Is the Era of Best Friend Over? ~ Danya Uriel Rivlin

Via on May 18, 2012
Photo: Electron

The lonely path of parenthood.

I ask this not as a rhetorical question. Please believe me when I say I am sincerely bereft.

My beloved husband told me last night that he doesn’t know anyone our age who actually has the sort of best friend that I constantly describe longing for. In his estimation this type of intimacy might just be incompatible with the phase of life we’re in.

It’s “nothing personal” he said, there’s just not enough time, not enough space, too hard to schedule, too many other demands, doesn’t line up with kids, marriage, professional ambitions and all the rest.

In my fairly short life of 34 years thus far, I have been unimaginably blessed with the experience of having had more than a dozen best friends. Over the years, these passionate platonic love affairs have been shining sources of inspiration, sanity and belonging.

Photo: Niko Latsky

Let me explain.

These are the handful of girls, now women, for whom I would have laid down my life.

These ones kept safe (at least for a time) my daily secrets, my excruciating hopes and my tender fears—they knew the exact color and flavor of my longings, could interpret precisely the exact timbre of my laughter. . . as I could theirs. As early as age four, my first best friend and I held tiny hands as we tromped through chest high grasses chasing the end of a rainbow and whispering our secret wishes.

Later, over decades, games were played, notes were passed, dances attended, dorm rooms decorated, first jobs endured, glasses of champagne lifted. Even after I was firmly on my way to being a respectable “grown-up” I still had friends who rocked me like a baby, night after night, through the worst of a terrible break-up. These were friends that some people spend an entire lifetime hoping for and still never find—yet through no particular merit of my own, I did.

I know how lucky I’ve been. . . . I really do. . . it almost seems like a kind of gluttony to wish for more now. . . but still, here I am. . .

I have been without any best friends for several years now.

Photo: Electron

Really and truly living without them.

Some have moved away and I have waved with clenched teeth as they drove off in U-hauls. Others have lifted up gently on airplanes, crossing state lines and country borders, traveling swiftly to meet their destinies.

Sometimes I’ve been the one to move, my own shaking hands gripping the steering wheel as my loves grew small in the rearview mirror. Two of my best friends have left their bodies already, tragically, suddenly and much too young, teaching my cracked heart that there are never any guarantees. Sometimes life just pulled us in different directions—and I am culpable for letting the space grow and grow as years passed so quickly.

Most of these delightful women are just Busy (with a capital “B”) like I am—Life is so full with partners, new babies, careers, PhDs, travels, amassing fortunes or following spiritual directives to give everything away.

They are far flung around the globe and exhausted with the overwhelm of this modern world. I hear it in their harried voices on the phone when we talk for a stolen two minutes until they have to go attend to an urgent business deal or a poopy diaper blowout.

Photo: Electron

I see their gorgeous, still-radiant faces come across my computer screen sometimes in the briefest of Facebook updates and feel momentarily confused.

The lines of time and space get blurry and I am 16 again. It is hot smoky summer, the windows of that old Datsun are rolled down, and we are driving fast and singing at the top of our lungs. . . I am literally there with her in an instant and even though we haven’t spoken outside of online status updates in nearly 10 years, my ribs ache with the laughing.

Then my daughter’s cry jolts me swiftly back and the fog clears. I close the computer with a firm click, take a breath and walk away to tend to my small sweet girl.

Let me say this: I married my true love and my gratitude for this could never be expressed in mere words. I have a child who is nearly exploding with health and vitality, a warm home, a small garden full of vegetables, armfuls of frivolous fragrant flowers and an extended family that loves me. I am grateful for more than my fair share of goodness at this time of my life.

But the relationships I have now are of a different variety completely from the best friend I’m wishing for—comparing the two is like apples to spaghetti squash.

Photo: Wingchi

So, still I wake up lonely every day, hoping that my dear husband is mistaken. . . praying that somehow the next era of my friends and our adventures will go far beyond making small talk at Gymboree.

If I am fortunate, I still have many years of living left and I just know I can’t go on much longer without laughing with you every day.

I’ll say it again: I cannot do this thing without you.

Sometimes I’m going to have to call you at midnight. Sometimes we’ll have to leave the kids at home and drive all night with no destination. I’m going to come over every morning, so expect me. I promise to pick up your favorite muffin on my way, if you’ll have coffee with extra cream waiting for me.

My god, we have so, so much to talk about!

 

When Danya isn’t trolling Boulder playgrounds looking for new mommy friends willing to look up from their iPhones and make actual human contact, she is traveling around the world leading funky-sacred chanting with her husband (www.HebrewChanting.com) or talking to people about regaining their health and vitality through radical raw nutrition (www.SeaandHoneybee.com).

