Tag Archives: friends
Wow. That sounds kind of narcissistic, now that I see it in front of me. “The Year of Me.” Who does that?
Well, I do. Or I will, soon.
It’s not what you think – I’m not going to go all self-absorbed on the world, caring only about MY wants and MY needs and MY chocolate. This is something different.
A few years ago, a friend and former coworker had the “Year of Chris.” She has two daughters, and twin grandchildren, and a husband, but she spent the year doing things that made her happy – or being happy doing the things she was doing. It was awesome. And I was jealous.
Having been a single mom since 2002 (you have no idea how much I HATE playing that card, seriously), there had been relatively few “Days of Me,” so the idea of taking a full year? That was amazing. That’s what dreams were made of.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a bitter, angry person. In fact, I’m actually quite happy. I laugh a lot, I smile a lot more, I enjoy the “todays” because they’re so fleeting. I enjoy life – I truly do, and I am honestly happy doing the things I’m doing. Do I wish I had more money to enjoy it more? Sure. It would be nice to have extra to be able to go more places and do more things. But do I let it get in the way of enjoying today? Not in the least.
But this year is going to be different. Kind of.
My big dream has always been to go to Ireland. I’m third generation Irish-American, and there are still some distant relatives I’d like to go meet. And let’s be honest – Ireland. It’s beautiful. Flights aren’t horribly expensive, and if I (and however many friends and family members care to join me) stay in an Airbnb place, lodging won’t be too bad, at all. So, I thought, set it up. Make a plan. Do it.
In 2017, right smack almost perfectly in the middle of the year, I turn 50. It’s not a frightening number to me – 20 years ago I was terrified of 30, but 50 sounds almost exciting – but it’s a milestone and I want to mark it as such. So, sometime in the Year of 50, I’m going to Ireland.
But what about the year leading up to it? I don’t really want to spend a year in wait, saving every penny (though I’ll be saving several), waiting for the calendar to turn the right amount of pages so I can go on my adventure. Plus, I’ve loved my 40s, absolutely loved them. This has been the most fun decade by far – even with scraping to get by, failed relationships (which made for some pretty funny stories, I gotta tell ya’), and the loss of my favorite canine companions. My 40s have been great, I can’t just let them end on a whimper.
No, what I’m going to do in the year between 49 and 50 is allow myself to do the things I haven’t made time for/didn’t save for/made excuses for over the last several years.
I’m going to Phoenix to stay with a cousin I don’t get to see very often. I’m going to go to one of my college football games and try to connect with some college roommates and friends. I plan to go to Chicago. I’m going to go see an Iowa Cubs game. I’m going to go to the movies. I’m going to go sit on a friend’s balcony and have drinks. I’m going to do things for me.
I think we all need to take a year for ourselves. Just not this year – this one’s mine.
“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!”
And Max said, “No!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.”
— Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are”
* * * * *
My “someone” wasn’t and isn’t a monster, but like Max and his Wild Things, he is someone I’d had great adventures with, laughs, funny moments, thoughtful moments. We shared our lives and our families for almost three years, and when it ended a few months ago, we talked about being friends. That’s really what we had been for most of the time we were together, we reasoned, so how hard could it be?
We never really got the chance to find out. Shortly after we broke up, my “someone” met a new someone. “It was a surprise, totally unexpected,” he told me.
I was – and am – happy for him. The more time that passes since we ended it, the more I’ve come to realize we were a good fit as friends, but not as romantic partners. As much as we were alike, we were also different, and in ways that would eventually have mattered.
We still talked about being friends, but I knew even as we talked it wouldn’t happen. He would mention getting together for dinner – and I reminded him that his new someone might not appreciate it. The fact that we’d been romantic partners, no matter how much we know now that it was more like a friendship, will always get in the way when either of us has a new “someone.” It would for me – if I had a new someone in my life, I doubt that he would understand my wanting to go to dinner with a recent ex-boyfriend, and I know I would not be at all understanding if he wanted to go to dinner with a recent ex-girlfriend.
