Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Memory Vision

Catawba Ad Bldg 2013

I go back to my college Homecoming every year. I go because I want to see people I only get to see during that weekend, and to re-connect to the person I was during my years there – young, passionate, naïve maybe. But hopeful. Blissfully ignorant of the daily grind of adulthood.  I liked her, and I like to hang out with her once a year. But I’ve said all that before.

What struck me on this visit had more to do with the way my memories of those years come alive for me when I’m on campus. The school has outwardly changed very little in the almost 30 years since I graduated, so picturing my younger self in that setting is incredibly easy. When I’m away from there I of course can remember what the buildings look like and how they are situated, but when I’m there it’s like I’ve stepped inside my memory. The administration building, my dorm, the theatre – they all exist both then and now simultaneously. I spent a lot of time walking around campus with various people on this trip, and I kept seeing myself everywhere I looked.

This ditty is the best way I can describe it:

Memory Vision

I see with two sets of eyes.

They see both then and now.

 

I walk down a sidewalk today, and I see my 20-year-old self

Almost dancing down the same sidewalk, dressed up like a Gypsy,

With my friends, a band of Gypsies,

Going to the Banquet.

 

I look at the old building and I see me, bursting through the door,

Rushing to class, my books in my arms,

The chapel bell tolling out the seconds

Of my lateness.

 

You and I walk into the place I lived, my dorm,

And I see us, sitting on the couch in the lobby,

Talking, teasing, testing –

Where would this go?

 

We didn’t know, because we couldn’t see us,

who we are now, our older selves with our gray hair,

Standing and staring

At where we used to be

And still are,

And will always.

 

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Like No Time

Like No Time

Today I spoke on the phone with someone I consider one of my closest friends from high school. No surprise, it’s a guy. When I think about him, I think about the things we had in common: our love of Pink Floyd, Monty Python, and Dungeons & Dragons. The offbeat sense of humor we shared. Our general geekiness. I think about the times we hung out together, the concerts and movies we went to see, the times I came over to his house to watch television. The fights we had. I remember the plays we were in together, the hours of rehearsal and building sets. I remember the times we stayed up very late drinking coffee and discussing everything under the sun. Big conversations about God, and life, and love, and death. I learned from him that it was truly possible to be friends with a man, good friends, and that has been a great gift to me in my life.

The conversation we had today was one of the longest we’ve had in a very long time. Life happens, you know, and people drift apart. He moved away, got married, and had kids. I got married, etc. etc. I’ve seen him maybe twice in the intervening years. We don’t talk on the phone. We sometimes say “hello’ on Facebook, to wish each other a happy birthday or something, but nothing consistent. He hasn’t been part of my life for a long time now. He has a life that is full and happy, as do I. On the face of it, you wouldn’t think I have any reason to miss him. But I do. And it made me wonder.

You hear the notion that true friends are those that, when you see them again after a long absence, it’s “like no time has gone by”. You immediately pick up from where you left off, like you’d just left the room and come back – years later. What is that? Why does that happen? I’ve read some things about neurology, and from my limited understanding, memories create pathways in our minds, and when we are confronted with something from our past, our brains seek out those memories and we feel that the something is familiar, known to us. I get that, sure, but what about the people or places that we didn’t like, or are painful or uncomfortable to remember? Does the same “no time has passed” feeling happen then, too? I can tell you that it doesn’t for me – if I am confronted by someone I didn’t particularly like back in the day I don’t get that same feeling as I do from someone I did like or have a close friendship with.  Surely the disliked person created pathways in my brain as well (or I wouldn’t know who they are), but I can look at that person, remember them, but still feel they are a stranger to me. There’s no connection.

So I guess that must be the difference – the person I cared for is the one I still have a connection with, and the person I didn’t care for is still disconnected from me. It’s the kind of connection, not just the familiarity, which gives us that “timeless” feeling.

It’s Love.