~

Editor: Elysha Anderson

 

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62 Responses to “Is the Era of Best Friend Over? ~ Danya Uriel Rivlin”

  1. Jen 40, 2 BFF says:

    Your husband is a liar liar pants on fire

    • Danya says:

      I'm always so happy to hear about people with deep and soulful besties, even at this phase of life – gives me heaps of hope! My husband longs to be wrong, so here's hoping!!! Warmest wishes to you Jen & thanks for reading!!

  2. I so resonate with this feeling! I sincerely hope your hubs is incorrect as I have these sentiments and am pre-kids! We just moved across the country and barely know anyone. I'm hopeful that life will throw some positive connections my way. Or at least that some peeps will start looking up from their iPhones.

    • Danya says:

      Thanks so much for reading Christina and I hope your move to a new place yields lots of magical and even surprising connections!! I recently watched the movie "I Am" (highly recommended!!) which gave me a huge booster shot of faith on just how very connected we all are (despite some appearances to the contrary!) check it out if you need some extra inspiration during the transition period :) Blessings!

  3. Danielle says:

    this actually made me cry, i feel like that all the time, id be your friend!

    • Danya says:

      Thanks so much for feeling the soulful yearning I was trying to convey in this piece Danielle – that inspires me to keep writing/feeling/crying/laughing!! Wishing you every connection you long for! warmly, danya

    • Cristina says:

      Me too…

  4. Laresa says:

    Danya,
    As one of those "long lost" pals (remember how I was the only guest at your first birthday party, no? me either, but still…there are photos to prove it and so many memories from our times together in high school) it is moving to read your thoughtful and visceral words–though they have a universality to impact those far beyond your circle. You have managed to be emotive and passionate without slipping into the trope of over sentimentality or melodrama, well done! This piece is brilliant, just like you. xoxox,
    Re

    • Danya says:

      Laresa, my vivacious, luminous, hilarious, inspiring friend! If I was within a 100 miles of Portland, I'd be on my way right now to the coffee shop for an all night poetry and laughter session with you – meet me there? xoxox

  5. Judy says:

    Danya, you speak for many of us. As a baby boomer (age 66), I've had my share of best friends over the years and mourned when they moved away. In those days we didn't have computers to stay connected. Some days my heart ached from missing my best friends. I thought technology would solve that problem. Apparently not. My experience was exactly what your husband said, " there’s just not enough time, not enough space, too hard to schedule, too many other demands, doesn’t line up with kids, marriage, professional ambitions and all the rest." Even though I missed having a best friend, I was nourished by work that I love and my partner-best friend. Now that I'm an empty-nester, I have more "friends" and lots of people in my life that I like. Still no BFF like in my days before becoming a mother. Reading your article made me realize it doesn't seem as important to me as before. In fact, I don't miss it any more. Perhaps I'll find a new best friend in the future. If not, that's OK.

    • danya says:

      Judy, thanks for reminding us that in the long journey of life, there are OH-so many stages. . . each holds its own gifts and challenges! May I always do the best I can to fully appreciate what I do have in a phase and simultaneously keep moving toward what I long for – as you articulated so beautifully! I love your contentment with **what is** – inspiring! Love to you!

  6. Lindsey says:

    Loved it! I’m happy to report I still have a couple of best friends like you describe and I lOve them dearly for it. And also, do think the relationships could even be more indulging if our society was different than what we r in. In so many ways, it isn’t working and this story depicts an aspect of that we can all relate to. Well done Danya. Xoxo

    • Danya says:

      Lindsey – I am so happy to hear that you've got your BFFs and you're holding each other close – even as the winds of motherhood and professional life (and everything else!) blow! I hope all of us who experience and long for intimate friendship can nudge our society a little more in that deeply connected direction (I'm counting on you!). . . Love and gratitude for your thoughts!

  7. D. Norris-Gardner says:

    Oh, to be a time traveler…able to revisit college dorm room days for a dose of belly laughter that will sustain us during the lonely days of parenting….I hope this essay is read locally so that this seed of community you have planted is able to grow and flourish.

    • Danya says:

      You're on – we leave the babes at home tonight and meet outside the Shakes house for unprecedented silliness and mad antics! I'll time travel if you will. xoxox Thanks for reading.

