Tag Archives: friendship

Sorry, not sorry.

I heard some good news today about an old friend who had hurt me a great deal a few years ago. It soured my day.

But it made me realize, yet again, how fragile forgiveness can be,  and just how difficult it can be to live as Jesus did, and as the Father wants us to. Funny how we can assure ourselves we have forgiven in our minds, but when shocked or surprised somehow – like when you run into someone unexpectedly – the truth comes out. At least in your heart.

So, what to do? I guess I could sit around, walk around, whatever, feeling glum, excavating the pain and rehashing all the terrible things I think ruined my friendship. Isn’t that what we all do? Those of us who are willing to admit it, anyway. I know I do. But I don’t want to do that. I’m trying to live my life better, by what I’ve learned and by the path God is asking me to follow.

I tried something new instead. I said two prayers. One for me, and one for my old friend. Nothing elaborate. Just a quick nod to the Lord acknowledging that it’s hard to control our feelings, even when we can admit they are sometimes a little irrational. I asked him to help me let it go and find happiness in someone else’s success. And to remember the goodness of that relationship, not the bad ending. It was a long one. Most of it was special.

I also asked God to bless my friend and her family. I’m not sure if she ever understood the impact her actions had on my life. I prayed for her happiness, and that she always keep in mind that others are part of the decisions she makes, no matter how insignificant they may seem to her. The people or the decisions.

I find again that being a Catholic is indeed a great challenge, every day on every level. Forgiveness is not a one time thing, where you say your sorry, shake hands and everyone goes on merrily. It’s an ongoing choice to fight off the negativity and maintain your desire to make that “I’m sorry” stick. 

We certainly don’t make it easy for one another. Here’s to trying harder to forgive and to forget.

Girl Power-Up

For a little while now, I’ve been reliving some of the worst memories of my adolescence.  I suppose it’s my way of living vicariously through my daughters, both now tweens. 

Like all mothers, I pray they will grow into level-headed, self-loving, decent young women. In my generation, many of us instead grew into neurotic, self-doubting, low-self esteem bundles of emotion. Sadly, and many women won’t admit this, we developed this way at the hands of other women – bullies, social climbers, gossips, etc. In my day, women were their own worst enemies. And I think very well may still be.

We give a lot of lip service these days to raising strong, independent, self-actualized young ladies. We encourage them to do whatever they dream, to be who they are, and see themselves as powerful. We remind them they’re capable of math and science. We have them playing football and hockey. We change the body type of Barbie so they don’t see themselves as sexual objects. And yet somehow, that cattiness is still alive and well in females everywhere, and at even younger ages.

I have been working for the last 11 years now at raising my own strong little ladies. I don’t sugar coat the lesser amenities of life for them – we all need to be responsible and productive. Even with my own very pronounced short comings (depression, diabetes, heart disease) I’m dedicated to providing them with the tools they will need to take care of themselves with confidence as they become adults in a very cruel world. 

Yesterday, for the first time, I began to wonder if I’m doing it wrong. 

My oldest daughter asked me if she could go to a different school. I was surprised…somewhat. She has had a hiccup or two in her emotional development, and is regularly referred to by people at our school as “sensitive.” That means she’s known to cry at school when she feels put down, alone, overlooked, overwhelmed or teased. She shows her hurt. That makes some kids think she’s not cool, and some teachers that she’s less intelligent. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. She’s quite smart, a wonderful cartoonist, dedicated musician and overall good-hearted person. Her academic test scores are well above average. And she’s very likable. Similar to other girls her age, she’s also a bit awkward and confused. Like others, she’s gained a little weight, struggles with athletics, is stymied sometimes by her developing body and feels left out of almost everything. She seeks affirmation.

She’s had a few “best friends,” but all in all, it seems when she finds one, that girl finds someone else who doesn’t want her around. It appears she’s been labeled uncool, and is regularly alone in a sea of little girls, who, unlike her, do not appreciate country music, trombone, Disney animation, black jelly beans and Minecraft. 

I was like this growing up. Like her, I lived a bit farther away from the others in my class, didn’t play with those kids often after school, and my activities were considered weird. I went through that awkward phase where I got a little overweight and couldn’t get my hair to lay just right. I was an early bloomer. I was teased and bullied regularly by kids who today don’t remember doing it. But I remember – and that treatment stayed with me my whole life. I still doubt my worthiness and abilities today.

I had hoped in this new age of the Strong Girl, my daughters would not experience this catty competitiveness that should have died off by now, allowing young women to support one another while appreciating their differences. Yet it now seems to start more strongly at younger ages. (For my youngest in first grade.)