Love is the only thing that survives everything – time, distance, even death itself. When we feel love for someone – real love, not possessiveness or the ego-centric self-reflective obsession that we often mistake for love – that love never goes away. It lives forever in our minds and hearts, and when confronted with someone we loved in the past, it’s that feeling of love that melts the time away. Love is eternal – it exists in the NOW – which explains the timeless feeling. Or that’s what I think, anyway.

My conversation with my friend today felt like that. When we were at our best, we had this effortless way of talking to each other, and we fell right back into that today. We didn’t talk about anything deep, just caught up in a general way on our lives and our families. But it was that sense of familiarity, that instant connection, that feeling that I just came back into the room and continued the conversation, that made me miss him. But I know that no matter how much time goes by until the next time we talk, it will be the same way again. The love we share as friends, good friends,  is as vivid today as it was all those years ago, and will remain that way for – well, forever, I suppose.

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photo credit: Emma Fierberg Fierberg_Photojournalism_1 via photopin (license)

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Man Friends, Part 2

Venus & Mars b&w

It does take a certain amount of courage to be just friends with someone of the opposite sex (or someone you “shouldn’t” be friends with). People often don’t understand how it’s possible. I know that it is possible, but it can be tricky, and you have to adhere to the rules. What rules you ask? Why, the rules I made up for myself. I’m not a relationship counselor and I don’t pretend to be one, but I’ve honed these rules over time and they have served me well. Here they are:

Rules for Maintaining a Healthy Platonic Friendship

Rule #1 – If you find that you are physically attracted to your friend, take two giant steps back. This is the most important rule, and one that causes trouble for people trying to maintain a friendship with someone who is not available for a romantic relationship (or who themselves are unavailable). The thing to remember here is that attraction is spontaneous and mostly outside of our control. You can’t help who you’re attracted to, but you can certainly control how you react to it. If you value your friendship and don’t want to lose it, be careful how you interact with a person you find yourself attracted to. Don’t allow the attraction to take hold. You may have to step away from the friendship for a while; that’s ok. It’s more important that you don’t do something stupid that you can’t take back.

One other thought about this topic. Yes, sometimes attraction is inevitable and unavoidable, and it can add an element of fun to your friendship, as long as you don’t feed it. I can’t stress this enough – if left unacted on, physical attraction will usually diminish over time, so let it. If your friendship is truly important to you, you will protect it by staying as physically and emotionally far away from the person you are attracted to as possible until the attraction, starved for attention, dies off. I’ve been through it, and I promise you it works.

Rule #2 – Talk openly about your spouse or partner. Unless your friend comes to you for relationship advice there’s a temptation to not discuss your significant other with them. Don’t fall into that trap. Your spouse or partner is an important part of your life; they are part of who you are, and you have to bring all of that to the table to truly be friends with someone. It can feel awkward, but make a point of doing it.

However, DON’T compare spouses or talk about them in a derogatory way thinking to amuse each other! That’s the height of tacky, and I don’t do it or put up with it. I am NOT here for you to complain about your spouse. If you are honestly seeking advice in order to improve your relationship that’s ok, but DO NOT call me up bitching about your wife. I will tell you to get a grip and hang up on you. Also, if I see you behaving in a way that I think is disrespectful to your wife, I WILL call you up and yell at you (yes, I’m talking about YOU – you know who you are!).

Rule #3 – If you’ve had a romantic relationship with your friend in the past, don’t dwell on it. I’m a fan of closure, so if you’re trying to have a friendship with a former flame, deal with whatever you need to deal with and move on. Your friendship exists in the present, not the past. If you find that all you ever talk about with that person is your old relationship, they are not truly a friend. They are a Movie of the Week, endlessly repeating. Get over it. There’s a reason your relationship didn’t work out in the first place, so be glad that you’re both in happy relationships. Find those things that formed the basis of your friendship in the first place and go from there.

An important point here – if your former flame is reaching out and wants to be friends but they are not in a happy, committed relationship be very careful. I would actually advise that you keep your distance from that person. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be their friend – they may need a good friend – but be extremely careful how you manage your interaction. They may be looking for more than just friendship, and they don’t have anything to lose. You do. Watch your step.

