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.

Plague Diaries #9

I have a very dear friend who is one of those people who is without guile or pretense. She is a genuine, authentic soul who says what she means, is kind to the core, and doesn’t take shit from anyone. She is a beautiful soul.

I’ve been keeping in contact with her through email lately and have mentioned my problems with anxiety. And she offered to give me acupuncture treatments. She is a retired nurse who also studied eastern medicine for three years and is a licensed acupuncture practitioner. Yesterday afternoon was my first session.

I lay on cushions on the floor on my back. She took my pulse three places in my right wrist and three places in my left wrist, and also in my neck. She inserted two needles in each wrist, two in each foot, one in the top of my head and five in my left ear. And I lay there for a while.

It wasn’t unpleasant, in fact, other than being pricked with needles, it was actually nice to just lay there and not be expected to do anything. We talked a little, she told me about her journey through learning eastern medicine and even how she went to China to study acupuncture there for two months. On top of being a kind person, she also has the soul of a wanderer–she’s been so many places in the world and I love to hear her stories of travel.

After she took the needles out we sat and talked a little while and then I went home. I can’t say I felt a huge difference right away, but this morning I did notice an easing in my breathing. I plan to go back some night after work this week to do it again.

I can’t tell you how much her friendship means to me. She’s someone who understands anxiety and depression, having battled them herself. In a world where so many people are selfish and rude, finding a truly kind person is a rarity. To have such a person in one’s life is a gift and I will never take her for granted, even if she never gave me acupuncture. Just spending time with her and talking lifts my spirit and brings me joy.

Thank you, my dear, for your love and friendship and needles.

 

Plague Diaries #7

The new normal that I mentioned in my last post continues. I’m working, but I’m having trouble concentrating. I’m forcing my way through it, but at night I am exhausted and only want to lie in bed. But I go for walks because I know it’s good for me. I make myself eat well. I take my medications.

My anxiety has been getting out of hand. I’ve grappled with pretty harsh anxiety since I was a child, just built into my disposition, coming from my repressive Scandinavian genes, I suppose.

My husband doesn’t have anxiety, bless him. And I know a lot of you don’t either, and thank the stars you don’t. But if you know someone who does and you struggle to understand why they do weird things like eat their cuticles to shreds or have a penchant for hiding in bed, let me try to explain.

I know it is different for everyone. Some have severe panic attacks, some lose their shit and scream and cry, some of us can’t breathe. I fall into the latter category. When things get really bad I feel like I have a basketball shoved inside my ribs and my lungs are trying to expand and contract around it. Not easy.

But one thing, I think, that is universal for those with severe anxiety, is that it isn’t rational. It’s living too much in our heads and not being grounded in what is happening in the moment. We worry about the future, the past, the present and it all gets tangled in a whirling blur of color mixed with terrifying darkness that is impossible to slow down and separate into what’s real and what’s perceived.

The last time I had anxiety this bad was in the months after my mother died. No difficulty explaining why. And there is no secret to why it’s revving up now either. This pandemic is changing our world at a screaming pace. And the thing that makes me most anxious is I don’t know how it’s changing us, or where exactly (or even generally) we will end up.

I know this isn’t a post of stiff upper lip. (We can’t all be Queen of England.) I am a brave person–I go on living in spite of my anxiety. Some days are more difficult than others to put together the semblance of a well-lived life, but I never give up. But if I chew my thumb or have to lie down in the dark for a while, it’s okay. And it’s okay if someone you know does the same thing–as long as they don’t unpack and set up house with that feeling.

I hope you’re okay. I’m hanging in there. I’m doing my best, and I’m trying to be kind to myself and to others. We’re all going through a hard time and kindness is the best medicine for the ills that surround us.

Take care of yourself.

I’ll see you on the other side,

Anna

Plague Diaries #3

Yesterday I talked about all the things I worried about. And I talked myself right into a lovely little panic attack. So today I am taking new measures to stop the anxiety from ratcheting up exponentially.

  1. I am going to stop checking the state numbers obsessively. The Florida Department of Health reports the increase in positive cases twice daily. Up until now I was online at 11 am and 6 pm to see how much we had increased. It was making me crazy.
  2. I am going to limit my exposure to the news and Facebook to once a day, and then only spend a very short amount of time reviewing.
  3. I am going to find activities that are comforting to me. For example, reading old favorite books that are like home to me. I’m going to rewatch the Great British Baking Show from the beginning. Even though I’m a low-carb, no sugar girl, it is still satisfying to see friendly people making cakes and biscuits and bread.
  4. I’m going to find reasons to laugh. Watching the British comedy shows like Would I Lie to You and QI always take me out of my head for a while.
  5. I’m going to stop judging other people for their inability to take self-distancing seriously. I’m taking care of me and mine and that’s all I can do.
  6. And if I still feel like I have a kaleidoscope of rabid butterflies in my stomach, I have anxiety medication (used sparingly) that can help me settle down.

My husband and I had a conversation yesterday about being brave. We do need to go forward with the attitude that everything is going to work out. And if it doesn’t we have to face the worst without falling apart. I’m not equating courage with stupidity–I’m still practicing self-isolation. But we need to put on a brave face and not let our fear overwhelm us. This is a war. And I am not going to go quietly to death.

Take care of yourselves. Check in with each other. Practice kindness.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Love, Anna

Be Kind. Always.

be kindSomething happened at the Reference Desk yesterday that won’t get out of my head. Shortly after opening at 9 am a man approached the desk and asked if he could use the phone. It’s our policy to say no, but he said he had lost his debit card and needed to report it, so I allowed him. I should have been mad when he made a second call, but when I heard the desperation in his voice I bit my tongue.

He was making calls to find a drug rehab facility that would take him that day.

It wasn’t busy, so I stepped away for a little bit to give him his privacy, since he was having to answer extremely personal questions. But when I came back fifteen minutes later he was still at it, searching for a place that would be able to accept him. When he finally found a place in Ft. Myers I felt relief wash over me. Not because he would be getting off the phone, but because he was tugging at my heart. He was trying so hard to be brave and find help that I realized I had been silently praying for him. When he was done I offered him a bottle of water and he nearly burst into tears.

Like I said, his story has been sticking with me since it happened. He left shortly thereafter, and I hope he found his way to the clinic. We’ve all had desperate times and I am so glad I didn’t refuse him the phone. It reminds me that we all need to remember to be kind to others, because you never quite know the struggles others are facing. Even a stupid bottle of water or letting someone use the phone is enough to make a difference in a desperate situation.