The Price of Friendship

Why does it have to be so complicated?  Can’t we have any kind of relationship free from stress or tension … or are we just too emotionally intricate for that sort of thing.  Or, could it be that dangerous word “assumption” creeping into the most innocent of connections that leads us to overlook the danger signs.  What happens when we assume that, because we’re “just friends”, that a friendship will be smooth sailing.  None of the typical relationship rules apply, there’s no implied “he/she should understand me without having to explain”, or is there?  Do we exempt friendships from the heavier more intimate unspoken rules of a spouse or mate?  And if we do, what’s the worst that can happen?

Indeed, what is the worst that can happen?  I found out recently when a seemingly harmless friendship re-emerged.  The other half of the friendship happened to be a former co-worker, a nice fellow, some years my senior and a kindred spirit in our political and philosophical attitudes.  He lives in the mid-west, I live in the north east.  He has a lovely wife and two grown children.  I have an ex-husband and no children.  Having no brothers, I tend to find myself casting my male friends in that role.  This particular friend and I were quite close but, it turned out, different kinds of close.  And therein lies the problem.  

I can only speak (or write) from my perspective, guessing what someone else is thinking is akin to skipping blindly through a minefield.  But were there warning signs there, and I just didn’t recognize them?

As I said, we had a close friendship … I thought of him with the close familiarity of a dear brother.  It could be he thought of me with just a bit more closeness … but nothing suggestive of anything more than friendship.  But were there were word choices or phrases that ought to have set off warning bells?  Why, when it would never have dawned on me to be on my guard?  He was deeply in love with his wife, they’d been married for some 40-odd years.  Why would I worry?

I worried when he started to mention misgivings by his wife.  Misgivings that grew into to pointed questions, which in turn grew into accusations.  Suddenly, I’m left feeling like the other woman … caught in the act of something I didn’t even know I was doing.  And feeling the fool, the naive unsophisticated kid who took a situation at face value.

Feelings have been hurt, intentions misunderstood, and relationships strained.  Now, of course, I’m re-evaluating every male friend I have and wondering, can men and women really be friends or will there always be a hint of something more.   How do you value a friendship when you don’t know the price?

My year in review …

Writing is hard work … the muse doesn’t necessarily strike every day, and in my case, the muse has been missing since early November.  What to write about when nothing comes to mind?  Pros have discipline, and probably a few tricks to get them past the blank page.  I have ADD and too many TV channels.

So, going with the flow of “Looking back at 2018” as the media is wont to do this time of year … I thought I’d take a look back at how the year went for me, sort of do a little inventory of things.

January: Intermittent fasting … bust.  Partridge family obsession still going strong.  Crypto-currency experiment … expensive (and not in a good way).

February – March:  apparently nothing of note occurred.  Or nothing worth writing about.

April: Marched on Washington for sensible gun control.  Broke shoulder and tore rotator cuff falling off bike at speed.  Bike, however, not a scratch. 

May: Railed on cyclist who don’t obey the rules of the road.  Started rehab on broken shoulder.  Impatient for results.

June: Tried Grubhub … not an overwhelming success.  Burger never left the restaurant.  Ended up with cereal for dinner.  Again.  Pondered visit to Haiti vs being a blood donor.  

July:  Actually took a vacation.  Tried to get the most out of every moment while also relaxing and getting some rest.  It’s the windmill I tilt at.

August: Gave in to impulse and bought e-bike.  Joined the ranks of the cyclist commuter.  Realized how little cars pay attention to cyclist.

September: Accused of being a traitor by co-worker for daring to express a dissenting opinion of our idiot president.  All things being equal, I considered it a great compliment.

October:  Art projects took a decidedly abstract path.  Generally unsettled and unreasonably annoyed.  Pondered getting in touch with former brother-in-law as a means to spy on ex.  Wisely decided against it.

November: Chatted up on Instagram by what seemed like a very nice guy.  Flattered but wary.  Then he claimed to be a three star general.  Really?  A three star general hanging out on Instagram?  Alarm bells ring … pressed him for a video chat which he avoided.  Blocked the account.  

