Almost Like Old Times

I had leftover pizza for lunch today. Leftover pizza can be a nice thing. And when it’s leftover from a spontaneous late evening dinner on my patio with one of my oldest and dearest friends, it’s even better.

Yesterday my friend M, who I’ve known forever, sent me a text message at the end of his work day to see what I was up to for the evening. As I wrote then, my mood was quite low on top of my pain level being quite high, but instead of telling him that I asked what he had in mind. He asked if I was up for a visit or if I wanted to go out to get a bite to eat. I didn’t want to do either, but I wrote back asking what his preference was and reminded him that we could get some food and eat on my patio. He thought that was a perfect idea and called me so we could decide what to eat. We quickly decided on a pizza with hot wings on the side, which I ordered while he drove to my place.

Within an hour, we were sitting in the dim evening light on my patio eating pizza and laughing almost like old times. Except that in the past, after receiving his text message or call, I would have thrown on some clothes, he’d come by to pick me up, and then we would drive until we decided what was good to eat in whichever direction the car was heading. I miss those days a lot. Life’s spontaneity is no longer something to which I can surrender. Every moment of my life that requires a large output of energy requires planning. I have to map how long it takes to get ready, whether someone will pick me up or I’ll schedule a ride (a taxi or Über), how long I’ll be able to stand if seats aren’t available, whether available seats are comfortable enough to sit in for the duration of the event, and how long I may need for recovery when it’s all over.

Nonetheless, my friends do their best to understand. Even though they know I might have to cancel at the last-minute, they try to do all they can to make my life feel normal. The latest accommodation they are willing to make is bringing the fun to my home, which thankfully is what happened last night. As blue as I felt yesterday about living through another summer trapped indoors by pain; my friend M lifted much of that mood. Him touching base with me at the end of the day to see what I was up to doing, as he often did in the past, brought me back to feeling what things used to be like for a few short hours, before my pain forced its way back to center stage.

 

Advertisements

When Someone Shows You Who They Are…

“I don’t trust you,” she said coldly. The same person I recently held in my arms while she cried and told me her troubles said those words to me.

I’m never going to forget being told those words because I have the kind of memory that stores information with great detail and rarely dislodges any of it. My earliest memories were created when I was a toddler and I still see the things, people and places in them as if I interacted with them yesterday – much like I can see this person on the playground of our elementary school. Sometimes I wish my memory didn’t work this way but at other times, now for instance, I’m glad I rarely ever forget. I’m glad because it ensures that I won’t allow myself to be caught in another web of deceit like the one made by a person who chose to abuse my friendship and trust.

As an adult, I’ve been accused many times of being naïve and too trusting of people, especially those I allow into private areas of my life, and with whom I share the most intimate parts of who I am. That characterization may not be too far off, but I prefer to look at it from the perspective of trusting until I’m given a reason not to trust. I approach life that way because it takes too much energy to walk around suspecting that every person one engages with is going to harm you in some way. The never-ending hypervigilance and suspicion would surely make it impossible to enjoy one’s life, and could, quite possibly drain you of your will to live.

Besides, when someone betrays or deliberately hurts you, it’s the unmasking of who they are. Therefore, it has no bearing on your character. Furthermore, when that same person has the audacity to mockingly ask, “What are you going to do about it?” in relation to the action they have taken against you; or “Who do you think you are?” after you call her or him out on their vile behaviour; it’s further evidence that they were never worthy of your friendship. Words and behaviour like this also makes one realize that the air of toughness someone might have projected for years, is just the lack of a conscience and the inability for her or him to form genuine human connections.

In the end, one must decide what bearing such a betrayal is likely to have on any kind of relationship continuing to exist. In my experience, that chance arcs sharply towards zero, because in all likelihood, there may be nothing to salvage. After all, it would be more than naïve to allow any person who treats you so poorly to get that close to you again. And if there’s any doubt about this decision there are always these wise words from Maya Angelou to remember, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

When Someone Shows You Who They Are

 

Keep Safe Old Friend

Today is the birthday of a friend of mine from high school. I haven’t seen her in years, but I never forget that this day is her birthday. As many do, our paths diverged after high school: I went to university; she went right to work then soon became pregnant with her first child. Being from a religious family, they made her choices for her. She would marry the boy she barely loved, or knew well, and raise a family. That boy became an abusive husband and father, who beat her during both her pregnancies and whenever else it suited him; facts she hid from me for a long time.

When she first told me, I felt outraged and wanted to do everything in my power to punish him and to change her situation: she and her children could stay with me as long as necessary so she could figure out what she needed and wanted to do for herself, for them. She never left him because both families and her religion forbade it. Family elders and their priests counselled them, but the abuse never ended. It evolved, becoming the thing that controlled her life, isolated her, made her ill, and a shadow of the vibrant person she once was.