  8. Mathilde says:

    *sigh* How I've loved reading this piece. And how sad it made me feel. I realized, tears in my eyes, that I so wish you would live closer. I cannot help but wonder why we had to meet but for only a brief moment. And then I feel grateful that we did, because that's life bringing to us exactly what we need at that moment, teaching us a lesson.
    This is a beautifully written text, and I wish you WOULD bring over my favorite muffin! Missing you and hoping we meet again. Much love to the three of you from the three of us.
    PS: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he is wrong, your lovely husband! :)

    • Danya says:

      Muffins are in the oven bright and beautiful friend – it'll be over at sunrise (just as soon as we can get to the west coast)! I am grateful too – things are changing so fast and things do seem so possible in this moment! Thanks for being you. xo

  9. Lara says:

    … back porch… dusk… 4 glasses of wine… MASSIVE bowl of guacamole… salty moisture in the air… giggling girls chasing chickens… As a wise man once said, " The tide is turning."

    • danya says:

      Ahhh – this right here is proof that no sincere prayer goes unanswered! I'll bring the baby goats and the wild dancing!

  10. girltruth from the belly says:

    i so like this piece of writing. thank you. expresses a longing i carry too.

    • danya says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your response ~ one of the biggest gifts to this piece getting out there publicly is that I'm realizing that so many of us feel the same yearning ~ we're really all *together* somehow in all these phases (despite feeling the isolation)! Wishing you the very best!

  11. Dayna says:

    Yes, I've been feeling and wondering the same thing! Thanks for putting it in words so eloquently. The busyness and isolation of our culture makes it even harder – if we were living and taking care of our kids together, we would still have BFFs… I experience the same longing… I'll stay tuned for segment 2 when you have some more ideas :)

    • Danya says:

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts Dayna! It's funny, because I wrote this piece a while ago and now things are definitely shifting and we're in a bit of a different place! I would say the "sequel" is definitely going to be about the adventure of our family's hunt for some modern version of a more inter-connected, simple, slower "village" life – as a friend said on my FB page in response to this post – **I suspect that the loss of village life, where intimacy is, I believe, easier, has come with a bigger emotional cost than we know** – I have to agree with that sentiment whole heartedly! Stay tuned and very warm wishes to you!

  12. Amy says:

    Lots of thoughts I would like to HAVE TIME?!?! to discuss with you in person… Therein lies the rub. Move in across the street from us and you’ve got me! (and would I Love that!!) Your writing is as beautiful as your thoughts are. I do want to add a word to this conversation and see where it goes: Trust.

    • Danya says:

      Amy – I love to add TRUST to the conversation – for me that means that all things will continue to reveal themselves at the right times. Just as parenthood is anything bit static (actually the opposite – changing minute by minute, no?!) – friendship too, and our relationship to it, is ever evolving. I will try to remember faith, patience and trust!

  13. Alicen says:

    Dundie –
    What a great thought-provoking article. I do miss you and our time together and we DO have so much to talk about!

    Thank you for writing this and looking forward to our paths crossing again one day soon –

    Much love,
    Burns

    • Danya says:

      Thank you so much Burns! How amazing it would be to experience you as a mama in this phase of your life – I too, look so very forward to that! It just makes me grin from ear-to-ear thinking of how much we've grown and evolved since the wonderful wild rumpus of college days! Life has so many lifetimes contained within it! Heaps of love to you and your family! xo

  14. jan says:

    hey Danya,
    Thank you for your article! It brings tears to my eyes and a deep visceral feeling inside my chest. Your words resonate something I have been feeling for so many years and expressed so many, many times over these years to David, my husband. I have tried to analyze why this has been the case in my life. Is it Boulder?(as this lack of BFF has coincided with my time here). Is it my own personal struggle due to the untimely death of my BFF from in my 20's? Is it a developmental pattern for many of us as you discuss? I have many wonderful women in my life but none these past years now with whom I share that same deep BFF that I also have had when I was younger and treasured so dearly. It is perhaps validating to read your article and the thoughts from others who feel similarly and have read your article that so many of us share this same phenomenon. I have more thoughts on this but perhaps we could sometime have a conversation about it. Or wouldn't it be interesting to get a group of women together who would like to discuss it?(if we can make or coordinate the time in our oh-so-busy-lives!).
    jan

    • danya says:

      Oh Jan, I love the things you shared so poignantly and beautifully! I'm starting to toy with the idea of having a local weekly "playdate" for people who are looking to deepen in intimacy and talk about all the amazing things our hearts want to share! I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile I am feeling great joy in this virtual "reunion" we're all sharing having each felt so many of the same things. Very much love to you and also David and Marco. xoxox

  15. Ellen says:

    Three years and 2 kids into mommyhood, I didnt even know I was missing my girlfriends. I thought I just needed time alone whenever I could scavenge some! And then a woman came along and low and behold I felt that need rise up and meet her, its like I'm falling in love, and realizing how much I have missed my connections with women. I am so grateful to this friend for meeting me and joining me and pulling me out of my tired, weary, place. We need each other more than most of us know. Well, YOU know Danya, and thank you for sharing this!

