Animals are such agreeable friends ― they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~ George Eliot
Do you do any “annual” things with your family or friends?
We have our Polish Sausage Making Party every year — those that participate say we’ve been doing it for 15 years. I look back on my life and remember the girl’s shopping weekends we used to take just so we could stay overnight and drink and eat and gossip and not drive. Further back, I remember fishing trips I used to take with my family; sticking bamboo poles in the muddy bank, playing hide and seek in the woods, and whispering about the strange old hobo man that lived in this nasty little shack down the road.
I wish our minds held more memories, don’t you?
I know I went places, did things, with family and friends. I get glimpses camping with my oldest being only 1-year-old, of taking my in-laws to Las Vegas two weeks before my mother-in-law served divorce papers to my father-in-law. I vaguely remember spending a week out in Seattle visiting a girlfriend when I was younger, and another week visiting a friend in Texas.
But that’s all I remember.
I didn’t take many pictures back then. The cameras were clumsy, and who wanted to bring film to be developed all the time?
These days my phone camera is full. There’s not a get together I don’t try and snap, a sunset I don’t capture. And that includes this ski weekend.
As I get older I find I’m forgetting more and more — not so much a dementia thing, but I’ve got 560,640 hours of experiences in my head. A bit much even for a human computer to recall.
That’s why doing things with family and friends is so important. So many of us hide behind the ego’s judgement of “they should call me” or “they didn’t invite me.” So we therefore skip over thinking or calling or doing something with those who really make our life full.
I learned long ago that it doesn’t matter if I’m the one who’s always calling. So what? Some people have quirks in their personality that stand in the way of their desire to do the same. It’s the same with planning things. I’m always “complaining” that I’m so busy all the time, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Being busy means interacting. Growing. Discovering. You can’t do that locked up in your house behind a computer screen.
I encourage those of you who are on the bring of making plans to MAKE THEM. Don’t let whose turn it is spoil the possibility of a wonderful time. And wonderful memories.
One day your memories will begin to fade, and all that will be left is the smile that was created the day it happened. And if you’re lucky, that’s a hell of a lot of smiles to keep you going.
I’ve just had an apostrophe.
I think you mean an epiphany.
No… lightning has just struck my brain.
Well, that must hurt.
According to Meriam dictionary, an epiphany is
Let me ask you first. For those of you who write — in any form — do you have a face or person in mind for your main characters? I often need (or want) a general idea in the flesh of what my peeps look like. Not exact, of course, but a basic form from which I can expand. Through the years I’ve used characteristics of Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind), Derek Jacobi (Hamlet), Jafar (Aladdin), Maggie Smith (Hook), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones). I’ve changed hairstyles, eyes, and personalities. I don’t use faces whose personalities I can’t stand, or whose character I can’t stand.
This blockage can almost be a writer’s block in terms of the ebb and flow of the story. It’s not the do all/be all, but let’s just say it helps. And I’m sad when I just can’t picture my hero/heroine.
So to my epiphany.
I’ve got this novel I’ve GOT TO FINISH EDITING, and all this time I cannot find a real face to match the heroine of my time travel space odyssey. So on my drive home from work I asked my Spirit Guide(s) to give me an idea of face to go with my astral traveller. And who popped into my head but my best friend.
Now, that may seem stupid. It may seem that my friend was the basis for the character all along. If so, it was oblivious to me. But once I put two and two together, I kind of freaked. After all, she is my soulie mate. My bud. My creative and laughing counterpart.
And I’m not sure she will be thrilled.
Oh, I know, book characters are louder and brighter and meaner and crazier than real life. They need to be in order to keep one’s attention. But sometimes the parallels become distorted between the two, and the model is afraid that’s how one really sees them. One of my blogger friends based a character on her mother, and her mother loved it. Other writers have barely veiled the horrors from their childhood or failed marriages or teachers they had in school and don’t care who knows it.
My book’s heroine is a great personality, just like my friend. But she is way kookier, more impulsive, and more off base than most people I know. She is bigger than life. Her gestures, her vocabulary, are just a part of her over-exaggerated personality.
And I love her.
But is it my friend? Does it matter that my heroine is bits and pieces of a number of people I’ve known in my life?