Rule #4 – Don’t expect too much. If your friend is in a committed relationship (or, you know, has a life), don’t expect that friend to be interested or available to you all the time. Actually, if one of you seems to be constantly chasing the other one down it can signal trouble in the primary relationship that should be dealt with. For me, I’m happy if I hear from my man friends every couple of months. We may have short exchanges on Facebook, or I may reach out if I see something involving a mutual interest, or if I hear something that causes me concern. Sometimes we’ll meet up for a beer or a meal if we happen to cross paths. But I have no expectation or desire to be in constant communication with my man friends. It would be creepy, and a bad idea.

Rule #5 – Don’t overdo it.  This relates to #4; don’t send your man friends messages on a weekly basis. That’s stalking. These kinds of friendships need space and distance to survive. The trick is finding that balance between keeping the friendship alive and getting too involved in your friend’s life. There’s a limit to how much communication you should have to keep your relationship in the “friend only” zone. Again, like the attraction thing, you have to be very conscious about how you manage the communication with your man friends. I find the key is to have lots of them so I don’t have time to only focus on one (but maybe that’s just me).

Rule #6 (This is for the women only) – Don’t expect your man friend to understand you. This is actually good advice for any relationship, but it definitely applies here.

Women, if you want understanding and empathy, go to your female friends. A man will never, ever understand you, and it is extremely unfair to expect them to do so.

What you can and should expect from a man, be it your husband or your boyfriend or your man friend, is for them to respect and honor you, and to enjoy your relationship in an honest and open way. You should be confident that your man friends like you just for being yourself – otherwise, what’s the point?

A friendship is a mutually beneficial relationship. It provides a source of comfort, joy, and companionship. All relationships are different because everyone is different. I get different things from every friend I have, male or female. From some I get sympathy for and identification with my struggles. From others, comradery. From some, wisdom. From others, simple affection. From some, laughter. From others, moral support. From some, the connection of shared passions.  From others, deep and abiding love.

I give my love to my friends freely, without reservation. My friends, men and women, sustain me, they hold me up when I need holding, they give me a place to focus my caring and concern. I am impossibly blessed with the most wonderful friendships of every kind. Some of them may seem unconventional. I really don’t care – they’re mine, and I cherish each and every one.

One last thought. To the spouses of my man friends:  I am not a threat to you. If anything, I’m your greatest ally. I have no desire whatsoever to take your husband from you. I have my own husband; I don’t need yours. Unlike other women who may be interested in pursuing a relationship with your man, I know where the lines are and I will not cross them. But I do ask that you have enough confidence in your marriage to acknowledge that your husband’s friendship with me could make your relationship stronger. If you can give your man the room to be a friend to me, and for me to be a friend to him, I promise you that he will respect you more than he already does.

But, and this is really important, you can’t make him not like me. You can forbid him to speak to me or you can punish him if you think he’s getting too friendly, but that won’t make your marriage any stronger. I’ve lost friends to jealous wives, and I let them go; the last thing I want to do to someone I care about is make their life harder. Friends don’t do that. But what I hope is that you can give him the freedom to maintain his friendship with me, even if you don’t like it. Just so we’re clear, I’ve done that for my husband, and he has done it for me.

So there you have it. This is what I’ve learned over the years of having lots of man friends. I care about them, and I want them to be happy. I hope they feel the same way about me. I think they do.

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What Other People Think

Secrets

Yesterday I was riding in the car with my husband, and we were talking about me. Specifically, we were talking about what I’m like as a stage manager (that’s how I met him – he was cast in a show at the theatre where I was the staff stage manager). He said something along the lines of “Well, you’re totally dedicated to the good of the show, and if some people think you’re overbearing, that’s just because they don’t understand.”

What! Me? Overbearing??

