“She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” – Matt Baker
I’m the most inhibited person I know. When I’m taking photos, and someone says, “Do a funny one!” I act like they just asked me to commit a heinous crime. My friend, Shannon, is the opposite of this. One time, she walked straight up to a group of the scariest looking Russian men you can imagine, made a political joke, and told them to buy her vodka shots. If Russians weren’t into that level of frankness, we would have been in trouble. So, when I hear my friend Shannon laughing from the dance floor saying, “Come on Lyssa!” I know what she’s up to. She’s laughing because she knows that dancing with a bunch of strangers to a Justin Bieber cover-song is the last thing on my agenda. When she manages to coerce a guy at the bar with the self-given name, “Eagle” – who looks like he’s trying a little too hard to look like a fur trapper from 1673 – to ask me to dance, I tell her she’s a jerk. In actuality, she is one of my favorite people. Although her strategies aren’t preferable, she is always pushing me out of my comfort zone, which is something I really need in my life. I’ve held myself back from a lot of opportunities because of my apprehension to try new things or meet new people. Shannon does this so effortlessly that it inspires even me to take a step out of my shell.
Shannon and I used to work really long and defeating hours side by side. Housekeeping at a ski resort together can cause two people to become fast friends. We’ve un-clogged toilets together and we’ve come to the slow realization that people had sex all over the bed we were changing. Besides going to war, I really can’t think of a more bond-inducing experience. The amazing thing to me is, Shannon is able to stay so positive throughout all of it. She cracks jokes and she always has a smile on her face. The only thing more amazing than a man covered in camo and raccoon fur wanting to dance to Justin Bieber is how consistently energetic and happy Shannon is all the time. As someone who tends to see the glass half empty, I admire this about her.
So, when Shannon broke down in my car one night about how much she was, in fact, not keeping it together, I was truly surprised. It was that night that I really learned about all of the challenges she was going through. All three of her kids lived in California, a solid fourteen hours away from where we were, in Montana. She is the sole financial provider for two of her kids, and is constantly worried about whether she will make enough money to make rent on the house, or have enough for them to eat every week. On top of this worry sits all of the judgments, from herself and from others, any time she tries to do something for herself. Comments like, “Can’t you find a job closer to your kids?” or “Shouldn’t that money you used for a beer be sent home?” I can’t fathom the guilt that one would feel about leaving their kids in another state, let alone the fact that other people consistently compound that guilt. This made me see my friend in a whole new light. At first, I was confused about the façade she is able to put on, despite the issues she is struggling with; but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. In order to distract herself from her own problems, she strives to be happy and to try to make those around her happy, as well.
Keeping a happy look on your face, despite going through such a hard time, has to take an immense amount of energy; an amount of energy that I can’t fathom. Shannon, however, is the best at this. She has the most admirable ability to live life in the moment, seemingly absolutely carefree of what others might think about her, not even how she might offend the scariest looking Russians. Shannon works harder than anyone I know. She picks up multiple jobs and sends most of that money home, leaving very little for her to use for her own self-care. When thinking about a woman I admire, my immediate thought is of Shannon.