My mom was recovering from chemo in Oklahoma, and I was hundreds of miles away in Wisconsin.
I had been there for her hysterectomy and then again for her first day of chemo, but then I had to head back home due to work and family obligations. This was right around the time my mom’s hair started falling out in giant clumps, one handful at at time. She was ready to shave her head, but she just couldn’t quite bring herself to do it.
I was heartbroken I couldn’t be there, so I did the only thing I knew to do — I called my best friend, Tina, who still lived nearby. Within an hour, she was over at my mom’s house, clippers in hand. Along the way, she sent me photos so we could all celebrate the moment virtually. Through the smile and tears, I thought to myself, Now that’s a friend.
I actually have three best friends like this — Tina, Amber, and Ashley. We graduated from the same high school nearly 20 years ago. Yet ever since then, we’ve lived in different cities and states. This hasn’t stopped us from being there for really big life moments, though. Marriages, divorces, moves, changing and losing jobs, kids, adoptions, career changes — they’ve all been part of our mix.
But it’s actually the everyday things that are even more important and amazing. It’s being able to group text to vent about catty PTA members or the controlling board member at the library. It’s being able to send photos or brag unabashedly about our kids, knowing it’ll be met with love and not jealousy or judgment. It’s being able to ask for advice. It’s being able to talk about anxiety and our imperfections. And it’s being able to confess our deepest worries, fears, and failures.
Long-distance friendships are certainly not easy, and to be honest, they usually fade. Sometimes I wonder how we’ve managed all these years. We can go years without seeing each other, and then we pick right back up where we left off.
Of course, it’s not perfect. We sometimes miss things or life gets busy and we don’t check in as much as we should. We can annoy one another, too because we truly know the good, bad, and ugly. But we’ve figured out how to make it work and stay friends. So from my besties to yours, here are some of our secrets.
We group text about anything (and everything).
Good ol' texting works for us, but I’m sure a Facebook group or Snapchat would work, too. Sometimes we text out of boredom and others times for love or support, but nothing is off limits. It can sometimes take hours or days for everyone to respond or catch up, but there’s kind of a nonverbal agreement that we’ll all just get to it when (and if) we can.
We make time to meet up.
Sometimes we’ve gone years between meetups. This is tough, but it’s hard to get four women in all different states coordinated at once! We do the best we can, and if some of us get together without the others, we make the most of the time while making the others properly jealous. (Seriously, girls, we need to plan something soon.)
We tell each other how smart and pretty we are.
This is a must out of all besties, whether you live close or far. No matter how much weight you gained since high school or how much of a failure you’re currently feeling like, your besties should tell you how smart and pretty you are. We always lift each other up, and you should find — and hang onto — women that do the same.
We encourage surprises.
Over the years, we’ve pulled off some pretty amazing surprises. When I released my first book, they all flew up to Wisconsin and yelled “surprise” when I walked into the bathroom of a Mexican restaurant. (This is an awkward story for another time.) We’ve also managed to pull off a couple of birthday surprises, and it’s always so incredibly worth it.
We give support, no matter what.
I feel like half the value of having a best friend is being able to vent. With besties, you definitely have to have some balance so you’re not always just venting. But this is one of the best parts of our foursome. No matter what, we give love, encouragement, and advice. And sometimes, we just listen.
We hold each other accountable (except when we don’t want to hear it).
Along with support is accountability, and let’s face it — we all need a good dose of that from time to time. Best friends can do this like no other. They have a way of making it sound so much better, compared to advice coming from a parent or family member. Of course, the exception here is when you’re not quite ready for accountability. And then it’s back to offering the endless support.
We celebrate the important moments.
I’m not talking about birthdays or new jobs. It’s more about the important moments that others might not know about. It’s an adoption anniversary, the running of a half marathon, the child send-off to public school after homeschooling for so many years. Best friends know these moments, why they are important, and they take time to talk about them.
I certainly wouldn’t choose to have my best friends hundreds of miles away. I’d much rather have them close at hand to do all of these things in person. But I feel pretty lucky that I have these amazing women in my life even after all these years. I hope you find ways to make your long-distance friendships work, too.
Stacy Tornio is the author of The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book and the mom of two adventurous kids. Together, they like planning vacations centered around the national parks.