Brrrr! It’s uncomfortably cold in my office, but I refuse to turn on the central air and the only space heater is in the living room. First world problem: I’m charging my iPad via the laptop, which is using the only charger in the house, so I can’t unplug myself and cuddle under a blanket in the living room. In my defense, it’s an old iPad and an even older laptop and my iPhone is even older still.
Ha! As if that matters, right?
My husband has stayed home from work for the last two days, so my plans changed a little. I’ve been busy enough walking dogs, and that’s been my “100 Day” exercise each day so far. I’ve been lucky! It hasn’t rained (much) and it’s been relatively warm, so the walking has been nice. Blue sky, even hints veiled through light fog, makes my heart quite a bit lighter. Is it just me, or does a pretty day affect the rest of you too? But tomorrow I’m going to roll out the never used yoga mat, put on my new pair of yoga capris and dive on in! The dogs will find it funny and will try to join in, but that will be part of the fun. I wasn’t even going to bend and grunt, and maybe even fart (because of the bending and the grunting, doncha know) in front of my ill (ish) husband. I know he’d like to believe his love for me is unconditional, but even a good man has his limits and I’m not secure enough to test them in such a harsh way.
I’ve been having a long (months long) online conversation with a far away friend about authentic living, accepting the choices we’ve made, taking responsibility for where we are today…. And today it made me think about the amazing friends I have. She is certainly one.
I have a friend named Joe that I’ve known for over over 40 years. I met him in high school. Am I really that old? We met by arguing religion in increasingly long notes on a school desk that we shared in different periods. He was very funny, very smart, an excellent writer, and (as I thought then) very wrong! I loved our pencil debates. We eventually met in person, and I felt like I’d made a friend for life. So far so good! He moved thousands of miles away for a while, but we became pen pals. Whenever a letter showed up in my mailbox, I was so excited! I can’t remember how often we wrote one another, but I’m sure my letters were long, flowery, and rambling. Why? Well! That’s the point I’m trying to reach. Joe was a unique friend, and I’m so lucky, because I think some people for all of their lives never find a good friend like him. Joe accepted me for exactly who I thought I was, and seemed delighted to let me blather on and on about whatever was the passion of my day, which was usually boys. Poor patient Joe. I remember that he told me my handwriting changed a little bit every time I thought I was in love with a new boy. And yes! I made daisies out of the dots above the “i”s, and I probably changed the daisies to hearts occasionally. Joe helped me see I had some worth. I honestly never believed that before Joe and I became friends.
I was nominally popular in school, but my three brothers, all younger than me, were very popular. Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! My mother had four babies right in a row. This meant (for me) that my brothers brought home cute boys close to my age, and it also meant that I learned at a very young age how to act around boys, but it was acting! Acting. Inside I was an insecure mess. I was princess of the small talk, though. I could feign self assuredness by telling good jokes. I could throw my head back and laugh even if I was a quivering mess. Because I learned to pretend in my high school world, I survived, but with all of those boy crushes and all of the dates and “going steady,” nobody knew me except Joe. His unwavering friendship gave me self confidence I never would have found otherwise. He helped me believe I was lovable. Well, likable, anyway. I’ve never been much of a “catch,” but I’m likable enough.
Joe moved to Los Angeles, got married, created a fantastic career as a television, screen writer and television creator/producer, got divorced, started writing movie screenplays that have elegant successes, but to me? To me he’s the boy that saved my life. He was, as he would describe himself, a high school nerd. I was a relatively popular “cute girl,” and yet we forged an understanding that took us beyond our outward appearances, and beyond our social niches. We were more than that, and look at us now! He followed his dreams, never wavering in his walk towards success. I married a man who couldn’t love me, had two kids who have become fantastic human beings, gained way too much weight, got a divorce, married for a second time to one of the nicest men alive, and moved over a thousand miles away from the place I’ll always consider home, lost my career five years ago and have struggled with joblessness and the feeling of uselessness since that time. Have I found success?
Absolutely yes. When I made the heart-wrenching decision to get a divorce, I called Joe one night, late at night, and whispered my confession into the phone. I was so ashamed. I was afraid he would judge me. I feared he’d be disappointed in me. I didn’t know until almost two decades later that he was actually thrilled. He knew, well before I knew, that the marriage was killing me. Having a friend like Joe? Success! Moving away from everything I knew to start a completely new and different life? Brave!
It’s the “host of witnesses” like Joe, like my far away poet friend, like my old school friends that still keep in touch, like my “Women of a Certain Age” friends, that keep me functioning with the belief that I am all I need to be.