Tag Archives: #friendship

Time is a four-letter word

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image courtesy of forevergeek.com

I was late to work this morning. It was 7:08 as I started up the onramp. When I pulled up in front of my office ten minutes later, it was 7AM. Evidently I drove through a wormhole on the freeway; either that, or my car is powered by a flux capacitor.

 

 

Sir Isaac Newton told us that time was linear, while Einstein argued that time is relative.

The doctor tells us that, “it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey..stuff.”

I say tempus fugits. Yes, I am quite aware that I’m saying it wrong. For some reason (the length of time since my last English class, perhaps?) I always say “Tempus Fugits”. I’m sure it irritates people no end. I know it makes me crazy when people abuse the English language (My husband’s insistence on saying  “6am in the morning” makes me cringe every time) – but there you have it. My own personal …what? malapropism? made up word? faux pas? issue? What the heck would it be?

But I digress. I wanted to remind you that Time is an asshole. He speeds up when he should slow down, races when he should crawl and generally doesn’t do what we want him to. Time flies.  Not that we need a reminder. Or I don’t, at least. We’re halfway through November, and I still have a stack of last year’s Christmas cards waiting to be mailed.* They say that time flies when you’re having fun but I disagree. I agree with Mary Engelbreit.

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I spent last weekend with old long time friends. At one point my daughter asked us “How long have you known each other?” As it turns out, we have been friends since before any of the “forever 27” friends were born.

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I didn’t need a visit with friends to remind me that time is flying by. My daughter, who is only 8 years old in Mommy Years, is getting ready to graduate high school. It’s weird. I can clearly remember my senior year of high school (yesterday, on the other hand, is another matter). I remember dances, and high school crushes, being Done With High School (on the first day of my senior year) and fighting with my mother. I don’t know why we fought. I’m sure my friends and family members would tell you it’s because I was a Horrible Teen. I’d like to think I was a Typical Teen, but (seeing that I gave my mother grey hair and shingles) maybe they were right. Or maybe fighting with your mother is a rite of passage. My daughter and I fought last night, because we were ______.

I thought she had lost her mind, and I have no doubt that she thought I was insane. It’s entirely possible that I am, but I wasn’t crazy Before Parenthood (no comments from the peanut gallery). It’s a chicken and the egg thing – which came first, the crazy parent or the crazy-making teen?

She might want to pick up this book:

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Because I’m the mommy, Michael J. Bradley’s other book is at the top of my reading list:

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I’m the mommy. That’s weird.  I don’t think anyone expected to ever hear those words coming from me. I know I didn’t. It’s not that I dislike children, it’s just that I prefer being The Fun Aunt to the Rules and Responsibility of parenthood. Parenting is a four letter word (yes, I’m aware that “parenting” is a nine letter word, but it’s work, which IS a four letter word).  Parenting is not for the weak or faint of heart, trust me on this. And there’s no preparing for it, nobody what anyone tells you. You can read all the Parenting for Dummies books you’d like, and listen to hours of advice from well meaning friends and family members. No matter what anyone says, PARENTING IS LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER EXPERIENCED.

Unless, of course, you’re a rock star:

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I have no doubt that I’ve made mistakes (evidently using sarcasm as a parenting tool is a Bad Thing), but I’ve tried to avoid making the same mistakes my mother made. Not that she was a bad mother (because she was AWESOME, as all my friends would tell you), but I decided to make new mistakes in an effort to raise my daughter to be Different Than Me and an attempt to avoid becoming my mother.

I failed. I have become my mother, despite the best of intentions. The good news is that I’m not alone and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. This paragraph from F Diane Barth LCSW’s post resonated with me:

For example, when I was young and my family teased me about being like my mother (who I did not resemble physically), I felt criticized and resentful. I wanted to be different from her, to have my own personality, separate from hers, and besides, I did not like the things they were commenting on (for example, my bossiness!). But today I am grateful to her for having passed onto me numerous characteristics, including her love of books and her interest in writing, her empathy for others, and her incredible stores of energy.

Of course, there is also plenty to be learned when you don’t become your mother. You can read an excerpt here but don’t come looking to me for tissues. My box is empty.

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I’m sad that my mother wasn’t here when my daughter was born – I have no doubt that she would have had some great parenting advice (not that I would have listened), as well as tips for my daughter on how to drive her parents crazy (not that she needs any tips). I wish she were here to watch her granddaughter/grandchildren grow into amazing young women and men. I know she’d love the fact that my Saturdays for the past three months were spent on the soccer field, volunteering wherever they have a need, and that she’d been thrilled to know that the granddaughter of one of her best friends was on my daughter’s team. If nothing else, I know she’d get a kick out of the fact that her mother’s curse  worked, and that I have a daughter just like me. I hope that one day, my daughter will be proud when someone tells her that she’s just like me.

