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.