Tag Archives: friendship

Can Wendy Whiner Change Her Ways?

 

I take great pride in my ability to worry. To dread events that have or have not (yet) happened. But unnamed others in my personal sphere have a different view:

As in their comments that I may occasionally resemble one of the following:

  • “Wendy Whiner” (SEE: the sketch character by that name on “Saturday Night Live” in the early 1980’s.)
  • “Debbie Downer” (SEE: due to my hyper-knowledge of every local, regional and world crisis or catastrophe, personal or public.)

At this particular moment in time – I have few active complaints. Everyone in my life is relatively o.k.

Which is in and of itself problematic.

Because of my profound skill in Anticipatory Worrying, I recognize the temporary nature of this present lull.  Soon enough the phone will ring or a text will ping and unpleasant, painful, and/or possibly horrific news will arrive.

Change is inevitable as we get older – a subject near and dear to my now-Medicare-aged heart.

But my position on how to handle sad news may be more malleable than I thought.

The Carolyn Hax advice column in today’s Washington Post contained a reader entry that made me reflect on the Wendy Whiner label.

(Pause here to note the path not taken. I should have become an advice columnist instead of a lawyer. I LOVE giving advice. Solicited or not.)

A reader of the Hax column, known as C., wrote in to give advice on “Losses and Dread” (two of my favorite subjects!) C. explained that she has had a wonderful, devoted friend for over 35 years who “truly understands how to sustain and nurture friendships.”  Because C.’s friend has many other close friends and family, C. felt that she couldn’t be as much of a source of comfort to her friend as her friend has always been to her.

This hit home to me. I, too, have a wonderful, devoted friend who also has a million (slight exaggeration only) other wonderful, devoted friends, all of whom jump up to help her whenever she is in need. I am part of the larger circle, always wishing I could be of more support.

It occurred to me that this kind of imbalance is probably quite common. Some of us are the center of the wheel of friendship and others are pinned to the outer spokes – and always will be.

C. goes on to suggest that one way to be a true friend is NOT to share your problems.

Imagine that.

C.’s tells us that her mother and her wonderful, devoted friend’s mother were the same age. Then C.’s mother died. But C. decided not to burden her friend with her sadness at the death of her mother. C. explains it better than I can.

So what I can do is NOT call her when I am sad – though I know she’d be there for me – and  I cannot dwell too heavily on the loss when we do talk. Instead I can ask her about her grandchildren and let her tell me about their antics, though I’m not a kid person. Time and circumstances will bring us to a common reference point on the loss of a beloved mother…The chance to spare my friend from going to this sad place any earlier and more frequently than absolutely necessary is a blessing.”

Kind of a friendship gift, don’t you think? To NOT bring all our woes to our close friends even when we really, really, really want to.

And the part that got me the most? From C. again:

“Sometimes our losses – or health or parents or jobs – scare our friends, and they just want to live their regular lives and not think about it – or catch it.”

O.K., so C. and I differ in several important aspects. I’m a grandmother and very much a kid person. Not all my friends have achieved this most wonderful phase of life so I try (honest I do) not to overshare adorable photos and tales of their toddler brilliance.

I am also not as selfless as C. I haven’t (yet?) reached the point where I can regularly keep my mouth closed and not burden my friends with my woes. I am too dependent on having friends to listen and offer support.

Perhaps the next stage of getting older is to recognize, as C. does, that grief shared may multiply it unnecessarily.

I always want to be there for my friends when they reach out  – and I think I am. But maybe I don’t need to add my sorrows to ones they have not (yet?) experienced. Losses are inevitable. Keeping afloat above them is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aging Parents, Communications, Female Friends, friendship, Relationships, Women, Women's Health

The Spring of Staying Put (a/k/a Mulch Madness)

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Reader, we decided not to sell our house.

For those of you who are fans (as I am) of Charlotte Bronte and “Jane Eyre”,  you may recognize that I cribbed this first line.

In the writing workshop I took this spring our terrific teacher told us to get to the point at the beginning.

To let the reader of any story know the essential conflict with which the main character is dealing.

So I have.

And now, if you are patient (unlike a very self-important, senior lawyer at my first law firm who, when I launched into how I reached a conclusion in a legal research memo, would interrupt – “I don’t want to know your explanation.  Just tell me the answer.”) – here is what happened:

This past Sunday – instead of clearing every surface and hiding laundry in the closet in anticipation of our planned first “Open House”, we went out and bought mulch.

Lots of mulch. Dark brown chips of decaying “material” which my husband gleefully spread beneath the recently trimmed bushes in our front and back yards.

JP stood back and looked at his handiwork with a pleased grin:

The house looks great, doesn’t it? The lawn, so green because of all that rain. I’m glad we’re staying.”

I am too, sort of. Pretty much. Almost. Not as sure as he is. But the right decision – for now. I keep tacking the phrase “for now” at the end of every sentence when friends and family ask me why we changed our minds.