Which brings us to December.  So, what have I learned this year?  Ordering clothing on the internet is a tricky thing at best.  There are all kinds of fakers hanging out in e-space.  Broken bones take way too long to heal.  Electric bikes are way cool.  I’m happy being single.  The joy of cake-in-a-cup … desert in 90 seconds!  Discipline, like patience, is a virtue which I will always struggle with.  And, meal kits are great!  

2019 will start with rotator cuff surgery … but, hey, things are bound to improve from there!

Cheers from 2018, see you in the New Year!

To date or not to date …

That is indeed the question.  I’ve recently met someone online and we’ve struck up quite a friendship.  It came out of nowhere and took me completely by surprise, mostly by the speed and intensity.  I’m a fairly cautious creature, never one to dive into the pool instead I creep in inch by inch.  Evaluate, analyze, observe, those are the words I live by.  It can take months or years to make a major decision such as buying a new car or even ordering a new sofa.  Is this the absolute best choice, I ask myself.  Do I really need this thing?  Do I deserve it?  Is it worth the change?

That is the ultimate question, is it worth the change.  Every new thing or person we bring into our lives means change.  Most change is minor, barely a ripple on life’s pond while other changes reverberate.  Like a stone skipping across the water, the changes keep coming, echoing the one before until finally dying out.

Life may be change but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  After years of upset and upheaval, of moving house and changing jobs, of being married and then being divorced, I’ve reached a plateau.  The highs and lows have leveled out and, for the first time in a long time, I’m pleasantly bored.  I work, come home, play with the dog, fix dinner, perhaps work in a nap, watch tv, go to bed and start the cycle over the next day.  Some people may find the isolation constraining and urge to break through, but I revel in it.  I am, like the title of Caroline Knapp’s last book, “A Merry Recluse”.

Cue change.

I get to chatting with a nice man online and before I know it, we’re striking up quite the conversation.  Talking about dreams and goals, what we like to do, what kind of music we listen to, what we do in our spare time … it’s all innocent and at a nice safe distance as this man is located elsewhere.

But,

He’s close to retiring and, from the tone and content of his emails, interested in more than just casual conversation.  This guy sounds like a girl’s dream come true, happily ever after material.  Trouble is, I don’t know what my dream come true looks like.  When I daydream about my happily ever after, I never picture anyone else in it.  Does this mean I’m destined to single-hood or simply that I haven’t met the right guy yet.  And is this guy the right guy?  Why do I feel like life is trying to fix something that isn’t broken?  Did I just answer my own question or should I keep this door open a little while?

Should I or shouldn’t I …

The other day while wandering around Facebook, idly searching for names of past or former friends, I came across my former brother-in-law.  Boy has he changed!  He went from slim to body builder … a 180 degree difference … I almost fell out of my chair.  Only his face was familiar.  

Wow, did a lot of memories come flooding back.  Recently I wrote about things I’d like to tell me ex and … is this a sign that I should?  Or should I send an innocent “oh, hi” message to my brother-in-law?  What would I say?  It’s not like we have any Facebook friends in common that I would naturally stumble across his profile.  The only way I would is if I’d purposefully been looking.

Some backstory … my brother-in-law, let’s call him Steve, has quite a colorful and storied past.  He was an addict, cocaine and alcohol (that I know of), had been through rehab (? times) but seems to have traded drugs for body-building.  A much healthier path, to be sure.  While in the midst of the drug years, we had a tense relationship.  I liked him a great deal but loathed his behavior.  His family seemed to accept his drug use and subsequent actions as “that’s Steve, what can we do?” while I silently seethed with anger and disbelief.  Once he wrapped a brand new truck around a telephone pole, after which when the police arrived, the search was on for a body … the crash was that severe.  I either don’t know or don’t remember if Steve said how he got home that night but I do remember the truck was a gift from his grandfather and owned barely 6 months before it’s embrace with the telephone pole.  Again, the reaction from the family was limited to “at least you’re okay” with not a thought or mention of the fact he could have easily killed or injured an innocent stranger.  Not a word about being so drunk the police were looking for a fatality.  Nothing about wrecking a very expensive gift.  Not one single utterance.  I was outraged and held myself apart from the family, sitting very quiet and not speaking to anyone, let alone joining in the “thank God you’re okay” talk.  And guess who got chewed out later on for “being rude to Steve” … yes, me.  Talk about insult added to injury.  Of course, the admonishment came from my former husband making it all the more cutting.  I have not and will not be a quiet witness to abuse, of drugs, alcohol, to oneself or another … I certainly won’t be complicit by refusing to take a stand.   By accepting his behavior, his family condoned his actions and enabled his lifestyle.  I refused to be a party to this attitude and for that I was chastised.  

