Monday, November 26, 2012

A Little Laughter Goes a Long Way

Disclaimer: I haven’t written in a while. No valid reason – just that I’ve been crazy busy. Which is really admitting that I suck big time.


I recently had a tough week. So tough that my Facebook post indicated I would happily greet Friday with a kiss.  My friend aka WTF replied, “with tongue.”  I immediately realized why we were friends.  But really, what makes a good friend?  Loyalty, kindness, listening – blah, blah, blah. Of course all those things matter – and they should.  They really do make for long-lasting and meaningful friendships.

But what is the other stuff that makes people click? Those things that someone says or does that makes you realize –for good or bad – that that is why you are friends.

For many – so very many – of my friends, it’s their twisted, often adolescent – sense of humor.  In fact, I think I can happily say that every single one of my friends makes me laugh.  I can tell each of them a joke – be it political, dirty, sick or twisted…and they will laugh out loud. Even if they really don’t like the humor and are likely laughing at me trying to tell it while I’m laughing so hard I wheeze.

But more than their sense of humor, it’s their ability to laugh at themselves.  As you know, my Big Susan Neiman has breast cancer.  During my visit, she was wearing “Serena” the long, dark wig of her alter ego. While driving, several guys did a double take and I reassured her by pointing this out and telling her that men would still find her beautiful. Her response? “No, they were just saying that bitch can’t get away with a wig.”  I nearly peed my pants.  When Legs was out and about and her purse spilled in a parking lot….and out came a bra…she held it up, showed her kids and laughed out loud.  When Lips drove into her garage…with a bike still on the roof rack, she was pissed – but laughing when she told us.  When Beach was so excited to show me how the cute skirt she was trying on was really a skort and flashed the flap – only to reveal that she wasn’t  wearing panties – all while standing in the mirror in the unisex changing area of Banana Republic? We both doubled over with laughter. (This was more than 15 years ago – we still laugh.) When any of my mom friends admit to a big “parenting fail” and then laugh about it.  This endears me to them.  There is a time and place for being serious –but knowing when not to is way more important. 

Now, I’m a wee bit sarcastic. I know this and most people that know me realize this, too. And, for some – it may not be in a good way.  Some Many of my friends are also sarcastic. This makes me love them long time.  Because some things just require a certain amount of snark and friends that can deliver it well, appreciate it often and use it wisely are to be cherished.

Some friends are a bit self-deprecating.  I’ll admit to calling myself a bitch and assume the neighborhood kids think so, too because I’m strict and I yell. A lot.  Doesn’t seem to stop the little buggers from coming over. The Bomb always says she really doesn’t like anyone.  But she doesn’t lack for friends and is the first to volunteer.  But what I really love is when my friends just get me. I was giving Lips a pair of wedge sandals that I never wore. I couldn’t really articulate how unattractive I felt when wearing them.  She said, “Oh, you mean like an amazon tyranny? I know just what you mean.”  Or when talking to Neiman about a man-boy and I admitted that I wasn’t sure I could get over a particular bit of snobbery and admitted to being horrified that I sounded just like her. She laughed, agreed and told me to get over it.  She has no idea how much I can't wait to throw those words back to her.

Seriously, who hasn't laughed this hard at a friend doing something stupid?
My friends know that I may laugh at them and laugh with them – but at the end of the day, I’ve got their back. I laugh at myself as often as I laugh at my friends.  Yes, I’ve walked out of the restroom at work with my skirt tucked in my panties.  I’ve laughed, coughed and sneezed at the same time – and for women of a certain age who have had children – well, that never ends well. I was just happy I was in my own house so I could quickly go change my pants.  I’ve tripped, slipped and fallen – all with an audience.  And really, who hasn’t let one slip during yoga class and then looked around to see who you could blame? And then laughed hysterically about it later with friends.

It's often the sense of humor, or lack thereof, that prevents us from becoming friends with someone. I would be hard pressed to be good friends with someone who didn't have a similar funny bone. Or at least the ability to talk smack about folks while people watching.  Nothing like an inappropriate comment, politically incorrect joke or well-timed snarky response to bond two people together. It's like finding a secret relative you actually like.