All these years later, I still become overwhelmed with grief and anger, and well up with tears when I think of the smart beautiful funny girl she was and the hopeless woman she became. There is nothing I wouldn’t have done to help her leave him and nothing I wouldn’t do now. On the odd occasion when we talk on the phone because he’s not lurking somewhere nearby, the topic and the possibilities of how she could leave still arise, but the fear she feels for herself and her children outweighs all else. So, I tell her to keep herself safe and reluctantly hang up and wait for the next time she calls.

I don’t know if she received the birthday message I sent to her by text this morning. I didn’t get a reply. I can only hope she did receive it and believe that telling her I love her makes a difference in her day, and in this fraction of her life. When you love someone that’s what you want for them: goodness and the best of everything. Even when you know, the chances of that happening are slim. Nevertheless, just in case, I’ll send another birthday wish into the universe for my old friend with all the love in my heart, and I’ll pray that she’s keeping safe.

 

Elton John – Friends

 

Doppelgänger Dilemma

As I traveled to a recent appointment, I saw a woman I can only describe as the doppelgänger of someone who was once a close friend of mine. The striking resemblance to my former friend startled me so much I almost spoke to her, but instead I just stared, which made her and then me obviously uncomfortable. The one thing that made it clear the woman standing in front of me wasn’t the person I had once known was that she was heavily pregnant, which is a stage of life my former friend has long passed. However, the style of her hair and the shape of her features could have made them twins.

The interesting thing is that the friendship I had with this former friend grew tremendously during her pregnancy with her second child. Before that, we did the usual things adult friends do while keeping each other at a comfortable distance: we hung out some weekends, went to the movies, and went shopping together, but during her pregnancy, she changed; she became more open and caring. I enjoyed this less critical and nonjudgmental aspect of her personality. I naïvely thought that this sensitive, empathetic side of her would become a permanent fixture and we would be friends until we reached old age. Unfortunately, after the birth of her child – and what I have to assume was the re-balancing of her hormones – she reverted to the person I’d known before, and being around her for more than a few hours at a time became difficult to bear.

I’ll never understand why some people believe it is okay to treat other people like crap and still keep the privilege of participating in their lives. Why anyone believes that as long as you apologize after making cutting remarks or insults all will be well again, until the next time they do the same, is beyond me. This woman’s behaviour towards other people was so harsh at times that witnessing it made me wince. We eventually went our separate ways because of a series of things she did to others and me where, even after having the negative and hurtful effects pointed out, she made light of the situations and felt we should act as if they hadn’t happened and move forward. As expected, that lack of acknowledgement and trivialization caused more hurt. For a long while after we cut ties, I missed spending time with her and being “auntie” to her children, but our values and beliefs about how to treat people were so different I couldn’t see a way back to fully trusting her and being open about my life. I believe that had I continued in our friendship that it would just have been a matter of time before more incidents arose and ended things.

A lot of time has passed and although I know her children are nearly grown and may not even remember me, I do think of them often; and after seeing this former friend’s doppelgänger, I felt the urge to reach out to see how she and her family are doing. Then I remembered her condescension at my past efforts to mend our relationship, and that I’ve run into her over the years since we stopped spending time together and how things always felt awkward and forced. I no longer feel comfortable sharing any of what is happening in my life with her because I don’t want to be subjected to her judgement or hear her disapproving tone. I think I made the right decision not to pick up the phone, but deep down I’ve been questioning how one short conversation could hurt…

 

Lily Allen – Friend Of Mine

 

Outshining A Mockingjay

I slept through my mid-morning medication alarm yesterday morning, which set my day back by a few hours. When I woke up and took my pain medication, it was about 11:45 AM. I took my medication but couldn’t manage to stay awake. Lucky for me, my friend J isn’t a stranger to the risks associated with making plans with me. I finally called her around 1:00 in the afternoon – I was supposed to have called her at 11:00 AM. After we talked and finalized our plans it still took a while for me to get my bearings so I could get moving into the shower and ultimately out the door.

The plan of the day was for us to see the last chapter of The Hunger Games movies: Mockingjay Part 2. We saw the first part together last year and vowed that we would see this one together. My friend J is a huge movie buff; and although she likes to see movies as soon as they are released in theatres, she waited for three weeks to see this with me because my pain made it impossible for me to go any sooner. Seeing movies with J is one of the things I look forward to doing now, not simply because it gets me out of the house, but because we always have a great time and getting lost in a movie takes my mind off how I’m feeling for a few hours.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Mockingjay Part 2 didn’t disappoint. The opening scene picked up where the last movie left of perfectly. It was a little strange to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in a newly released movie, but I think the character he plays would have been missed. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen dominated the story and the screen and there were some unexpected twists. Overall, I thought it was a good 2 1/2 hours with the right balance between drama, action, and my pain.