It took an intervention by friends to get me off the “Let’s sell NOW” track. My friends saw the blind spots I had that I couldn’t see. That I didn’t want to see. That I hoped would disappear if I tried not to think about them.

Well, duh, of course, I couldn’t see the blind spots – that’s why they have that name.

Everyone has blind spots, don’t they?

The friend who always says “yes” but doesn’t understand why she feels so exhausted.

The relative with the chip on his shoulder who doesn’t feel  its weight.

The colleague who thinks she is being helpful but comes across as patronizing.

My blind spot was taking expert advice without adapting it to our family as our circumstances evolved. The expert crunches the numbers, looks at the market, studies the spread sheets. It all sounded so reasonable.

But when we really dug down into those pesky numbers, when we drilled into the details and up popped the real-life problems moving would create vs. the problems moving would solve, we realized the timing wasn’t right. For the experts maybe, but not for us.

Two of my dearest friends reached this conclusion before I did (and they didn’t even have to research and write a legal memo to get there. lucky them!) They came over on Thursday afternoon as I was taking a last batch of family photos down off the walls. They escorted me into our extremely clean, dog-free living room. They admired our freshly-painted walls, the newly empty mantel above the fireplace and the tidy book shelves and told me to sit down.

I sat on a chair; my friends on the couch facing me.

The house looks great. It really does. You’ve worked very hard  in the past few months to get it this way.”

I beamed.

But don’t sell. JP is right. Now is not the time.”

I squirmed. Like any long married person (our 38th anniversary is this weekend.), I hate it when my husband is right – and I am not. (Thankfully, this is an infrequent occurrence.)

I let my friends list their reasons. I even listened intently without interrupting.

They pointed out the blind spots that I had failed to see. They saw what I knew in my heart but had trouble acknowledging. Moving now would cause tremendous upheaval that our family didn’t need. We already had enough turmoil going on. We didn’t need to pile on.

Not now. Not this spring. Maybe in the fall. Perhaps next spring. Perhaps not then either.

This ran against my nature – since I am quite excellent at creating a plan, making the “to do” list and seeing a project through to its conclusion. Check, check, check. I can focus narrowly and deeply. I do NOT like being thrown off course.

But circumstances changed –  our plan stopped making sense – my husband could see that, my friends could too – it was only me who had trouble changing directions.

The intervention didn’t last long. We hugged, they left and I went to the kitchen to make dinner.

Every day this week, I’ve been happily putting back up the family photographs we had taken down while “decluttering”. JP is trying not to gloat. We are staying home.

“For now.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Husbands, Law firm life, Lawyers, Marriage, Mental Health, Midlife, Parenting, Women

Lost and Found Friendships? Reconnection Not Always Required

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At summer camp, one of my favorite songs was the one where we sang about friendship – you may remember it, too, we promised to stay friends, friends, friends, “we will always be, whether in fair or in dark stormy weather, at Camp (insert name here), we’ll all stay together”?

That doesn’t always happen. Even though Facebook and other social media (this Blog, for example) makes it all too possible for people from our past –  friends from camp, school, our jobs, through our kids, to easily find us and seek us out.

Friend me, please?

Often I say no and then feel bad about it.

This has been on my mind lately as I sometimes turn down these overtures. Not that I am Ms. Popularity or anything (hardly, you’d have to look to my husband, Mr. High School Class President who holds that title) but when people I was once friendly with (which is different from being friends with? Or I am getting overly technical here?) reach out to me on social media, I often don’t want to reach back.

Thinking about this while looking towards September, when we (speaking as a Jewish person here) observe our High Holidays, one of which is Yom Kippur, a day of reflection on the past. Strong friendships, and the caring and cultivation of them, have always been very important to me. So why am I hesitant to re-visit my former social circles?

The holiday also calls upon us to make amends to anyone we may have hurt in the past year. Perhaps some of the people I once knew wonder why I didn’t re-connect when they sought me out?

So here goes:

  • If I once dated you in high school or college or beyond, maybe the reason I’m reluctant to re-connect with you is because I am a different person now. Or I like to think I am a different person. And if we were to re-connect, I will remember bits about myself I didn’t like or experiences we had that I’m not so proud I had. I want to go forward, not backwards in my relationships. Hope you understand.

 

  • Or maybe you and I were pals in our Young Mom days, when our kids had so much in common – and now that they are young adults, they are on very different paths. I don’t want to be reminded of those early days when I thought that my child, who still struggles with mental health, wouldn’t always have those struggles. I liked you very much, Old Mom Friend, and I am glad you and yours are doing well, but it is tough for me to hear your news about you and your possibly perfect young adults. Too hard for me to listen, too many comparisons to make. So no, but thank you, to your friend request.

 

  • Then there are those people I worked with (I’ve only had 3 lawyer jobs in my life, I’m a loyal type.) I hesitate to re-connect because I’m not who I once was. You may know that I had to leave my law firm before I wanted to, before I expected to, because of cardiac-related-infections, complicated. (I’m fine now.) But I’m not quite as snappy and quick in my thinking (interestingly it’s mostly when I talk, less so when I write), as I once was. Can you detect that? I worry that you might be able to notice that the new me isn’t the old me. While I’m fine with my “new normal”, it isn’t what I thought it would be. Perhaps better if you stick with recalling the way I used to be?