Yeah, ok, yes, I can be. I try not to, but I’m wired that way. I’ve mellowed out some in my old age, but I can still be quite frightening if you push me too hard. I’m not mean and I would never belittle or bully someone (having been bullied myself in my life), but if I’m in a position where I’m accountable for your actions (completing tasks, being on time, etc.) and you let me down, you will hear about it. Hopefully in a constructive way, as in “I know you didn’t mean to screw this up so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, but make no mistake, if you do it again I will be VERY PUT OUT.” Something like that. I’m not the sort to hold a grudge. I’m not one to smile in your face while complaining about you behind your back. I’d much rather have it out in the open, deal with it, and move on. I think that’s more respectful of you – it means I think enough of you to tell you if you’ve done something to disappoint me, or to make me angry, or to hurt my feelings, and I want to give you the chance to tell me your side of things and to make it right between us. It’s the grown up thing to do.

Not everybody handles conflict this way.

I’ve been struggling with deciding if and/or how I should respond to a person I inadvertently offended last year (for clarity we’ll call her “B”). Until recently I didn’t know what I’d done to upset B; all I knew is that one day things were fine between us, then the next day they weren’t. A mutual friend finally told me what I had done to cause this rift, and I was stunned. Apparently, I said something to B’s colleague that the colleague took offence to and then immediately reported to B. The comment took place at a bar at an evening social function. I have no idea what I said. I can’t imagine it could have been that awful – I wasn’t intoxicated, and I know where the line is when you’re conversing with people you don’t know well. Anyway, instead of coming to me about it, B immediately began to distance herself from me. Not knowing why, I imagined I was getting the cold shoulder because of something I’d done to her, but no amount of gentle questioning revealed what was going on, and for a year and a half I was totally in the dark.

Situations like this really upset me. I can’t stand the thought that somebody out there is holding a grudge against me for something I’ve done, because I would never intentionally inflict pain on anyone. If I have done something to piss you off or hurt you, I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean to do it, and I would really like it if you told me about it and gave me a chance to fix it. B never gave me that chance, which has made me question myself. Does she have so little respect for me that she didn’t feel she could confront me with my misbehavior? What is it about me that made her feel this way?

And then I realize that the whole thing isn’t about me at all. Yes, I obviously said something to upset someone, and for that I am genuinely sorry. But good grief, don’t we all sometimes make mistakes? How bad could some random comment in a loud bar have been, anyway?  And it’s entirely possible the person I offended may have misheard what I said. So, in this situation, where the reaction was completely disproportionate to to the crime, I realized there’s more going on here, and what’s really going on probably has nothing to do with what I did and everything to do with B’s own hang ups.

But being me, I keep gnawing this old bone.

I’ve thought about sending B a note to tell her I know now what happened and to offer an apology. In this message I would also like to point out that because she didn’t tell me herself what had happened, she has denied me the opportunity to apologize to the person I actually offended and to try to make it right with them. Then I think I won’t do that, because the only reason I’d point out her behavior is to make her feel bad (and part of me really does want her to acknowldege the crappy way she treated me).

Sometimes I think I’ll just let it go. It’s been a year and half. I don’t care if B and I ever repair our relationship – obviously it wasn’t a very strong one, based on the speed with which she ditched me. My only concern about that is that I don’t know if she’s running around badmouthing me to other people. I don’t think she would, but you never know.

And then, finally, I realize that I don’t have the slightest control over what people think of me. Never did. I can’t do a thing about people who think I’m overbearing, or unprofessional, or anything else. Trying to force someone to have a good opinion of me is a complete waste of time and energy. It’s hard not to try, though.

I make mistakes all the time. I say and do the wrong things. I accidentally offend my friends and relatives. We all do. It’s part of being human. All I can do is to apologize when I become aware that it happened and do my best to make amends. I wish B had given me that chance. I may not have assuaged the hurt feelings of the injured party, but at least I would have known I tried. After that, it’s on them. But now, it’s been so long I’m not sure that digging it all back up is the right thing to do.