I suppose if I made my characters pedophiles or torturers it might offend the model they’re based on (if they ever read the story). But seeing as I can’t really write agony and horror and desperation, I don’t think anyone will be offended if my characters of kids or widows or bank tellers look a little familiar.
I believe every character we create is based on someone we’ve met on our journey though life. Whether it’s in a book somewhere, a movie, or in our actual lives. And I believe this fertile base is ours for the taking.
I still feel bad that I only now realize I’ve tapped into my friend’s physique and charisma to create a brand new person. I wonder if I should tell her. Or let her read the book and figure it out for herself.
Either way, look around you. Inspiration is closer than you think.
And, after all, I doubt if a former sales director will see himself as the crazy, stressed out, flipped out salesman that gets into poison violet candy…
Was thinking this morning. What would I do if I won the lottery?
We had a conversation like this not long ago, when the lottery winnings were in the billions. I knew I had a snowball in hell’s chance of matching even one number, so that was that. But I sometimes wonder what I’d do if I really did come across an incredible amount of cash.
No doubt the first thing everyone would do would be reward yourself. You’d be a fool not to. For what you’ve put up with in your life, a paid-off mortgage or new car is definitely worth the payback.
Then comes pyramid #2. Parents, kids, sisters, brothers, cousins. Well…it depends on how close you are to your cousins. But you know what I mean.
Then comes charity. From cancer to colitis to kidney disease, there is a cause for everything. Perhaps that choice comes from some personal experience. Then again, look around you. How many personal causes are right there next to you?
Just as needy as any national charity are the friends who have stood by you year after year. Maybe your friends are all well and good. But others have seen hard times, too. We have one set of friends who have been in and out of the hospital; one is on disability, one is going to school so she can get a better job. Another couple has both the husband and wife fighting different health care issues and still working full time. A couple of friends are still paying off their “American Dream” that didn’t pan out, plunging them into bankruptcy or eternal second mortgages. Another single friend supporting both her daughter and two elderly parents. Friends who may or may not be suffering from the aftermath of war.
These are the friends I would help out first. The friends who have a hard time walking up stairs. The friends who take medicine so their body stops hurting. The friends who have bought me coffee and talked me out of depression. The friend who texts me out of the blue and asks if I’m really doing okay. The friend that smiles and laughs through every working day.
These are the “charities” I would help if I could. People who are doing things themselves, not asking for help, not asking for charity. People who can’t make ends meet but still manage to come up with pizza money when we all get together. Friends whose children are a little challenged, yet plow through the system with their eye on the prize just like anyone else. Friends who have nothing to offer but a smile and a hug.
Sometimes I think we underestimate the value of friends. We love them, we support them, but often are glad we’re not them. For how would we deal with such disappointment? Such pain? Such confusion? They deal with the world the same way that you and I do it. They complain, they vent, they cry, they laugh, and they move on.
Sometimes I feel so bad that I can’t make their lives easier. Better. I look at my own life. I see what makes my trials easier to bear. And you know what?
It’s the same thing that makes my friends’ lives easier.
If you can’t give them all a half million dollars, give them something even better. Give them YOU. Give them a call. Text them. Buy them a cup of coffee. Invite them over for dinner. Send them a book. Put a funny pic on their Facebook page. Do things to show them how much they mean to you.
Do it now. Don’t wait. You know that old adage….
And besides. It’s 15% off pizzas next Monday…
Thanksgiving. That time of year when we eat too much, watch too much football, and sleep away the day. It also is the day we give thanks for friends and family and our life, such as it is.
This Thanksgiving I want to put an extra thank-you out there. A thanks to the wonderfully fun, entertaining, and sometimes poignant blogs and bloggers that I follow.
I know there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there; millions reading, billions thinking about the whole process. Like you, I don’t have a lot of time to read — I, too, have a bizillion other creative paths to walk down. (Think of how tired we all are!)
But I’d like to thank the following bloggers for keeping my dream alive. I know there are some that I have missed, some who have taken a break from blogging, and many that I should be following, but in my heart I love you all.
Check them out, and, if they tickle your fancy, give them a follow!