At the end of the day, friendship takes work. Like any other relationship, friends require patience, compromise, nurturing and care with a deep talk, good cry or silent understanding.  Blah, blah, blah.  But it's the other times, with a large bottle of wine, a really good joke and some big laughs that keep you coming back for more.  Humor is the icing on the friendship cake – the stuff that makes it more fun and oh so much sweeter.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Fucking Psychic Was Wrong aka What To Wear to Chemo

A single drop. One single drop at a time, over the course of three hours. Treatment number two; only six more to go.  I watched the poison – the “draino” as we called it – drip into the arm of my Big Susan, Neiman. You see, Neiman has breast cancer.

Just writing that makes me catch my breath and causes a deep pain in my chest.  This year was supposed to be different.  The psychic said so.  The new people this year brought to her life weren’t supposed to be oncologists, pathologists and care coordinators.  This year is our 20 year friend-a-versary and we wanted to take a trip to celebrate our two decades of putting up with each with nary a cross word.  A trip to the hospital is not what we had in mind.  Unfortunately, being a part of this is sadly familiar to me.  The thought of losing a friend – of losing Neiman – makes me lose my breath and I am scared.  But, I don’t tell her that. 

I know I must see her, be with her and help in any way that I can. The helping is secondary to just seeing her and being in her world.  I took treatment number two.  Why? Because, week two, after 14 days of the poison coursing through her veins and likely around the time of the second treatment, Neiman would lose her hair.  She may be western born and bred but four years of college in Texas gave her not only a degree but a whole different kind of seriousness about hair – or the lack thereof.

I arrived Wednesday night.  We were so happy to see each other; sick about the reason. The conversation is familiar and safe and then moves to the 800-lb cancer gorilla in the room.  How she feels, how her boob has healed (happily displaying said boob as she says, “My boob is now like my hand, anyone can see it.”) She showed me her regimen of pills and supplements.  I met the new dog.  I saw her thinning hair and the new wigs in between our regular catch up routine of surveying what is new in one another’s houses and closets.

It's a chemo cocktail
Chemo day is easy, relatively speaking. Relaxing morning and lunch with an old friend.  Would have been like any other visit – except for that whole cancer thing. Instead of looking at magazines, I reviewed her cancer notebook – full of surgical plans, pathology reports, treatment options and notes, taken by assorted friends who accompanied her on assorted medical appointments.  The chemo lounge is bright, warm with camaraderie and positive energy – everything orchestrated by the nurses who have warmth and humor that is astonishing.  I’m taken aback by the smiles – the laughter.  Hugs with people she’s met only once but who now figure prominently in her life.  I am grateful for them.  Chemo takes a while; most of the fluid is clear – very innocuous looking. Except for the kool-aid – that last bit that is red in color and so toxic that they don’t administer it through a drip but directly into her port.

The day after will be a tough day. It will be “Hair Friday.”  In between her cancer rehab appointment and the hideous shot that will make her weekend truly suck, we go to the wig master extraordinaire.  No shorts and t-shirts for us today – we will honor it with pretty sundresses, sandals and make up. I know this will be hard, I know her emotions are on the edge.  We look at each other, we join hands, a few tears and whispers and then we hear the snip of the scissors. She never turns away from the mirror, she never looks down.  Like everything else, she faces this, head held high and with beauty and grace. 

Her wigs are remarkable.  She has her “brand” which looks just like her regular hair.  I’m can’t believe how amazing it looks.  But it’s the second wig that surprises me - longer, darker – for her alter ego (we call her Serena.)  For some reason, this makes me so happy – that she is willing to have a bit of fun, do something a little bit different during such a tumultuous time when sameness is likely all she really wants.

The rest of the afternoon is us – we lunch, we chat, we participate in some significant retail therapy.  As we approach the mall, the store comes into view – she calls it the “mother ship” and yes, Neiman-Marcus beckons us and does not disappoint.  She buys frocks to go with her brand and we remark that Serena could give them a completely different look.  I’m shocked that when looking at her, I forget for one moment – just one nanosecond - that she is wearing a wig, that she has cancer.