And I began to see the signs, and the signs began to bother me. Where once, even after breaking up, we’d instant message or text each other occasionally, they just stopped. He stopped “liking” my posts and pictures on Facebook. Pictures of the two of us together started disappearing from online photo albums. There was just … nothing.
I began to feel bitter and resentful, and then reminded myself there was really no reason to feel that way. I, too, have moved on, in different ways. I, too, know that the end was a good thing.
Can we be friends? I don’t know. Maybe. He’ll always be important to me, and his family will always be in my heart. I’m sure if I were to run into him we would be civil – friendly, even. But for now, anyway, that’s all there is.
So today I said “goodbye” and wished him well.
And got into my private boat and sailed away, ready to face the next adventure.
Superman may be the Man of Steel, able to leap tall buildings, blah blah blah … But when it comes to spreading strength and giving power, nothing compares to a woman and her besties.
I’m always amazed at how strong I feel when I’ve spent some time with any of my best friends. I don’t consider myself a “weak” person overall, but like anyone else I have my weak moments – those time when I doubt myself, don’t think I’m good enough for this or that or generally just feel insecure. Whether we admit it or not, we all have those moments.
And sometimes we get caught up in those moments. Sometimes it seems there are more of those moments than any other kind of moments. No matter how much we know we have it good – I’ve got amazing kids, a wonderful extended family, am seeing a great man, have a great job and am, for the most part, really, really happy – those moments can take over and make us feel weak and insignificant.
But just like our body reacts when we’re thirsty or hungry by going after food and drink, my “being” tends to reach out to those I know can fill me with strength, just by being by my side.
This winter gave me a lot of those “weak” moments. I started physical therapy last fall for IT Band Syndrome in my right leg, followed that up with wearing a brace on my right knee because ITBS had pulled my kneecap off-center, then had my right foot in a boot. Christmas just didn’t feel “Christmas-y” enough, and then the snow just kept coming and coming and coming … it seemed winter would never end.
Then about three weeks ago I reached out to one of my girls. A week later, I had dinner with another one on a Friday and went and spent time with yet another that Sunday. The following weekend I met another one at her daughter’s softball tournament, and later that week I had dinner with yet another one. Three weeks, five of my besties.
There was some chatter about things that might be going wrong in different parts of our lives, but really about 95 percent of the conversation – if not more – was just about life. Kids, work, catching up, laughing (lots and lots of laughing) and promises to do this more often.
And then something happened. Those “moments” began to disappear. The self-doubt went away, and took a heaping handful of insecurity with it. I felt stronger. More confident. Ready to take on the world.
(OK, I meant that kind of not-so-literally, so my health scare and my daughter’s pneumonia almost knocked me off my foundation, but I recovered quickly!)
The point is, my girls make me stronger. Not by saying or doing anything special – just by being “my girls.” Knowing I have that base – and I’m assuming each of them has their own base, as well – and reconnecting to that base does more for me than any energy drink or hour at the gym ever could.
Help! I’ve fallen into the digital world and I can’t get out!
OK, maybe it’s not that bad. But here’s a case in point: A Facebook friend (clue number one – I have to qualify my friends by “friends I’ve hung out with” and “friends I know from Facebook”) posted a status today challenging all of her friends to write a letter, to anyone. It took me just a second to fall in love with the idea – not because I’m huge on letter-writing (although I used to be) but because I love doing things the old-fashioned way.
The closest thing I’ve come to writing a letter in a very long time is leaving a note for my daughter when I leave in the morning, asking her to empty the dishwasher or to remember to take the dogs out. More often than not, though, those “notes” are in the form of a text message sent on the fly. If I have to send a package through the mail I do usually include a note – but it’s never more than a sentence or two, and it’s nothing that would be sent at all if there weren’t a bigger purpose involved in using the mail system.
I used to love to write letters. One of my most prized possessions is a letter my father found last summer while going through his box of military papers. It was a letter I’d written to my grandmother postmarked Oct. 18, 1978 – just two weeks before she died tragically and unexpectedly in a store fire in Des Moines.
I remember writing a lot of letters. We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, so letter-writing was a great way to keep in touch with friends I’d left behind. College, married life, children and life got moving too quickly and we soon lost touch, but thanks to the internet and (gasp!) Facebook I’ve reconnected with several friends from different areas we’ve lived.