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Mostly I am happy that my “forever an 8 year old” still tries to climb into my lap at the end of the day. She’s 4″ taller than I am, and doesn’t fit very well, but she tries.  One day, when/if she becomes a mother, I will give her the advice my mother couldn’t give me

Tempus fugits (sic) – whatever you do, don’t blink

(and not just because there are Weeping Angels)

I think Kenny Chesney says it bests.

*Note to friends and family – the printer gave me a discount on my Holiday Cards when I pointed out that they were dated 2016.

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On Love, Loss, and Laughter

images71V16YFPI know what you’re thinking – “Where the hell has Tracey been and what kind of writer doesn’t write?” (or, as my EIC would say, “If a writer isn’t writing, doesn’t that mean they’re not a writer?”)

In Hell. Literally (Ok, maybe not literally). A stuck writer. That’s what kind.

Grief has eaten my brain, and stolen my creativity.

I lost someone a month ago who was incredibly important to me. Well, I didn’t’ “lose” him. It’s not like he was a set of car keys, or a sock that disappeared from the dryer, or my mind.

Sorry for that. I have a habit of trying to compensate for emotional issues with sarcasm and lame attempts at humor. Let me try again.

My friend died a month ago.

Wow. There it is, in black and white. The phrase I’ve avoided. I know it’s hard to read, but trust me, it’s harder to write and practically impossible to believe. Timothy Leary was right when he said “Death is the last taboo.”  Nobody dies. They “pass on” or “leave us”, “slip away” or “go to a better place”.

I call bullshit.

My friend died.

Three words. So simple and so misleading. Here’s how dictionary.com breaks down the sentence:

My – belonging to or associated with the speaker.

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual of family relations

Died – to cease to live; undergo the complete and permanent cessation of all vital functions

The thing is, Mario wasn’t just “my” friend. He was EVERYONE’S friend. Yeah, he was THAT guy. He was charming and funny, smart and kind. No matter where he went, he always ended up surrounded by a group of people who were jostling for position and vying for his attention. Mario, like my mother, seemed to believe that there is no such thing as a stranger. Strangers are simply friends you haven’t yet met.

He was my friend, but he was more than that. There are friends, and then there are people who are so much more than simply friends – we call these people our “family of heart”. We might not be related by blood, but we are joined by a love that is even stronger than family ties. Mario was my friend, my mentor, my brother of heart.

I met Mario when we were young and foolish, hopeful and fearless. He was dating the woman who ran the booth I worked for – the woman who would become one of my very best friends. In a blink of an eye, they were married, and raising 3 kids.

Mario and Virginia were playing house and being Responsible Adults while I was still trying to decide how to style my hair. It took me longer to grow up, but eventually I got married and had a kid of my own. I am incredibly lucky to have had their help in raising my daughter. Mario was a perfect example of a father for my spouse to emulate, and Virginia was the same for me. Their three kids are amazing people, despite the fact that their parents have a twisted sense of humor (It gave me hope that our daughter wouldn’t be Permanently Damaged). The fact that they were still wildly in love with each other even after 35 years together was inspiring – a testimony to the power of True Love.

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Mario’s kids asked us to write down things that we learned from him, to list our favorite sayings or quotes. I couldn’t think of anything at the time. I’m sure people remember a lot of “Mario-isms”, but I can’t remember anything other than him saying “OUTSTANDING!” when things would go less than perfectly, or when someone would do something that was extraordinarily stupid. But here are things that I learned from him:

Be kind. Mario was nice to everyone – no matter what they believed, what they looked like, how they dressed, how much money they made (or didn’t make). He was one of the popular kids, but he wasn’t one of the mean girls (which is not to say that he didn’t enjoy a little CCC* when warranted). He went out of his way to be kind to people who were often overlooked or ignored. He was even nice to the weird kid in the corner (What? No, that wasn’t me, why would you think that?).

Be polite We disagreed about many things (politics, religion, and whether the Three Stooges were funny). As strong minded (or, in my case, hard headed) individuals, we agreed to disagree. Having friends with opinions which differ from one’s own makes life more interesting.

but don’t be a pushover. (does this one really need explaining?)

Keep learning. Mario was always reading, always trying to better himself. As Albert Einstein said “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Make people smile Mario would do almost anything to get a laugh (that’s not exactly true. There was no “almost” about it).