Home brings visitors and calls – how is she doing, what does she need. Someone drops by with three coolers of food from a friend who is a caterer. We freeze some and finally, in our jammies and our faces scrubbed clean, we feast on a catered meal, slipping bites to the pooch, who waits less than patiently next to the table.

I brace myself for the next two days.  I’ve been warned by Jackson, a dear college friend who was here for the first treatment, what to expect.  She is tired, achy – almost like she has the flu but her bones truly hurt. Her mouth feels swollen, her spine hurts. The long walk with the dog probably did not help but it was her routine and so important that she do what she can. She naps. We sit outside and have a Pelligrino.  A neighbor comes by and she walks out front without her wig.  I am astonished.  Shortly after coming back in, we are in the kitchen and for the first time, she cries. Real tears, sobs.  There is nothing I can do but hold her, let her know I love her and that this is just a really shitty bump in the road.  That we will get through this.  And, I believe it.

With a cancer diagnosis, things happen quickly and Neiman’s army of supporters each plays a role.  One took on keeping everyone in the loop with mass emails, another researched and provided supplements, another organized the meal plan.  Others took her to surgery and nursed her through recovery while still others walked the dog or dropped by with warm wishes and smiles.  I took no role –because I’m simply too far away.  It’s hard to watch these others – these amazing friends of hers – take on roles that I selfishly feel belong only to me.  I’m the best friend.

I’ve been able to meet some of these wonderful folks – these friends that fill her day-to-day life and are so important to her.  Many of whom – no, most of whom, I’ve either only met briefly, if at all.  It is hard for me to know that it will not be me caring for her each time and I remember to be grateful for this weekend – for this time.  I remember to be grateful that she has so many friends to lean on.  I am not surprised that so many surround Neiman – it’s just the way she is.  I know that like me, many of them are scared. They also know we will get through this. We believe it.

As grateful as I am for Neiman’s friends, I’m grateful for mine as well.  Lips, Legs, Perky, Handy and Belle - they helped me navigate Olympic-worthy logistics for childcare, animal care and airport transport.  My family has checked in.  I’ve been sent pictures of mini-me having a great weekend and of the pooch snuggling with Lips and her family (my pooch Maddy, and Lips’ pooch Mario have a thing – here’s hoping Maddy hasn’t worn out her welcome by constantly humping Mario. Yes, you read that right. ) I know that I can give Neiman my all this weekend – and make the most of this time – because of my friends.

I’ve learned it takes a village – to raise, to care, to nurture and to heal.  The village may not always be the one I live in but sometimes, getting to know the other villagers is just as rewarding.  The fear, tears, laughs and uncertainly are simply all an amazing reminder that I’m not only lucky to have Neiman, but oh so lucky that my villagers – and Neiman’s - are with us on this journey and will celebrate together on the other end.  I believe it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ahhh....remember when

Tonight, a group of people in their –ahem – late 40’s will gather at a club.  They will hug, laugh, raise a glass and possibly shed a few tears.  They will remember or at least try to remember.  They will re-kindle old relationships; perhaps establish a few new ones.  There will be dancing, toasting and slaps on the back. 

Many will be there – to try and recognize those we once knew so well.  We will be grateful if the name badges have a senior picture.  There will be laughter about hairlines, bellies and the effects of gravity.  There will boasting of children and even some grandchildren.  They will be successful in many ways and from many walks of life. 

Many will not be there.  perhaps life just doesn’t always grant the break we want and other commitments or obligations take precedence.  It’s like missing the homecoming game because you’re grounded – you want to be there but there is a louder voice telling you that just can’t go.

To those that will be there tonight – I will miss seeing your faces – even if I don’t remember them all.  I will miss the stories and “remember whens”.  I will miss seeing pictures of your kids and hearing about your parents – your brothers or sisters.  I will miss marveling about how great everyone looks and what a great night it is.

To those like me that just couldn’t make it – let’s be sure we raise a glass and share at least one high school story with those around our table tonight.  Even if they don’t get it – tell the story and remind them that you were there.

To those that are gone – I hope there is a hell of a reunion in the clouds tonight. You left us too soon but we remember.  .