What do you think, gang? Apologize, or let it go? I’m taking a poll, and I’m very interested to know how others have handled similar situations. Thanks for your participation.

photo credit: Bindaas Madhavi via photopin cc

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Homecoming 2014: Friendship, Cleavage, and Bad Shrimp

Catawba Ad Bldg 2013

This past weekend I attended my college’s Homecoming festivities, as I do every year. I made the 4-hour journey with one of my dearest friends (we’ll call him “G”) who has a much nicer car than I do. I arrived at G’s house mid-morning so we could grab a late breakfast and be on the road early enough to avoid the worst of the Friday traffic through Charlotte. It was a good plan, and it mostly worked; we had a fashion emergency and had to stop at a mall on the way, but we got to the hotel in plenty of time for me to lay down for a few minutes before getting all dressed up for the evening.

And dressed up I got. I wore a black dress I’d bought some months earlier that I’d not yet had occasion to put on. It’s a wrap dress with a side tie, and because of the way it draped, it exposed quite a lot of cleavage. I almost didn’t wear it because of that; I tend to keep the girls under cover. Not because I have a moral problem with cleavage, it’s just that I’m generously proportioned in that area and I feel incredibly conspicuous, and therefore uncomfortable, with my tatas on display. But that night I figured “What the hell!” and put on the dress.  I curled my hair and used my smoky eye shadow and red lipstick. The patent leather pointy-toe slingback shoes went on last. My jewelry was understated, just a pair of earrings. I figured I didn’t need anything else to draw attention to my breasts. They were pretty much out there all by themselves.

Thus bedecked I went in search of G. The plan was to meet some friends for an early dinner and then go to an awards ceremony and reception at the school. The restaurant that had been chosen by the group was just steps away from the hotel, which was fine as we didn’t have a lot of time.

Some of our friends had arrived earlier and were already working on their entrees when G and I got there. G sampled the broiled shrimp on one of the plates and determined that it was rubbery and flavorless, and should be avoided. I for some reason decided to throw caution to the wind (as evidenced by my skin-revealing attire) and order the fried shrimp. G told me not to. I did it anyway. I figured it was fried, how bad could it be? I was also ignoring the fact that in the past three months I’d cleaned up my diet significantly; I hadn’t had anything fried in a very long time. But I was feeling reckless (as I imagine women who routinely wear low-cut dresses must feel), and I ate the shrimp.

I didn’t realize what a colossal mistake I’d made until about five minutes after I finished the half-dozen butterfly shrimp on my plate. Suddenly I felt flushed, and my stomach gave a huge lurch. We paid the bill and I somehow made it back to the hotel, but at that point, my big night out was over.

I’ll spare you the details.

The next day I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything, but I did get dressed and go tailgating with everyone.

Normally I’m all over the place at the Homecoming game. Mind you, I never actually go IN the stadium to watch the game, I just wander around the parking lot talking to people. That day, though, I wasn’t feeling up to much, so I stayed where I was. Most everyone I wanted to see came by and hung out anyway, so I didn’t miss much. What did happen is that instead of being an instigator, my shaky physical condition forced me to take on the role of observer. A good bit of the time I either sat or stood watching other people and listening to them talk either to me or to others. What I saw didn’t surprise me; it only reinforced to me why I make this trek every year.

We love each other. We might not even know each other very well, or maybe we haven’t seen each other in a long time, or maybe we didn’t particularly enjoy each other’s company when we were in college, but now, all these years later, we come together and tell our stories, past and present, and we wrap each other up in the sure knowledge that no matter what happens we can always come here and find Home.

I spent a good part of the day with a woman who had been my suite mate for two years; we’ll call her “S”. S and I weren’t close friends when we were in school together, but we always got along, and even though she was a year older than me, for some reason I felt protective of her. I never told her that because it was a strange thing to feel about someone you don’t know very well, but I always sensed a vulnerability about her that triggered that response. It was great to reconnect with her, and to hear more about her journey. I had forgotten what a good storyteller she is, and I so enjoyed hearing her voice again and knowing that she is happy in her life. At one point she loaned me her ticket to the football game so I could use the most proximate ladies room, and as she dug it out of her pocket and handed it to me I spontaneously said “I love you!”. She looked at me and said “I love you, too.”

