Can anyone be trusted?

I wish I weren’t going through life learning this lesson over and over again.

Lack of trust is a deal breaker for me. I either trust you or I don’t. Similarly, if you don’t think I’m trustworthy, you clearly don’t have a good read on me, so what’s the point of maintaining a friendship?

I once ended a 23-year friendship for that very reason. She had always been the one to fly out to visit me, because I was poor and she was a lot less so. (That, and she also visited other people in the area.) It was purely a case of economics and convenience. At least that’s what I had always assumed.

Then one day I got the bright idea to surprise my best friend. I saved my money for nearly a year so that, for once, I could visit her. Of course I didn’t just show up at her door without any warning. I would never do that. When I finally had enough for the plane ticket, I called her up and shared the news that I’d like to visit for a few days in about two months, based on her availability.

I thought she’d be as excited as I always was when she came to see me. My guest room was always open to her. Always. But apparently that particular street only went one way.

My best friend for 23 years (who, by the way, never called me her best friend, even though we spent about 5 hours a day talking on the phone. No one ever has.) informed me that I couldn’t stay with her, because she couldn’t trust me in her house.

And just like that, I realized that I had been operating under the illusion that she knew what kind of person I was. Discovering that her assessment of me was that I was someone who couldn’t be trusted around her personal possessions left me completely and utterly speechless. Like I’d… what? Root through her file cabinet and write down her Social Security Number for future use? Read her diary? Steal her silverware? Really?

I was disgusted. At myself. For thinking she knew me for 23 years. For not realizing that she had such a low opinion of me.

It’s too simplistic to say that that was the only reason I ended that friendship. But once the scales fell from my eyes, I saw just how much I had been overlooking for all those years, and this was just a bridge too far. That was a bitter lesson to learn.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take that lesson and apply it to others. To this day, I walk through life thinking that I actually know people. I assume decency. I am too trusting. And it bites me in the butt all the time.

Picture this. Fast forward seven years. I thought I’d finally made my first friend after having moved across the country to Seattle. She was a climate activist and a therapist, and she lived only about a mile away from me. We’d hang out once or twice a week, go to dinner, play cards, watch Trump get elected and feel sick together… you know. Friend stuff.  She even had me over for Thanksgiving.

Then one day we were hanging out at my house, something we rarely did because she didn’t like my dog (and that should have been a red flag in and of itself.) She had to use the bathroom, which of course was no problem. I was in the kitchen, making lunch. But the walls in that place were thin, and my medicine cabinet made a distinctive squeak when it opened. I could also hear the pills rattling around in the bottles as she took the time to examine one after another.

I went into the living room and sat down, facing the bathroom door. She spent quite some time in there, nosing around, and I was at a loss as to what to do about it. It felt like such a violation. And what nerve. (To her credit, I never detected that any meds were missing, but still.) It was as if she were saying that I had no right to privacy, I should not expect to be respected, and I had no agency over my own things in my own home.

When she came out and saw me sitting right there, I could tell she was taken by surprise. I looked her square in the eye, and she looked down. I wish I could tell you I confronted her about it, but the truth is, I hate confrontation. And I kind of thought I had made my point anyway. We had an awkward lunch and she left.

Once again, I was shocked to learn that someone’s character was a lot less admirable than I had assumed. It just goes to show that therapists can be every bit as f***ed up as the rest of us are.  I kind of feel sorry for her patients. Here they think that they’re telling all their intimate secrets to someone with a moral compass who wants to help them, when in fact she’s probably just getting off on rooting around in the medicine cabinets of their minds.

Shortly after that lovely insight into her moral makeup, she got herself a boyfriend and completely dropped off the face of the earth for about two months. To say I was relieved would be putting it mildly. But of course, that relationship didn’t last. She didn’t like the way he loaded the dishwasher. Suddenly she wanted to hang out again.

I didn’t completely eject her from my life. Friends are entirely too thin on the ground out here in the Pacific Northwest for that. But things were never the same. My fundamental opinion of her had shifted too much.

Then later, when I got married and moved 25 miles away, she told me we weren’t friends anymore because I wasn’t willing or able to drop everything to hang out with her at a moment’s notice like I used to. (I think it had more to do with the fact that I had managed to find someone who “loads the dishwasher” to my satisfaction, and that’s something she has never been able to achieve, but I digress.)

Having someone who snooped around in my medicine cabinet turn around and tell me I was a bad friend for paying too much attention to my husband was, and will always be, more than a little bit amusing to me. She may even believe the words that came out of her mouth. I have no idea. But I really believe I’m a good friend to have and she doesn’t get to have that.

