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.

 

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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