That’s why I go every year, without fail, no matter what else is going on. So I can love and be loved by these people who either share my history or something very similar to it. We understand each other because we’re the ones who got it. We all drank to Koolaid and got on the bandwagon and swallowed the same pill. That means that deep down where it counts we have something fundamental in common. I’m not sure what that is – values, beliefs, aspirations – but whatever it is, it binds us together. I know that not everyone who attended that school feels the same way about it. I guess they never felt the love that suffuses the place. I feel sorry for them. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

 

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‘Tis Better to Give

Girl with present

A couple of weeks ago I got a package in the form of a padded envelope in the mail. The return address told me it was from one of my most enduring friends, someone who has been special to me for thirty years. I couldn’t imagine what she would be sending me, and I quickly opened it.

There was no letter inside, just a handful of greeting cards in individual envelopes. They were from different people, mutual friends from high school. Still not understanding what I was holding, I opened each one in turn.

The cards were about friendship and variations on the “hang in there” theme. All of them had hand written notes; my friends had sent words of encouragement and support, mostly surrounding the recent adventure of having my car stolen (and recovered).  And, as if that wasn’t enough, inside were gift cards in various amounts for gas stations, the grocery store, the movies, and even one for a spa.

I finally realized what had happened. My good friend had reached out to this circle to tell them I was struggling and to ask them to help however they could. Their response was to send me their love and concern, and a little financial aid. I was overwhelmed. As I opened each card and read the messages inside and found the gifts all I could do was cry. I don’t know that I have ever been more touched by anything than I was by receiving those cards.

As I stood in the kitchen sobbing in gratitude for these friends, a thought popped into my head. “What did I do to deserve these amazing people?” I couldn’t think of a single thing I had ever done to warrant this expression of love from this particular group of women, some of whom I have hardly spoken to in many years. A part of me couldn’t understand why they would do what they did for me. I didn’t feel worthy of their kindness.

Then one day not too long ago I was telling my mother about my feelings, and she said something profound (like she does).

“I’ve found that acts of kindness like that say more about the person giving that the one receiving,” was what she told me.

You’re right, Mom. Of course you are. My friends’ generosity and willingness to help doesn’t have all that much to do with me; I’m sure that they would do the same for anyone, if asked. That’s just who they are – kind, giving, and concerned for others.

My friends didn’t take the time to pick out a card and write those lovely notes and buy gift cards and send them because I’m so great. They did all that because they are. I don’t  deserve their kindness; I’ve done nothing to earn their generosity. I’m just lucky to know them.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of help over the course of my life, from family, friends, and total strangers. Sometimes I ask for it; other times it is just given. I have given help to others when I can. I find I’m much better at giving help than receiving it. Giving makes you feel good; receiving can be more difficult, especially if you have no immediate ability to reciprocate.

I don’t know why I find it so hard to gracefully accept a freely given gift, and why I sometimes refuse offers of help even when I need it. I see this in other people, too, this difficulty accepting that someone genuinely wants to do something nice for you. I struggle against my instinct to refuse an offer of help by putting myself in the giver’s place and acknowledging that by denying that person an opportunity to do something nice for me, I have denied them a moment of joy – and that’s a terrible thing to do.

There’s a lot of talk these days about who “deserves” to be helped. Apparently, you have to meet some impossible standard of moral purity and total desperation to be deemed worthy of your neighbor’s assistance. By that definition I am not worthy of any kindness; I am mostly self-absorbed and forgetful of others. I am deeply flawed and I fail constantly to be the kind of person I want to be. I have no right to expect that anyone not located in the close sphere of family would have a single thought to spare for me, much less go out of their way to show any concern for my wellbeing. That’s how I know my friends’ kindness is not about me. It can’t be.