What are we doing as mothers, teachers, role models that tells girls it’s ok to ostracize other girls on the basis of what society tells us is cool or not cool? Is it right not to invite one girl out of a class to a party because she doesn’t get an A on every test, or because she doesn’t have the coordination to play basketball? What about if she’s chubby, or tells silly jokes or repeats herself when she talks?

All girls, little ones, tweens, teens, even adults, want a friend or two to share life experiences with. As adults, as a society, are we subtlety telling our daughters that some girls don’t deserve friendship or an ally in the battle of growing up? 

It seems so. We can do all we can to encourage them to be who they are as their parents. But there’s little we can do when their peers deconstruct that confidence daily simply because who they are isn’t in style. When push comes to shove, they believe other girls over parents “who have to tell them nice things.”

As women, likely all of whom have experienced this type of abandonment by friends, shouldn’t we be encouraging our daughters to embrace differences and build support for and among all girls facing the perils of young adulthood?  Let’s find ways to kill the spectre of “popularity” among kids before we create more girls who are afraid to engage their gifts.

A Muslim Saved My Life

As far as many people are concerned these days, there’s little room for debate on anything.  If you agree with something, you agree wholeheartedly with no questions or doubts. If you don’t, every fiber of your being is against it. You apparently have to be an “extremist” to have your opinion count on any issue.

That seems to be the case when it comes to the world’s current refugee problem. At least when it comes to the solutions our leaders have to offer us. The truth of the matter is that most people who have truly taken time to consider the conundrum were in fall around the middle. No one really wants to turn aside people in true need – no matter their background. And no one wants to be conned into complicity by terrorists.

When I was in high school, my German language class traveled to Germany on the ultimate field trip. It was about six months after the Berlin Wall “came down.” It was also handy to the time of the Lockerbie air plane crash. 

On the way home, in the shuffle of 20 something high school kids getting into the Berlin airport, through customs and to the right gate in a foreign language, a friend of mine lost his ticket and boarding pass. Our chaperone, a Catholic Marianist Brother, and my friend appealed to the airline to reissue – the ticket was paid for, the seat reserved as part of an educational package. It was just a piece of paper that was lost.

Airline officials in Germany were already dealing with air port security issues then, in 1990. Americans really had no idea why there were soldiers in the terminal with large guns. The airline didn’t want to let my friend on the plane. After quite sometime and probably some serious Catholic guilt from our teacher, the airline acquiesced – if my friend agreed to check everything he was carrying straight through to the States. I still remembering him fretting over expensive Germab beer steins he was taking home for family.

My friend is Middle Eastern. I’d say he’s Muslim, but I’m not really sure how active he is in the religion. I know when we were in Catholic school together (yes, you read that right) his older brother was trying to learn more about Islam. I remember him attempting to fast during Ramadan once and speaking to my world religion class about the amazing fatigue he felt. To make matters more interesting, my friend with the lost ticket had  a variety of health problems that made him look closer to 30 than 16.

I “speak” with my friend still over Facebook. He’s an American. Like those Muslims you hear about who serve dutifully in the US Armed Forces. We have interesting conversations about the refugees. He reminds me not all Muslims are part of or agree with ISIS, Al-Quida, Boko Haram, or any other extremist group. I remind him that people like me fear for the lives and future freedom of our children. Shutting the door, so to speak, doesn’t sound bad to us. 

We think about ways to separate Middle Easterners, Americans of Middle Eastern descent, and peaceful (yes, some are) Muslims in people’s minds from Muslim extremists. Almost two decades of PR experience and I’m stymied on that one. Our leaders need to think as hard as we are. There must be something between turning our backs on refugees, and allowing the fox into the hen house in the name of morality. 

Today, I remembered something that kicked me right onto the fence on refugees, from what on Saturday was a lock the door and throw away the key stance.

Just a little less than three years ago, I almost lost my life to a heart attack brought on by diabetic ketoacidosis. Not only did I survive, I am again thriving. The doctor who saved my life on the operating table with almost no damage to my heart, and who has sustained me, is a Muslim.

Not everyone is dangerous. But some certainly are. Which are you?

Can I Trust You?

My hair hurts.

I’ve been spending a lot of time these days thinking about trust. And I’ve got to say, I’ve got nothing.

I can honestly tell you I currently trust a total of seven people. Two are 10 and under.  And if homework is involved, there can be lapses there.

But that’s not the kind of trust I’m really talking about. Kids are going to fib if they think they’re headed for trouble. I’m talking about the kind of trust you base life decisions on – the kind you build your foundation on and take refuge in.

For many years, since childhood until my 30s, I trusted freely. I believed in people, and I believed those who I spent time with, worked with and for, and knew me in my community, if they claimed to like me, accepted me for who I was. We may not have agreed on everything, but I thought my inside person – the part of me that loves, hates, likes, dislikes, thinks etc – was safe with them. I rarely held back my feelings on anything, even if I changed them, or they led to what I considered an “agree to disagree” situation.

