Celebrating Friendship

Today I celebrate #31 on my list of 45 things to celebrate about my life, by looking at the people in my life.

If the people you choose to spend time with–the friends you make along the way–reflect who you are as a person, then I can’t be too horrible. I’ve been honored to become friends with some truly amazing people throughout my lifetime, despite the protective wall I’ve put around myself because of poor friendship choices I made in the past. I guess we all learn as we go.

Anyway, a while back I started writing a series of posts trying to celebrate some of these amazing people, particularly the women, but for some reason I let that series fade into the oblivion of my blog. I’d like to refer you to those posts again:

Those posts just skim the surface of the incredible people I count among my friends. The list also includes:

  • Heidi, a talented and passionate high school English teacher in Durango, CO who I count among my best friends and miss very much. She taught me about what it means to fight through the hard times, to challenge yourself and the world around you.
  • Kristie, another talented and passionate high school English teacher. (I’d love to have Heidi and Kristie meet, they would love each other). I led you to her blog post a short time ago, and now I would like to lead you to another. Any young person would be lucky to have a teacher have as wonderful as she is. She has taught me about the power of passion and what it takes to create a life full of purpose and joy.
  • Jesse, a man who showed me that it is possible to pursue art, care passionately about the world, and do something to make a difference. You can find more about him in my posts about Slovakia and Dramatic Adventure Theatre.
  • Mary K, Jesse’s soul mate, my soul friend. She has taught me what it means to live with a full and caring heart.
  • Christen, who I met through Jesse and Mary K. She is one of those people who combine beauty (inside and out) with compassion, intelligence, talent and an amazing attitude toward life.
  • Mike. I only actually met Mike in person, once, at our farewell party when Nathan and I left Kansas.  Leaving him and his fabulous (new) wife Lily, is one of the big regrets I have about spending such a short time there. They are both talented and wonderful people who challenge me to question what I believe and think on a regular basis, in a really good way.
  • Barb, another brilliant women who has no fear about fighting passionately for what she believes in, especially when it comes to the rights of children to an education that suits their individual needs.
  • Amanda, an incredibly brilliant and talented woman who has taught me about pursuing dreams and setting goals for oneself, even when others say “No, you can’t do that.”
  • Beth. Someone who has known me for a long, long, long time. She has shown me how to stand up for family, and what it means to be a lioness of a mother.

My list could go on and on. With each name I write, I think of another. There are many now, that I count among my friends and yet I’ve never met in person. Those are the friends I’ve made through this blog. You can find stories of most of these people sprinkled throughout my blog. They are the people who’ve helped me become a better person. They are the people whose friendship makes me want to be a better person, or strive to achieve even in a small way the things I see them achieve each and every day.

So today, as part of my celebration, I celebrate them as well as all those friends whose names I missed, but whose lives have enriched my own. Thank you friends. I love you all.

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Who are the people in your life that you would like to celebrate? Who makes your life richer just because you’ve met them and count them as friends?

Reciprocity and Friendship

When I was in college I was starstruck.

Not by anybody famous, but by the “It” girls–the gorgeous, intelligent, popular ones who never really gave me much attention in high school. I followed them around with fairy dust in my eyes, amazed at their ability to attract men, be athletes, discuss intelligent topics, have fun, and still maintain incredibly high GPAs at a Seven Sister school. I relished every moment where they welcomed me in their orbit, never realizing that I served the role of kind, overweight, supportive friend/lackey who made them shine all the brighter because of how they were reflected in my eyes.

Can you find me in this house full of women?

However, even then I recognized that sometimes the relationship was uneven. A few of these women would come to me in times of strife; looking for a shoulder to cry on, a comforting word and sometimes even wise advice. They came to me when they were lonely and needed someone to fill up time, which I was always willing to do if I had a gap in my own (very busy) schedule.  However, when I struggled with my own issues and reached out in loneliness I got responses like”nobody wants to hang out with someone who is depressed all the time” or “I know it’s hard but let’s talk about me now” (of course I exaggerate, nobody used those exact words).

