Tag Archives: friendship

For Sue

11 Jun

sadness

“You’re lovely to remember, and looking back then feeling like I’m walking very slowly through a soft and misty rain. And a beautiful sadness comes over me. Though, I’ve never been so lonely, I’m happy in a way, for the love that I still feel when I think of you today. And a beautiful sadness comes over me.” (Beautiful Sadness, Leikin, M.A. / Holdridge, L.E., © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC)

Finding myself like the proverbial “duck out of water” in oh, so many ways, as both married to my husband and living in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to leave the insurance business and move back into my chosen career of technical editing/writing. The company was known around town as “the bomb factory” although this was supposed to be a big secret. The place was a front for the CIA, although when it all fell apart a few years after I joined, of course the government denied this and several people, including the founder, went to jail.

I don’t remember interviewing with my supervisor, Sue. I don’t remember first meeting her. My brain cannot process when it did not have a picture of her in it. Straight line skirts, long-sleeved silk blouses with modest V-neck, just a peek of camisole. She was in her late 40s when we met; I was in my late 20s. She had a hearty laugh. She walked briskly and confidently around the proposal production center, which she managed. I was smitten. It was safe. She was married; I was married. I wasn’t smitten totally in that way, but I was smitten further than I had ever been smitten before. (The last time I had been smitten was for a boy named Mark in 5th grade.)

I had known I was gay for a long time. No, a long, long, long time. Growing up, I knew I was different since at least age 10. I had suspected I was gay since at least my mid-teens. Being brought up Roman Catholic, having the expectations of a Mrs. Degree, the white picket fence, the kiddies; it just was not an option. By the time I arrived in California for my final two years of college, it was a foregone conclusion. I had one acquaintance on the student paper I would confide in about this when I got really drunk (a frequent event), but it was confusing because there wasn’t anyone I was “into” in that way.

Then there was Sue.

Oh, Sue.

That throaty laugh. The way her camisole peeked out on her suntanned chest. Her confident, brisk walk.

I had it bad.

We became fast friends. She already had a great girlfriend at work, which made me insanely jealous. That, however, was her “shopping” girlfriend. We had more. (Oh, the things we tell ourselves sometimes!) Her husband was soon dying of cancer. I was soon drinking and drugging, and realizing I was gay and needed to leave my husband. We glommed onto each other like the two dysfunctional, co-dependent, alcoholic, needy people we were.

I was in heaven.

During frequent breaks in the lactation room off the ladies’ room, I’d bare my soul while she’d smoke. After her husband went into the hospital for good and I left my husband, these breaks became less frequent and instead, I’d head to her house after work while she drank and bared her soul while I listened.

One Saturday night after I left my husband, I decided it was finally time to determine whether I was gay. My therapist told me I was unusual because most gays and lesbians come out “with” someone or “because of” someone, but I did not. I decided I must go to the local lesbian bar, find someone to make out with, and see whether I was really gay. (This has all the makings of a bad movie, does it not?)

I am a painful introvert, and drinking never helped. I didn’t have moves. I didn’t have lines. It was sad. Finally someone started paying attention. She was older, which I liked. I definitely needed someone with experience. A few drinks later, I agreed to go back to her place. One thing led to another and another thing led to…The Crying Game. I sobered up fast and things came to a halt. We actually became good friends, but if I said it wasn’t traumatizing at the time, I’d be lying.

First thing at work Monday, I dragged Sue to the lactation room. “You won’t believe what happened to me Saturday night!” I was in hysterics as I recounted the story. “Yeah, so?” She said, in the totally non-judgmental, chill way only she could do. It was not a dismissive tone; it was an embracing, “It could happen to anyone” tone. This was in the middle of the 1980s, people!

Through my whole coming out, separation, divorce, first girlfriend, getting sober, first time getting 13th stepped at AA – through every single thing – this friend of mine never once judged, never once stopped being my friend, never stopped, dare I say, loving me for me. We lost touch a few year after I left the area and she remarried, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

So, last night about midnight, I had this thought about her, and I googled. She confidently and briskly left this earth in 2011 at age 72. I am so glad that when I was in her area in 2010, I looked her up and phoned her. I reminded her of my “night of self-discovery.” She laughed that throaty laugh. I now know she was very ill. I thanked her. She said she was happy I was doing well, and she couldn’t wait to tell her daughter I called. I told her I still want Meryl Streep to play her in the movie adaptation of my book.

“I always thought you were the best, I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you. Someone who understands me and knows me inside out. Helps keep me together, and believes without a doubt. That I could move a mountain, someone to tell it to. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you.” (One Friend, Seals, D., © Alfred Publishing Co.)

 

A Spot of Tea and a Chat

9 Jan

(Dedicated to my cousin Janie Corcoran of Ireland, 1924-2007.)

Has anyone ever given anything to you
In your darkest hours
Did you ever give it back
Well, I have
©Stevie Nicks

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I shared a bedroom with my sister Michele many different times when we were growing up . The time that was the most fun was when I was about 10 and she was about 6. After we’d finally decide it was time to go to sleep and stop goofing off, we’d pick themes for the walls, the ceiling, and the floor – one might be “cartoons,” one “animals,” one “fairy tales,” and so on. Then we’d dream about whichever theme we faced when we went to sleep.