Our first move – the first one after I learned to write, that is – was from Minneapolis to Anchorage. I had one friend I wrote to, Krissy, who was the daughter of my mom’s best friend. I think I wrote one letter. When we moved from Anchorage to a small Missouri town the middle of my seventh-grade year, there were more friends left behind and more letters written. I managed to maintain penpal status with a few of those friends until we went to college. We left Missouri for Carroll, Iowa, the summer before my senior year. You can bet I wrote a lot of letters to friends left behind as we all cursed my horrible, terrible, evil parents for making me move (I got over it). There were a few people I wrote from my one year in Carroll, but since I’d spent most of that year with a chip on my shoulder I didn’t get real close to a lot of people.
When I was in college my freshman year I got a surprise in the mail: a letter from my dad. I talked to Mom frequently, but since Dad spent most of his day at work on the phone, getting into an engaging telephone conversation at home was not something he wanted to do. On the rare weekends I went home – I loved college and didn’t love Carroll – Dad would pick me up and we’d spend the three-hour drive home talking non-stop about just about everything, but once we got home it was all about holidays or me being with some of the handful of friends I had there. The first letter was a surprise, but a welcome one; I wrote back and we started an occasional habit that continued all through my college career.
I think I wrote a few letters post-college: thank-you letters for gifts after the wedding and each of the kids’ births, a few letters to my grandparents in western Iowa, maybe a few to cousins and friends, but eventually the internet came along, cell phones became appendages and life just took off.
The letter went the way of the 8-track player and recording songs off the radio.
So now we have this challenge, and I intend to participate. I’m asking everyone to write just one letter – handwritten, with pen and paper – and send it to someone to make their day. Or to apologize for some long-ago misdeed. Or even to catch up with someone you chat with regularly.
Who knows? You may want to write two.
There are always two sides to every story.
When I was 16 and my brother – my younger brother – pushed me into the couch and I hit it in just the right spot to break three ribs, what never came out when I told the story to my friends was that I had patiently waited for him to get off the couch so I could steal his seat. When he came back we argued – because we were teenagers and that’s what we did – and when I stood up he simply pushed me back down. Crack.
When my daughter, then 3, would come crying to me because her brother pushed her or knocked her down, I didn’t know until I went to talk to my son that it was because she stood in the middle of the area where he was playing blocks or driving his Matchbox cars and then kicked all of his toys around.
Little Red Riding Hood would most certainly have a different version of what happened that day in the woods than would the Big Bad Wolf.
And when you hear, “People come into your life for a reason,” you never think that people also leave your life for a reason.
But they do.
Anyone who knows me or who has been a regular reader of this blog (or both) knows that we moved around a lot when I was growing up – and by “a lot” I mean that by the time I graduated from high school we had lived in 13 different houses in five different states. We weren’t gypsies or transients or, as one friend often accuses, in witness protection. My dad simply got bored sitting in one place too long. As a result I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. And while it was tough leaving friends behind, it was always good to make new ones.
I’ve carried that with me through my adult years. In college I think I lived someplace new every semester, and in the (gulp) 23 years since the longest time I’d spent in any one house was the one I bought after my divorce in 2002 – and we moved out of that one two years ago.
I’ve never really had a problem making friends – again, those who know me know I’m not shy. Growing up it was never really hard to “clean out the bad,” either, because if I waited long enough we’d move and those I didn’t want to keep in touch with just faded into the sunset. (Unfortunately many I did want to keep in touch with faded, as well, but thanks to Facebook and social media I’ve reconnected with many of them.)
As an adult, cleaning that closet is a bit more difficult. I can’t sit back on my laurels and wait for Dad to get bored and move (which, by the way, he stopped doing once we three kids graduated). When I need to cleanse, it’s got to be a decision I make, and it’s not always an easy one. How do you tell someone, “thanks, but it’s over.” Breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a boyfriend, I think, because the relationship is different. When you make a romantic break, there’s the possibility you can be friends, or maybe without the romance there’s not much reason to be around each other so it doesn’t matter. With friends, it’s different. There is no, “but we can still be friends” – that defeats the whole process.
