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.


How This Blog Has Touched Me

Today this blog made me cry. It wasn’t the first time. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

So far it’s always been happy tears, thank goodness. (I’m waiting for the day that my writer’s block is so overwhelming that I shed tears of sheer frustration, but so far I’ve been lucky.) Still, I never thought this humble project of mine would bring out such strong emotion in me. Had I known, I might have been too intimidated to start. But I’m so glad I did.

This time, the reason for my tears was a comment from a girl named April. She read one of my more popular blog entries, Why I Hate Alcohol. Then she commented in great detail about how it impacted her.

Discovering that something I wrote has helped someone, or made them look at things from a different angle, or taught someone something they didn’t know, never fails to move me. Sometimes I sit up here on my lonely little drawbridge and I write these things and it almost feels as if I’m putting messages in bottles and throwing them in the ocean. That these messages sometimes reach someone’s shore is gratifying beyond words.

Because of this blog, I’ve also made some amazing friends. Art, Carole, Anju, Sonia, Tony, Lyn, Valarie… so many more I couldn’t list them all, but each one an amazing person that wouldn’t have come into my life without this forum. And then there are the many friends I’ve met in other ways who have followed this blog and given me feedback and support. There’s nothing more wonderful than getting positive encouragement from someone you admire.

I’ve also learned a great deal. I’ve explored topics I wouldn’t have bothered to delve into if I didn’t think I’d have some reader to share them with. I’ve introduced myself, and you, to people I would not have discovered otherwise.

I’ve exorcised a number of personal demons, celebrated a number of victories, shared perhaps more than I should have, and wondered about any number of things. And I’ve improved my writing skills. Those are things I knew I would do. What I didn’t know was that having people actually read what I write has added a whole new dimension. You’ve validated, supported, and commiserated with me. You’ve given me wings.

So my message in the bottle for today is: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[Image Credit: artisticallyinvited.com]

A Night Out with Friends

The other night I met a friend at Seattle’s Royal Room to hear Leah Tussing, an amazing blues/jazz singer. She and her band were wonderfully talented and it was a very lovely way to spend a rainy, blustery evening.

The Royal Room itself is a comfortable, welcoming venue with good food and a relaxed atmosphere, but it was the company that made the event great. I also got to meet some new friends and that’s always a pleasure.

All evening I got to watch my friend and her boyfriend interact, and it reaffirmed my faith that love can be magical. The way he looks at her, like she’s the most wonderful, amazing person on the planet, gave me hope that someone would look at me that way again someday. I miss it.

She also hasn’t been in the best of health this month, and he’s been taking amazing care of her. That feeling of being with someone who has my back like that is another thing I long for. I was beginning to think it was a figment of my imagination.

And the affectionate touches? I will never EVER take a touch for granted again, as long as I live. A touch can mean everything. You don’t realize it until you’ve lost it. Believe me.

Do I sound like I am feeling sorry for myself? On the contrary. That evening gave me hope. I left there feeling all warm and fuzzy, and very happy for my friend. Now I’m looking forward to what the future has in store for me. Anything is possible.

hope for love

Applying for Friendship

I was sitting in a crowded little theater, waiting for a friend to do his one man show, and I was chatting with another friend. Someone asked us how we met, and my friend said, “She was advertising for friends, so I applied.”

It’s true. During my first storytelling experience, in front of a crowd of 150 people, I explained what brought me to Seattle, and at the end I mentioned that with my weird work schedule, I had yet to make many friends here, so if anyone had room in their heart for me, there I was.

Afterward she came up to me and said, “I’ll be your friend.” And she has been, ever since. A lot of really fun experiences with her would never have happened if I hadn’t spoken up. How lucky am I?

Sometimes, even if you think it should be blatantly obvious, you just have to put your intentions or desires right out there for all the world to see. “I’m looking for friends.” “I want to be in a relationship.” “I vont to be alone.” “I need help.” Whatever it is that you want, need, or plan to do, spread the word.

People cannot read your mind. I sincerely believe that the majority of misunderstandings stem from the fact that we often forget that simple point. We are so used to hearing the thoughts inside our heads that on some level we overlook that no one else can.

So my advice for the day is, SPEAK UP!!!

Don't worry. I couldn't read your mind even BEFORE you put on the tinfoil hat.
Don’t worry. I couldn’t read your mind even BEFORE you put on the tinfoil hat.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Writ Large

I was talking to a friend about my utter lack of success to date on a dating website on which I’ve registered.

“I have to say I’ve never felt worse about myself.”

My wise and wonderful friend responded, “This is going to sound really bizarre, but your current depression is actually a positive development. For the first time in a long time, you have enough confidence in your job stability and other elements of basic survival that you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of thinking about your next-level needs. That hasn’t happened in ages. And yes, when you assess your progress against those next level needs, it sucks. That is hardly surprising given that they have been neglected for so long while you were in basic survival mode. But now you have time to start paying attention to them. Things will improve.”

Isn’t it fantastic when someone says the exact right thing at the exact right time? There’s a reason this guy is so successful at life. In one paragraph, he managed to get me to stop contemplating my navel and consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and its application in my life. And that allowed me to reframe everything. Once again, I have hope. I have perspective. I can be a little more patient.

