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One of Life's Big Questions...

One of Life’s Big Questions…

I have struggled to answer this question for probably my whole life, but last week I had an experience which showed me one very good answer.

One of my oldest friends lost her partner and best friend; he succumbed to a fatal illness in a short period of time. Attending the wake, I watched her standing alone to greet the mourners. I admired her strength and poise, even as I could see in the unguarded moments, the strain of the past months peek through.

I was impressed by the number of people who turned out on a week night — for her — despite more snowflakes and very cold weather, during a winter when travel had become an endurance test for everyone.

At one point I met one of her bosses. When she found out that I was a very old friend, she proceeded to tell me what a great worker my friend is: how skilled, how professional, and how well-respected. “I wish I had ten of her,” she said. “And she is completely humble.”  I thought to myself, how wonderful to not have to promote yourself because your work speaks volumes…and also to have someone you work for respect, love, and admire you so much. She gave me the heads-up about something that my friend did not know: she was going to receive an arrangement from a very prestigious client. When they found out what was going on with her, they said, “We want to send flowers.” “That is UNHEARD of,” her boss told me, “But they like her THAT much!”

My friend held a small dinner after the wake at a local restaurant. I sat at the end of one VERY long table. She was fussing over whether we had enough food and was worried that the family-style serving was not working, but not one person was greedy and filled their plate. All appreciated the food and appreciated her. Everyone knew this was costing her money she didn’t really have, and yet she wanted to show her appreciation to her friends.  She had been unable to work very much during the time her partner was sick, and she works in a field that when she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid.

Despite the terrible circumstances, I felt happy for her as I looked down the long table full of supporters. Her life had been particularly difficult lately, but even without her recent challenges, her life wasn’t necessarily one that many people would look at as a “picture” of success. But it was clear as a summer sky to me that night.

A successful life does not have to be one with all the trappings and media accolades. It can be one where, when you are struggling, you are overwhelmed by love and support, respect and admiration in your own corner of the world. To me, my friend won an Oscar.

I had a rough week at work last week; one of those weeks that makes you take a whole weekend of doing things you love to recharge.

Saturday I had a visit with a friend I have known for 50 years. She just got back from a fabulous trip across Europe. I missed her, but she sent me pictures every day as if I were travelling with her. Priceless. There’s no jealousy on my part; she shared her trip with me and I felt happy for her. That is the way it should be with friends who love and value each other.

Yesterday was a glorious sunny day and I had an outing with a treasured old friend, one that I have known for 30 years. We have many interests in common; we both love to walk and take pictures, but we don’t live close so these events have to be planned in advance. Time flies when I am with her. When I am feeling like someone who has been transported to a hostile planet, she brings me back home. She reminds me of who I was, and still am somewhere inside, despite the fact that I may feel transplanted, lost, and downright scared. You can’t put a price on that.

Yesterday we were walking around a graveyard and found this gravestone. We both loved it, read the words aloud together and took a photo.

Gravestone for Ann Ellery

A Loving Gravestone


There was a silent pause as we both thought about Ann, who we never had a chance to know. But my friend said it first, “She sounds great; I would feel lucky to have those things said about me.”  In the post-feminism age, these qualities may sound laughable to some. But the description makes me think of a Jane Austen heroine, vibrant and full of life, someone who must have been fun to talk to, and valued as a friend. It’s wonderful not to have to explain this, or excuse this thinking to my friend. I know we have more than surface things in common. We have deep values about what is important…this is why we are still friends despite the changes in our lives.

In case you can’t read it, this is how Ann Ellery is described:

To the memory of Ann Ellery…

In every aspect of life, she exhibited a becoming behavior,

was sensible and quick of apprehension,

spritely and agreeable in conversation,

hospitable, charitable, sincere and pious.


I have to say, I don’t believe we see these qualities too often in today’s selfish greedy society, and I think we are the worse for it. But I feel lucky to know some people who wouldn’t choose to put on their gravestone achievements or job descriptions, but a picture of a treasured human being.

I was telling my mother (currently my best friend) about my last post on different kinds of friends. My mother said, “Well I can’t read it because I don’t have a computer.” Fair enough…I understand that and I don’t hold it against her.

I have been told by some friends: “I don’t have time to read blogs…sorry.” I also understand that and I don’t get angry; many of them work a lot of hours, and we all have our priorities and different ways of relaxing. I don’t go to some peoples’ “events” because I don’t have time or it doesn’t fit my lifestyle, but I am choosing NOT to make it a priority. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about them, but I know I am missing out on getting to know them better and sharing an experience that is part of their life. It IS a choice that I am making and I have to “man up” about that.

But acknowledging and understanding these responses as choices doesn’t stop me from thinking that because my friends and family don’t read what I write, they don’t know me as well as bloggers from across the globe who’ve never met me! What’s up with that?! Of course our blogging personas are different than our “real life” personas, but they are surely an aspect of who we are.

That got me curious…fellow bloggers…Do your friends and family read your blog?

Just for fun, fill out this quick poll and let’s see what we find out!

{August 3, 2013}   Different Kinds of Friends


My “hangout” friends from my twenties

I’m a very fortunate person. Many people in my life have been there for more than 20 years…some for 50! I love my friends and always look forward to seeing them. Here’s my dilemma: my friends have very full lives. They have great, responsible jobs and families and interesting hobbies; that’s what makes them interesting people to be around. The flip side is that I have to make plans to see them weeks in advance. There is also the distance factor; many of them live more than one-half hour away; some more than an hour (when we make plans we meet somewhere in between).

I really don’t have any “proximate” friends, especially now that I have moved. Nobody to just spontaneously say, “Hey…you want to go get a cup of coffee?” This has been the case for most of my grown-up life. So I have learned to go for walks alone, go shopping alone. I certainly don’t want to let it keep me housebound. But here’s the chicken-or-the-egg aspect: Do people not invite me to do things because they think I am self-sufficient? That I WANT to be alone? Did I create this persona? Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t cause this in some way (certainly it is too painful to think that nobody wants to be around me…I try NOT to go there).

I have to admit, it bothers me that I don’t have any “hangout” friends anymore, like I had in my twenties. We were single and went out to clubs every weekend…until the boyfriends came into the picture and “grown-up” life took over.

But it isn’t necessarily an age thing. My brother and sister-in-law are middle-aged and they have “hangout” friends; people they see just about every weekend. There’s no need to make plans; it is just assumed they are going to see each other. One of the people I would call one of my closest friends (the closest thing I have to a sister) has “hangout” friends, who happen to be family; they are her cousins. Every weekend they are at her house. If I were to call, she would invite me over too, but I’m not part of the “group.”

I know I’m not alone in this. I remember an episode of the 1990’s TV show, “Wings.” The couple in the show wanted to find another couple to do things with: they were looking for “hangout” friends. They met a couple they thought could fit the bill. They did a few things together, but then all of a sudden the other couple started making excuses, and they wondered what happened. It came out that their new friends felt they were too “desperate” and “clingy” and didn’t want to be around them.

So what’s the answer? If you are self-sufficient and try to enjoy your own company, people don’t think you want to see them or don’t need them. Yet you don’t want to have people invite you to do things out of pity or duty.

Just wondering…how many of you out there have “hangout” friends, and how did you meet them?

et cetera
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