Needless to say, those friendships haven’t really survived the years. That time period also taught me to protect myself when it comes to friendship, which isn’t really a positive thing. I have a hard time making close friends sometimes, and I find it truly difficult to reach out to friends when I need help. I’m still always there for others, although I have begun to recognize when and how to set boundaries on my support.

I learned to depend on myself and to recognize my own strengths. I realized that part of the reason they came to me is that I have strong empathy and the ability to help. I pride myself in those skills, and often find myself in the position to help and encourage people who just need a non-judgmental ear. I admit that I love being able to help people.

And yet . . . there are some people in my life who still ask me to serve that role of supporting friend without reciprocating in a similar way. As I mentioned, I find it difficult to ask for help. But, in recent years, with a few people who have come to me when they’ve reached difficult challenges in their lives, I decided that maybe they could be there for m as well. Of course, not when they were in the middle of their dark struggles, but after I’d helped them through. I’d reach out a tentative hand, saying I could use some advice and support, only to be dismissed with “Not now” or “I know it’s hard but let’s talk about me.” 🙂

Do you see the trend?

Will I ever learn?

The answer to that is a resounding “YES!”

Yesterday my friend and creative partner from Kansas called me with exciting news. She also called to thank me for my (very small) role in helping her get to this exciting news.

Jackie and I inspired each other to create.

“I want to thank you by helping you with . . . ”

I don’t know if she realizes how much the reciprocity in our relationship means to me. We helped each other. She inspired me to create and get out of my own comfort zone. I’d like to think I challenged her to expand her own boundaries.

This is a friendship that will last through distance and time.

Last night one of my non-reciprocal friends reached out to me again, looking for a boost and support. I know that I won’t refuse. I’ll be there for her in her time of need but then . . .

I think I’ll reconnect with people who give as much as they receive.

Have you ever found yourself in an unbalanced relationship? What do you do?

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say or I’m Not That Stupid . . .

We live in a world where certain people thrive on the assumption that  everyone else is STUPID. Or at least many people act on the assumption that everyone else lacks in intelligence or the ability to think, recognize lies, or make wise decisions.

The current election season in America is evidence of that, since every campaign ad, debate, or whatever is filled with obfuscation, lies and wordplay to trick all the feeble-minded voters out there. I admit sometimes to feeling stupid when surrounded by the craziness because it is difficult to wade through the layers of lies and mis-directions to uncover the truth about issues, candidates or anything. That’s why all I can do is vote my conscience and vote based on my own understanding of the issues.

But this isn’t about the elections. The inspiration for this post came from my decision to clear out some spam comments on the blog this morning. We all get them, and it is pretty easy to recognize some of them: no real name, no picture, multiple links, repetitive address, on a post from way back etc. I admit, when I first began blogging, I fell for a couple of spam comments because I was simply so excited to be getting a comment on my posts.  However, after I started receiving real comments from real human beings, and interacting with those human beings in other ways, I began to think about spam comments and wonder–who are these people, what do they hope to achieve, and do they think I’m stupid?

This morning I discovered this comment in spam,

“I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

Now, this is one of those unusual comments which could trick you into believing that it is actually from a real person who  has something to say. It was on my most recent post. There are no links to unknown pages. And, although it doesn’t specifically address anything in my post, there’s nothing so random in it to suggest that it isn’t about that post. There is also a name attached to the comment (although only a first name). The sentence makes sense, and it even includes an emoticon.

However, I’m not STUPID. Let’s look at the above comment more closely, shall we? The language suggests an intimacy between me and the comment writer. “You deserve it my friend,” as if we have already had some kind of relationship building even if only through the blogosphere.

Now, it’s possible. I’ve made several friends through this blog. Some I’ve only interacted with through technology, some I have met in person. Some I talk to on Facebook on a regular basis. Some have faded away, but reappear at surprising times.

Meeting fellow bloggers Kathy McCullough and Tori Nelson. Picture borrowed from Kathy’s post about the experience. Click on the image to read that post.