What a profound conversation. What an amazing friend. Too bad he’s married! Even so, I think I’ll keep him.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Well Known… But Not.

Many years ago I worked the graveyard shift, and I was in a relationship that was making me really unhappy. I felt lonely and isolated. Then I discovered the virtual world of Second Life. Second Life may have saved my first life, or at the very least my sanity. It’s not a game like World of Warcraft. It’s more of a place to interact socially. I would log on when I got to work, and made friends all over the world whom I could hang out with until the wee hours. Many of them are good friends still.

You’d think that in a virtual world you could hide your real self, but I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. Since you aren’t hiding behind your looks or your job or your reputation, you are actually more exposed. All you have, really, is… you. Sure, you can probably fake it for a while, pretend to be someone you’re not, but in the end, just by talking, day in and day out, your true character comes shining through, warts and all.

I have to admit that I am more confident in SL. My avatar is much better looking than I am. I’m more flirty and outgoing than I’d ever be in the real world. But that confidence is still coming from somewhere inside of me, and it’s nice to let it come out and play every once in a while.

The virtual me.
The virtual me.

I don’t go in to SL as often as I used to. Most of my good friends in there keep in touch with me in other ways, either through Facebook or e-mail or on the phone. But I’ve only met two of them face to face so far.

The first one was my friend Martine. I’ve blogged about her before, but the short version is that if I were ever to have a daughter, I’d want her to be just like Martine. I visited her the day before I discovered that my boyfriend had died unexpectedly, changing my life forever. Martine has always been there for me.

The second one I met very recently in Vancouver. I’ve known Sim/Martin for about 7 years. We’ve talked daily, or at the very least weekly, ever since then. He’s a dear friend. We’ve done art collaborations, he created a website for me, he gave me a ton of moral support through a really painful breakup, and he even bought me a laptop when I shattered mine and couldn’t afford to replace it. (Read more about that here.) In turn, I introduced him to his wonderful girlfriend, and they are very happy together, and have been for many years.

But meeting him face to face was something else again. I mean, I knew him, and I was confident that he was a decent human being. But did I know him, really? I was going to stay in a man’s apartment in a foreign country, and this is someone I’d never met. And yet I knew him well. Sort of. It was a strange dichotomy.

Talking to him during the planning of the trip made it quite clear he was nervous, too. He is not someone who entertains guests frequently, and I could just as easily have been some loud, obnoxious, crazy American. Somehow knowing he had reservations too made it easier for me.

Even so, I left all his contact information with my sister and my friend Martine, just in case Sim was a serial killer. And if either of us had felt the least bit uncomfortable when I met him, I would have stayed in a hotel. But we arranged to meet at a coffee shop down the street from his apartment, and all went well.

I had seen one real life, blurry picture of Sim, and I sort of thought of him as the old hippie with the really long beard. But as I entered the coffee shop there were two guys with really long beards sitting there. (In Vancouver they both fit right in.) I looked the first guy in the eye and somehow I just knew that wasn’t Sim. The second guy most definitely was. To this day I couldn’t tell you how I knew that, but I did, and I was right.

I had always known Sim as a good, kind, generous person, but what struck me upon actually meeting him was what a gentile spirit he has. Even though he’s fiercely loyal to his friends, he couldn’t hurt a flea. I was charmed.

And seeing him was like coming home to an old friend, and picking up right where we left off. He was a perfect gentleman and a generous host, and a pure delight to be around. And there wasn’t a single body part in his freezer. We had fun in Vancouver. (You can read about that in the previous two posts.)

One thing Sim and I seem to have in common is that we lead pretty isolated lives. So it was quite a change for both of us to be able to walk down the street arm in arm and talk, and hang out in his apartment like two people having a slumber party, gossiping about mutual friends and past experiences. It was nice to wake up in the middle of the night knowing that I wasn’t all alone for a change. Sim was on the far side of the room, and that made me feel safe, which is a feeling I don’t have very frequently.

He also shared his real life art with me, and why some of this stuff isn’t hanging in a gallery I will never know. When I left, he gave me three pieces which I intend to have framed and will cherish always.

This is a man who walks down the streets of Vancouver every day, and is passed by people who have absolutely no idea how special he is. That really makes you wonder about the people you walk by, doesn’t it? What are you missing?

All I know is that I have a dear friend. It’s a friendship that’s kind and supportive and completely devoid of pressure. It’s the kind of friendship that’s better than a romance, because you know it will be there for life. How lucky am I?


Keep Reaching Out

So says a dear friend that I’ve known for 25 years. He’s now a continent away, and knows I’m struggling with loneliness in this new city of mine. He always gives wise, yet understated, advice.

Yes. Keep reaching out. Even when you’ve caught your hand in a bear trap of rejection in the past. Even when it seems easier to leave your arms at your sides.

Keep reaching out or you’ll never grasp hold of anything new. Expecting others to make the first move is akin to expecting them to read your mind. How can someone else know what you want or need?

Keep reaching out, or you will bump into things as you move forward. Explore. Investigate. Search. Discover. Bring newness into your life.

Most of all, don’t give up.

[Image credit: wallpaperz.co]
[Image credit: wallpaperz.co]