I’m making more of an effort to remind myself that I can’t figure most people out. It’s a moot point, though. She moved to another city and made it quite clear that there was no point remaining in contact.

Did I judge her too harshly? I suppose I do expect the same level of integrity from others that I do from myself. To do otherwise might put me in a scary situation.

Apparently, many people can’t resist sticking their noses where they don’t belong. According to a survey by the makers of Quilted Northern toilet tissue, 39 percent of Americans peek in other people’s medicine cabinets. Even worse: Twenty-five percent have helped themselves to something inside.

Of course, those surveys only measure those who are willing to admit their transgressions. I bet that figure is actually higher. But it would never have occurred to me to wonder before I had it happen to me. I hope 39 percent of my readers don’t pull this caper. I’d be profoundly disappointed.

These statistics blow my mind. It would never, ever occur to me to violate someone’s privacy like that. I once endured a throbbing hangnail for 4 hours because I wouldn’t go into someone’s medicine cabinet on my own and they were so justifiably busy that they couldn’t stop long enough to get me a nail clipper and a band aid.

If I need an aspirin, I ask for one. If someone asks me for an aspirin, I don’t hesitate to provide it. I really don’t have anything to hide. I’m an open medicine cabinet. I just would like you to grant me the courtesy of asking me before opening said cabinet, just as I would do for you. That seems fairly straightforward to me.

I can’t believe how rude people can be, with apparently no remorse whatsoever. Maybe the fundamentalists are right and there’s no such thing as evolution, at least from the perspective that we never truly emotionally evolved as a species. We certainly behave like monkeys a lot of the time. We’re only a few genetic sequences away from throwing our feces at one another when we get agitated.

Maybe I need to lower my expectations. Maybe I should assume that I’m viewed as untrustworthy, and will be no matter what I do, and I should hold a similar opinion of others. That would certainly simplify things, because I’d lose all desire to interact with anyone but my dog.

Human beings are inherently flawed. I realize that. Maybe I just have to learn that, in addition, nothing is sacred. I just wish I weren’t going through life learning that lesson over and over and over again. It’s exhausting, disappointing, and it makes me very sad.

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On Losing Friends

You have a right to put your foot down.

There are very few things on earth that make you feel more lonely than having to say goodbye to a beloved friend. I’ve had to do that twice in the midst of this already isolating pandemic, and not a day goes by when I don’t have tears in my eyes at some point because of it.

What? Oh, no, they didn’t die. That would be infinitely more tragic. But they both broke my heart, making me feel like I was dying. Either way, it’s a mourning process, and one I barely have the strength for.

There just comes a point when you have to stop tolerating bad behavior from the people you love. You have a right to set boundaries. You have a right to put your foot down. You have a right to say, “No, you don’t get to do this.”

You should always be your own best friend. You need to put a stop to things that hurt your heart, even when they come from people with whom you have had decades of happy memories as well as a mountain of emotional investment. If you’ve tried to communicate and/or work things out and gotten no results, you have to say, “This far and no further.”

So for future reference, here are a few boundaries that I have set:

  • You don’t get to insult people you don’t even know on my Facebook page. Respect me, respect my friends. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t get to attack them.
  • If you espouse hate speech or try to encourage violent behavior, I don’t want you in my universe.
  • If you’re going to stand me up, blow me off, or take advantage of me, you better have a stellar excuse. And if you never return my calls and then accuse me of not being a good enough friend, you’ve made my choice for me.
  • If you make promises and then don’t keep them, I will lose trust in you. It’s hard to maintain a friendship under those circumstances.
  • You don’t get to exaggerate other dear friend’s behavior to the point of damaging their reputation, simply so you can win an argument. If you tell me that a friend I have known for decades, who has a reputation of never saying an unkind word to anyone, has suddenly verbally attacked you without any discernible motivation and with no proof whatsoever provided by you, I have to call foul. Not only are you insulting my friend, but you’re insulting my judgment.
  • You don’t have to like all the things I like, but if something is extremely important to me, the least you can do is be supportive of that thing. My blog, for example, is me on a page. When you continually reject my invites to my Facebook group, that’s painful enough. But when I offer to send you a link to one of my blog posts and you say, essentially, “Please don’t,” that’s like a rejection of me. How hard would it be to just say thanks and fake it?
  • If you know you’ve been hurtful, set aside your pride and apologize. If you choose your pride over our friendship, then the friendship must never have had much value to you in the first place.