Still, I will include them in my list of friends or at least acquaintances who I would like to get to know better.  I can say that the friendships I’ve formed through the blog have some similarities:

  • We may not agree on everything but we all respect each other’s opinions, ideas, and journey.
  • We show that respect by making thoughtful comments, giving constructive criticism, and occasionally sending virtual love and support to each other.
  • Most of them seem to say what they mean and mean what they say.
  • All of them recognize that sometimes people need space away from the blogosphere.
  • Each one of them is intelligent, creative, and challenges me to become a better writer, artist, and human being.

I could list them all here, but I think they know who they are.

These are people that I believe I would be friends with in person if we were near enough. I don’t always read their posts. They don’t always read mine. But, we read, respond, and react with thoughtfulness as true friends should.

A true friend of me and my blog would not include the not-so-subtle insult of the first part of this spam comment: “I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring. . . ” Nor would they try to grace me with the honor of ” I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist.”

Do me a favor, don’t bother.

I’m the first to admit that my posts aren’t always scintillating prose full of wit and wisdom. I welcome constructive criticism of my work. But, I would never tell a friend, a fellow blogger, or anyone else that I was bored by their writing (unless I was giving constructive criticism to a student, and I would never use the word “bored”). Nor would I become friends with someone who leaves comments like this.

Seriously, what do spammers hope to achieve and why do they think we are so stupid?

Learning to Love Yourself

I just found out that someone here really does not like me, and has warned her daughter to stay away from me.

I’ve never had this happen before. I mean, I’m sure people have not liked me, but I’ve never had children warned away from me.

Ever.

I think it comes from a moment last summer when I was walking the dogs with Sarah and this girl. They asked if they could hold the leashes and I let them. Then someone stopped to discuss something with me, and the girls got too far ahead. Some smaller dogs came out, my dogs got away, and chaos ensued.

So now, it seems, my dogs have been labeled as bad dogs and I am a bad, untrustworthy parent.

I know I made a mistake, but it was an accident. Or am I supposed to be perfect all the time?

Anyone who meets my dogs would know that they are sweet, gentle souls. They just have power and like chasing little critters. In other words, they are dogs.

Smiling puppies.

But this isn’t about my dogs. It’s about me.

I don’t like being disliked. It leads me down a dark path. I start searching for what I did wrong. I start blaming myself. I start disliking myself, because of course it must be my fault.

Even though I know that sometimes people simply do not connect, for reasons beyond understanding. In the same way, I know that sometimes the opposite can happen, when you meet someone and feel an instant connection with that person. Friendship forms in a few moments of time.

That just happened this past weekend too.

Kimberly, Harper and Sarah. New friendships formed in the car and in the pool.

Why can’t I focus on that rather than on the negative relationships? I think it stems from the insecurity I’ve faced all my life, when I’ve always felt like I was on the fringe of groups, never truly belonging. It stems from my struggle to not worry about how others view me. It stems from my inability to truly love myself.

I recognize that as a problem that I am slowly changing. It is not easy, but I will succeed.

Call me corny but today I need a little positive message from Whitney Houston (RIP).

A Story from the Heart, or The Writer I Want to Be

I’ve been doing A LOT of reading lately.

I’ve been reading books of all types and genres. Sometimes I read for escape, but more often than not I am reading to figure out who I am as a writer. One of the flaws of the course I am taking is that it will soon shift into focusing on how to market your book, instead of just on the writing of the book. This is great in the sense that I will have a complete package ready to send off to publishers or agents or  whoever I find the courage to send the book too, once it is finished. But, I find focusing on the market sometimes makes it harder for me to write.

What’s the use of writing if you only write to sell, rather than write to tell a story?

It’s no use marketing something if I cannot finish it.

My struggle lies in naming the genre of the book. I have called it fantasy, but it doesn’t fall into the land of fairies of  elves made famous by writers like Tolkien.  The book that to me has the closest relationship to the story I want to tell is The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood, so I guess you could call my project a dystopian novel or a work of speculative fiction, but that doesn’t cover the story either, or incorporate the “magical” elements. And I am not Margaret Atwood.