The Return of the Modern Philosopher. Very funny blog about aliens, vampires, gargoyles, and love and life in Maine. https://moviewriternyu.wordpress.com/
Everyone Has a Story. Strong stories about divorce, recovery, and discovering life again. http://everyonehasastory.me/
Maxima. Love poems that cannot help but stoke the flames in your heart. https://hillsofherchastity.wordpress.com/
Not Quite Old. Funny, uplifting blog about finding the balance between growing old gracefully and staying as young as possible. https://notquiteold.wordpress.com/
Live & Learn. Uplifting blog dances across all topics, with perfect pictures to match. http://davidkanigan.com/
Leaf and Twig. Gorgeous images accompanied with the perfect haiku. https://leafandtwig.wordpress.com/
Catwoods Porch Party. Art, cats, nature, animals, weather, and whatever. catwoodsporchparty.wordpress.com
Dawn Whitehand. A wonderful Australian artist, making unique mixed media sculptures from clay, found objects and textured materials which are based on organic natural forms. dawnwhitehand.wordpress.com. (She also has a kickin’ blog of poetry and images at apoemandadrawingaday.wordpress.com.)
gwenniesworld. Marvelous photography with an eye for nature. gwenniesworld.wordpress.com
The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally. Combines personal memories, physical hardships, and a plethora of images reflecting her everyday life. annkoplow.wordpress.com
ImaginePublicity. Motivation and marketing savvy. imaginepublicity.com
The Beauty Along the Road. Discovering Beauty in the small details of our lives through scenery photography and heartfelt words. beautyalongtheroad.wordpress.com
Glorialana’s Blog. An uplifting, sensitive blog that also slices gently into your heart and soul. glorialana.com
Breezy Books. Encouraging advice and personal stories for those who love to write. breezybooksblog.wordpress.com
Victoria K. Gallagher. Flash-Fiction with a cup of Re-Ali-Tea, as she so aptly puts it. victoriakgallagher.wordpress.com
Carol Balawyder. Writing about justice, mid-life dating, grief, inspiring blogs, and awesome writing workshops. carolbalawyder.com
The Write Transition. A medical thriller author, physician, public health advocate, and writer who believes every experience is worthwhile, even if our paths deviate from where we started. carrierubin.com
Jillian Maas Backman. Best selling author and motivational speaker, a creative muse who ties intuition to success on all levels. www.jillianmaasbackman.com
Cats at the Bar. Funny adventures of a boatload of cats. catsatthebar.org
Figments of a DuTchess. Creative thinker and a successful participant in Weekly Photo Challenges. drieskewrites.wordpress.com
Booksphotographsandartwork’s Blog. Great eye for photography, with a book review now and then. booksphotographsandartwork.wordpress.com
gwenniesgarden. Some of the most unique and gorgeous flowers and garden photography I’ve seen. gwenniesgarden.wordpress.com
Friendly Fairy Tales. Fairy tales and poetry celebrating magic and nature for kids of all ages. http://www.friendlyfairytales.com
hugmamma’s MIND, BODY and SOUL. A mother’s love for her daughter and her life is reflected in her heart-warming tales. www.hugmamma.com
Please Pass the Recipe. Original and traditional recipes and the stories that go with them. www.pleasepasstherecipe.com
A Journey Called Life… Everything from poetry to fantastic images to stories about life. www.architar.wordpress.com
The Procrastiwriter. A motivator (and procrastinator) who shows how to be a successful writer around a full-time life. www.theprocrastiwriter.com
One minute I think — no, wait — I know — I know what I’m doing. Charge full speed ahead. Do it my way. Oh, do the work, do the research, but since most around me don’t listen to me anyway, just do it.
The next minute — no, wait — the next day — I have no confidence at all. What the heck was I thinking? It was a waste of time/energy/thought process.
This year is my Golden Year. Sssssssssixttty Twooooooo….(you know how hard that is to say). Golden because I finally have found a second wind, a second dream, a second chance. I’ve found a calling, and I don’t want to let go.
But also, being sixty two, I have had my fill of other’s ideas, criticisms, and opinions. I’m tired of listening to opinions that go nowhere, eyes that glaze, and minds that are always closed.
Herein lies the spike up and down.
I find I still do need eyes that glaze and closed minds to open my own. And I still need to reach out to others for help.