So why do we constantly ask those who need our help to prove they “deserve” it? Instead, we should just help them. In the end it will say more about who we are than who they are. I think that’s a better way to look at it.

Wouldn’t you rather be kind than right?

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photo credit: tobias.fuchs via photopin cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Week of Friendship

Friendship

This is one of those times when I’m struggling to find something to write about. As I’ve turned this past week over in my mind it’s tempting to say that nothing important happened; I can’t think of a single insight, or deep thought, or new idea I’ve had since my last post, and no major life-changing events have occurred to give me fodder for my weekly post. But that doesn’t mean that the events of this past week are any less important than when I have big news to share, or some emotional breakthrough to tell you about.

This week was all about enduring friendships.

On Wednesday afternoon I joined over 100 alumni from my high school chorus to sing at the funeral of our school’s founder. This man was one of the most genuinely humble people I have ever known. The school he started and nurtured since the 1960’s is his legacy, and it is an impressive one. To be able to show my gratitude to him for the incredible gift those years at that school have been to me was truly an honor. It was also an opportunity to share, once again, the pride and joy I feel as a part of the great choral tradition at that school. I was a member of the A Capella Chorus my Junior and Senior years of high school, and the bond of shared experience between all of us who moved in and out of that group over the years is indescribable. I wish I had the words to explain what it’s like to stand there, looking at our 82-year-old director (whose passion and commitment to us and the music is undiminished), seeing the love and pride on his face as our voices rose and blended, but there are no words for it. It is pure emotion, and it was all I could do to keep the tears at bay. I am so grateful to have this in my life, past and present, and I embrace every opportunity I get to sing with this group, because I am so aware that each time may be the last. And I know that everyone who stood up there with me felt exactly the same way, so as we sang the final few measures of the Hallelujah Chorus we weren’t just singing to honor the dead, we sang to celebrate each other and to acknowledge what a privilege it is to know the power of that bond we feel.

After the service was over I went to meet a group of former work colleagues. These friends are the core of the team that I worked with at my last job, and I have incredible memories of the struggle we went through, the hard work we did, and the fun we had. It was wonderful to be together again, and to talk about old times. For me, it’s always good to be reminded that even though my time there came to an abrupt and unpleasant ending, these colleagues became my friends and I cherish them to this day. That is a great gift, and the joy of it obscures all of the negative feelings I once had about that period of my life. I’m so far removed from it now that I mostly just remember the good things, and being with that group made me grateful again for those years.

On Memorial Day yesterday my husband and I got together with a group of friends that haven’t all been in one place in a very long time. We’re connected to each other in different ways, and many years ago we would gather for game nights and other random reasons. Then children came to some of us which put an end to the adults-only evenings, and it’s been years since everyone has been together. Yesterday it finally happened, and it was fun to see the next generation playing and enjoying each other’s company as much as their parents do.

So, yes, nothing “important” happened this week. I just spent a lot of time with people I love, being grateful all over again for the abundance of friendship I have in my life.  It’s overwhelming and humbling. It may not seem all that important, but for me, there is nothing I value more than the love I get from, and give to, my friends and family. Thank you all.

photo credit: godutchbaby via photopin cc

 

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Happy Birthday

birthday candles

One of my most enduring friends (that’s a nice way of saying “old” without making it sound like we are elderly, which we are not) had a birthday recently. By way of a birthday greeting she asked her friends to share a memory they have of her. I sat down to do that and realized that it would be more difficult than it had any right to be.

I thought about when we knew each other in high school; we had many activities in common so we spent a lot of time together. We performed in plays together, and we both sang in the chorus. We lived not too far from each other so there was much coming and going. We hung out at her place or mine. We went shopping and to the movies together. I remember talking and laughing and crying with her. I remember chorus retreats and play rehearsal. I remember sitting on her bed talking about boys. But none of these memories is sharp or distinct. That worried me for a while until I figured out why.

