We dragged our toes through the sand, watching the grains spill over painted toenails– hers berry, mine bubblegum pink.
“It was just so NICE to get away. To steal those quiet moments with the waves crashing in the background, knowing our kids were safely tucked in nearby. To just enjoy each other, you know?” I was enjoying filling her in on the vacation we had taken.
And she smiled.
She knew. She definitely knew. Even in the throes of parenting three children under five, she knows that joyful jump in the belly of getting to be with the man you love.
I watched her narrow her eyes as she gazed back out over the water.
“How’s Allyson?” I asked, knowing they had been friends since before she had given birth to her first.
She sighed. “Oh, you know, more of the same. They’re not happy. I feel so bad for their little girl. She just doesn’t see love and happiness in that house.”
I shook my head, “That’s just so sad.”
She nodded sadly. “And I have another good friend who’s getting divorced. She just up and left– said he was an annoying jerk. It’s just so hard to see all these marriages suffering and falling apart.” She gave a short, slightly bitter, laugh. “My mother-in-law says I need happier friends.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Later, I poured shallow glasses of icy white wine while her husband grilled and mine ran to the car while watching the baby.
“Sweetie, want me to just toss this in the car?” he asked me.
“Sure, hon, that’d be great.” I smiled back.
It was the briefest of exchanges. Nothing to it, really.
But, again, she smiled.
“What?” I asked, a curious half-grin on my face.
“I just love that he calls you ‘Sweetie’,” she replied, shrugging a bit.
I laughed. “Oh, man, I don’t think we even think about that. I didn’t even notice. I think it’s just habit. It doesn’t really mean anything.”
She looked down. Spoke softly.
“I think it means more…”
I waited for her to continue.
“I think it shows that you have such deep underlying affection. Fondness. Love. All that. I think it shows that, even when you’re totally unhappy with his behaviors– and, you’re my best friend, I know sometimes you are– you’re still happy with HIM.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to make a light-hearted joke. To diminish the meaning of a simple “sweetie.” But she wasn’t quite done.
“You aren’t afraid to share the happy.”
We focus so much on “keeping it real.” We praise authenticity and honor those who aren’t afraid to reveal the grit and divulge the struggle.
And that’s good. That’s a good, good thing. It is critical that we not paint some glossy, perfect image that is, at the core, utterly false. Our imperfections and tribulations make us dimensional and relatable. These are beautiful things.
But there’s something to be said for sharing the happy, too.
In a world where she watches her friends’ marriages fall apart and she hears all the terrible, horrible, devastating angles, she was almost afraid to feel her own happy. Who knows how long it will last? If everyone else’s marriage went from good to apathetic to awful, what hope does she have?
Yes, we should be honest about challenges.
No, we shouldn’t pretend everything’s perfect.
But we also shouldn’t be afraid to say, “It’s good. Yeah, sure, it’s hard sometimes. Yeah, he’s annoying as hell from time to time. Sure, I wish he’d knock off *insert bad habit here.* But it’s good. I love him and I know he loves me. At the end of the day, the annoyances are totally outweighed by the joys. I’m happy.”
Because, in the end, maybe that’s how we’ll all wind up with happier friends.