We are all grown. We have traveled different paths and built whole lives.  We live all over the country and have pursued our interests and passions.  We are different than we once were (maybe, maybe not) – at least older and hopefully wiser.  None of those differences will matter because tonight, we are once again Kennedy Cavaliers. What once bound us together has done so again.

To the John F. Kennedy Class of 1982 – Cheers my friends. I’m with you in spirit.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Something in the air....

I’ve been remiss in writing. I could say that I’ve been busy or tired or ran out of things to say and while all of that may be a wee bit accurate, none of it is really true.  It’s been an interesting summer – emotions running high and a shift – however subtle – in the air. 

An article I recently read talked about how your friends should be supportive, optimistic and bring something positive to your life.  Now I thought they had a point. I mean, who wants to hang out with unsupportive, pessimistic friends who are negative.  Then I thought wiat – I would hang with my friends if they were like that.  Because I would want to know if I could help and if I couldn’t – I would still be there for them – it’s what friends do.

Friendship isn’t just about being positive.  Sure, friendship is often full of laughter, good times, inside jokes and memories in the making.  But, it’s also – and should be – full of support during the darker times.  It’s easy to be a friend when things are looking up – after all, who doesn’t appreciate a good time.  But, to be a friend when things are tough, when someone is struggling, more needy than usual, in pain (emotional or physical) – yes, negative – is the mark of true friendship.  To be fair to the article I read, they weren’t suggesting that people should discard friends who were having a bad moment but it did reinforce you should fill your life only with friends that bring something positive to your life. Sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish to me and really, Pollyanna annoys the shit out of me.

I have to ask myself, do I bring something positive to those I call friend or have I been discarded? I believe the answer to both is yes.  I’m definitely a nurturer; I want to fix things, I want them to be better. I check in – often. I ask how people are and if there is anything I can do.  This makes me feel connected and hopefully, let’s my friends know I’m here if they need.  Do they always take me up on that? No – and that is okay. I asked, they knew I cared and the unspoken support was palpable.  I will raise a glass in the good times, be a cheerleader during difficult times and a shoulder when things go bad.

But I admit to tough times, too.  More than once I’ve been less than positive and bitching was my primary language (okay, I always speak that language but I’m usually pretty upbeat.)  The friends that listened, asked and stuck around…well, our friendships went to a different level. They became deeper with a greater sense of permanence.  Others drifted away – couldn’t be bothered, didn’t know what to do or were unable to support something that perhaps they didn’t understand, agree with or relate to.  At the same time, I know I’ve drifted away from a few that were so vehemently against what I was doing in my life that I felt I was defending myself in every conversation.  Does this make me a lousy friend? Or them?  I just don’t think it’s that clear cut.

I recently shared some things with some friends – something that was really painful for me, something I sometimes struggle with and some things that just make me an emotional mess.  Since those initial disclosures, I’ve been a bit shocked that some of my friends have not inquired about it – no asking how was I doing, was I feeling better about things, or did I need to talk.  I felt a shift prior to that and felt that really opening up may repair things – I believe I was wrong (and believe me, I don’t say that easily.)  Have some of my friendships gone through a change? What do I do with that?  I’m not asking for sympathy or endless inquiries as to what is wrong – I’m just making an observation.  Being a friend means many different things.  Am I wrong to hold those friends up a standard they may know nothing about?

Do our friends have to be just like us?  Do we have to be in sync with good times and bad so that no one person is being needier than anyone else?  Must we behave only in a way that is beneficial to others, burying what we are feeling and keeping that private in order to outwardly positive?  I’d like to believe that I love my friends despite our differences – despite the things that drive us crazy about one another or difficult times that they are going through.  Sometimes a friend needs a distraction, a drink or a shoulder. Other times, distance – emotional or otherwise - is the remedy that works best (uh, this is my go-to remedy, which I recognize annoys my friends and I try hard to avoid.) 

My Big Susan’s each respond different to a crisis – mine or theirs.  Neiman is Switzerland – her response to most things is, “Do what makes you happy or what you think is right,” and this drives me crazy.  I want her opinion – I value it.  I tell her this all.the.time.  She is the most stoic person I know when facing her own challenges – rarely asking for help and her brave face is full of beauty and grace.  But I know she’s full of shit.  Geek is logical and practical in her approach – always looking for the sound reasoning and rarely full of emotion.  And Brenda Starr, well, she’s a hot emotional mess like me. Each of my Big Susans possess traits I value though they may annoy me at times. I love them despite this – because of it.   Maybe I look at my friends through rose-colored glasses and just want to see the good.  Sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish of me, which both scares and annoys the shit out of me.