Much has changed. A few years ago, I lost the woman who had been my best friend since high school. In a somewhat heated discussion in front of all of our other friends, suffering with serious depression, I told her I didn’t think our relationship was reciprocal – and that it had been a long time since it had been, if it ever was. After over 25 years, in which we always said “friends can tell each other anything,” she kicked me out of her house. I apologized – in writing no less – at least three times. She has yet to accept. 

I’m sure we don’t know each other at all any longer. Nor do I know the others who were there that night any more, even those who promised to support me but have now even unfriended me on Facebook.  Sadly, I couldn’t even say I’d trust any of them now if I had to.

I’ve tried to keep up and “fix it” – I have sent Christmas cards, gifts for my God child. Tried to find out what’s happening through other sources. I pray daily I’m forgiven. I pray for my friend, our friends, their children, their parents. Heck, I even tried to die once of a heart attack. I got a delivery of rotten pineapple and cantaloupe from four couples who were once my foundation. No calls, no cards. To this day, it’s the most painful part of that experience – I truly was sick of a broken heart.

But I digress. Recent turns in the world have me realizing that beyond my tight circle, I’m really not sure who or what there is to trust in.  Obviously not age-old friends who’ve abandoned me. I have relatives I cannot trust, who have literally stolen or attempt to steal from me when I’ve showed them kindness. I had colleagues who destroyed my confidence and eventually my career because I put my children above my job. Not doctors who can’t seem to comfort or heal me. I love my country – yet the very president shows contempt for my religion, my race and my upbringing.

I’m confused also about my Church. As an adult, I’ve finally gained an understanding of what it stands for, what its traditional teachings show. While I’m busy striving to be God’s servant and falling on my face in the process like any real Catholic, our clerics are giving the impression that perhaps THEY no longer trust the Word of God.

In this world, I find love only in my family and my dogs. I hide from most of the rest for fear my heart cannot take any more loss. And I’ve come to understand those who say God is their light. Not the God wrapped in the majesty of the Church. Not the superhero one we look for when something awful happens and we wonder why he allows it. But the one who’s strong hand I can feel on my shoulder at night when I open my Bible and allow him to lead me to the right passage to heal my anger and fear. The one who gently shows me each day, through my beautiful daughters, that the world might be ok after all. The one who trusts ME to raise them. The one who gives me the ability to share my often unpopular ideas here with you.

I’ve found through my recent thinking, in our world so full of lies, he is the one I trust most of all.

Pomp & Circumstance

I had a little bit of a shock today from an old friend. He noted on his FaceBook page that it had been 25 years to the day, June 2, 1990, that our senior class had graduated high school.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know that…I did. But it finally dawned on me what 25 years really meant. It meant a college degree, a graduate degree, a series of very rewarding jobs, a wedding, a husband, and two wonderful little girls. It also meant diabetes, depression, the crash and burn of a promising career, the failure of a new career attempt, the loss of once-true friends, and a heart attack.

In June of 1990, I was a young woman with all of that ahead of me, and of course a lot more hair. The night before my graduation ceremony, three days before my 18th birthday, I had broken up with my first love. I whimpered through most of the graduation and baccalaureate Mass. In true teenage fashion, we were back together the next day, and held on for three more years, as our very different lives sent us down separate roads little by little.  

 A few years back, we found one another. He told me he was using the lessons he had learned from my parents to guide his own children. I cried – He had come from a broken home, and my parents never really approved of our relationship. To think he had learned from them anyway was extraordinary. My first love took his own life a few years ago now. There’s a different, bittersweet feeling to the world when I look back at graduation today.  The same world that propelled me had failed him.

Two good friends of mine spoke as co-salutatorians on my graduation day. I’d spent everyday and almost every class with them for four years. I lost track of them almost immediately. I still really don’t know why. I saw one, now a successful and admired doctor, one day when I was at a local hospital for a pre-natal check-up. We had been thick as thieves, yet I couldn’t bring myself to even say hello. For some reason, I was afraid she wouldn’t remember me. 

In the same hospital, I ran into another classmate while visiting my grandmother. I had known her since elementary school. And, as few know, in our junior high years, lived in fear of her bullying me. I was happy not having seen her more than twice since high school. Even in my late 30s, the encounter sent me back to a time when I was timid, embarrassed and sad. A time when good grades allowed our principle to overlook me skipping school to keep away from her. Today, I’m using that experience to help my own daughter who gets bullied.