For what it’s worth, I tried to salvage the wreckage of one of these friendships. I tried really hard. He just bent the truth more and more to prop up his stance, until finally I was the one who felt broken.

And in the other situation, it suddenly occurred to me that this person has made me feel bad more than once, and never has apologized, not once, in all the decades I’ve known him. I’m tired of begging to be treated decently. I shouldn’t have to ask for an apology. It should be a natural process once you know you’ve hurt someone. I realized that if I just swallowed my pain yet again and accepted my second class status in his world one more time, it would rot away my soul. This person could still apologize, and we could move on, but I’m pretty sure he never will. I suspect he is sorry, but I don’t think I’ve ever meant enough to him to merit an apology. And that crushes me.

That all of this is happening during a pandemic is bad enough, but then add on top of it the fact that I moved to the Pacific Northwest 6 years ago, and, with one or two wonderful exceptions, I’m struggling to make friends out here like I made the other 5 decades of my life.

It’s hard to make new friends after a certain age. Older adults have well established lives and obligations, so the opportunity to bond is just not there as much. That, and people are a lot more standoffish out here than I’m used to. I’m pretty sure I’ll never quite fit in. I can’t remember the last time someone took the initiative to do anything with me. Out here, I do all the asking, with very mixed sucess.

Oh, and I just remembered that one woman out here accused me of killing my cat and making a joke out of it, and called me a sick, sick person. When I pointed out that I haven’t owned a cat in nearly 40 years, and that I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, she stopped talking to me. Who could even think that I could do something like that? So yeah, another boundary I’ve set is that I can only take so much crazy.

What I’m finding is that as my self-confidence and self-awareness grows, I’m less willing to put up with bad behavior. But the humiliating truth is that, my whole adult life, no one has ever called me their best friend. What does that say? I don’t know. But it hurts like hell, and it makes it hard for me to remember that quality is more important than quantity.

So, if you see me enforcing boundaries, or speaking my truth (not yours) don’t assume I’m being insecure. Instead, congratulate me for my own agency. Cheer me on for standing my ground. Think of me as strong, not defensive or paranoid. View me as healing, not broken. Is that too much to ask?

It’s just… I’m just really sad and lonely today. I’m struggling. (For what it’s worth, I wrote this more than a week ago, so I’m probably doing much better now.)

I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Thank GOD I have a wonderful husband and awesome dogs. It’s amazing how couch snuggles can make you feel that everything is right with the world.

Bleh. Thanks for listening. I need a hug.

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Book Review: Lab Girl

“Being paid to wonder seems like a heavy responsibility at times.”

I consider myself a strong, intelligent woman who is equally left- and right-brained. By this I mean that I’m analytical and fascinated by all things scientific, but I’m also creative and love to write. So it was gratifying to come across the book Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, because she can be described in the exact same way.

Hope is a professor of geobiology at the University of Oslo. Science is her passion as well as her bread and butter. Because of that, you’d think that any book she wrote about her life and career would be dry and pedantic. But no.

This book is a work of art. Read it. Seriously. You’ll be glad you did.

This is not just a book about plants, although if you read it you’ll learn all sorts of amazing things about them, and you’ll never look at a tree in the same way again. For me, though, what it is about, more than anything, is friendship.

Woven throughout this book is her relationship with her senior research laboratory manager, Bill. They have worked together in various labs around the world for 25 years. Theirs is not a romance. It’s something better. It’s unconditional, platonic love and respect. It’s dedication. It’s mutual support. It’s the kind of relationship that all of us aspire to, and most of us only dream about.

The book also talks about being a woman who chooses a career in a male-dominated field, which is something to which I can definitely relate. It’s also about mental health, and finding your place in this world, and never quite feeling like you fit in. It’s about being misunderstood by many, except for the most important people in your life. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

And it is amazingly well written. I keep a quote book where I save passages from books that really resonate with me. Here are some of the ones I plan to save from Lab Girl.

“He (her father) taught me that there is no shame in breaking something, only in not being able to fix it.”

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting.”

“In Georgia, when someone walks up to you wearing overalls with no shirt underneath them, it is unlikely that something good is about to happen.”

“A cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet.”

“Being paid to wonder seems like a heavy responsibility at times.”

Because of this author, I went out and planted ten trees. How many people have gotten you to do that? And hey, she has inspired me to write a future posts about Stuckie the Mummified Dog and about Anomalocaris, “a segmented marine insect the size of a Labrador retriever” that, thanks be to God, no longer exists. Now if that doesn’t intrigue you, nothing will.