I think the reason (apart from my crappy memory anyway) is that this friend, unlike so many others, never hurt me. She never lied to me, or treated me badly, or talked about me behind my back. She never once caused me pain or disappointed me. The times I remember most from those years seem to either involve a boy I was interested in or a girl who had done me wrong. It seems that those memories are the only ones still sharp in my mind. I suppose what they say is true, that you remember things more if they involve great emotion. In my case I can clearly recall situations where I was hurt, or betrayed, or embarrassed. Those come easily to mind even though they are the events I’d much rather forget. But that’s how it works I guess.

The flip side of that, though, is that the memories I have of my friend are so totally intertwined with everything to do with who I was and the things that happened that I can’t separate her from them. She was, and is, a part of me in a very fundamental way. She is woven into the fabric of my past so completely that her bright thread can be found everywhere I look. For those years in high school, and for most of the years between then and now, she is always with me as I continue to shuttle and bob my way through life.

So, my friend, this is my gift to you. You are not just a moment in time to me, you are all the good things I remember, and it is my sincerest wish that our lives continue to weave together until we really are old friends. I love you. Happy Birthday!

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Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: jessica.diamond via photopin cc

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Heart Full of Love

Me & Tina 1985     Tina & Me 2-14

I had brunch today with someone I haven’t seen since high school. I considered us to be good friends back then, but we drifted apart pretty quickly when I left for college. After that our lives took off in different directions; in the intervening years when I would think of her I would think that we didn’t have much in common anymore, so it was easy for me to let her go. We had no contact at all until a few years ago, when, through the magic of Facebook, we were reunited. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we became re-acquainted. I didn’t reach out to her, choosing instead to follow her life from a distance.

I felt very conflicted about my hesitation to re-connect. Part of me wanted to, but another part was unsure about what would happen. Here is a person with whom I had laughed and cried, shared secrets, sang, acted, hung out, celebrated, and commiserated, and yet I felt like we didn’t know each other anymore. What if she’s not interested in renewing our friendship? What if she’s not the person I remember? What if we have nothing to say to each other? I was afraid that if I did or said the wrong thing the possibility of getting my friend back would be gone forever. So I waited for the right opportunity. And it finally came today.

It’s an amazing thing to be with someone you haven’t seen since you were young. To look at them across a table with all the years you’ve lived separating you like a river, wide and deep. It took a little while (not long, but a little while) for us to find a comfortable rhythm for our conversation. I wasn’t surprised; even back in high school we had to make an effort to really communicate. I was sure at the time that it was because of my friend’s challenges with her family; her parents were severe with her (not abusive to my knowledge, but not loving, either), and she learned to protect herself. But even then she was willing to risk loving others. So, after a few minutes of “Do you remember?” the connection we once shared was re-established, and we started really talking.

My friend has had a hard life by anyone’s estimation. She wouldn’t mind me telling you about it but I won’t – it’s her story. Just know that I am amazed by her. She is one of the strongest, most resilient people I have ever known. She has faced down so many challenges in her life, mostly without help from anyone. I imagine many people would have given up and crawled into a hole if they had to face what she has in her life, but she didn’t. There she was today, eyes shining, sitting across from me and telling me about how excited and hopeful she is for the future. I am sure she will make her dreams come true – she just doesn’t ever give up.

I knew lots of people in high school, and I had a few really close friends, most of whom are still part of my life one way or another. I wasn’t sure if the bond I had with the friend I saw today was really still there, but not long after we sat down together it came flooding back. We talked and talked, and when it came time to leave we clung to each other and didn’t want to let go. It is such a gift to have had a chance to see her and to know that, even after all this time, we still want to be part of each other’s lives.

Love is what binds us together; it is the bridge that spans the unknown years between us. Don’t ever let go of the people you love if you can help it; in the end, love is the only thing that never dies. Everything changes except for the love you have for other people, and the love they feel for you. Cling to it.  Nurture it. Respect it. It will see you through your darkest hours and give you the only happiness worth having. This is the only thing I’m sure about.

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Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

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