***

The irony does not escape me that I am writing about my life on this Blog, in a careful sort of way, or trying to, – and it is open for all to read – while hesitating to re-connect with people who I once knew in real life.

I think there is a distinction. I greatly prize and carefully nurture the many in-person, friendships I have, all of which have gone through significant bouts of both fair and stormy weather. But with online-only friends you have to stay on your best “party manners” at all times. Or at least I feel an obligation to do so. Long-term pals are more likely to accept as you are.

Pouring my energies into preserving my in-real-life friendships feels more important to me than reconnecting with the past. Subject to change, of course, but as this September approaches, I wanted to let you know, in case you wondered, why I haven’t “friended” you back.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Blogging, College, Communications, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Law firm life, Midlife, Moms, Parenting, Relationships, Social Media, Women, Writing, Young Adult Mental Health

A Matter of Faith

 

 

faiith

In the Good News Department: I have joined a writers’ group.

In the Bad News Department: I have writer’s block.

You, my Devoted (?) Blog Readers, have a stake in this. The intent of the group is to improve our writing skills.  If I succeed, you will be the beneficiaries! So bear with me here.

The six of us (all women, fyi) met in an essay and memoir class we took this fall. We are going to keep meeting on our own to critique each other’s essays; all of us writing on the same subject or “prompt”.

Perhaps because it is the December holiday season it was easy, at our group meeting last week, to pick our first “prompt”.  You can probably guess what it is – “Faith.”

Immediately this subject prompted (no pun intended) some anxiety in me.

What is Faith anyway? And am I wrong to feel reluctant about sharing my feelings on Faith with a group of women I like a great deal but who I am just getting to know?

Some of us in our new group celebrate Christmas, some Hanukkah.  I know this because in class we read our essays aloud. Often these were about our childhoods, and what is childhood without holiday memories?  One wrote a lovely essay about making a family recipe for gingerbread and another shared a poignant story about a Dad’s struggle with a Christmas tree.

It is fun to write about holidays and their traditions. I am eagerly anticipating the start of Hanukkah as I write this. Not so much for the presents (I’ve given out my hints; you know who you are) but for the traditions, the music, the food, our family gathering together around the holiday lights.

Faith isn’t as much fun to write about as the holidays. Nor is Faith a subject we often discuss with each other.

At least not among my group of close friends. I know my friends’ thoughts on personal subjects as they know mine; one has had breast cancer and fears a reoccurrence, another worries about her daughter’s stability and a third knows her marriage is on shaky grounds. But how they feel about their personal Faith? That I don’t know. We don’t exactly discuss that subject over coffee or at book club or while taking a walk. Heck, I don’t even know how my own sister feels about her (our) Faith.

Perhaps we don’t like to talk about our Faith because it leads to conflict?

This summer at a casual dinner with friends we got into a discussion about what my husband and I believe versus what my friend and her husband believe on a specific matter of our shared faith. By mid-meal our relaxed conversation had escalated into a heated debate. And this was with two of our oldest and dearest of friends!  While we had cooled down by the time we had dessert and coffee, the feelings still rankled. And as my husband and I got into our car to go home that night, we agreed that it had been a mistake to even delve into this subject; that we would file it away in the basket of “not to be discussed again” topics.

Talking about Faith also gets you into trouble on the global stage.

If you read and watch the international news (the “breaking, breaking” kind) as much as I do, no doubt you are also concerned about the growing divide between those of us who have the certainty of absolute faith and those of us who are questioners. (I am somewhere in between!) And we have all seen quite enough headlines recently featuring individuals and groups who hurt or kill each other using their faith as pretext.

It was so much easier to share holiday stories with my writing group friends.

The chicken-hearted way out (for no one would ever give me a prize for bravery; the cowardly lion who proved otherwise I am not) would be to write a light-hearted essay about Faith, about how I’d rather sail along on the superficial sea of religious thought than dive too deeply into the subject. Maybe I will write about my Bat Mitzvah partner from eons ago whose first name, and this is true, happened to be “Faith”. I could weave in the religious angle that way, (also noting, with regret, that ours was the only the Bat Mitzvah party of its era to feature a folk singer playing a guitar (our mothers’ idea, not ours), instead of a popular d.j.)

Then earlier this week I received an email from one of the women in my writing group. She wondered if I, known to be someone who writes quickly, had already completed our first  writing assignment.

I told her that no, I was struggling with the topic.  She quickly emailed me back saying that she too was having problems getting started with her essay and asked me if I thought we should suggest to the others that we change our chosen “prompt”.

That tempted me for a moment, it really did. But I wrote back to her and suggested we stick with it.

Our writing class teacher told us that we should write about what challenges us – and Faith falls right into that category.

I’m off to take the leap of faith to do just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Female Friends, Holidays, Women, Writing