Someone I used to know

A few months back I was accused, by someone I considered a dear friend, of doing something I didn’t do. At the time, I was furious. How could someone who knows me so well really think I would do such a thing? I pushed back and then I let it go, figuring it would blow over, as most things do when you know someone as long as we have.

Then as I was going through the final Christmas cards I realized this person cut me from her Christmas card list, didn’t wish me a happy birthday and a few other random things which in isolation are all relatively small. However, taken in light of her accusation really annoyed me.

Then I got to thinking about all of the other times, she has accused me of doing something I haven’t done. Times which she doesn’t even know I know about and a pattern of passive/aggressiveness appeared. Have I really just accepted this for 20 plus years? How have I never noticed this? The more I thought, the angrier I got. The angrier I got the more I realized this wasn’t friendship, this was just someone I used to know.

In the time we have known one another she has asked a boyfriend to try to seduce me to test our friendship (she doesn’t know I know this). Backed out of being my maid of honor, skipped my wedding altogether and now accused me of trying to seduce her husband. A husband, I might add, I introduced her to who is also one of my closest friends. When my son was going through a series of very serious surgeries, she didn’t even acknowledge it was happening until I snapped on social media and called her out on it (not my finest hour I admit but I was stupidly stressed).

During that same time, I helped her recognize she had a serious health disorder and found the treatment facility that saved her life. Introduced her to her husband. Have dropped everything in my life to be there when she needed me. Flew home from a business trip, drove 8 hours, one way, to attend and read in her father’s funeral.

I’ve never been one of those people who measure what I do for friends. Over the course of a long friendship there is a natural ebb and flow, give and take. With really good friendships, you don’t notice inequities. You simply understand you need to be there for your friends. You stand up, show up and put up, confident in the knowledge  your “friend” will do the same.

But what happens when the person you thought was your friend doesn’t reciprocate? The answer, at least for me, is simple. They cease being your friend and simply become someone I used to know. It was a hard decision and I might eventually regret it. However, other friends fill the void. Friends who have proven they are there when I need them. Be it with a kind word, a swift kick in the pants or a hug when I didn’t even know I needed one.

So for my good friends who have lifted me up and been lifted up by me I offer this prayer

May God give you for every storm, a rainbow

For every tear, a smile

And a blessing in each trial

For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share

For every sigh, a sweet song

And an answer for each prayer

For all of those others, the ones who want the value of friendship without the cost, here is your prayer.

May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your crotch

And may your arms be too short to scratch

I never said I wasn’t a vengeful bitch…


Last confessions

Probably seems like an odd title for a Christmas post. Except this is a different Christmas, at least for me. This Christmas is the last I will spend with one of my dearest friends. Today he oversaw what will likely be his last mass as a priest. As of midnight tonight, he is technically on sabbatical.

A sabbatical from which he will likely not return. He’s lost his faith or at least his faith in the church. Driven away by politics which have less to do with faith and more to do with petty people trying to protect their fiefdoms. I know some of the people who have driven him away, would have gone so far as to call a few of them friends. Knowing all of the details, I now struggle with calling them friends. I know I will find it hard to be polite to them, to socialize with them.

Tonight as we finally chased the last of the guests from the house we talked about it over a delicious bottle of wine. He is at peace with it all, happy to start the next phase of his life. I am less peaceful about it. I am resentful, angry, annoyed, pissed, lost.

I should back up a bit and tell you about Patrick. I’ve known him for 24 years. This is the third time he’s been my priest in those years. We became fast friends the first moment we met. My charming, tall, dark, blue-eyed Irishman with the musical accent which has never softened. I have often wondered if in another time and place we might have been destined to be together. However, this isn’t one of those stories. We’ve never been anything but friends, now more brother and sister.

It’s been lovely having him here the past 7 years. It seems he’s been here for all of the milestones in my life. He’s heard my confessions, talked me through my own crises of faith, prayed with me and for me when I’ve needed it most. Laughed with and at me as only someone who truly knows you can. I like to to believe I have done much the same for him. That this hasn’t been a one-sided relationship, that I have given as much as I have gotten. He sustains me in a way others don’t. I will miss that most of all.