I don’t friend easily.  I can acquaintance at the drop of a hat but I don’t truly friend that easily.  So, I’ll be honest; some of this stings a bit. But, then I think that maybe they are going through something, too. Maybe they have stuff going on that they aren’t ready to talk about and maybe time will repair things.  Maybe it won’t but I refuse to dwell on that. I’ll be positive and optimistic and believe it will work itself out and we will fall back into the comfortable friendships we had before – simply because we are friends.  Fuck, I really do sound like Pollyanna.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Count your blessings

I’ve been in a funk the last ten days or so. Nothing specific to bitch about – just an overall blah feeling. No enthusiasm for much of anything.  But, then it dawned on me today - when I felt really teary….today is the anniversary of Rona’s passing – my first Big Susan.  Once I acknowledged that and shed a few tears, I felt better – as if she needed to be remembered. As if I could ever forget.  

This seems a good time to remember – who my friends were, who they are and why they are important.  Not all of them are gone though some may no longer be a regular part of my life. Some I simply don’t often see. Others are just so far away that connecting can seem so hard.  Regardless, I’m grateful for them all.

I remember those quieter friends from middle school –a horrible time in my life (was this a good time in anyone’s life?) Those few who sat next to me on the bus, invited me to walk around with them on field trips and quietly supported me when the bullies voices were the only ones I really heard.  I don’t talk to these folks anymore but I’m eternally grateful to them for being there.  I look out for these types of friends in mini-me’s class – and encourage her to reach out to those a bit more quiet or a tad more shy.  I know just how important those friends can be.

I remember my camp friends – some were friends at home and most were friends only at the cabins.  They became my besties and my family during those long hot weeks when I got shipped up to Camp Louise.  I kept in touch with a couple for a few years but like many things when you’re a kid – you just keep moving and discard what isn’t convenient.  It seemed like we would be friends forever and though we’re not, I’m sure glad they were there. They made being away from home way more fun than should be allowed.

I remember my high school friends – some of whom I have seen regularly over the years; others I just see on Facebook.  Not all of the high school friends were always nice – and I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t either. I was still bullied, rumors still spread – but I learned who to trust the hard way – by first being part of the problem and finally understanding that being part of the solution was way better.  I love hearing and seeing how their lives have turned out and for some- I sure wish we were closer because it seems we have so much more in common than just high school.

I remember my college friends and work friends – those special folks that come and go from our lives when we are at our most transient. Old roommates and those that had the desk next to me.  For a short time long time ago our lives were connected. They made those classes, those long work weeks – those early business trips – fun. Sort of.

I remember Lips asking (in that annoyed voice) me just last week why I didn’t let people help me. It reminded me of my old friend Shiny telling me in the same annoyed voice that I could trust her to share what is bothering me. I’m reminded that I have help- if I just ask.  I remember Geek telling me about how life in another state would be a really great thing for me – even if meant we would have to say goodbye. And, Neiman offering to fly in during a personal crisis – more than once. I’m reminded that I have wildly generous friends who do so much for me.  I remember Handy telling me – so quietly – that he really doesn’t think I should do something but recognized he had no right to do that. I heard him and am reminded that my friends truly care.

It goes without saying that I will always remember my mother and the original Big Susan. I would not call either of them my friend - they were the moms – but their friendship fundamentally changed me and showed me what it meant to be there, to offer support, a shoulder and unconditional understanding. They showed me what it meant to be a friend.  

Of course, I will always remember Rona.  She knew all my secrets and through her I learned that being a friend through the better is easy and that being a friend through the worst is a gift.  I know I’m a better friend because of her.

Missing people – especially friends – is so hard. Normally, when I was feeling like this, I would call the original Big Susan.  She understood that void - that empty friend-shaped space in my heart.  Perhaps that is what makes it so hard this year – now that she is gone, there is really no one that truly understands what it means to lose a friend. 