After the movie, J and I followed through with the usual ending to our movie outing routine and grabbed some food to take back to my place for dinner. We hung out for a few hours more. While eating we caught up on what’s been going in our lives in the past few weeks that we hadn’t covered in any of our check-in calls. I also finally gave her the presents I got her for her birthday, which passed a few months ago – I had a bit of trouble remembering to order them in time for the actual day. As I hoped, J loved the presents, and I must admit putting a smile on her face beat out a day at the movies with the Mockingjay.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Official Trailer

 

Gratitude and Creativity: We Rise By Lifting Others

The wife of my friend R has cancer. It started as colon cancer for which she had surgery to remove the tumour followed by radiation; and her doctors believed they removed all the cancer. Unfortunately, after a follow-up CT scan they found a new cancerous tumour in her liver. They surgically removed that tumour along with a significant piece of her liver and again treated her with radiation. About two months ago, they found another tumour on her liver. She started radiation treatments for the new tumour a few weeks ago, trying to shrink it, but her oncologists now believe she needs another surgery to remove this tumour too. The looming question is whether there is enough of her liver left from the previous surgery to cut any more of it out.

My friend R is losing sleep over this every night, but he’s trying not to let his wife see it. He’s worried about his wife and her prognosis, but can’t let her know how worried he truly is. In their marriage, he is always the level-headed, strong, practical, rational thinking being. He’s the one that gets things done and takes care of everyone. He manages the household finances, figuring out when they can splurge and when belts need tightening; and he works at pulling his introverted wife out of her shell by trying to include her in his various circles of friendship, taking her on trips to far off places, and always putting her first.

Unfortunately, R’s wife has never warmed to me: even though he and I were friends, long before he ever met her. Her excuses for not liking me have ranged from I’m too young – they are about fifteen years older than me; I’m single – my past relationships have never changed her attitude, and I learned that only a marriage will suffice; and I’m too attractive, which as far as I’m concerned is about her lack of self-esteem. R has hosted dinner parties, where his wife has exchanged so few words with me it was obvious is efforts to spark a friendship between us, were for naught. So, our friendship – R’s and mine – exists away from his wife’s lack of fondness for me.

Even though she’s not fond of me, I’m worried about her. I’m worried that the recurrence of her cancer is a bad sign. According to R, one doctor is concerned that during the last surgery – when they removed the first tumour on her liver – they may have taken too much of one lobe of her liver to make sure that the tumour would not regrow. If that’s the case, they may have to rely heavily on radiation to shrink this tumour then follow up with another CT scan to see whether she needs more radiation or if they have to attempt to remove the remaining mass with surgery. For both their sakes, I’m desperately hoping the radiation works.

Recently, R told me that his wife has lost interest in all the hobbies and activities she used to do before she became ill. I’ve decided to send her a gift that I hope will lift her spirits. I know that she loves flowers: she wanted to open a flower shop when she retires from her current career. I can’t give her a flower shop, but I can give her some adult colouring books with drawings of flowers and gardens, and a set of coloured pencils. My hope is that the simple act of colouring will soothe her mind, distract her from thinking about her illness and pain, and, I hope, re-spark her interest in the things she used to love doing – as it has for me.

We Rise By Lifting Others

I can’t count all the ways over the course of our friendship R supported me through a tough time, or said or did something to lift my spirits. I want to support him and his wife in any way I can. I know that what I’m doing isn’t much, but when I told him about my plan, he was happy and grateful; and I hope it helps his wife, even if it’s just to put a smile on her face.

 

Cyndi Lauper – True Colors

 

It’s Not About Me Today

Today one of my dearest friends is having surgery. She told me not to worry, but of course, I’m worried. She’s one of the people who have supported me through my illness since the beginning. She has come with me to doctors’ appointments – I’ve lost count of how many; she has taken me to and been there when I’ve woken up after many of the procedures and surgery I’ve undergone; and she has opened her home to me and cared for me.

We became friends many years before my illness, and the decades that separate our ages have become irrelevant. She is one of the few women in my life that I trust wholly to guide and advise me because she has lived an incredible life in which she has accomplished incredible things, I respect her tremendously, but above all, she is always honest – even when it might hurt. We have shared hours upon hours of laughter – the kind where you almost pee your pants – and she has opened my eyes to many truths about life. With just a few words, she gives me strength to face difficult situations, and her unassuming nature always puts me at ease. Truth be told, she is important to me in ways that my mother should be.

I can’t be there for her physically, so today my heart and mind are with Z and I am sending her positive energy to support her through, what she says is nothing to worry about.

 

Coldplay – Yellow