Wednesday I said my last confession to him. Today I attended his last mass. He will spend the night here tonight and late tomorrow afternoon I will take him to the airport. You see, not only is he leaving the church, he’s going home to Ireland, 4,463 miles (give or take) away.

I’ve known for awhile. I haven’t dealt with it yet. I will wait until he’s safely on the plane and then I will start dealing (read crying). Come Sunday when I head to church will be the first hurdle. How will I handle not seeing him? I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out Sunday.

Ireland isn’t so far away and I will see him this summer. The miracle of modern technology means he is never more than a skype call away (time zones be damned). It’s not the same but real friendship doesn’t require proximity. When it’s real it will evolve, deepen despite geography. I look forward to our next chapter, to sustaining the relationship which has come to mean so very much to me. I have faith.

Talk or distract

The three most powerful words in the English language when spoken by someone who knows you better than you know yourself. This morning my dear friend Amy used those on me. We were Skype walking (it’s a thing) and within 10 words she knew I was at loose ends. So with no preamble she spoke those words…talk or distract.

I should back up and explain. I haven’t had the best last few weeks. Things have been slightly out of control, nothing I will get into just suffice it to say it’s been sucko. The average person who knows me wouldn’t guess it. I have smiled, been sociable, supportive to my family & friends. To all outward appearances I have been normal.

Underneath it all, however, I have been a mass of seething insecurity. It bubbled out here and there but mostly I have kept it under wraps. So how does someone who lives 6,000 miles away know after 10 words I am a hot mess hanging by a thread? She’s Amy, that’s how. Perhaps it was a quiver in my voice, a forced frivolity I didn’t really feel, who knows. She just knew there was only thing she needed to do. Make me talk or distract me with the inanities of her recent move to the UK.

This morning I opted for a talk. I don’t always but today I needed it. She listened for 20 minutes as I poured out all of the things which had happened in the last 3 weeks. Then at the end when I was breathless not from my walk but from the expending of pent up emotion she made me laugh. She didn’t solve my problems (well one she did) but she did make me look at them in a different light. It’s not something just anyone can do. It takes a special sort of friend.

Since the moment we met 8 years ago, Amy has always been that person for me and vice versa. We rarely need to say what’s going on, we intuit it. It was even what prompted her to call me this morning. She said she just felt I needed her. She was right.

It’s that connection which has led us to travel the continent (when she lived in the states) to see each other. At least three times a year we ran away together. Usually it was some amazing destination where there were plentiful drinks, amazing food and lots of spa treatments. One time it was to Myrtle Beach (yes the redneck riviera). I’m not casting aspersions but when the world is your oyster and your BFF says we are going to Myrtle Beach you stop and say Talk or Distract. When she says she just broke up with her significant other of 8 years you book 2 tickets and don’t look back.

It was one of our best getaways. We drank too much, ate too much, went parasailing, shopped, spent too much time in the sun, flirted inappropriately (only me as I am married but we didn’t pay for a single drink that night) and bought a snow globe. The snow globe was the entire point of the trip. Amy collects them from places she has lived. She didn’t have one from Myrtle Beach and needed one. The last night, in the dark, in our hotel room, she finally told me about the ending. She cried, I cried and all was right with the world.

This morning, as I walked along the trail in north Texas and she walked along the Thames, we talked. I had distracted myself long enough and it was time to let go. Amy was there to catch me and put me back together. By the end of the call (and walk) we were planning our next great adventure in London, safe in the knowledge that not even an ocean could keep us apart.

Funeral pacts and other thoughts…

This week my dear friend Mary Elizabeth (names have been changed to protect the guilty) had a fairly serious surgery. I won’t go into the details because it is her story to tell. I will just say that it struck fear in my heart. I’m not ready to lose another old friend (not that we are old mind – I am referencing the length of the friendship). She was in my prayers several times a day for the past few weeks. My mind wandered to her and her family more times than I care to admit.

The good news, she made it through the surgery with flying colors. Mary Katherine and I stalked her husband for two days for even the smallest of details. Finally on Wednesday she popped up in our always open private chat box with a smart-assed comment about something another person we all know had shared and we knew that our beautiful Mary Elizabeth was going to be just fine.

