that craved the kind of instantly committed relationships we form (if we’re lucky) as kids. Kids don’t think about whether the kid next door might move away or like different toys. They decide to be friends and that’s it. They just are. It’s preemptive, not contingent. That’s what Court was offering.

At month ten, I referred to her as my best friend. It’s hard to describe how that felt. Like finally accepting a gift you really wanted but were afraid someone was going to take away if you dared to touch it. (Don’t laugh. I was legitimately nervous the first time I said “best friend.”)

And tonight, four years after we met and twelve months after she started calling me her best friend, we sat on my porch and spent four hours laughing together, seriously challenging one another on decisions we were making and/or the heart behind those decisions, encouraging one another in our faith, sharing the joys of recent victories and empathizing over trials and heartbreaks. And talking about what a miracle our friendship is and how sustaining it has been for both of us.

“The best mirror is an old friend.” — George Herbert

Which brings me to blind spots. A week ago I gave Court a speech. She had an opinion about something and wanted to express it to a friend to help them. My speech was about not getting so focused on the point she wanted to express that she lost sight of the primary goal of the conversation. Not to be so busy trying to fix a problem or communicate her opinion that she forgot that she wanted this person to walk away from the conversation with a feeling of being loved, above and beyond all else. If she couldn’t get to the problem in that conversation, she should push it back to the next one. Love had to come across first.

Tonight I was despairing of making progress in a specific situation with a different friend. I was talking it through with Court, but I’d pretty much given up already. I was frustrated. I’d been mentally circling around and around it and I could not think of any approach to take that would result in the person I wanted to help recognizing and working through something that’s really holding them back. I could already feel how that conversation would go. It involved me being too direct, the other person being too afraid to jump in and engage with me, and us both walking away frustrated.

Court listened. And listened. Then, when I took a breath to refuel for another five minutes of talking the problem to death, she looked at me and said “What’s the most important thing for her to walk away from this conversation with?” (These were my exact words from the week before.)

I stared at her for a full minute while the gears in my head tried to shift. And then I shouted “That she is loved! How did I miss that? The problem solving can wait for the second conversation. Or the third conversation. What was I thinking?” And laughed with joy. Because I would never have caught that on my own. It was in one of my (many) blind spots. Blind spots Court can see into because we’re complete opposites. And because our God gives us just what we need–both personally and to be the best tools for reaching others–even when we don’t know to ask for it. Because I would never have been smart enough to ask for a Courtney Krogstad.

Okay, end of sappy 3 a.m. rambling reflection on the wonders of friendship….

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