So I’ve been reading, searching for examples of what I am writing. In reality, I think, I’ve been searching for a reason to keep writing– evidence that the story I am telling might be interesting enough for someone to read.

I’ve figured out what my book is not. It is not a paranormal romance, although there is an element of paranormal in it and I’m not sure yet whether or not romance will play a role. It is not a literary novel, or at least not one that plays with language and focuses more on character than on plot, although I think I usually write more with character in mind. It is definitely not chick lit.

So what, exactly am a I trying to write?

I still don’t know. So I keep reading, trying to write, and searching for who I am as a writer.

This morning I finished a book that showed me who I want to be as a writer. Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock is is an emotional roller coaster. I cried off and on throughout, especially through the last few chapters. However, it was so beautifully written, and the characters were so interesting I enjoyed every moment of the emotional journey. Hancock writes with lyricism and brutal honesty. She writes a story from the heart, and that is what I love.

Here is the book description as found on Amazon.com:

“An unvarnished portrait of a marriage that is both ordinary and extraordinary, Dancing on Broken Glass takes readers on an unforgettable journey of the heart.

Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.

Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.”

The story carried me forward for a number of reasons:

  • Incredible writing that is beautiful, poignant, and honest.
  • Characters who felt real. Mickey’s voice, which we hear in the beginning of each chapter as well as at the end of the book, fascinated me, especially after reading some of the powerful posts Kathy has written over at reinventing the event horizon about her own journey dealing with being bipolar. Kathy has always amazed me, and somehow reading a story like hers in a fictionalized character just made me realize how incredible she truly is. I can say the same about the character of Lucy, the main voice of the story, whose journey made me think of another  amazing Cathie in my life, one who battled breast cancer while watching her daughter fight (and eventually succumb) to a rare form of stomach cancer. She is another woman who inspires me to live life fully because the future is uncertain. I was grateful to be reminded of her as I read the story of Lucy.
  • Although I knew I would cry, I loved the freedom of the tears. I really needed them

This book, combined with my recent reading of Gifts from the Seahave shown me who I would like to be as a writer. I want to write a story that touches people in many ways. I want a story that reminds people of their own lives, their own stories, their own dreams. I want to make people laugh, cry, scream, smile, or simply think. I want to write beautiful words full of meaning and emotion.

So that is the writer I want to be. The hard work will be getting there.

Kathy McCullough in her wonderful backyard, which she wrote about today (click the image to go to her post), when I met her last summer.

The other wonderful Cathie in my life. I stole this picture from Facebook.

In Absence: Wisdom Learned from the Gaps

When I was in college I had a crush on a girl.

No . . . not that kind of crush. 😉 I had a crush on a group of women who would have been the popular kids in high school–the girls with brains, beauty, and all the guys. Blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect bodies, but also intelligent. They would have been the presidents of their classes, or the head of important committees. They were the people who traveled in the center while I remained on the fringe.

I admit, in what I now perceive as pathetic puppydom, I clamored for the attention of all of them, but of one person in particular. She gave it to me, while trying encourage me to perfect myself–to lose weight, to be less shy, to exercise more, to take risks. I lapped up her attention like a dog eats treats. I was there for her when she needed a shoulder to cry on, or when a boyfriend broke up with her, even sometimes when she needed a little extra spending money.

Truly pathetic.

It’s only now, years later, that I am able to see through the blinders of who they were and the thrall they cast on me. I was willing to do anything to spend time with them, and I tried to improve myself to be worthy of their attention.

Of course, eventually someone would cut me down, telling me that nobody would really want to spend time with someone who was not confident or came of depressed a lot of the time. I was working on that, seeing a counselor, trying to become a better me-0 but now I realize that they, perhaps unintentionally, kept my doubts and dismay alive. By having someone like me follow them around, glorifying their existence, it made them shine all the brighter.