I am not a crier by nature but tears filled my eyes. She was back and sassier than ever. Filling us in on the details I think Mary Katherine and I realized how close we came to losing her. It was humbling, frightening and so many other adjectives I can’t possibly think of at the moment.

As typical with Mary Elizabeth she downplayed the seriousness of the actual event and played up the yumminess of the popsicle she’d just eaten (I believe foodgasm might have been used). Two days post surgery she was already talking about going home. She had all of her family whipping the house into shape in preparation for her return. All Mary Katherine and I could do was smile. We had our friend back. The funeral pact could be put to rest (hopefully for a long time).

Now you might think it odd we have such a thing (odd, morbid, tomato tomahto…). However, we each have definite ideas on how we want to leave this world. And while we love our families and significant others to bits, we’re not really sure that we trust them to honor our wishes. Thus, the funeral pact…

Mary Elizabeth, our quintessential southern belle, wants a big splashy funeral. She wants, and I quote, “to look just like a drag queen.” She wants her boobs high and on display. This day is about her and damn well she is going to look fantastic. I envision something like the “Sweet Potato Queens” gowns. Big hair, big boobs, lots of makeup. (If you haven’t read those books do yourself a favor they are spectacular – and I don’t just say that because the author is a friend. Mary Elizabeth is a benevolent queen so she will (most likely) let us pick our own colors (for our gowns) but hers will have to be the nicest. That’s what Mary Katherine and I have solemnly promised. To make sure whoever does her makeup and hair knows that MORE is MORE and it is good.

Mary Katherine has been the quietest about her funeral. She does want her boobs high on display. But more importantly, she wants to make sure her hair looks good. She is (I say blessed she says cursed) with gorgeous curly hair. I have promised to find whatever product Alex Kingston uses and use it on her hair so that it looks that good at her funeral. Beyond that, good booze, good food and good friends. Luckily Mary Elizabeth and I are excellent cooks so if we cater we can promise that. We also promise to keep all “Shit” cakes away (that’s an inside joke that I likely won’t ever explain but they get it.)

My funeral won’t be a funeral. I DO NOT WANT ONE. Not because I think I will live forever I simply don’t want one. I don’t want any maudlin music or even a church service (yes I am Catholic and quite devout), I just don’t care for funerals. I want a wake but a small one. I plan on being cremated. I want a few of my closest friends (Mary Elizabeth & Mary Katherine know who) to fly off to some fantastic location (Beach preferable – the Napali Coast comes to mind) and as the sun sets they are to crack the seal on a brand new bottle of Jameson’s, take a shot and scatter me to the four winds. Music is optional but it better be something upbeat (Baby Got Back or Anaconda comes to mind).

These are the promises we’ve made to one another. Perhaps we are morbid for having these conversations. I think it is more about old friends that have no boundaries. A bonus for being in on the funeral pact, if I go first whoever gets to my house and wipes my browser history clean gets my Coach purse collection. I hope they don’t kill me…

30 plus years…

“It’s amazing the connections we make with people we have known for 30 plus years”

I typed this earlier today in a private chat. I won’t comment on who it was with (they know who they are). At first I had a moment of panic as I realized I typed 30 PLUS years. How is it feasibly possible that I am old enough to type this? Both ladies promptly forgave me for the horrible breach in etiquette of bringing up time. Because it’s what you do when you have known someone as long as we’ve known one another. You forgive each other most anything.

Then as I thought more I was perplexed. Why shouldn’t I type 30 plus years? I am damn proud of those 30 years. And I am even prouder of these two ladies.

I’ve known these 2 particular ladies for 30 plus years but in the past two years we have become so much closer and I can’t imagine a day when I don’t chat with them in some form or fashion. These ladies make me laugh, inspire me, cry with me and keep me honest. They don’t hesitate to call me out on my shit and tell me when I am being a supreme bitch (although honestly, we take that as a compliment).

We don’t live near one another so our support is virtual. But somehow I am certain if I needed one or both of them they would move heaven and earth to get to me. I feel the same about them. We each come at life slightly differently. On paper our view points probably shouldn’t work. But somehow it does. It has created a magical connection that only took us 30 plus years to get to.