Lab Girl

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The Physics of Friendship

Newton’s laws apply to friends as well.

In my freshman year of college, I was scared to death. I was away from home and family for the first time in my life. I was being exposed to new ideas. I was working toward my future. I was adulting with no instruction manual.

Fortunately I made an amazing friend, and we became practically inseparable. She was my lifeline. We were like binary stars. No pressure there, right?

She was from a different country, with a much more reserved culture. So when she occasionally acted rather cold, I cut her some slack. I’m a loyal friend, and that’s what loyal friends do.

And then one time she cut me out entirely. She avoided me and didn’t speak to me for about two weeks. I have no idea why. I didn’t have a clue then, either. That was the worst part about it. I had no idea what I had done to deserve such treatment. And since she was the only close friend I had made there, it felt like someone had scooped out my heart with a rusty grapefruit spoon.

Finally, her roommate couldn’t stand to see me so distraught, and forced her to talk to me. I was so relieved that I didn’t even question anything. I don’t even recall there being any awkwardness to our friendship after that. We just picked up where we left off. So be it.

During one of our breaks, she came to Florida with me and stayed with my family. Two years later, when I was studying abroad and she was bicycling across the United States, she left her bike in the garage of a total stranger in Texas, hopped a bus, and came to visit me in Mexico. In a time before internet, we would exchange 30-page letters with each other. I loved those letters.

I considered her my best friend. She never said the same to me. (That’s happened a lot in my life. A whole lot. It’s hurtful.)

Over time, we’ve drifted apart. Thirty-page letters are no longer feasible for either of us. Still, I continued to reach out, despite the oceans and continents between us.

She’s never been very comfortable with the internet. She doesn’t have a Facebook Page. She stopped answering e-mails at least a decade and a half ago. My attempts to connect have been ignored.

I still think of her often, but I’m no longer the girl I was at 17. I’m no longer willing to be the only one who makes an effort to sustain a friendship. I realize that I deserve more than I’ve gotten in recent decades. I know I’m a good friend to have. But I can’t force anyone to care.

In recent years, I’ve taken the Physics of Friendship much more seriously. Newton says that an object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it. The same applies to friends. We are all objects in motion. If friends drift away, I used to try to be that force that slowed them down. Now my energy is much more limited.

Maybe I should stop viewing it as her pushing me away, and start looking at it as her pushing herself from me. Because I don’t need to go anywhere. I’m in a good place.

So when you feel that gap starting to widen with someone you care about, let ‘em drift, I say. You are not responsible for their motion. Don’t cling. Nothing ought to be that hard.

And then, too, letting go is sometimes all it takes for someone to want to return to your orbit. But mostly not, truth be told. Mostly not.

And that’s okay. As Max Ehrmann wrote, “No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Drifting Apart

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Contaminated Connections

I remember sitting on my couch with an old friend in Florida. We were having a pleasant chat, just as we had done dozens of times before. Then he looked out the screen door toward the park across the street and said something disgusting and hateful and racist about the guys who were playing basketball therein. I refuse to taint my blog by repeating it.

I could tell he meant what he said to the very marrow of his bones, and I was horrified. In that instant, reality shifted for me. I had never heard this man talk like that before. It wasn’t part of my truth about him. And yet, I could tell that in that instant his mask had fallen away, and I was seeing the real ugliness inside him.

And the weird thing was, he knew I’d seen it. As I sat there with my jaw hanging open, he got up, walked out of my house, and I never saw or heard from him again. I was relieved.

Normally, if I think someone is acting out of character, I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I try to get at the root of the aberrant behavior. I try to explain why I am feeling the way I feel about it. I try to salvage the relationship. But some things are just a bit too revealing about a person’s basic values. Some things cannot be undone.

It’s not as if we were expressing opposing views about Brussels sprouts. This was major. Some things you can’t simply agree to disagree about. Not if you value your own integrity.

It’s hard to maintain a friendship with someone when you lose respect for that person. It alters the context of every interaction you’ve ever had or ever will have. The foundation crumbles, and the whole structure collapses like a house of cards.

I had a similar reaction when a female coworker, upon discovering that an 11 year old girl had been sexually abused, said, “Well, she must have wanted it.”

After my head exploded, we did our best to avoid each other from then on. There’s no recovering from that. It just says too much about the person that you are, deep, deep down, where it matters most. It says too much about the way you view the world and the people in it.