Addiction ran in the family as both parents were alcoholics, as (it turned out) so was the eldest son (my erstwhile ex).  It was status quo for them but inconceivable for me.  Admittedly patience is not a virtue I’ll ever be known for, so I might have been on the harsh side of judgmental.  However, if my choices were cooperation or condemnation, I chose the latter.  There was a grey area of compassion I couldn’t quite manage.

So, switch to present day and the discovery of Steve on Facebook … and the question de jour … do I reach out to him?  What would I say?  Or should I let past rest in peace.

…squirrel!

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Inside the mind of someone with ADD … or, as we used to call it before its fancy medical term came along, BSO or bright shiny object disease.  Here’s how a typical unstructured day goes for me:

Get up, eventually … after rising at 5:30 during the week sleeping in is my first treat of the weekend.  Figure out what sweats/yoga wear to lounge around in, go downstairs and it’s like a dog distracted by a squirrel … I clean up any “presents” my geriatric pug might have left during the night which leads me to decide the rug needs cleaning which leads to vacuuming the whole room and while I’ve got the vacuum out might as well do the whole house.  While downstairs, I see some boxes that need collapsing before being recycled which I start to do, but in looking for my box cutter I come across my heat gun which I recently used to do some melted crayon art (see above).  So I put the heat gun away, forgetting the boxes as I look around at my studio, I decide I need to tidy up my mess and that leads to going through boxes of goose clothes (more about that later).  It’s fall, so I need to change my gooses outfit.  She’s now dressed like a scarecrow and the FSU cheerleading outfit she was wearing needs washing so I toss it in the wash, realizing that I have a spare FSU cheerleading outfit but the FSU patch has come off … so it’s back upstairs where I trip over the vacuum cleaner … oh, right, I was going to vacuum downstairs, but first I need to iron the patch back on.  That task done, I return the ironing board to the closet and head back downstairs to return the goose outfit to her dresser of outfits.  As I sort through various art projects, I manage to actually throw a couple out which means a trip to the garbage cans and the boxes to be recycled get stomped flat instead of neatly cut and collapsed but they make it to the recycle bin.  All this is going through my mind and I’m thinking, maybe I ought to blog about it.  Going back upstairs, moving the vacuum cleaner upstairs (my townhouse is three floors) in the vain hope I’ll get that chore done eventually.  I sit down at the computer desk which has some sheet music printed out, and I decide to hole punch it and put the music away in my book, but looking at one of the tunes – I realize it’s a Christmas tune and wonder if I can play it on my violin.  So I get out my violin, where I discover one of the strings has come almost undone so I have to tighten that peg and retune the violin, then I try and play the tune which I can almost do.  That stupid torn rotator cuff is still inhibiting proper violin playing posture.  I’m aware I’m hungry so I go into the kitchen and make myself a meal replacement shake but notice the dishes in the sink so I stop to wash them but first I have to empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher.  Eventually I end up with the dishes put away, and make my shake and now … several hours later I’ve gone from cleaning the rug to … oh, darn, I never did finish vacuuming did I?

That’s kind of what it’s like to have ADD … you barely start one task when … oh, look! Bright shiny object … and you’re drawn to something else, and something else, and the original task is likely to fade into the mists of time.  It’s a variation of “what did I come into this room for?”.

Partly it’s the way my mind works, and partly it’s an inability to deal with unstructured time.  As much as I complain about work and how much I’d rather be retired … it does force a certain structure to my day.  Left alone, with no deadlines or other requirements, I’m (to quote Carrie Fisher) like a hamster in search of a wheel.

About the geese.  All the women in my family own these big cement lawn geese.  They have a variety of clothes and are often dressed to match the season.  My goose has about 30 outfits.  I’m known in the neighborhood as “the goose lady”.

What was I talking about?  oh … was that a squirrel?