Today during our seemingly endless chat about everything and nothing we realized that we each fit one of the Steel Magnolias characters (I should mention we are southern so we identify better with that movie than Sex in the City). To protect the innocent I am changing names, our new names will be Mary Elizabeth, Mary Katherine and Mary Margaret. (Writer’s note – I am catholic and grew up with 11 different Mary somethings. I could have chosen Angie because we went to school with 8 Angie’s.)

In our little circle Mary Elizabeth is always M’Lynn. She is our rock. Mary Elizabeth is by far the kindest of the three and genuinely one of the most gracious people I know. She softens the two of us, makes us kinder, more compassionate. However, don’t let her kind, southern exterior fool you. She is fierce and will slap you into shape in a heartbeat if you dare place one toe out of line. She both frightens and thrills me. I am constantly in awe of how she keeps all of the balls in the air, even those she occasionally flings at a wayward child or friend to get them back on the straight and narrow.

Mary Katherine is equal parts Ouiser and Annelle. She constantly reminds me that getting back up is the strongest trait a person can have. The fact that she has done it with a smile, a quick wit and more grace than any single person should have is even more amazing. She is loyal, supportive and always ready to make you laugh – sometimes at her and sometimes at yourself. She calls it exactly like she sees it. I’ve no doubt she will be that old southern woman growing things she doesn’t eat in the dirt because that’s the way of the world. She has made me laugh when I’ve felt like crying more times that I can count. It is a rare gift which she has in abundance.

That makes me Mary Margaret. Mary Elizabeth & Mary Katherine will tell you that I am part Ouiser, part Truvy (really just the rack part) and part Clairee. I’m not sure it’s close to accurate (well the rack part is). What I do know is that I am truly honored to have these very special ladies as a part of my life. I know when I have some random off the wall thought, comment, idea, murderous moment they will be there. They will listen, perhaps laugh, most likely mock but never judge. They will pick me up when I am having my rare dark days. make me laugh at something truly inane (like when Mary Katherine was dive bombed by a bird today) and make me feel accepted.

We’ve known each other since middle school. I can’t honestly remember if we were all that close back then. I suspect like all teenagers those connections were tenuous based upon what boy we liked at the moment. However, somehow as adults they have become my touch points, my true north as it were.

Thank you seems too little to tell these wonderful women. The best I can hope for is another 30 plus years (Remind me one day to tell you about our funeral pacts). It’s the only way I can think to pay them back for all they have given me. In the immortal words of Clairee, “I love you more than my luggage.” Except in my case it would be my Coach purses.

Online friendships aren’t real…right?

My husband is not the most social creature on the planet. Oh he’s nice and polite and people love him. But left to his own devices he would watch a lot of baseball, football, basketball (do you see a theme developing here) and see a lot less of people. I am the social butterfly in our relationship. All of our friends were my friends that became his friends. In the 16 years we have been together not one set of our friends has started with him.

Now don’t get me wrong, he has friends, even a few friends that have nothing to do with me. It’s just they all date to kindergarten and often involve stories that start with eating paste. So often he smiles indulgently when I talk about this friend or that friend. He rarely questions how I meet people because I meet so many people for work. But every so often, usually when he hears a name too frequently, he will stop, give me “the look” and ask “How do you know this person?”

For years the answer was generally work or at a conference or through tennis or charities that I work with. Lately, however, the answer has been online. After the third or fourth time this happened he looked at me oddly and asked “So you haven’t actually met this person?” My answer was simple, not in person but I know them. Again, I got the look and a declaration, “Online friendships aren’t real.” He says this with all seriousness as if it is a pronouncement from on high.

At the time, I ignored him and went my merry way. However, as often happens with me, several days later my internal DVR rewound the question and I reflected on it. Are online friends real? Could he be right (perish the thought)? Are these connections I have made online somehow false? I put the thought away, filed in my mind under “conversations with myself for another day.”

For several weeks those questions stayed safely tucked in that internal file cabinet. Then one day while out for my morning run my brain, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided to have a conversation with itself. Today’s topic: are online friends real? This is sort of how it went:

What about all of those people you chat with on twitter? You know the ones you share inappropriate crushes with that your IRL friends wouldn’t quite understand. Are they friends?