I wasn’t completely stupid. When they truly cut me apart I would say “I don’t need them.” I had other friends, I had the theatre, I had really difficult major and an extremely challenging school. I focused on work and projects, making sure I never ate at the same time as them and was always busy.

If I did that long enough they would come looking for me. She would come looking for me.

Many of them went to different programs during Junior year, but I didn’t for numerous reasons. That year I thrived, I expanded new (healthier) friendships, I grew in confidence.  When they returned they didn’t have me as completely ensnared any more. I didn’t need them as much. But She in particular, still needed me.

When a woman in a position of power started harassing Her in the hopes of forming a relationship, She would run to me for help. I gave her advice, I played the middle man to try to soothe tensions, I helped solve the problem.

I thought we were best friends, but learned the truth after college when She never kept in touch. She didn’t even invite me to her wedding, when she invited everyone else.

Sometimes that still hurts.

But, looking back on that time from so many years ago, I learned something important. I learned that in absence, I am strong. I grew in strength when I allowed myself time alone, time away, time absent.

I’ve never allowed myself to be sucked in by the sheen of popularity again. I built walls around myself, entering friendships cautiously and carefully, tired of being used and hurt.

Then I started blogging.

In this strange world of the blogosphere, friendships form on the basis of words. We can only trust our instincts and the words written by people to find and form connections. We never know if someone is representing themselves in complete honesty, or creating a character which they share on-line.

That hasn’t stopped me. I’ve tried to make connections anyway, meeting people, in a virtual sense, who fascinate me even if we don’t agree on everything. I’ve connected outside of the blogs as well, a couple of times in person, but mostly over e-mail and/or Facebook. I admit to being seduced by some of the glitter of the popular kids here, the ones who have followings well beyond mine and manage to maintain their momentum. I made efforts to connect with some of them, but only maintained those connections if I felt they were real.

But how does one know its real, unless you meet in person?

As you know, a few weeks ago I decided to take a little time off from the regular blogging. I needed to re-evaluate everything in my life. I am at a crossroads and have yet to decide which direction I am heading. So I’ve only written a few posts. I have read some (although I admit not many–I apologize if you feel neglected) and commented here and there.

As should be expected, my numbers dropped.  A part of me felt saddened by the drop, but recognized that people don’t have time to read through the archive of my work if I am not producing new works. My absence did not, does not, change the fabric of the blogosphere–and I should not expect it would.

However, the longer I didn’t write, the more I began to wonder if my blogging even mattered to any of the people I’ve met here.

I know the answer. A few people have dropped in for comments, or said hi on Facebook. A few people have reached out through e-mails. And yesterday, the fabulous Victoria from Victoria-writes reached out to me when she had a little Wobble starting with the words, “How are you? I miss your blog posts!”

Magic words that made me realize that I have indeed created friendships with my words.

I know that someday, perhaps far in the future but someday, I will take the trip to England that I have always wanted to take. I will wander into a lovely coffee shop with decadent pastries and I will meet my long-time friend and blogging buddy, Victoria.  She will, of course, by then be a famous author, but she will make time in her busy schedule to meet with me. Offer our delicious treats we will discuss the trials and tribulations of writing, as well as our lives and our families, and the other things that connect us. I can see it now, and it makes me smile.

Her note made me realize that despite distance, I still have wonderful friends out there. As I was typing this, I got a message from a college friend (not one of the golden girls, a true friend) asking if I would like to try to get together sometime (she lives about 1 1/2 hours from me).

In absence I am learning what kind of friends I really want, and really need. In silence I am slowly discovering where I want to take my life, even if I am still unclear of the path. In not writing, I am writing, as I find new ways to form my words and new reasons to write them.

I still have a long way to go, but I am no longer the girl blinded by blonde hair and fairy dust.

I am present in my absence.

I realize now I may never be the center of the popular crowd, but I am content on the fringe, with the small group of friends who support, question, challenge and inspire.

There are many of them.

A fabulous couple!