Just a few weeks ago, my oldest daughter went to a sleepover at a friend’s. The friend’s father graduated a year after I did from the same school. I had a friend then who had a colossal crush on him. I lost track of her a few years back, but I hear she’s somewhere back around town. If you had told me in 1990 that his daughter and mine would be in the same class in Catholic school, I’d have laughed. God brings people back into our lives sometimes. Only He knows why.

It’s amazing to me how 25 years later, the lessons of those years of Catholic high school are still with me. How the people I knew then can illicit the same feelings from me now. How the teachers I knew then can still make me feel like a kid. How my older brother’s friends who looked after me as a freshman still make me feel safe and loved today. How memories of class trips and adventures keep me connected to some I’d never have known otherwise. How I can’t hear the Eagles sing “Take it Easy” without thinking of a dear high school friend who sang and played it better to my ears.

So much that I learned in those years made me who I am. Not only personally, but in relation to God. My experiences in Catholic high school, while maybe not so different from those of other teenagers in many ways, came with an underlying morality, and a safety net of teachers, parents, administrators and friends to hold me up. In my later life, I find many of the lessons I learned from them have kept me alive to fight another day. Literally.

I couldn’t have imagined sitting in that wood pew in St. Paul’s how much hardship life would bring in my future. Nor could I have imagined the blessings. As I look at this year’s graduates, I can’t help but wonder what the Lord has in store for them. I hope they have learned as much as I found later that I had.

The Silent Treatment

I, probably like many of you, grew up in a home where my mother regularly said, ” if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.” And like many others, I have found myself continuing on in this mommy tradition of convincing kids not to ever say anything that could some how hurt someone else’s feelings.

This is indeed a good idea for children, who in case you don’t have any, have the most amazing ability to say the most perfectly wrong thing at the most uncanny time. Like the time my brother, then about three years old, stood up on a church pew during the priest’s homily and happily told Father he was talking way too much. 

But as usual, I digress. I’m beginning to think this practice of being silent on hard topics is not so sound as we grow older. Most of us seem to have this idea that never talking about those elephants in the corner keeps everyone happy. And keeps everyone happy with us for not delving into the uncomfortable. 

I’m not sure we do this for such altruistic reasons. I’m pretty sure most of us don’t ever want to be the bad guy, and were just saving ourselves from conflict. I’m guessing the person or event or issue at hand never really comes into our minds at all. If it did, we’d know that there are difficult things that need to be aired – to provide closure, to save hard feelings, to encourage someone to let go, or even to help someone improve their own lives. It can be our calling to be eyes for those who do not see.

A personal example: I once had a friend who was an integral part of my life. I shared long days, sometimes every thought, with this person. Then one day, it simply ended. My friend stopped talking to me, no explaination given. He treated me as if I were a stranger. Mutual friends stopped talking to me. I was snubbed, pushed aside, thrown away by people I spent everyday with. It was troubling. That was over 20 years ago. I still have no idea what occurred, what offense I was charged with.

A few years ago, the disappointment so got to me that I asked everyone I thought would know flat out what had happened to this relationship. I even tried to reach out to my one-time friend via Facebook, etc, to no avail. But there is someone who does know. Someone else I was quite close with, who was also close with the lost friend I so adored. This person refuses to this day to tell where I went wrong.

For 20 years, I have had no closure. No way to put this relationship behind me. And it has had serious consequences on my state of mind. It has caused me to be overly careful in making new friends. I expect to be hurt this way again. It’s caused me to doubt and lose other friends. My husband has gone so far as to say I hate people. That would likely surprise anyone who has truly known me for the greater number of years I’ve been alive.

In my experience, short term hurt is almost always preferable in the adult world to unknowns and the carousel of regret we ride when we cannot understand our own faults. I know I am also guilty of playing the “it’s not my place” to share game, consciously leaving someone in great doubt, twisting in the wind. We likely all are, as we don’t realize how important some things are in the lives of others.

Why do we fear leveling with people we love? Be the issue that they have bad breath or that their child is involved in questionable behavior or that they’re drinking too much, why do we have such opinions of our “friends” that we feel they are unable to appreciate our concern for their happiness? Or better yet, why would we doubt the loyalty of a friend who chooses to bring the hard truth to our door? 

No one likes hearing bad things or hard truths about themselves. Yet we must, or continue making the same mistakes. There are times when true friends must make a decision to share things that need resolved. To care enough about someone when times are hard and confusing. To put someone they love back on the tracks after derailment, without worrying about how they themselves will be viewed.

Life is difficult. Good people make mistakes, and often don’t even know they have. Unless the rest of us man-up, face the needs of our peers, and open our mouths in the name of kindness, we risk losing many of the people and moments that make our lives worth living and the bonds between people stronger.