Judaism has a saying – “May her memory be a blessing.”  I find great comfort in that – it reminds me that while memories may remind us that someone is no longer with us – literally or figuratively –we were blessed with their presence and the recollections of our time, experiences, and friendship. Missing them may be hard, it may make me cry – but there is laughter behind the tears.  It reminds me how lucky I was that they were – that they are - in my life.  And, that is truly a blessing.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finding like-minded souls aka Does my new friend have a potty mouth?

I’ve known him for going on 30 years (oh Biff, that just makes us both seem so old.)  We met as angst-filled college freshman.  I’d known Runner for 3 years at that point and we all ended up at the same school.  A shared dormitory, bad dining hall food, one car among us and being away from home for the first time.  And so it started.  Friendships made and friendships cemented. 

Just the other morning, Biff asked a great question on Facebook – Why is it so much harder to find and make friends now?  Is he right?  Was it easier as kid when someone was a stranger one day and your BFF the next?  Those friendships were honest, straightforward and caring – some have lasted into adulthood.  The responses to his question were interesting – ranging from adults being more complicated to people just being jackasses (uh, that may have been mine.) Others shared the obvious that it just makes you appreciate the good ones.

But his question did make me think about it. As adults, our offices and the gym are the playground where we generally meet people. Maybe we live in a neighborhood that fosters friendships but many of us do not.  Some of us have young kids, where we are thrown together with lots of other parents. Some of whom may not be total a-holes. Some of whom may become friends. If we’re lucky.

I know that friendships change.  When mini-me was very young, my new friends were the parents of her young friends. We bonded over diapers, day care and tantrums.  We joined mommy groups where often the only things we had in common were young children, lack of sleep and messy houses. Then our kids formed opinions (boy, did mini-me form opinions) and began to pick and choose friends. We saw less of those early friends and sometimes it was easy.  A good night’s sleep and the ability to have a complete conversation made you realize you didn’t have much to say to some of those folks or drastically different parenting styles made deeper friendship more difficult.  Kids grow, schools change, people move, you move and you have to start over.

We’ve now put down some roots. I live in a ‘hood with great people and the mom posse - friends for both me and mini-me so the neighborhood connection worked.  But now, I see some of my other friends less. Kids keep growing, schools keep changing, and schedules become more complicated.  Maybe we are changing and the differences are more subtle. My office isn’t really the kind of place that fosters strong friendships and the gym….well, I should go to one and perhaps if I did, both me and my new fit friends would be besties forever. But, bonding over our sweaty bodies strikes me as something a wee bit more than friendship.

But really, how would I go about making a new friend right now? It’s not like I can sit on the driveway with the sidewalk chalk and a cocktail and hope someone will wander by and ask if they can play.  Embarrassingly enough, the mom posse I have done this. More than once.  I’ve tried the PTO but honestly, that is a group of women that need a hobby and possibly a drink or three. While I’m friendly with a number of other neighbors and certainly with some folks at work, none seem to be moving in the direction of a new friend.

For adults, there seems to be a dance of sorts – gotta feel each other out.  Do you have anything in common?  Will they still like you if they know you (fill in the blank?) But, do those friendships just develop or do we have to make a list, go over it twice and then strategically go about it?  I thought about my most recent new friends. I was at the barn (a smelly, hot and dusty home away from home.) I was talking with the instructors and another mom about another even newer parent. We agreed she seems very nice.  We’ve tested the waters with her by talking about our love of a good cocktail and how our precious children can make us need a good cocktail. She seemed to be on board. We’ve yet to determine if she can tolerate our potty mouths (‘cause really – it’s not secret I have one) – because this new mom is a mid-Westerner and we think we may scare her.  Then it dawned on me – my new barn friends did this with me since I’m the newbie.  I had made three new friends – good ones. I never made any team I consciously tried out for but this revelation made me feel like I made the cut. I almost feel like the popular girl now that Derby, Jumper and the Bomb have welcomed me into their little club.  It just happened. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t really try.  I really was just hanging out on the proverbial sidewalk and they asked me to play.  So glad I said yes.