It’s sad to lose a friend. But it’s heartbreaking to discover that the friend you thought you had never really existed in the first place. Fortunately, these situations are rare. I’m glad to say that I haven’t had an experience like this in years. Maybe I’m becoming a better judge of character with time. But unfortunately, to have a healthy home, sometimes you have to take out the garbage.

101014-F-FW247-456

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My Voice

I had a fascinating conversation with some old friends recently. I’ve known them for 10 years in the virtual world of Second Life. We hang out a couple times a week, but in all that time I’ve never heard their actual voices. All our communication is via text.

Am I alone in this? When I read something, I “hear” what I’m reading inside my head. I’ve always done that.

But the other day, for the first time, it occurred to me that when I read what these two friends type, I have different inner voices for each of them. Based on their personalities, my mind has created a kind and gentle voice for one, and a straightforward, practical, no-nonsense voice for the other. Fascinating.

So naturally, I asked what my “voice” sounds like to them. I was really surprised by the answer. They said it doesn’t sound like my blog.

That’s intriguing. I think of this blog as me on a screen. I’ve taken pride in laying myself bare and being honest and vulnerable here. But my friends say that in my blog I sound like a strong positive woman, and when I talk to them, I’m more fragile.

Hmm… Yeah, I can see that. Since I write my entries several days in advance, I have plenty of time for multiple revisions. That means by the time my posts reach you, I’ve edited out a lot of the craziness, impulsiveness, negativity, and basic hysteria. (Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.) I think that makes the blog infinitely more readable, but perhaps it also makes it less “me”.

But when all is said and done, that’s the definition of true friendship, isn’t it? Someone who sees the unedited version of you, warts and all, and loves you anyway.

I’m a very lucky person.

voice

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Don’t Write People Off

I know a woman who stops speaking to people entirely after one disagreement. It must be awfully stressful to keep track of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. I wonder if she keeps a sad little list or something. That, and she seems to think that a lack of interaction with her is some form of punishment. I suspect many people find it to be a relief, because it is nearly impossible to meet her high standards. Who needs it?

And then there’s the friend of mine, in his 50’s, who is still bitter and obsessed with the poor treatment he received from his classmates in high school. Rest assured, none of those people are spending time thinking about him. And are any of us the people we were in high school? (God, I hope not. I was shy, lonely, and chronically depressed.)

I’d like to think some of those bullies matured and became decent human beings. Or, yeah, it’s equally possible that they are still asshats. Who knows? But that’s no reason to waste your emotional head space keeping them locked in your acidity. It only hurts you.

And then there are those people who seem to have difficulty distinguishing opinions from personal attacks. For example, I don’t like cranberries. You love cranberries. My dislike of cranberries doesn’t mean I’m passing judgment on you, even if you are a cranberry grower. It just means I don’t like cranberries. I feel sorry for people who can’t make that distinction. They spend an awful lot of time feeling rage and missing out on friendships. This is a waste of their valuable time, and an impediment to their happiness.

I find black and white thinking to be rather troublesome because human beings, in general, are rather complex.  For example, I can be cranky and opinionated and forgetful and (brace yourself) unrepentantly liberal and inherently flawed, but I also financially support the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the DAPL Water Protectors, Storycorps, the International Red Cross, the Humane Society, Goodwill, and my local blood bank. I try to be a good friend. I work hard. I love my dog. So am I irredeemable? No. And neither are you.

The people I respect the most in this world are the ones who can say, “I may not agree with you all the time, but I don’t mean you any harm.” First, do no harm. The golden rule is also an excellent philosophy.

Kindness, not confrontation. Calm, not chaos. Good will, not hostility. If you give yourself a chance and get to know people, odds are good that they’ll delight you. But you only get that gift if you don’t write them off based on brief experience.

kind

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Daily Affirmations for a True Friend

A dear friend of mine is about to move thousands of miles away from me. She has been a steady source of support since the day we met. She’s my champion. She has my back. I can always count on her to keep her promises and provide pep talks when needed. She doesn’t judge me. I don’t feel the need to vacuum or dust before she comes to visit. She loves my dogs. If she saw anyone mistreating me, I’m certain she would claw out their eyes. I have told her things I’ve never told anyone else. And best of all, she makes me laugh.

Now, that’s a true friend. And just because she’ll no longer be just down the street, that doesn’t mean the friendship will end. No way. Our pseudo slumber parties will just be a bit more of a logistical challenge.

But here’s what’s important: I hope she can say the same things about me as well. Friendship is a two way street, after all. We’ve both lived through some long rough patches. We could both use a little shoring up now and then.