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by embracing your inner weirdo – In a world where everyone worries about what others think/we struggle to fit in, to be normal (please note, “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine), Mario stood out as someone who just didn’t give a flying f…

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Don’t whine. (Aka “Suck it up, Buttercup”) The past few years were incredibly hard physically and psychologically, and yet, Mario was always smiling (or maybe it was a grimace). His outlook could best be described this way:

Be strong… Mario was in a lot of pain, but he never let it stop him from doing the things that he needed or wanted to do. Long days at work which required hours of driving? Every day. Trips to Yosemite, to hockey games, to shows and soccer games and even a longa** Christmas parade? NP. The thing that stands out most is the fact that, whenever I came to visit, no matter how much pain he was in, Mario always stood up to say hello.

but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it (TBH I never heard Mario ask for help for himself. He was always asking for help for someone else).

and always offer help to those who need it. In a world where people rise above the masses by putting others down, Mario lifted people up.

Those are the things I’ve learned from Mario’s life. What did I learn from his death?

That “Only the good die young” is not a meaningless phrase. Neither is “Life’s a Bitch, and then you die.” That we need to find make time for those we love. When I was a kid, I thought nothing of knocking on my friend’s door, and asking if they could come out and play. We lose that ability when we grow up – we get busy with life – with school, with work. We worry that our houses are too messy for guests, or that our friends are too busy for us. We SCHEDULE our lives and our visits, instead of just “popping in to say hello”. We text and skype and send messages via snapchat or twitter. We brag about the fact that Facebook has allowed us to “reconnect” with old friends and family members, but we don’t take make the time to see each other “IRL”. WE NEED TO STOP THAT, RIGHT NOW.

What did I learn from my friend’s death? Life is short, and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Mario’s younger daughter got married in November. At the reception, he asked me told me to stop by after work for a “beer and bitch” session, but I assumed it was the whisky talking, and that we would have a chance to catch up “soon”. Please believe me when I say that “SOON” DOESN’T COME SOON ENOUGH.

I know this was a long post, so, in the immortal words of Inygo Montoya “let me sum up”. What did I learn from Mario?

Live fearlessly, love fiercely and laugh at all that life throws your way.

And, oh yeah, always pet the puppies.

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*Catty Corner Commentary

Friends

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FYI, this post is not about the tv show, although I liked it a lot.

 

I ran into a friend at the grocery store today. We were close once, but over the past few years we’ve drifted apart. Our daughters brought us together, but they grew up and found new friends, and so, our friendship faded.

That’s not exactly true, and since They say (no, I don’t know who “they” are) a writer must be honest, I’ll try again.

Our daughters grew up and my friend dumped me. Over the past year she stopped responding to my emails, answering my texts or returning my calls. I was hurt, and wondered what I had done wrong (because that’s the way my brain works. It’s always my fault). After a while, my feelings turned to anger. I decided she was a “friend for a season” and that I was better off without “friends like that”, but I was still heartbroken.

When I ran into her at the store, my first impulse was to smile politely and keep shopping – after all, I didn’t want my ice cream to melt. Seeing that I didn’t have any ice cream and that it was too late to hide, I decided to Be the Bigger Person and make polite conversation.

“How are you? How are the kids? Is your son a senior now?”

She responded by blurting out personal and devastating news.*  I was heartbroken again. I had written off a friend who was struggling to deal with a difficult situation. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know, that I had no way of knowing what she was going through. I had walked away rather than trying harder. I had failed to be a lifetime friend.

What she did was not new – I have done the same thing in the past. I pulled away from friends and family, embarrassed to admit that I was having difficulty coping (“difficulty coping” is code  for “having a hard time getting through each day without crying”).  I don’t know why we turn away, when we should be reaching out for help. Or maybe I do.

We have been trained to believe that we can do it all (easily and effortlessly, thanks to Cosmo), and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We’ve been told that help is a four letter word.  We have been led  to believe that other people sail through life (with perfect hair and makeup), and that we are the only ones who can’t get our S*** together. This way of thinking is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It’s the top of the slide into a dark, deep hole with slick steep sides. The bottom of the hole is filled with jagged glass and the sound of the Evil Inner Critic howling “You can’t do anything right, you are stupid, you are a failure, nobody will ever love you….”

There are ways out of the hole, but they’re difficult to find. It’s dark, and cold, and there are blocked doorways and false exits.  Some people choose to leave the only way they know how, ending their lives and leaving family and friends behind.  Some people are strong enough to climb out on their own. It can be done, but it’s a long, hard process.  The journey out is much easier when you have a team of people working with you – people who will cheer you on as you begin our climb, or throw you a lifeline and pull you up when you get stuck.

The first week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Asking for help was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I am so glad that I did. Help came from the most amazing places. I learned that, although I CAN walk through this world alone, with a little help from my friends, I can fly.

*The news is not mine to share, and it’s not important to this piece.