    • danya says:

      Ellen – I know exactly what you mean about feeling like you're falling in love! It's so similar – when our hearts want to reach out and connect in the deepest places about each meaningful and mundane aspect of daily life. I'm so inspired to hear that this nourishing connection found you at just the right moment! And AHHHH, a deep sigh of relief just hearing you write about being pulled out of that aching weariness! I feel a celebration in my heart when I feel exactly what you're talking about. Thank you so much for writing! xo

  16. Ell says:

    Thank you for sharing this — it speaks to a lot more of us than you may realize.

    • danya says:

      Thank YOU so much for speaking that simple truth – it really touches my heart. The hardest moments, for me, are those when I feel so deeply alone (like there must be something terribly wrong with me to feel the isolation, when "everyone else" is just FINE) – in coming together, something changes. Warmest loving wishes to you, danya

  17. Brooke says:

    YES! Thank you for this. It is so difficult to express the “why” of this loneliness because life is also so full of joy and love. At times you feel like a glutton, or even more often like a crazy person, wanting for more; for something different than all this bounty.

    Nonetheless, the empty space is there. Some days it’s just someone who can listen without judging, some days it’s wanting someone to listen to, and some days it’s just wanting to go back and sit still next to a good old friend. Thank you. Thank you. You’d be welcome on my porch everyday. I make GREAT coffee! (well, my husband makes great coffee!)

    Love to your family….Brooke.

    • danya says:

      Brooke I would totally drink your (husband's) coffee and laugh on the porch with you! Thank you so much for writing, it means so much to feel the connections. Just because life is already good (and we ARE so grateful!), doesn't mean we can't want a deep soul friend to celebrate it with, right? Blessings to you! danya

  18. Gina says:

    This speaks to me too. As I always tell my kids, life is about people. I've been lucky enough to have some great ones and amazingly, my childhood friends and I still try to meet once every few months. Nobody knows me like they do, yet we never really have enough time. I used to do a girls' weekend in the desert every year which provided a lot more time for in depth conversations. I've learned over the years, and yes, tell my kids, that it's usually one person who is the organizer/planner and it takes effort and energy to keep it going. If you don't make any effort and expect people to call you, you'll surely be disappointed. There is usually a friendly group down at the local coffee hangout and people are welcome at ours to join our group. Again, a little effort. Only takes a little. Thanks for a wonderful article.

    • danya says:

      Thank you Gina – and I so love the voice you're contributing to the conversation: especially about the effort that it DOES take at this phase to fuel intimate friendships. I was so knocked over by the demands parenting a baby (until quite recently) that I had almost nothing to give in terms of the OOMPH to actually schedule or plan something. I felt especially weary and spent in terms of making new friendships and starting over with someone new – plus I also wondered: who would want to be friends with an exhausted maxed-out ghost of a person like I used to be? (on a side note, I didn't sleep for almost 2 years, finally we hired a sleep consultant *thank GOODNESS* and I feel my lifeforce seeping back in!!) I'm so grateful to feel my own energy coming back, and I'm finally ready to volunteer to be the one to make it happen with friends old and new!

  19. Katrina says:

    What a fantastically written portrait of a phenomena many of us 30-something face, especially in our plugged-in and tuned-out culture. As another of those long-lost besties, let me say that yes, this is possible. I've begun to cultivate just such a friendship over the last few months and I feel that there is hope. And also: I'm so glad we've reconnected, even if over phone lines and Facebook.

    Big hugs,

    Katrina

    • danya says:

      Thank you Katrina, for reading, for encouraging, for being YOU – one of the first to teach me about what makes a BFF! I'm feeling big changes a-comin' for all of us and looking forward to what will be! <3

  20. Alexa says:

    Beautiful article. So tender. Hmmmm… it's a tough one isn't it? How much we all need it. Alexa

    • danya says:

      Thank you so much Alexa! Wish I could beam myself over there so we could all be tender, and laugh, and talk, talk, talk (nurse, sleep, do cartwheels – whatever!) together, while the littles run/crawl wild and free as they do. . .

  21. merryl says:

    love you, danya. You sing it raw and beautifully.

    • danya says:

      Thank YOU so much Merryl ~ and thanks for holding fast to the beautiful vision of women having truly sacred time shared together in REAL time, face to face, heart to heart, soul to soul – I only want more!!

  22. Anne-Marie says:

    Gorgeous, normalizing of the heartbreak and longing..thank you Danya!