So Biff, I think the answer to your question is to just be you (and oh, the joke I could insert here.) Talk to folks – even if at a glance you’re not sure you will connect. Let’s face it, on the surface, we should never have become friends – we were so different but we just connected. We gave each other a chance.  Because you never really know if that person next to you at the soccer field, in line at the movie or standing next to you at the next kid’s birthday party where you don’t know anyone else – is your new friend. If they ask you to play, just say yes.

Note: though I’ve been blogging for a while and always put a new post on my Facebook page, Biff has yet to realize that I was writing all those posts I was recommending. Or, he was simply not reading my posts. He’s either a shithead or not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But now he knows…and he may read this and he’s a really good writer. He’s a great writer. Bracing myself for feedback and possibly a heavy dose of snark in return.

Monday, April 30, 2012

I believe. Do you?

I’m having a crisis of faith and am in a funk. I don’t know if they are related. Nothing cataclysmic has happened – life is good but very busy.  But lately, I’ve felt really disconnected from my religion and what I believe.
I did join a synagogue this last year that was absolutely not a good fit for my family – not only the degree of observance – but the overall approach. The decision to leave was a huge struggle but opting not to renew (for those outside of the tribe, yes, we have to actually “join” a synagogue – there are dues, commitments, etc. It’s a pay to pray approach) was a positive step – one that I felt was the right thing where my actions matched my words. The experience really made me question much of what I thought I wanted, what I practice and ultimately what I believe.

Despite this spiritual calamity, there are many things I do believe in. 

I do believe in a higher power and that things – good and bad - happen for a reason.  This is hard to stand behind when I hear my friend in angst over the loss of her sweet little boy.   That is not a wound that time heals and makes it hard to believe that a tragedy of that magnitude is part of a larger plan.  What good can come from the loss of a child?

I believe in my daughter. She is funny, brave, smart and beautiful.  As much as I parent her, she teaches me more.  I believe that she was given to me as a reminder of what is possible.

I believe that laughter can often be the best medicine.  I mean a real, gut-busting laugh, the kind where you have to cross your legs so you don’t pee your pants.  More than once, I’ve had my knickers in a twist over something and a good laugh - often prompted by one of my hilarious friends - was just the kick in the ass I needed to put things in perspective. 

I believe that a new pair of shoes can change your day; a new purse can make your week and a pair of jeans that make your ass look great can change your attitude.

I believe I was meant to buy this less than perfect house –because it brought Legs and Lips into my life; it brought mini-me not only friends but a neighborhood pack, including a couple of boys who treat her like a little sister, another one with the soul of old man who watches out for everyone and side kick with the same amount of sass.  The house has become a home.

I believe we have to be the change we want to see in the world.  Watching mini-me be challenged by kids that are less than nice has made me so much more conscious of how I talk to her, her friends and my friends – and a better understanding of what a real friend is – for both of us.

I believe that if I called the person I’ve know the longest right this very minute, she would understand and say, “I know just what you mean” even though we haven’t spoken in months.

I believe that The West Wing was one of the best TV shows ever. I still don’t believe it’s off the air – it’s just been a very long hiatus.

I believe that working in a shitty DC neighborhood (seriously, needles and ammo were all over our parking lot), sending mini-me to the Temple preschool and my mom and stepfather buying that particular house were some of the best things that ever happened to me – those brought me Neiman, Geek and Brenda Starr respectively. Life wouldn’t be the same without them.

I believe that friends come into our lives for a reason - to teach us something, hold our hand or just make sure we’re less lonely along the way.  People go out of our lives for just as many reasons - life got in the way, geography, or some falling out (or let’s face it, sometimes they are just a-holes.)  Regardless, we must value what was brought to the table – even if it tastes crappy, it makes you appreciate the good stuff even more.

I may not know where and when I may pray again. I don’t know where mini-me will be when she learns about our heritage.  I don’t know where I will say Kaddish on the New Year. These are all unsettling things – but I have to believe this is all part of the intended journey.

I believe – no, I know – I’m not on this journey alone. It doesn’t matter whether or not my friends and I share the same faith or that I have a menorah and they have a Nativity.  It doesn’t matter that some believe more than me, others less and still more completely different.