Hailing a Cab with Grace and Other Lessons Learned in a New York Minute

Yesterday I wrote about the fabulous and powerful arts experiences I had during my short trip to NYC, but I did not spend all of it in theatrical adventures. No, other experiences abounded, full of fun and learning in a world so very different from my own.

Lesson #1: Only crazy women wear heels in NYC. No offense to any women out there who may actually wander around in heels on a regular basis, but I think you are insane. I wore my black boots, because they are comfortable and I figured the heel (less than an inch I believe) wouldn’t be problematic. WRONG!!! By the end of the weekend my feet showed signs of blisters and I’m convinced that someone attached forty lb. weights to my legs.I am convinced that the only women who really wear them on a regular basis are the ones who have drivers to secretly pick them up a few blocks down the street after they make their legs make a stunning appearance.  On the plus side, when I put my jeans on to return home on Sunday,  they seemed to fit better than they have in a long while. Actually, they were a little big.

Lesson #2: How to Hail a Cab Gracefully. Lesson # 2 is a direct result of lesson #1.  After a day of walking in my boots, plus a few other twists and turns that added complexity (listed below) we decided that perhaps it would be wise to take a taxi to the performance on Saturday night, as the nearest subway stop to the venue would require about 10-15 minutes of walking afterward. I hobbled out of Christen’s apartment ahead of her, while she finished getting ready, so that I could slowly make my way to the next main street where we would hopefully find a taxi. I paused long enough to take a lovely photo outside her apartment (her street is absolutely gorgeous). “If I’m brave enough,” I said. “I’ll try to get a cab.”   “No, don’t! They won’t wait for me.” I listened, but I watched for her, she was just down the street and said, “if you see one, you can get one now.” I turned, I saw a cab, I gracefully raised two fingers and Voila! No jumping around like a maniac waving at every passing vehicle, just a flick of the wrist and success! 😀

The street outside Christen’s place.

Lesson #3: Mani/Pedis You Can Afford. Christen and I talked about living in New York. “The main expense,” she told me, “is rent and transportation like train passes and things. But those are still cheaper than owning a car. Food can be inexpensive, even eating out, because they all compete with each other. Same thing with Mani/Pedis and Laundry.”  She had taken me to her favorite place for a Mani/Pedi, which was inexpensive enough to allow me to add on a 10 minute massage. What a special treat.

Horrifying evidence of my day of decadence.

Lesson #4: Sometimes Giving Up Gives You a New Perspective. When I woke up on Saturday morning early enough to write my Morning Pages before we had to get to Penn Station for the train to Newark in time for Christen’s 9am class, I discovered that I could not find my glasses. They were simply gone. Blaming it on either her cats or the poltergeist that occasionally (supposedly) haunts her kitchen, I searched frantically but had to give up in the name of time. So, I spent most of the day Saturday wandering through a blurry universe, the world unclear like swimming under water.  This added to the complexity of the day, including making it impossible to add a facial into the decadence (no worries, we took care of that in a different way, as you shall see below) because we had to find the glasses before the performance that night.  We tore her apartment apart, looking everywhere including places I hadn’t been. Nothing. Nada! I started thinking about, how I could get an emergency eye doctor appointment when I didn’t even have  a doctor yet, Christen was in the process of giving up and feeling horrible about it. “I FOUND THEM!!!” she yelled. Somehow they had fallen into the mechanism of the pull out bed, and gotten caught within the spring. They moved when the bed moved, and they were dark enough to blend in. However, by giving u,p Christen somehow was able to see them more clearly. Message from the universe perhaps? Sometimes you just have to let go to find your way.

I look strange teaching without glasses. I used to wear contacts, but I have become accustomed to my new look.

Lesson #5: Girlfriends and Zombies are the Best. Following the NYU performance with the world’s creepiest zombie, I went out with two lovely ladies for drinks. While there, one of those lovely ladies shared some news that just makes me giggle and feel very, very happy. I also felt really honored to be blessed with their friendship.  Not to be outdone, the next night Christen and I felt the need to continue the girl talk after seeing Hedda. Since we had not been able to squeeze a facial in that day, we did our own, and managed to recreate the zombie effect in elegant style.