  23. This was a beautiful article, and I, too, can relate. Wanna be my best friend???
    Warmly,
    Kristin

    • danya says:

      Oh thank you Kristin! I am moved, really beyond words, by the responses from people I've never met – offering their lovely hearts and their vulnerable thoughts – and now the "sequel" must be figuring out how to leap from online (everyone in their own separate little boxes) to real time :) I'm chewing on starting some kind of an informal gathering in Boulder like this – not sure where you are in this wild, wired world – but I'll keep you posted!

  24. motherof five says:

    I feel so lucky to have had a best friend when I was a child (ages5-12). Since then, for reasons of which I'm not really sure, that has not been the case. Trust me, I feel lonely all the time. And close and lasting just don't seem to be in the cards. But as you have described a best friend, it's all so true. Bravo for that.

    • danya says:

      dearest mother of five – let me just say WOW and bravo to you brave mama – I am overwhelmed as a mother of one (so far!) – so I truly can't imagine with such a beautiful bountiful demanding family life – where best-friendship could squeeze in – it's ironic though, isn't it, because the busy mamas need soulful, daily, adult companionship the most at their *busiest* times!! wishing you so much love and support!! Thanks for reading. xo

  25. oh danya! i have tears! i dont want to live without those moments. i want the husband, the kids, the veggies, the home AND moments of uninhibited connectedness in that old-fashioned way without a computer in my lap. yum!!!

    • danya says:

      Megan-love – some may say I'm a dreamer :) but I somehow believe we CAN have it all (just *exactly* the way you described)- please keep believing with me!!

  26. Aella says:

    I would totally be your friend too! Neither me, or my mom have found friends like that. We can know them, but they never know us like that. I guess we just pick the ones that need out help, and not the ones where it can be mutual. I hope you find another bff soon. Loneliness sucks, if only because you can’t share your joys with enough people.

  27. beachesandbounty says:

    I love love love this makes made me Cry! So beautiful!

  28. lipster says:

    Yep…made me teary, too. I couldn't relate more to these sentiments and I'm sorry you're feeling the same way! I've felt this way since college ended. Most of my "best" friends are in a small group of supportive buddies who connect mostly online. Even though we all live in Denver or the surrounding areas and wax poetic about how we need more face time, we just can't seem to make it happen more than once every 6 months. But what I REALLY miss is that one person…that ONE best friend. The "soulmate" best friend who, like you, I have been fortunate to have many times over in different stages of life. I miss her, whoever and wherever she is, every day. :(

    • Danya says:

      Thanks so much Lipster :) I do totally get that things will ebb and flow and that the fact that we all "just can't seem to make it happen" (some boat here!!) must mean that either it's not meant to be right now – or there is something about the set-up of modern life that doesn't support it happening. . . . I try to surrender and trust – but also, even today (!) just called 10 close friends longing for a long heart-to-heart chat – and instead left TEN voicemail messages. . . of course by the time they call back, I'll be off and running after my daughter and they will leave a message for me. Sigh!

      Thanks so much for everything you said, it meant a lot – and wishing you all love, spaciousness and time for true connection!

  29. lipster says:

    Can I also add that I think it's very brave of you to put this out there? Clearly you have struck a nerve among so many women, based on the responses here! But (speaking for myself) in this day and age where independence and individuality is so highly valued, I feel like it's NOT easy to admit that I "need" someone, when I already have so much (a loving husband, wonderful little ones, etc.).

  30. Gee says:

    I haven't been able to clearly express these same sentiments, but to read them really struck a chord with me. I just had a dear friend visit me for the weekend and it always amazes me how we can pick right back up from where we left off last, even with 2 little girls running around and interrupting. Now that she has returned home, I'm left longing for the real connections and friendships, but am thankful for those special friends that continue to weave in and out of my life. I'm going to be sharing this article with my special friends and will look for you next time I'm at the park. Thank you for sharing! :)

  31. Sara says:

    Wow. I resonate with this so much, I could have written it.

  32. Rachel Kaye says:

    Beautiful article, resonates deeply.
    Here's a similar take on marriage and friendships: http://mothershavefeelingstoo.blogspot.com/2012/0

  33. mollyks says:

    Hi Danya,
    My gosh…I just found this through an odd glimpse into fbook, and… wow. I think that may be my Datsun you are referring to.. I love that you wrote this, and that you think about this. You're making me remember what it was like to feel so supported, connected, and involved in another person's life beyond just family. I miss that. My favorite memory of my best friend in High School was when she and I drank some whisky and taught each other a prayer in a different language. You got the Latin 'hail Mary,' and I got the Hebrew blessing which I can still recite from memory to this day. :) Call me and check! Let's reconnect. Love, Molly

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