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Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category


In March of 2012 I wrote about connecting with people. How by some mysterious force, we are drawn to someone and find a connection. I’ve had a couple of new experiences in this past year, in spite of my limited movements within the outside world.

An old business associate of nearly 40 years, turned friend, emailed me about an alumnus of her college. Did I want to meet her? She had recently moved to my town, shared my religion and knew no one here. She wanted to get involved in her new community and my friend thought we would hit it off. I trust this friend; she knows me well. So of course I said yes. Explaining to this stranger my limited outings, unpredictable medical limitations and inability to eat like a normal person, I suggested lunch at my house. Conversation came easily and we discovered some additional mutual friends and interests. We share political views so there was much fodder for conversation and potential action. The relationship quickly turned into a familiar, comfortable friendship, one I am so grateful for.

On another occasion, the search for someone to do alterations led me to a woman from a neighboring town. She is the mother of a lady in my town, who I know only through the Facebook page our town’s ladies belong to. She was kind enough to come to my house so I could try on the clothes. There was something special about her and she felt the same. She too joined me for lunch soon after and I have been to her home to drop off or pick up more things she has sewed for me. We are on a “hug and kiss greeting” basis and express an affinity for one another like we’ve been friends for so long.

My therapist tells me I am blessed with the ability to make friends easily. I would have to agree. But I attribute it to my father and his mother who also had many friends due to their ability to talk to anyone about something they could find in common.

My life is so enriched by this gift. Some people’s involvement in my life have endured decades and many challenges; some have come and gone in short order. I’ve relished each friendship for its uniqueness and rich dimension they have brought to my life.

I’m a lucky woman.

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“Gratitude” is becoming a cliche. Everybody’s talking about it. “It will heal you,” they say. “Letting go of the negativity prevents cancer,” shouts the Internet. Even doctors are saying taking time to count your blessings is good for your health. Is this just a passing fad, or is there something to it?

I did a Google search on “Gratitude’s healing power.” There are about 998,000 hits. Wow, there must be something to it, even if the Internet is not the source of scientific material. But wait, there are hits from respectable sites like Harvard University, the Georgia Psychological Association, The NY Times, A PhD professor from University of California, Davis, WEB MD, the National Institute of Health. What do they know that some people don’t?

I’m no scientist but I have a degree worthy of being able to analyze whether a study is reliable. I know how to judge whether the population studied is large enough, diverse enough (or not, depending on the study), the variables were controlled, the methods used in the study, and I understand basic statistics. But I also trust my gut – A LOT!

I know that when I feel grateful, I feel good. It’s THAT simple. We encounter so many negative, energy-sucking people in every walk of life, and it seems to cut across every socio-economic group. I’ve met wealthy people who have everything, including great support networks, etc., who just feel they are always lacking. And some of the very seriously-down-on-their-luck people, that I had the privilege of serving lunch to at the soup kitchen, were joyous and grateful for the simple meal and my company.

Many neuroscientists studied brain activity under conditions of gratitude and observed positive brain activity. Biological markers like immune system function, sleep patterns, blood pressure, etc., were positively affected in grateful people.

So without further ado, I give you the short list of things I am grateful for, even though I was just diagnosed with a genetic defect that will throw my next few months into turmoil.

1. A supportive and loving husband and life partner, who loyalty never wavers.
2. My two sons, who are beautiful human beings and bring me joy beyond explanation.
3. Friends and family members who offer meals, rides, errands, and check in on me to make sure I’m OK.
4. Co-workers who didn’t bat an eye even though my absence will mean they have to work later or harder.
5. Access to the finest surgeons, who were able to respond to my needs very quickly.
6. An upcoming 60th birthday trip to France, in between operations, to rest and recharge.
7. A lovely and comfortable home.
8. The ability to buy the food I want and need to nourish me and protect my health.
9. Two dogs to cuddle with and love.
10. Any art supplies and tools I need to express my creativity.

LIFE IS GOOD!

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I thought this saying up after the mini meltdown passed. Maybe no one recognized the meltdown, least of all, me. It came in the form of 6 awakenings each night, worrying about everything BUT the actual situation I am facing. Apparently this resonated with a lot of people when I posted it, even though the majority of them had no idea I was referring to a specific, new challenge.

No matter how many challenges life throws my way, I never think, “Why me?” for two reasons.
(1) If not me, it has to be someone else and I wouldn’t wish my challenges on another.
(2) It makes me a victim and takes away my power.

So now, I concentrate on number 2.

I am not a victim! Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. We all are victims of uncontrollable events in our lives to some degree, but how we deal with them mitigates them. So I call upon my superpower, victim- fighting arsenal called family and friends, as well as my foundation of having survived 20-ish surgeries, two near-death experiences, one divorce, one spousal death, 11 moves, countless jobs, 6-7 careers and laying beside a live cheetah. Whew!

I have the BRCA1 gene. It means either lying in wait for the likely possibility of getting ovarian (40%) and/or breast cancer (85%), or I can have prophylactic surgery to remove these body parts. I’m not a patient waiter and I like taking the better odds. I can get through another few surgeries.

