Friends with Benefits

Have you ever stumbled across somebody who’s had an impact on your life, regardless of how big or small their interaction? I recall both drunken nights and sober moments where I’ve crossed strangers who’ve stricken a chord, shifting my mind-set or doing something which resonates.

I must have been 7 or 8 when my parents separated; it was difficult to see them in pain, especially being a child adjusting to change. My mum bought her first house in Greenford and my brother and I were traipsing back and forth between homes, coming to terms with a new dynamic and trying to find a happy medium. At the time, there was a lot of ill feeling between my parents and the atmosphere at home was quite tense –strange to recall as they’re actually friends now. Being part of what I call a patchwork dream, things are now the way they should be. It’s taken a lot of patience, acceptance and even forgiveness to get to where we are as a family.

So, back to the 90’s: my dad immersed himself in work (no different from the norm) and being a “mans’ man”, didn’t sit me and my brother down to discuss how we felt about the separation.  My mothers approach differed; she encouraged us to talk about our emotions and get everything out in the open. I’m not going to lie, I felt a bit lost. I missed my family being unified and was trying to digest two separate methods of parenting.

But we found calm amidst the chaos; the events of my life have always seen things fall into place, regardless of the twists and turns. When I was 9 and still moving back and forth between homes, my dad had a lodger move in to one of the top floor rooms. Her name was Dawn: a tall, slim, blonde lady with short hair and sparkling eyes. She befriended me with kindness and I liked her immediately. She was a part of the change I was willing to embrace. The greatest thing about Dawn was that she liked children and we’d play together; healing during a time where there was animosity flitting about. She encouraged me to do painting, plays, reading and cooking – all of the things my mother would do in our home away from home. I was taken under her wing and we established a bond – an unmotivated kindness with no gains – a beautiful thing to recall.

One year later Dawn fell pregnant and moved to Brighton.  I visited her once or twice but with the busyness of life we lost touch naturally. Just some months ago my dad mentioned her and I began to reflect – it was the first time as an adult I acknowledged her place in my life. After sifting through twenty different Facebook profiles I managed to find her and sent a message. As somebody who worries a lot, I felt embarrassed to have reconnected and provided myself with all sorts of negative reasons as to why she may not reply. Well, I needn’t have worried; she did reply and after touching base a little our connection wasn’t lost.

I spent a weekend with Dawn in Brighton a couple of weeks ago and she was exactly as I’d remembered: full of warmth and life and fun.  It was interesting observing her from an objective perspective and also pretty cool drinking our first glass of wine together! I discovered that she’d remarkably beat cancer and did so without chemo – using alternative remedies such as healthy eating, stillness and meditation. Amazing.

There’s something uplifting about Dawn’s appearance in my life, as a child it was the unspoken emotional support and now it’s continuing the friendship.  When the ones we lean on are recuperating (and let’s face it, we can’t be available 100% of the time – otherwise we’d have no energy left for ourselves) life advocates a surrogate. A few months ago a friend of mine told me that she sees me as an angel – to which I cried with hysterical laughter. But I know what she means – being supportive and present without feeling obligated is a selfless act. Perhaps the willingness of those who give unmotivated help and support – marks them as our angels on earth.


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