Guilty as charged …

Because of a couple of bumper stickers on my car, a co-worker all but called me treasonous.  These are the times in which we live, that daring to voice an opinion contrary to the current administration is considered treasonous.  Sorry … but I thought we lived in a democracy … at least we were when I got up this morning.

Where I work, it’s mostly male, mostly white, mostly prior military, and decidedly republican.  Liberal democrats are tolerated as long as we keep our mouths shut and our opinions to ourselves.  It’s a quiet truce, but emotions simmer just under the surface.

So what happened this morning to elicit the accusation of “treason”?  A couple of the old guard came in, bemoaning the bumper stickers on my car.  A pink revolution bumper sticker from the woman’s march, and another bumper sticker suggesting the GOP ought to be replaced from their attempt to destroy the ACA.

Treasonous?  Seriously?  A land where dissenting opinions aren’t tolerated is a dictatorship … rather like the ones trump seems to be such a fan of judging by the admiration he lavishes on their leaders.  And as long as we do live in a democracy, it’s our right … no, our duty to speak up, to question, to challenge.  You want to call me treasonous for that?  Then I’m proudly guilty.

Things I’d like to tell my ex …

IMG_3971 - Version 3If you have an ex … likely there are things you’d like him or her to know … without actually talking to them face to face.  It’s like, you want to tell an intermediate friend who you know will tell your ex.  That way, the ex will find out how fabulous your life is without you having to actually talk to them.

What I have is a predicament … on one hand I want my ex to know how well I’m doing but at the same time I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing I want him to know.  Wait, what?

We were a good match on the surface, but as that sort of thing goes, reality is a different situation.  He turned out, over time, to be a bully.  He was the king of passive/aggressive, a master of the sly insult.  He was the child of two alcoholic parents, an air force brat, demanding as hell and impossible to please.  We stayed married for almost 12 years because I took “in good times and bad … forsaking all others … until death do you part” seriously.  It never dawned on me to seek solace from anyone but my partner … to bad my partner didn’t share my monogamous ideas.

That was then and this is now.  I’ve been divorced for more years than I was married and, for the most part, don’t give my ex much thought.  Still, every now and then, like an unwanted ghost from the past, his shadow falls across my thoughts.  Living well is supposed to the best revenge, but knowing the other person knows you’re living well feels even better.  It falls under the category of karma … while you may understand that karma will get a person back eventually, it’s icing on the cake if you get to see it happen.

In the grand scheme of my life since, he is a ghost with no power.  As Carly Simon sang in “You’re so Vain” … “you gave away thing things you loved and one of them was me”

Your loss.

 

Both sides …

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the cyclist commuter, a couple of things have become blindingly apparent.  Okay, it’s only been two weeks, but if these things are so obvious after only two weeks … it begs the question, how could they have been missed in the first place?

Simple.  Unless you’ve been in the other situation, you’re just oblivious to it.  Cars and bikes are to each other like cats and dogs.  They glare at each other at best and do battle at worst. It’s a scary enough standoff in the daylight, but in the wee small hours of the morning … the stuff of nightmares.

Drivers, I’m talking to you now.  There’s this thing called a cross-walk, and a walk light that will periodically indicate it’s safe to cross.  It’s called the right of way, and when you are trying to make a right turn on a red light, odds are the person in the crosswalk has the right of way and is preparing to cross the likely busy road.  Please, for the love of all that you hold dear, LOOK before making that right turn!  Twice last week, at one intersection, cars blew right past me even though I’d begun to venture into the crosswalk with the right of way on my side.  I may have been in the right, but when a 3,000 pound vehicle meets a 40 pound bike … the outcome is pretty easy to calculate.

The rate of fatalities of cyclist has been increasing, on average, since 2001.  In 2016, the officially reported number was over 800.  This is an average of several websites I researched.  Injuries are in the thousands.  A cyclist I know was clobbered by a car making a quick left turn, resulting in several broken ribs and a concussion.  He was lucky.

This is my new fear of the day.  There are two places on my commute to work where I have to cross particularly dangerous roads – both have a crosswalk, but neither have cross walk lights and so I have to wait for a lull, and dash across.  Technically speaking, people, if you come up to a crosswalk and there is someone in it, you BY LAW, have to stop!  This is, apparently, an unknown fact to a majority of the drivers out there.  The result is now I cycle and sprint to work, arrive sweaty and without the need for any kind of caffeine or other stimulant!