Lovely, aren't we?

Lesson #6: Groupons and Saturday Brunch are the Best!

Enough said.

There you have it. My adventures in the Big City.

What lessons have you learned in your travels?

Lisa Head’s to the Big City, A Rebus

Tomorrow I will get on a 

and head back to

I will meet my friend

who is beautiful inside and out.

teaches for

and asked me to come be a guest lecturer in her class.

What that really means is that I will be my normal, goofy self.

I hope she knows what to expect.

In addition to the

(where the students will be much older)

I get to enjoy a girl’s weekend in

which will include:

and

although I’m sure nothing will make me look as beautiful as

We will also attend a performance of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HEDDA GABLER at

which I am very excited about.

According to

there are more adventures in store as well.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days,

Just know that I am out and about with a huge

on my face.

The Mysterious Stranger

I hesitated as I opened the door to the dimly lit coffee house, tucked in the basement of a building that showed the age and beauty of centuries. Would I come out of this meeting alive? Would I be able to get the information I so desperately needed without revealing too much to this mysterious person known in spy circles only as The Brave One.

I blinked, hoping my eyes would adjust to the dark interior. Despite the ban on smoking, the atmosphere felt thick with redolent smoke of mysterious meetings from long ago. This place had always been a location for secret trysts and rendezvous, for sharing information that can only be whispered in safe ears.

It had not changed. Lit only by a series of beautiful ceiling lamps that illuminated their intricate designs and dangling jewels more than the room or the people, one would only be able to see one’s immediate neighbors in booths built with high backs  at angles that you had to make an effort to see anyone else in this tiny space. It was built to keep secrets safe.

I followed instructions, heading to the back in a dark corner tucked away for extra protection. I checked my hidden pocket for my extra protection, not knowing what I would find. Nobody would ever revealed any information about The Brave One, so I did not know what to expect. Anyone who would have given even a hint at who The Brave One was, disappeared never to be heard from again.

I admit, I was afraid. But the information I needed was too important.

The light hanging over The Brave One’s booth was different from the others. The delicate beauty of the other fixtures added a touch of romance to the scene, however this light spoke only of danger, of sharp knives, of death.

Despite the small space, the distance between the door and that mysterious booth seemed to grow longer, as fear weighed down my footsteps. Finally, however, I reached the gaping maw of the booth, and fell under the feeble circle of doomed light, only to discover . . . 

LOL, I can’t go on. This little jaunt into spy/action fiction is brought to you by the fact that I met the fabulous Dory from If I Were Brave yesterday for lunch, and neither of us turned out to be psycho killers. Following a great discussion, we moved over to an adorable coffee shop/bar (that is not in the basement of an old building) that had this incredible light fixtures hanging all around.

“How would you even begin to describe those?” Dory asked.

“I have no idea,” I said. “But we should try.” Now obviously, I could not describe them with any specific detail, but they did suggest an atmosphere of sorts, leading to this little foray into silliness.

Silly things happen when blogging buddies meet.

Creating Friendship in a 21st Century World

Gone are the days when making friends was as easy as walking into a classroom at school. Even for someone like myself, who is basically shy, I was bound to connect with one or two people and be able to call them friends.

Gone are the days of walking out the door, jumping on a bicycle and finding the gathering of neighborhood kids to play with.  Some of them I even called friends.

I know those neighborhoods still exist, but not where I live, and some of the freedom of those days has disappeared in a world where people seem to see a child molester around every corner. We often hole up in our homes, barely knowing our neighbors, and certainly not inviting them in for a cup of tea.

As an adult, it seems to becoming even more difficult to make friends. Sure, there is the instant camaraderie formed by people in work places, especially when you have interests in common. But what happens when you don’t have an office? What happens to people, like myself, who work on a project by project basis, or are only there one day a week, so don’t intermingle with office politics/celebrations/meetings?

