Yesterday morning I got a call from one of best friends asking if I was busy just then. I was surprised to be hearing from her, she’s a super busy, important lawyer lady and I don’t know that she’s ever called me during the work day. Could I come pick her up? She wanted to know. She was on the 520 bridge where she’d crashed her car. She was okay, she said though she didn’t sound it. Her voice was small, like she was calling me from the bottom of a well.
What had happened didn’t really hit me until I was in the car on my way to go get her. I was glad that I’d already spoken to her and that I knew she wasn’t seriously injured, the reality of getting into a crash while going fifty on that narrow bridge during rush hour settled on me as I drove down it scanning for her car. She could have died. Just like that, my friend who I’d gone to yoga with the evening before could have been gone forever.
We’re prone to long talks, this friend and I. She’ll drive me home, as she did the other night and we’ll end up parked in front of my building for an hour and half because we just couldn’t finish the thought, whatever it was. To the outside world she and I probably seem pretty different. I’m about eight inches taller than she is and she’s fairly reserved while I’m outgoing and so expressive you could see how my day’s going from 100 yards away. But in some ways we’re incredibly similar. We’re both driven in our careers, independent, just past thirty and single. We both date a fair amount and we’re both, to put it mildly, trepidatious about entering into long term relationships. The night before the crash, we’d sat in her soon-to-be-crunched BMW and talked for an hour in our sweaty yoga clothes about love, about how we got to where we were. Despite our varying circumstances it came down to the same thing for the two of us, the idea of needing a man (as one inevitably does when they’re in love) is tough to get our heads around, in fact it’s pretty terrifying.
It was on my mind, this question of need, that day after reading Lindsay Cross’ excellent (and reassuring) piece about being needy in relationships. As she points out, love just naturally involves a certain amount of need. Why was that so scary?
When I picked my friend up she was scratched and bruised and her car was destroyed. She’s small but I’ve never seen her look fragile as she did then. She’s a tough cookie my friend, it takes something pretty catastrophic to shake her up. But of course, it doesn’t matter how tough or independent you are eventually you’re going to crash your car—either literally or metaphorically—and you’re going to need some help.
I gave her a long hug and she apologized for interrupting my work day. I told her she was crazy, that there was nothing that could have been half as important. She admitted that it had been tough for her to reach out for help, even under such extreme circumstances.
I was happy I could be there, not just for her sake but honestly because it feels really good to be needed and trusted by someone you love. This is easy to forget when self-reliance (perhaps especially for young women) is so celebrated. It’s easy to recognize that someone is doing something kind for you when they come to your rescue, not so readily apparent is that you’re also doing something kind for them by trusting them enough to give them the opportunity. We’re often helpless in the face of the misery of those we love—things come along that we can’t save them from: cancer, mental illness, intractable twists of fate—so when we’re put in the position where we can do something, anything at all, to help it makes us feel more in control, more useful and yes, more loved. Were you ever the last to hear really bad news from a friend? It hurts right? That’s not to say that people aren’t ever too needy, that they never take advantage. We’ve all had friends, boyfriends and family members who needed way too much. But most of us aren’t that person.
To have a brush with death is profound, and I know that my friend will be processing what happened for some time to come. Meanwhile it’s a good reminder to let those in your life know that you love them and that even though you’re secure on your own two feet, you need them. And that really, the two go hand-in-hand.