There is a plus side to this bike car equation.  It’s making me a better driver.  I’m keenly aware of cyclist, especially at intersections.  I look at more than just other cars, and the biggest pet peeve of the cyclist – when pulling up to the light, I stop short of the cross walk instead of on it.

It only takes a few seconds to make that extra visual check … and, it may just make a cyclists’ day a little safer.  Just think of it this way, a cyclist is one less car on the road and therefore one less car you might get stuck behind!  We’re helping to alleviate the crowded roads, so think on us kindly and please, don’t run us over!

Weekends

DSC_5938Ah, weekends … and the dilemma therein … two days in which to (a) catch up on all those chores or (b) catch up on all that relaxing.  It’s a push-pull routine I find myself in every weekend.  There are things I need to do, but don’t want to do … many of them involve leaving the house which, in this hot late July weather, I am loath to do.  All week long, it’s one rat race after another, so – come the weekend – I’m often torn between wanting to be uber productive with my time or be exceptionally lazy and actually relax.  Yes, I’m aware that both are (theoretically) possible – one day for catching up and one day for relaxing, but I’m terribly easy on myself.  It doesn’t take long to talk myself out of a trip to one of those big box stores for a single item – which, for a change, is more expensive to buy on-line than in person.  I’m so lazy.  The effort to get in the car, make the 15 minute drive, find a parking spot, fight the crowded checkout lines, work through the cryptic parking lot to escape and make my way back home seems so much more than I feel like taking on.  Of course, just look at the way I’ve phrased the task.  Who would want to do that?  Basically, it comes down to not knowing what to do with myself.  There isn’t anything really pressing … laundry’s caught up, vacuuming is done, dishes are in the dishwasher, bathrooms are cleaned … on the flip side, there are book waiting to be read, art projects waiting to be tackled … the missing ingredient seems to be motivation.  I’m reminded of summer vacation, late in the season, when all the camps have been attended, swim club at the Y finished, the result being nothing much to do.

“I’m bored”, my inner child complains.  None of the activities my inner adults suggests seem appealing. I’m still recovering from that broken shoulder which, as it turns out, was actually broken in two places and there is some tearing of the rotator cuff.  Playing the violin is out … I can’t quite manage twisting my left arm to hold the violin properly.  I could study some French, could start an art project, could could could.  It’s not starting that’s the problem … it’s continuing and finishing.  Even writing, I can feel my thoughts wandering like a sluggish river.

Barely one impulse forms before another takes it place … no wonder I can’t manage completing a task … another thought takes over and I go from returning tools to the garage to separating the clumps of iris bulbs.  How did I end up here?  Drenched in sweat and covered in dirt?  It took all my willpower to finish separating and replanting the bulbs, the sense of accomplishment didn’t feel quite as satisfying as I’d have hoped.  I started an art project, but my ability to stay focused on it is being tested and so far, I’m failing the test.  It gets back to the struggle between spending my time truly resting and relaxing, or checking off chores and enjoying that feeling of accomplishment.  What happens is I end up trying to do both and succeeding at neither.

 

The destination or the journey?

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Sometimes, when on vacation, the lines tend to blur and I’m not sure which one is supposed to be the point. When speaking of life, one often hears that saying “it’s the journey not the destination” … the creepy implication of death being the destination … or the afterlife if that is your belief. And since so much our lives are consumed by work, taking a vacation is like stepping away from our journey for a side trip. In that case, the journey can become as much a part of the experience as the destination.  Unless, you’re like me and tend to pack your vacations so full that it becomes a mirage of rest, and the journey less a stroll and more a marathon. I checked off 10,000 steps before lunch! I get lost in the journey so that only the thought of my destination keeps me plodding along, blind to the surroundings of the journey. I tend to turn a vacation from work into working at my vacation, the only difference being not chained to a desk and I get to sleep in. That’s the downside of traveling solo … no one to stop you from trotting off to yet another museum, no one to grab your arm and say, “Slow down, let’s get something to eat” or “how about a rest?”  So, this time I’m going to try something new and actually vacation, slow down, be in the moment instead of always planning ahead to the next one … and enjoy both the journey and the destination.