Lately I seem to dream about whatever I am doing or watching on television just before I go to bed. I was working on genealogy last night and had a vivid dream this morning. It took place in Ireland quite some time ago. A family member was mourning the loss of her young son, who had been shot. (It was a stone bullet, so that tells you how long ago this must have been.)

The most vivid part had to do with how the families around the grieving family responded with what funds they could scrape together to help bury the young boy. The funds and notes were kept in these special notebooks that I could read so clearly in my dream. I was particularly moved by a note from a neighbor widow who wrote, “Alas, I have no money to give, but please stop by for a spot of tea and a chat.” Continue reading

Who is in YOUR Posse?

14 Jun

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I’ve been mesmerized by this quote since it appeared on my Facebook page a few days ago. The exact quote is, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and it was written by the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn.

Does this mean the five people you’ve spent the most time with throughout your entire life? Does this mean the five people you are currently spending the most time with? I am not sure, but I would guess the latter.

The five people I’ve spent the most time with throughout my entire life are my parents, my sister Michele, my partner/wife (depending on which U.S. state we’re in), and whatever term you prefer for that which is holy. Alright, so the last one may not technically be a person, but the Holy is often embodied for me, so I’m taking creative liberty.

I really struggled to think of the five people I currently spend the most time with aside from my partner and the Holy. I suppose two of them would be the people who are in the office as often as I am. Who is my fifth? If anyone, I suppose it would be my partner’s son, but I only see him a couple of hours a month. Whoa; I don’t think I have a fifth! I am not convinced, however, that this is a bad thing. I don’t think there is any magic to having five as opposed to four or three or six. Only having one or having 10 would be problematic.

My online world has removed me from the goodness, and the challenges, of in-person, tangible relationships. Continue reading

Loving Courageously

6 Jun

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This post is part of the June Synchroblog: Ordinary Courage, where bloggers are invited to write about ordinary courage. The other contributors for this month are listed at the end of this post.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ―Lao Tzu

What is courage? What does it mean to be courageous as a person of faith? The dictionary definition speaks to having the mental or moral strength to preserver and overcome difficulty, danger, or pain. Using this definition, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been courageous at one time or another. Yet, if asked, I believe most of us would hesitate to call ourselves courageous. Why is this?

Perhaps we accept that we are called to be courageous when it affects us or someone we know in the physical sense, but we sell ourselves short in our moral courage; times when we “do the right thing” even if it is unpopular, shameful, or scandalous. C.S. Lewis defined integrity as “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” The philosophers among us may question, “If no one is watching, does a ‘thing’ happen?”

Why does loving someone deeply give us courage? Because loving someone deeply requires that we are vulnerable. Everyone has been hurt – emotionally, physically, spiritually. To return to love, to open one’s self to another, to the possibility of more hurt, is a huge risk. Yet, if we do not do so, if we are not courageous, the “hurt” wins. The one(s) who hurt us in the past win. More importantly, when we forfeit the chance to love and be loved once more, we lose, and so do those who do not get to feel and return our love. Continue reading

(When) Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

13 May

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“It’s sad, so sad; it’s a sad, sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd.
It’s sad,  so sad; why can’t we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me, that sorry seems to be the hardest word.”
– John & Taupin. All rights reserved.

We’ve all been there; that awkward moment at the funeral home or in the hospital, or elsewhere, where our want to express SOMETHING – something kind, something meaningful, something appropriate – gets washed away by saying something really inappropriate, such as:

     “You’ll have more children.”

     “It was God’s will.”

     “God needed another angel.”

     “You still have your other children.”

     “You’ll survive; you always do.”

     “He/she lived a long life.”

     “Everything happens for a reason.”

What do we do (or not do) and say (or not say) when someone is in great pain?

What Not to Do

  • Ignore the person. “Surely they are already swamped by other well-wishers.” “I don’t know what to do/say, so I’ll do/say nothing.”
  • Give long-term advice. If asked, a kind, “Perhaps you should take some time to think about it,” is appropriate.
  • Send regrets via a) Facebook, b) Twitter, c) e-mail, d) text message. Remember, we are talking about someone CLOSE to you!
  • Do extraordinary things that the hurting person or someone close to him or her did not ask you to do. The house may not need another tray of lunchmeat. That photo montage you thought was precious may bring unintended pain. Your gently used linens are awesome, but they don’t have a bed, let alone a queen-size bed.

What to Do

  • Be in touch. If you truly believe this would be overwhelming, send a note card or make a phone call. Either can be dealt with when there is time and the will.
  • Be in touch later. Often there is a rush of kindness when the event occurs, but it is in the coming weeks, months, and years that hurting people need a friend. (Hint: Write anniversaries of painful events down so you will not forget them.) You may think people do not want to be reminded, but the opposite is often true. I often contact people “the week of” so it is easier to Segway into why I am calling.
  • Offer assistance. A simple, “What do you need?” is a powerful question. Asking, “What can I do?” is not the same thing.
  • “Just” be present. Don’t feel like you have to talk.
  • If you know the person’s religious beliefs, offer to do something meaningful that reflects that tradition (pray, light a candle, etc.). If you do not know, and I cannot stress this enough, do NOT make assumptions. Ask if you can pray, light a candle, etc. Continue reading
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