On Friendship

Recently, I’ve been mulling over the idea of friendship and what it means to me. We’ve all been on a roller coaster of emotions lately with the pandemic, social unrest, economic hardships. No one on earth is exempt from that, and we’re all under stress.

And I am grateful for each and every friend I have.  I am an introvert by nature and making true connections is hard for me. I can be sociable and have lots of friendly acquaintances, but my true friends are a small bunch.

I also know that our friendships are not fixed, but mutable. I like to think I’ve never stopped growing as a person. I’m always learning more about who I am, my talents, gifts, and flaws. There are so many flaws. I have made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and continued on with friendships I’ve had since my high school days and even before.

But I have also learned that sometimes we grow apart. That as we and others evolve as humans, we move in different directions. Things change and I realize  we don’t have the same ideals, the same passions, the same beliefs that drew us together in the first place. It’s sad, to let go of a friendship you’ve put a lot of effort into, but there is also a peace in releasing that which no longer serves you, or makes you happy. My husband speaks the truth when he says, “People will move in and out of your life, and that’s okay.”

That said, I would never willingly throw away a friendship I thought was salvageable. I know friendships take work and sacrifice. But if I feel the scale is out of balance, if I am the only one making an effort, then maybe it’s time to reconsider what is real. I will not tolerate contempt, or abuse, or indifference. That has no place in my world.

It does make me sad when a friendship ends. Whether it’s abrupt or I had seen it coming for some time,  it doesn’t matter: there is a presence of grief. But there are memories too, memories of good times spent laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I can carry those with me even if the person is no longer in my life.

I do know that there are still many new people I have to meet, there are many days of laughter and making new memories ahead of me. And it has happened in the past that friends I thought I had lost forever have come back, and we’re all the stronger for it. (I’m looking at you, Paula and Jodi.) Trust can be rebuilt if both parties are willing to let go of the hurtful deeds and words from the past. Sometimes time does heal wounds.

Friendship is what you put into it. Both sides need to give in order for it to work. Otherwise it’s just you alone out there, giving away kindness into the void. And kindness, while infinite, should be spent on people who want to be part of your life.

Avert your eyes

I’ve been sick with bronchitis for the past week. All of the stress I’ve been under made mincemeat of my immune system and I was struck hard last Thursday night with it. I even got some excellent cough syrup with hydrocodone in it.  It helped me sleep and helped me not to cough so much.

But this morning I was still not feeling better so I called the doctor and got a second appointment. And as I was driving over it happened. A mama duck started bustling her brood across the busy four-lane road. The truck in front of me didn’t even stop and mowed over them, killing two of them. I slammed on my brakes in horror as the mama duck ran back into traffic. If my windows had been rolled down I am sure I would have heard her screams of terror.

My own mouth opened wide as well, though no sound came out. My eyes screwed shut and I could not see for the tears that poured forth. The violent death of the ducklings and the anguished horror of their mama triggered a full-blown panic attack in me. Behind the wheel. I could not breathe, nor see, nor, it seemed, able to do anything useful at all. Somehow I managed to pull off the road and sat in the parking lot of a church and remained quite hysterical for at least fifteen minutes.

Obviously I was not crying about the ducks.

If you’re sick of reading about my grief, I’m sorry. But this is a place I am going to sit for a while. Please skip over me if it bothers or annoys you.

I mean this sincerely.

There are some interesting things I have learned about grief and death in America in the past few weeks.

The first is that most people are uncomfortable with it. It is something they don’t understand and something they fear, therefore they avoid it. We are expected to cry at the funeral and then go on with our lives, doing more damage to our psyches than we realize.

When we have had a profound loss in our life it is quite natural to get hysterical from time to time. It is the body’s way of releasing the pressure we build inside ourselves.

The second thing I learned was something a wise man told me. He said that grief is like playing in the surf. If you stand hard against the waves it will knock you down and fill your mouth full of water and sand. But if you let the wave wash over you, you will go down, but you will bob right back up again. Best not to fight it when it comes.

So when it comes I am going to let it consume me. I will cry ugly. I will probably choke on my own snot and cough so hard I pee my pants a little. But I will not stand against the grief. I will embrace it and ride it out to the other side. Because that is the only way I am going to get through this.

And I will understand if you need to avert your eyes.

The Club

I have recently become a member of an exclusive club. So exclusive, even my husband isn’t a member. I have a few friends and relatives who belong though. My friend from high school, Jenny, joined in her twenties. My cousins Michelle, Andrew and Paul have been members since 2006. And most of us, at one time or another will gain membership. It’s easy, you just have to lose a parent.

I don’t mean to be glib. In fact, I don’t want to be at all. Most of you know my mom died last Saturday. She had been sick for a long time. Her last month of life was spent in the ICU of Tampa General Hospital. And in the early hours of the morning, just five days ago, her fragile body gave out. Specifically, her lungs just couldn’t keep up anymore. She was 67 years old.

Grief is an overwhelming thing. Sometimes I am all right, I have moments of calm. But then my brain thinks, “I can’t believe this is happening,” and suddenly I feel like I have been kicked repeatedly in the solar plexus, all breath knocked from my body and the ugly crying commences. And I never know where or when it is going to happen.

The past few days I’ve been sleeping a lot. It is my one escape from reality and a blessing. While I am asleep I do not cry. I do not remember she has gone. I do not think, “I’m never going to see her again in this life.”

My own mother’s mother, Grandma Marcy, died when Mom was in her early 30’s. And Mom had told me on numerous occasions that you never stop grieving for your mother. I believe her. I will get distance and time away from that horrible day, but I will never stop wanting her near me. I’ll never stop wanting her to touch my face with her soft hand, or kiss me, or tell me to “Get home good,” when I’m on my way home.

But the club. They are part of what is keeping me going. You see, they know the hell I am in right now and they see me. I’ve had several members approach me over the past few days to let me know they know how I am feeling. And in a weird way it’s a great comfort. They have been through this and yet they are still actively living their lives. Thank you Andrew, and Julie, and April, and Beth.

Don’t believe, however, that if you aren’t in the club I’m not grateful as hell for your kindness, your sympathy, or your love. Everyone has experienced loss, and I don’t belittle it one bit. Pain is pain and you don’t have to lose your mom to feel that. My husband Kosta, has been my rock. He never gets sick of seeing me melt down. He just holds me and lets me get it out.

For everyone who has lost a mother or father, I see you. I know the grief you carry around with you every day, no matter how much time has passed since they died. I see you.

But we carry on. I am sure I will find ways to deal with my grief, and the day will come when I won’t cry once.

Just not today.