Well, there’s always the PTO for parents. Or perhaps joining a gym or volunteering for an organization. Great places to meet people and make friends, right? Maybe, but I think even that has changed recently. Too often people have their own agendas for these types of activities, and there is really no way in the midst of planning, organizing, campaigning, and focusing on our own health to allow time to simply get to know each other. There is no time to make friends.

We have learned to hide behind our busy schedules and technology.

Yesterday, Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way wrote a post called “Disconnected Connections & Distractions” which, in addition to a few events this week, got me thinking about this topic. How and where do we make friends in the 21st century.

Last Tuesday I went to someone’s house for a cup of tea.

Shocking, isn’t it?

We had a lovely conversation, which turned into a light lunch before I headed back to do some more writing before Sarah got home.   Nothing strange about this scenario, right?

“I’ve never met someone this way,” my new friend said. “You know, where we just chatted for a minute at a coffee shop and now you came over my house. I was wondering if you left my address by the phone in case you disappeared today.  I mean, you don’t know me and basically came to a strangers house.”  We both laughed, but I admit that as I was driving to her house I had a moment of doubt . . . what am I driving to, I asked myself?

We have become a society of distrust, and that’s sad.

Before Christmas, I met another woman with whom I felt an instant connection. We started chatting as we dropped our daughters off at their musical theatre class, and I got the courage up to see if she had time for a cup of coffee. We went to the nearest coffee shop, and talked for almost an hour and  a half, until it was time to pick the kids up again. Great, I thought to myself, I’ve made a new friend.

We saw each other again briefly the next week at the musical theatre performance. Everything seemed great, and I thought, there’s a couple that we could become good friends with.

After the holidays, I sent an e-mail to her (she had given me her card when we first met) explaining that I was about to head to Slovakia but would love to meet up when I returned.

Her response? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

A few weeks back I read the “Candle Lighter Award” at If I Were Brave’s blog, and Dory gave me the courage to try a second e-mail. Maybe the first got spammed, I thought to myself. So I wrote a second one, cautious with my wording so I wouldn’t come off like a stalker:

“I just thought I would drop a note and say hello, as I haven’t seen you at the Music Theatre drop off. If you ever feel like meeting up for lunch or coffee sometime, let me know.”

Again the response was nothing, nada, zip, zilch.

I gave up.

Yesterday, at the drop off, just as I was about to leave she and her daughter come swooping in. “Hi!” she says, a huge smile on her face. “Hold on a second while I get her in.”  She says goodbye to her daughter and turns to me, “I’m sorry I never got back to your e-mails, I’ve just been swamped . . . ”

“That’s ok,” I said. “I just figured you thought I was a crazy stalker.”

“No, of course not . . .” and the conversation went on from there.

We didn’t extend the conversation for coffee as she had errands to run, but we did leave open the possibility of meeting up sometime next week (school vacation) or at least starting on Thursday’s when classes meet up again.

All this is a roundabout way to getting to my point. We are instantly connected with so many people now, through technology that we can even carry in our pockets. Yet, somehow that technology has made making friends more of a challenge. We  are surrounded daily by threatening stories, that terrify us as we cocoon ourselves behind the four walls of our safety zones. We have lost the ability to trust each other, and to simply say I want to get to know you better without the feeling that somehow we are invading someone’s privacy.

We hide behind the safety of communicating in our own time. We respond to questions when it suits our needs. We read at our leisure, carefully crafting comments before we hit send.

While I feel like I have made friends through blogging, I am still cautious about extending the “let’s meet in person” invitation. I remember my heart beating quickly with nerves as I was about to meet Kathy from Reinventing the Event Horizons. I was honestly scared that she would think I was some kind of freak. But why should I feel that way? We already knew each other through pictures and words. We already knew each other through technology.

My fear stemmed from my general shyness, and a protective wall I’ve built around myself after being burned one to many times in friendship. But it also came from a pervasive loss that exists in our society–a loss stemming from continuous hiding behind technology. We have lost the ability to make friends simply by saying hello. We have lost the ability to trust. We have lost the idea that most people are good at heart.

We have become a society of lonely people.

I think that’s sad.

What do you think?

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