So what follows is a list of things I want you to read out loud, dear B, when times get tough. I want you to always remember these things. I want you to say them so often that you believe them as much as I do.

  • You are one of my favorite people on the face of the earth.
  • Anyone would be lucky to have you in his or her life.
  • You are intelligent and hilarious and fun to be around.
  • You are as tough as nails.
  • You are beautiful inside and out.
  • You have a lot of gifts to give to the world.
  • You are extremely talented.
  • You have amazing insights.
  • You are a survivor.
  • You are compassionate and kind.
  • You deserve joy and goodness in your life.
  • These are all things that no one can take from you.

I really ought to make you tattoo all of this backwards on your forehead so you see it every time you look in the mirror. But if you forget, you can always call me, ’cause you know I’ll set you straight. I love you!

friends

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For Pete’s Sake

Many years ago, in the virtual world of Second Life, I made a friend. Let’s call him Pete (so I can have a cool blog entry title). It was purely a friendship. We were both in relationships at the time.  I enjoyed talking to him. He had a very creative mind, and was very good at banter, which is something I appreciate quite a bit. So we’d banter.

He lived in Seattle, and at the time I lived in Florida, so the odds of ever meeting face to face were pretty long. (I remember saying on more than one occasion throughout my life, “Who would be crazy enough to live in Seattle with all that rain? Depressing!”)

As time went on, I was in Second Life less and less, but we’d keep in touch. Exchange the odd e-mail. Flirt a little. Joke around. Nothing dramatic. But it was nice.

Then in early 2014 he moved several hundred miles from Seattle. Ironically, I moved to Seattle that August. Two ships that passed in the night. But he gave me lots of great advice on things to see and do here, and good areas to look for housing. That was a big help.

Occasionally he’d pass through Seattle to visit his son, but we never did meet. He always seemed to be here on days I worked, or I’d be out of town, or his time would be limited. He did say he might be moving back to Seattle at some point.

Then, about 6 months ago, he abruptly stopped responding to my e-mails. I knew he was still alive because I’d see him log in to Second Life every now and then. But he didn’t reply to my messages there, either.

I will never know why my friend disappeared. But I have a theory. I think that he’s back in Seattle, and the prospect of actually meeting me was too daunting for him. Was he expecting me to show up for coffee wearing a wedding dress? Please.

It kind of makes me sad. I really did consider him a friend, and it would have been nice to cross paths now and then. If something more had come of it, great. If not, that would have been okay, too.

Instead, as I walk down the streets of Seattle, I’ll sometimes look into the faces of the men I encounter, and I’ll think, “Pete? Is that you?” Sometimes I wonder if he crosses my bridge, and if so, have I ever made him late for some part of his life by opening it?

One thing is for sure: He’s somewhere out there, depriving himself of the opportunity to know a pretty awesome person. What a shame.

seattle

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A Shout Out to Fair-Weather Friends

When I was young, I used to have such high expectations for friends. I thought that each one should fulfill all my emotional needs or they were somehow falling short. But that’s asking quite a lot of someone. By setting the bar that high, you will miss out on a lot of amazing people in your life.

With maturity came the knowledge that no one can be your everything. I certainly could never pass that litmus test for someone else. I’m inherently flawed, but I still think I’m a great friend. I therefore no longer insist on friendship perfection.

For example, I have one friend who has a really negative attitude. She views life through an extremely cynical lens. But she’s also intelligent and compassionate and is totally cool with my dark moods. She is not someone I would ever approach to brighten my day, but she’s genuine and sincere and can be counted on to say what she really thinks. She’s also a really good listener. I can say things to her that I’d probably never admit to anyone else. That can be refreshing.

I have another friend who is amazing and fun and kind, but she has demonstrated that she is not capable of being there for me in times of catastrophe. She just can’t handle it. That’s good information to have. She’s definitely not the first (or the tenth) person I’ll call when the stuff hits the fan. And while that might have been a deal-breaker in the past, it no longer is. Because, hey, I like fun as much as the next person. And fortunately I’m not always in the midst of a crisis. So, would I give her my emotional nuclear codes? Never. But can we hang out and laugh? Of course we can.

Fair-weather friends get a bum rap. If you keep things in perspective, what’s wrong with enjoying the fair weather with them? As long as you know who will stick around for the impending squall and aren’t neglecting those people, why not cultivate a few extra people for those sunny days?

I’ve found that it’s important to let people be who they are, and adjust my expectations accordingly. Everyone in your life comes bearing different gifts. Each gift has its own value.

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