I believe in the religion of friendship. Our prayer book is our conversation, advice, secrets and laughter. Our offering is keeping each others kids, offering a shoulder and watching each others backs. Our cups are full of well, wine, coffee or some other libation that we raise (quite often) with the appreciation that we are so lucky to have one another.

So, despite my crisis of faith and my funk, I don’t travel this path alone.  The road may be bumpy and full of unanswered questions, tough decisions and hard times but the company is fantastic.

Now if I could only find the perfect pair of jeans.

PS:  Feel free to start humming that "I believe, I believe, I believe" song from the end of Mirror, Mirror. It's been stuck in my head the whole time I wrote this. You can thank me later.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

And that is why we're friends

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to the another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
 ~C.S. Lewis

It’s easy to wax poetic about my friends - their generosity, patience, and kindness; their presence through thick and thin and their willingness to put up with my crap. But really, some of the really great things about my friends is the crazy-ass stuff that has just happened along the way, stuff we heard or talked about.  NYC adventures with Neiman was awesome – but we were already good friends though the trip added memories and experiences we still joke about.  But honestly, not all the rip-roaring hilarious stuff is a trip. Much of it isn’t planned. Hell, most of it isn’t even a full-fledged thing. It’s the scratch the surface stuff we find out about our friends that makes us love them even more.

It’s the hilarious time Beach flashed me (and all the customers in that particular NYC Banana Republic) to show me that the skirt she was trying on was really a skort…but neglected to zip the zipper. Or wear underpants.  It’s the time Beach, Patron and I decided to make lobsters but had no crackers to open them – and resorted to pounding them with hammers and chisels. On the ground. Very classy.

It’s the unexpected good times at the end of a long day when it’s dark and getting colder and Perky’s husband (aka Splash) asks if everyone wants to jump in their in-the-process of being filled pool. What followed was eight children shrieking with joy and jumping, splashing and laughing in freezing water in the cool night air. 

It’s the long ago time Southern, Neiman and I were driving around DC very late at night in Southern’s big ole’ Caddy (seriously, that thing was a boat.) Neiman was, uh, relaxing, in the back with some boy and Southern and I were not able to find our way out the paper bag that is Southeast DC.  Periodically, Neiman would pop up from the back and say (with total authority), “I know where we are, turn left.”  We totally listened and proceeded to drive in circles for an hour before we acknowledged that Neiman didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about.  “Turn left” now means you are either lost or totally fucked up (literally or figuratively.) 

But sometimes, it happens when we find ourselves talking about things that well, only good friends talk about.  Magic Pan has a special meaning for me and Neiman – it describes a moment not even remotely magical but always memorable and more than once we’ve simply sent a text or email with the phrase “Magic Pan Moment” and we instantly know we need to call and check in.  It was sitting around the table with Perky, Lips and Legs and we were laughing hysterically about something and I sneezed…and peed my pants.  This led to a hilarious discussion about all the fun things that happy to your body after you have babies, hot flashes and flatulence.  On more than once occasion a phone conversation with Geek is punctuated by peeing or flushing and Neiman and I talk while she takes a bath.  It’s my long-time friend Runner, always polite with never a hair out of place, walking up to me and saying, “Pull my finger.” And, me doing it. We’re not a modest group.

It’s finding out a good friend has a potty mouth, too.  It’s being flattered when a friend calls you “hooker.”  It’s finally seeing Legs get frustrated or annoyed (because seriously, that woman has the patience of a saint) and then say, “I had a glass of wine. I feel better.”  Not because you’ve never seen her drink (uh, I’ve seen that more than once or a dozen times) but because you got it.  Like hearing that a friend yelled at her kids and dropped the f-bomb ‘cause you thought you were the only one that did that. Makes your shortcomings seem like a small imperfection that is shared by others.  Sounds nicer that way, doesn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong, the cuddly warm parts of friendship are important.  Being there during tough times and providing that kind of emotional support are immensely valuable. But really, it’s the hilarious, off-color times that make us laugh until we snort (or pee our pants) that keep us together. It’s the human moments – when our imperfections are glaringly obvious and we are friends regardless of it.  ‘Cause really, that’s when we know that no one else may find us as funny. And, that makes for good friends.