After all these years I still find that I still am afraid of putting out my ideas to others. I’m afraid of rejection, closed minds, eyes that glaze — all that negative stuff. And I find that all of that gets in the way of getting what I really want.
I know I’ve said this to you before, but don’t be afraid to share your ideas and directions with those who can really keep you on task. Those who enjoy your work and can give you the boost you need to take it to the next level.
Those who can see what you cannot.
Never take suggestions from those whose opinions you respect as criticism. Don’t take them as daggers to the heart, or balloons bursting in front of you. I know that’s the first place we all go. But it’s a waste of time and heart.
Tonight I broke bread — or rather ice cream — with a friend whose experience and friendship I trust. So I threw out my idea(s) for my Golden Stuff, and got some excellent feedback. Feedback I wasn’t expecting. Feedback that I hadn’t even thought of. Feedback I wouldn’t have gotten had I not “put it out there.” I know now that I have more work to do — and that’s a good thing.
Working on your dreams is a lot of work — whether you’re 25 or 55 or ___ (fill in the blank). Don’t settle for yesterday. Or maybe take yesterday and use it for today, which will be for tomorrow. And ask others. Take their thoughts and see if they fit within your own. If they don’t fit, that’s okay. But you’ll never know if they fit until you try.
Let’s work on this puzzle together.
You can teach an old dog new tricks – I’m living proof of that. I can’t tell you how many times this bell has run loudly in my head. And I’d like to think I’m humble enough to admit and learn from each and every experience.
Tonight I learned – re-learned – how important friendship can be.
My friends have always been important to me. That’s why I married my best friend. And my kids are my kids and I love them terribly. But they’re my friends, too. We have a history between us, one that leads to stories and remembrances and reprimands gone crooked.
But there’s something about best friends that aren’t necessarily related to you that can make all the difference in the world between sanity and insanity. Someone you can tell your wickedest deeds and funniest moments to who won’t look at you like you’ve got spinach between your teeth. Best friends listen to your rambling, your dreams, and your fears.
And that’s what I’ve always wanted to be. A friend.
I’m surprised how often we take advantage of our friends. Not in a mean way — more like in a carefree, careless way. How often we don’t call, don’t text, always thinking we’ll get ahold of them tomorrow. We don’t mean to be too busy – half the time I think about my besties but I’m just too tired to do anything about it.
Am I still their friend?
In a perfect world, I am. And in an imperfect world, I am too.
Tonight I proved to myself that I am a good friend. I am a good friend because I care about others – I care about the people who are talking to me. Who are laughing with me. Who are rolling their eyes at me. Over coffee and some overly-priced cupcake I shared my past, my fears, and my excitements, and allowed them to do the same. Sometimes my bffs confess all – other times they don’t share one little secret.
And that’s what best friends do. Listen, talk, say nothing.
This coming up weekend I’m going to get together with women who were my besties 20 years ago. Girls who were girls when I was a girl. Moms who were moms (or rather new moms) when I was a new mom. I haven’t seen most of them for almost 15 years.
Are we still friends? Are we still besties?
Time doesn’t change our past. The bonds we shared are still there 20 years later. Will we still find each other interesting? Fun? Will we talk till dawn or go to sleep at 10?
In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. Reconnecting to the tree that bore our fruit once upon a time is all that matters. There’s a good feeling in that.
In this world, life is short. My family, my friends, all have lost ones they loved way too soon. I miss my mom, my dad, my brother. My friends miss their dads, their moms, and their brothers. I don’t want to pass any more time missing people. A once-in-a-while call or a weekly get together — it doesn’t matter how you stay connected. All that matters is that you stay connected.
Give your bestie a call. Text them a “hello” message. Write on their Facebook page or meet them for coffee. You’ll be glad you did.
And so will they.