I’ve only made that cleansing move twice in the last 25 years, both because it is so damned hard and because, well, I generally love my friends. I don’t get to spend as much time with a lot of them as I’d like, but I do still like having them. What usually drives me to that point is how that person makes me feel. I don’t need to be coddled and given warm fuzzies by any means, but if I’m constantly left with a negative self-image after talking with the friend or just feeling badly about myself because of them, I don’t need them nor do I want them around. In many cases, these are the friends who use a revolving door – they come into your life for a while, then leave for a while, then they eventually resurface.
I do believe people come into our lives for a reason, but I have to remember that people leave our lives for a reason, too – and sometimes that reason has to be because we tell them to leave.
We often talk about children and teens and how they tend to think they’re immortal, that they have this, “It can never happen to me” sense about them when it comes to doing certain things. There’s a bravado that children have, probably through the innocence of not having seen anything prove it wrong, that lets them believe they will live forever.
Today I’ve discovered that I have lived a bit with that “never happens to me” belief, as well. Oh, not by living vicariously and riding my bicycle down a steep hill to take the jump at the bottom or swinging on a rope over a boulder-filled lake.
No, this mortality comes in the form of disease, age and death. I learned this morning that the sister of one of my very best friends in middle school and high school passed away yesterday. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last November and, according to Janie, her sister and my childhood friend, the disease moved quickly.
Idona Branstuder, Janie’s older sister, was a bit older than we were – Janie’s parents had two children, Charles and Idona, and then when the older two were in high school had two more, Janie and Nina – but not much. Her obituary lists her as 60, which seems far too young for the evils of Alzheimer’s to creep in. And Janie, who like me is 44, seems much too young to be losing a sibling to such a crippling disease.
My heart goes out to Janie and Nina and the rest of the Tate family in northwestern Missouri. It’s stories like this that truly make my heart ache. I’ve not yet reconciled myself with the idea that my friends and cousins and others my age are facing the real possibility of losing their parents, nor have I come to see the true age of my own parents. My dad and I were talking about aging the other day and I realized that at 72, he is considered elderly – yet when I hear media reports of an “elderly man” of 70s doing something, I shake my head in disbelief.
I know, logically, that we are aging. That it’s been 26 years since my family moved from that small town in Missouri and Janie and I went from hanging out after school to writing letters once in a while. Yet there are times it seems not so long ago, and that we’re not as old as we really are — and those times spent with Janie after school in Idona’s small house listening to Van Halen albums and smoking cigarettes where our parents wouldn’t see us aren’t so distant after all.
I got a phone call Monday from a friend — a male friend — who wanted some advice. He and I are both single and have recently decided to kind of “help each other out” when it comes to finding someone (we’re a mess when it comes to dating each other, but are finding out that the friend thing really does work for us).
This friend had met a woman and went out on a date on Sunday, then met for lunch or some such thing Monday. During the lunch this woman apparently threw up some pretty strong “red flags” which made my friend decide he’s not interested in pursuing the relationship any longer.
He initially asked my opinion on one of the red flags, and I agreed with his decision. But the advice came to be about an invitation to the woman’s birthday celebration with friends, to which he was invited. He said he planned to go, then let her down easy.
I said, “Bad idea.”
His thought was that he didn’t want to ruin her birthday and would go and “be nice.” My thoughts were that birthdays were special days and, since all of her friends would be there, he would be kind of “meeting the family” and implying that he was happy to share her special day with her.
He wasn’t convinced – not nearly as much as he’s convinced my take on relationships can sometimes be neurotic and angst-ridden.
So, without his knowledge, I conducted a short poll among my female friends. What advice would they give? I sent an e-mail out to 25 friends of all ages, walks of life, marital status, etc. Of the 12 responses I got back ALL of them were against his going to the party.
Then I told him of the poll and emailed him a copy of the answers – with everyone’s name removed. His response? “Thanks for the poll. I get the message!”
It’s just another insight, really, in why relationships can be so difficult – his thoughts on the party were valid and understandable, but as women, we knew how we would interpret his presence. And the two opinions had completely opposite outcomes.