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In November 2012, I posted about a decision my husband and I made to relocate to Pittsburgh “some time in the future.”
We did end up buying a home about 15 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and have rented it out since then. Our move was predicated on two events: my son’s graduation from college and the passing of my husband’s mother, whose health had been declining for years.
Both events happened within weeks of each other, signaling the time to begin preparations for the move. I realized the timing of events meant we could be relocating in under a year. Fear and panic set in. I asked my husband if he really was ready to go so soon, or did he want to extend our tenant’s lease. “I want to go,” he said.
I learned quickly, that fear and excitement can thrive side by side. I also realized what it would take to get this done – a lot of time and substantial about of money. After the grueling task of disposing of mom’s assets and home, I had to begin our own weeding and pruning. The task has been made more difficult by the uncertainty of my sons’ needs for household articles in the coming months. Much of what we need to reduce is serviceable, so I’d like to preserve whatever they could use before dispensing with our excess. Also, our new house is larger and can accommodate a lot of what we have, – so I don’t want to dispose of things we might need to furnish it.
At the same time, we need to make room just to begin the repairing, painting, etc., to make the house salable. That’s why some days I am overwhelmed.
When I get started, I can usually make some decisions and put things into the tag sale or a Goodwill piles. But after a few hours, I am stymied. It feels like it will never get done, even with so much time ahead to do it.
I realize that some of the obstacles are emotional. While a new adventure awaits (and I love the idea), we leave friends behind, and will have to start all over. And that makes it hard to pack up.

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I know from experience (my own included) that if you were to judge someone’s state of happiness by their FB posts, you would often get a very distorted sense of reality.

We are told to “put our best foot forward,” “soldier on,” “keep a stiff upper lip,” “practice gratitude,” etc., etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it doesn’t allow us the true freedom to share our challenges, sadness, anxiety, etc. In spite of all the public discourse on depression, we are still not good as a society, in recognizing or treating it. Not everyone presents with the same symptoms – in fact, many cover it with a mask of cheeriness. Drugs are widely available to treat it – it’s fast and cheap – as opposed to talking about and resolving issues that need to be processed.  But sometimes things need to be faced head on, not temporarily blunted.

As is evidenced by all the shootings and general chaos, especially among our young and veterans, we are not, as a society, attending to mental health care needs. Unattended, things get worse. More turmoil creates more societal anxiety and a downward spiral of the individual.

Some have suggested that global meditation and/or yoga practice would reduce stress, creating a calm over the earth. It’s an interesting idea. It would cost less than other modes of treatment and have fewer side effects than medication. It would address the shortage of skilled mental health practitioners as it could treat groups, not just individuals. It could ultimate lower healthcare costs and reduce violence.

But I digress. The point of this article is to ask that  you remain vigilant to the signs of stress that may cause those you love to break. If they are behaving differently than usual, there is probably a reason. Offer a hand – even if it is just to lead them to get the help they need.

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Some people manage to stay connected with friends from childhood. Whether it is continued geographic proximity or shared college experiences, they maintain the relationships throughout their lives. I have only one childhood friend still. Perhaps it was because all of us scattered in different states and keeping in touch meant writing letters (before internet, and when long distance was expensive, for all you young readers!) Because my one long time friend was great at writing to me, and writing, and writing until I finally answered, we remain friends to this day.

Before you go feeling all sorry for me, this has not hampered the rich experiences I have had with friends made along the way. Perhaps it was because we shared similar life experiences at the same time. I had early married friends (out of college), who were largely an extension of the high school friends. Then I had work friends, some of whom I still keep in touch with, or reestablished contact with since Classmates, Facebook, Linked In and HS reunions. Then there was the “single” friends period, after my divorce. Remarriage brought children and children bring many other parents into the picture. These people, as it turns out, still mean a lot to me, even though the kids are grown and (almost) out on their own. We shared the intense experience of child rearing, which is both rewarding and scary as hell.  We came to care for and about the well being of each others’ children. And our children remain friends, even after high school and college.

When I embarked on my creative chapter – becoming an artist – there were new friends again. Friends that shared and understood the “need” to create, and supported me in finding my creative voice. And now, just when I thought it was impossible to include another person in my life, I did. A connection in a business meeting led to more personal conversations. We learned we grew up so near each other in Brooklyn, which was likely some of the appeal. I am enjoying the unfolding of another new friend and she will not be my last “new” friend. (Unless I die tomorrow! Sorry, a little black humor!)

My ability to love them all never diminishes. Rather it swells to embrace all of it – all of them. And lucky me, to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Thank you all dear friends!

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Every so often I am reminded that people go through life carrying burdens of one sort or another. When the pain they cause is written on their faces, it may be obvious, and we can respond. But so often these burdens are kept private due to shame, denial or wish not to burden others with their troubles. And sometimes, those they need support from are just incapable for one reason or another, of helping, so they keep them to themselves.

Today, someone shared some burdens she is carrying. Suddenly a lot of things made sense. What I may have mistaken for aloofness, disorganization, or lack of attention to the details of the job are now easily explained by what she is going through. My frustration melted away in the face of this information, and was replaced by compassion. I thanked her for sharing her burdens with me and told her how helpful it is to let people know how fragile life is for her right now. I told her people often want to help and can only do that when they know what is needed.

So I am working on being able to take my own advice!. I have too often been hurt by exposing my vulnerability and not receiving support – or worse, being rejected or ridiculed. So, asking is very, very difficult for me. In spite of knowing who I can turn to and trust, I sometimes just wish those who care will know and offer a shoulder.

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