Well those are twitter friends, it’s a public forum I don’t really know all that much about them. And I don’t put personal details on twitter. I don’t put the kidlet on there or the current legal spouse’s name. And that says something because CLSs name would go over big on twitter. So I guess they fall under the category acquaintances.

What about the ones you connected with on Facebook?

Well those are ones that are closer to the inner circle. I might like to go to dinner with those people if we lived in the same town, maybe have a drink or two, ok maybe 10.

Really, so what about the one’s you PM with or the ones who have your mobile number and you text with or even chat with?

Well maybe they are friend friends, so I guess they fall under a different category.

And what about those that you chat with everyday, all day?

Hey, whose side are you on anyway?

I’m your brain so I guess I’m on your side.

The conversation continued for a bit longer and here is where my brain and I ended. Online friendships are real. In an ever changing world that gets smaller even as I type this, the way we define friends and friendship is constantly evolving.

I am blessed to have people in my life that I have known since birth. Friends that I have made at every stage of my life. But lately, I am even more blessed to have made rewarding and enriching connections with people online. Those friendships started from a random tweet while at a play in London, from a mutual love of a certain dark haired actor (who shall remain nameless) to a love of running (OK not so much love for me but a necessity). But regardless of how they started, these friendships make me laugh out loud (daily most times), make me cry, make me think, make me feel every range of emotion known to man. We celebrate each other’s small victories, bust our metaphorical balls when we do something truly stupid, share our stories, encourage and lift each other up. How is that not friendship?

While I acknowledge the whimsical nature of online friendships, I am equally certain that one or two (maybe even three or four) of these ladies will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I won’t call them out because they know who they are. Eventually I will meet them IRL. If I’m lucky they won’t be serial killers. If I’m really lucky they will be even more spectacular in person. Fingers crossed!

Feeling Lost

There are dates that stand out for each person. Universal dates that connect us as a people and personal dates that define us as a person. Some of those dates are good and some are irretrievably sad.

Generally these dates are parsed across a lifetime so the good ones far outweigh the bad. Across the 40 odd years that I have walked this planet I have been blessed to have more of the good dates than the bad. And as a general rule when those bad ones come around I have the memory of lovely days to banish those dark thoughts.Then August rolls around and no amount of good days can banish the bad thoughts.

August hasn’t always been a bad month. As a child, it was the month where I got to get new school supplies and then start all new classes with new teachers (yes I was that geek that liked school). Later in life it just became a neutral month. Then when I was 21 my favorite grandparent, my amazing grandfather, the man I worshiped and adored passed away unexpectedly. My anchor was gone.

He was my everything to me, more of a father in many ways than my own father. He was the person I ran to when my engagement fell apart five months earlier. I cried on his shoulder as he assured me that I would fall in love again. He was gone. I remember calling my best friend, Fred, and telling him. He dropped everything to drive me the 100 miles north to attend the funeral.

He stood by my side at the wake and the funeral. He watched me as I stoically greeted all of the friends, colleagues and family over the next few days. He covered for me when the afternoon of the wake I disappeared with my godfather and my grandfather’s other closest friends to the nearest bar to knock back shots of Jameson’s. He made sure that I didn’t slap the crap out of my two younger cousins who made complete asses of themselves at the wake, rosary, mass and grave side service.

After it was all over and we went back to the hotel, he held me as I finally broke down and all of the stress of the days prior brought me to my knees. He carefully put the pieces back together and kept my family at bay until I was ready to stand up and face them. It wasn’t the first time he put me back together and it wouldn’t be the last.

Over the next eight years Fred and I would bounce back and forth in each other’s lives. We were briefly engaged, we were best friends and then we weren’t. I ran away in search of a new life and eventually met my husband and moved on. Fred and I stayed friends, best friends. I got married, had a kid and moved several times.

Fred worked hard, moved several times, dated a few people and eventually opened his own company. He moved back to New Orleans and made a life of his own. Throughout it all, we talked regularly, we emailed even more regularly and we still saw each other frequently.

Then my marriage hit a very rough patch. Call it the seven year itch come early or growing pains or two very different people who gave up, whatever it was it led to a separation and an eventual divorce. Once again Fred was there to pick up the pieces.

