Some mornings I wake up, it’s dark, the clock radio may have started playing NPR’s Morning Edition, which means the alarm will be going off soon. Which does not fill me with joy, because I’m never quite ready to wake up and get out of bed.
But about then my husband comes back into the bedroom. He goes into work earlier than I do, needing to leave before my alarm even goes off. Anyway, he walks into the room, he may turn on the lights because he’s looking for something, or he may just need to grab one thing. The important thing is he walks into the room, and a fun thing happens.
I remember that I’m married to that man.
It’s not like I have amnesia or something, but there’s a part of me that is always pleasantly surprised to remember that I’m not alone. Not only am I not alone, but I have the best husband in the world. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s sweet. He’s cute. He’s sexy. He’s very practical. One of my friends once described Michael as the most capable person he’s ever known. He can fix things—all kinds of things!—and he likes doing it. He can take a pile of fresh vegetables and turn it into several very neat piles of very nicely sliced vegetables in the amount of time a normal person would spend deciding which knife to use. He cooks. He cleans. He puts up with me (not exactly the easiest person to get along with). He puts up with all my weird hobbies and projects. He’s cheerful, even after living with me for over 16 years. His response to any disaster is not, “how can I fix this,” but rather, “I have a plan to deal with this.”
And did I mention that he’s sexy?
As if having this wonderful man in my life wasn’t already more good fortune than I deserve, my life has also been graced with a large assortment of wonderful friends. It’s hard to know where to begin, but here goes:
- Kristin is smart, funny, friendly, fun to be around. She is incredibly good at organizing, with a special knack for getting you to dispose of unnecessary stuff. She writes, too. And while she believes it’s better to resolve problems by everyone hugging it out after, since becoming a mother, she’s gotten very good at channelling her inner Valkyrie.
- J’wyl is creative, giving, smart, and a mistress of logistics. She can be self-deprecating to a fault, and will tell me that none of the things I said in the previous sentence are accurate. She’s wrong about that.
- Sky is smart, witty, talented, and a much nicer guy than he likes to let on. While he has occasionally described himself as a rat bastard, the truth is he’s only that way to the deserving. He also underestimates his own skills and talents, but he’s never stingy with them.
- Jeri Lynn has a wide variety of talents, and may be the only one of my friends to have more hobbies than I do. She’s something of a stealth geek, she’s a great cello player, a fabulous baker, a very funny gamer, and she is full of astounding surprises.
- Jeff is another smart one who carries a wealth of esoteric knowledge around in his head. We’ve long had a joke that Jeff is my husband’s twin (and of course, my husband is the evil one), because their range of interests, ability to focus on odd technological problems, and terrible talent for puns are so very similar. Jeff gets extra karma points from me because he’s responsible for bringing both Sky and Jeri Lynn into my circle of friends.
- Mark is someone I’ve known since college. He may be the most prolific writer I’ve known personally. He is a genius at finding weird bands that you never heard of before, but whose music you will like—even if your musical taste is completely different than his. If he finds out you like some really obscure music or band, he’ll find more of their work for you. I should mention that he owns more music than you would believe it is possible to own (much, if not most, of it collected in formats other than digital download). It almost goes without saying that he is smart and friendly, and he’s also very funny.
- David may well be the smartest guy I have ever met. He’s got a little bit of the same fondness for terrible puns as my husband, but his willingness to help people with problems, particularly to help people build something to solve a problem, more than makes up for it. He’s really good at correlating disparate information, boiling complex things down to doable subprojects, a meticulous copy editor, and he makes the most beautiful wooden-barreled pens and mechanical pencils.
- Keith was introduced to me by Mark, though we didn’t meet until after we’d been corresponding for about a year. Keith is friendly, imaginative, inspirational, easy-going to a fault, and a really good writer who I wish would be more prolific. His amiability hides a determined streak that only surfaces under certain conditions, but it always manifests as tenaciousness, rather than obstinance.
- Julie is a musician, writer, painter, cook, more clever than she will admit, and the nicest ex-wife anyone could ask for. The fact that we’ve remained friends (and I think become better friends) in the more than 20 years since our divorce says more about her forgiving nature than anything. It doesn’t hurt that she gets along well with my husband, nor that her husband is such a brilliant and friendly guy, as well.
- Sheryl is witty, determined, principled, a fosterer of rescued pets, creator of a delightful comic, and a yobo you do not want to cross. And she has excellent taste.
- Jared is smart, charming, loyal, and has an excellent voice for bedtime stories. He’s an excellent copy editor and analyzer. He’s another one with a bit of a self-deprecating problem, but he’s not stingy with offering encouragement to his friends.
It’s past my bedtime, and there are so many more I wish I could say more about: Clint, the king of the blues guitar; Chuck, master of voices, crafter of plots, and creator of fantastic comic books; Edd, king of the surreal story; Matt, the enabler of technological indulgence; Charles, the prodigy; Auntie, mistress of hues; and so on, and so on.
It’s my birthday, a few years past one of the big milestone ones, when I’m supposed to have some wisdom to share. So, here it is: the old cliche is that you should keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. Some time ago I realized you don’t need to worry about the enemies if you pick your friends carefully, and if you allow them to help you become the sort of person who can keep friends. One of the secrets of becoming a better you is being open to both the praise and criticism of your friends.
Too many people look on criticism, disagreements, and the like as a competition. They think it’s all about who wins and who loses. It’s not. If people are being hurt, even unintentionally, everyone loses.
Fortunately, thanks to the best friends in the world, I get to feel like a champ—and not just any champion, but the luckiest winner every single day.