Suddenly the man who had been my best friend for all of my adult life was also the love of my life. I didn’t know how I had never seen it before. Why had I pushed so hard against this? It didn’t matter, it was here now and I planned on grabbing it with both hands.

Plans were made, furniture and clothes were moved, papers were drawn, schools were selected. We decided to take a vacation to the Keys to celebrate. We spent a glorious week in a private home on a private key. We had to take a boat to get to our island hideaway. If we didn’t want to see other people we didn’t. We swam in the ocean, talked, planned.

On August 23, 2005 we drove back to Miami and separated at the airport. I was off to Orlando on business and he was headed back to New Orleans. I remember laughing as he begged me to blow off my meetings and fly home to New Orleans with him. I kissed him reminding him  I would see him in five short days. I was supposed to fly back to Dallas on Friday and drive to New Orleans on Sunday. That was the plan, we had a plan.

Sunday morning, we talked and decided  I would delay my trip. His family (parents, brother, sister in law and nieces) was evacuating but he was going to stay. I argued with him and begged him to evacuate and come to Dallas or go north to my parents but he resisted.

August 29th rolled around and one of the largest storms ever to hit the Gulf of Mexico hit New Orleans. Every fail safe the city had failed. Storm surge hit the city devastating it. We were fortunate. Our home sustained minimal damage. I spoke with Fred on Wednesday and everything was OK. He was safe, the house, his parent’s house and his brother’s house were all fine.

He had no idea when he would be able to get out of the city or when we would be able to get into the city. Cell service was sketchy and we knew it would be hard to stay in touch. But I knew he was safe and it was all that mattered. I didn’t know it was the last time I would speak to him.

Eight days later his father called. No one had heard from Fred since the Wednesday I had spoken to him. They’d finally made it into the city and to the house. There wasn’t a happy ending to that day. No killer was ever found nor will they likely ever be. In the space of a single phone call my life was irrevocably changed.

For the second time in my life my touchstone was gone. I couldn’t cope, didn’t know how to move on. It took six months to put all of the pieces back together. There are things I still struggle with and things I still can’t face. Nine years later I enter August hopeful  this will be the year I make it through the month without a meltdown or some melancholic moment that drops me to my knees.

It doesn’t look like this year will be that year. Today it all hit me. Suddenly in the middle of a completely innocuous online conversation something random struck me the wrong way. I was shattered. I sat in my office crying, ugly, wracking sobs.

I had the sense of mind to close my office door so the kidlet wouldn’t hear my anguish. My husband (yes the same one from earlier in the story) came home and knew instantly what had happened. He’s been through this before so he knew what to do.

Half an hour later he had me smiling, then laughing. He got me fed and partially sedated and then he put me to bed with my laptop with strict orders to write about it. So here I am writing about it. I haven’t decided if I will actually hit the publish button. This might just be one of those I write, save and never publish.

The one piece of advice my husband gave me was to think about a few happy days to remember. I was free to languish in the grief but only if I could find five happy things to reflect on. So here goes,

  • The day I met Fred (which was also in August). He was gorgeous and funny and took my breath away. I ended up going out with someone else I met just before I met him. But on that day a friendship started which helped shape who I am as an adult. He truly made me a better person.
  • An ill advised midnight water skiing trip. I won’t say how much alcohol was involved but I am certain it’s proof angels watch out for stupid people.
  • A ski trip to Tahoe where I dislocated my shoulder on the last run before we left. I spent the flight home high as a kite and Fred got to cut me out of my shirt in the middle of DFW.
  • December 31, 1997 standing on the back of a riverboat in the middle of the Mississippi watching fireworks explode all around us as he asked me to marry him. It didn’t work out but it was a beautiful moment.
  • Paris, May of 2005. Fred joined me on a trip and we had a lovely long weekend in the city of lights.

Those are five memories of Fred that make me smile. Technically I have met the quota my husband set for me. But I’m a bit of a rule breaker so I have to add one more. I am blessed with an amazing husband who helped put the pieces back together. Each August when the pain overtakes me, he is strong enough to know it is not about him or our relationship. He picks up the pieces and helps me find my balance again. That is the best sort of happily ever after.

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