Every now and then I like to recommend other blogs, websites, books and music that have touched me in some way. I am not a walking advertisement, for my likes are not always yours. But now and then I enjoy sharing things that have made me smile more than once. My sphere of connections is quite limited, but now and then I luck out and find a friend that is more than that. My friend, Jillian Maas Backman, and I have been buds since our kids were in 1st grade (they are now both 24). She was my first friend when I gave everything up in Illinois and moved to Wisconsin to open a bed a breakfast, by my side when we sold same B&B, listened to my griping about all my jobs since, and fueled my love for Writing and the Arts. She also is an intuitive life facilitator, radio show host, and book author. What is an intuitive life facilitator, you may ask? In a nutshell, she has the uncanny ability to connect with your heart and soul and see what’s really going on in your life. I believe we all have that ability, but most of us don’t either see it, feel it, or pay attention to it. Jillian just is one of those people who have “IT.” Now you all know about Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com). Everyone has checked out this site for book suggestions, reviews, and just great chit chat about the world of Books. Jillian’s book, Beyond the Pews: Breaking with Tradition and Letting Go of Religious Breakdown, has been a recommended read for almost three years. To thank her loyal followers, she is running a contest through Goodreads. It’s simple, straight forward — no strings, no sticky glue. Three lucky readers will win a FREE signed copy of her book, Beyond the Pews, along with a FREE one-half hour private intuitive consultation. To be eligible, all you need to do is sign up through the Goodreads GIVEAWAY program! I’ve already read the book (which really made me feel good about myself), and Jill and I are the kind of friends who skip the deeper, cosmic, one-on-one side of things to deal with more mundane things such as kids out of college looking for jobs and retro designer shoes. But I know if I’m ever hung up my “bigger picture” she will always be there for me. Go on and check out Jillian’s website (www.jillianmaasbackman.com), read her book ( http://jillianmaasbackman.com/book), enter the Goodreads contest ( https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/96961-beyond-the-pews-breaking-with-tradition-and-letting-go-of-religious-loc). The deadline to enter is July 16, 2014. If you can’t get to check any of the above out, it’s okay. Find a best friend, share a glass of wine or orange juice, and love them for who they are. Listen to them, offer words of encourage when appropriate,and nod when words aren’t enough. Here is a bit from one of Jillian’s earlier blogs…once again, she’s on the mark… The phrases “live your life” and “follow your soul” have been blooming around us like a field of clover lately. Everyone has their own idea on how to “move forward”. Everyone has “insight” or “advice” to share with whomever will listen. On one hand that is wonderful. It is the beginning of an enlightened movement that encourages us to entwine our paths with others along the way. Some of us need a little guidance. Some of us need a little company. And truth is the only light we have to follow. But whose light do we follow? Is there a glow that is stronger down one path than the other? One’s word that is more spot-on than others? That is what the journey is all about. Finding your true path, your true direction in life, should not be one that frightens you with eternal darkness on one side and blinding light on the other. It should be the path that glows with your own footsteps. It’s the path that twists and turns and goes up the hill and down the crevice and still allows you to see your footsteps ahead of you. That’s why the shadowed feet behind you are nothing more than a means to an end. Where you have been is only a shadowed footstep. Nothing more.
No one can know any one 100%. Fact of life. Who knows what’s in the minds of your significant other, your great kid, your best friend. Heck, you don’t even know YOU as much as you think. Having said that, think about how many “others” you come in contact with every day. If you work outside the house, if you have kids that go to school, you always find someone you can share small talk with. Sometimes the small talk grows into comfortable talk. Sometimes the comfortable talk tumbles into good friend talk. But no matter where you allow the friendship to go, there is always something good to come from it.
Some people will tell you their life story in 10 minutes. Others will hold secrets as long as you know them. That’s a fact of life, too. As long as you don’t demand more (or less) from these “others” you might find real people that you enjoy being around.
I’ve been blessed in my life with a great husband, great kids, and great friends. It hasn’t always been this way. These days we laugh that wherever there’s an “A” (my last name initial), there is drama. Cancer. Passing On. Water damage from a broken faucet while your house is up for sale. It can be a big thing, it can be a small thing. But it’s always SOMEthing. That’s why you need to find friendship, a good time, whenever you can. A few fun hours can clear your thoughts, move you forward.
Back to sucking at bowling. I went to the company outing Saturday, doing my best to throw a ball down the alley, mostly winding up with gutter balls and single digit pins. To think I met my husband at a bowling alley 35 years ago was a flash down an alley I barely remember (no pun intended).
But what didn’t suck was that I had fun with people that I see in a totally different environment 40 hours a week. A single mother, a married mother of one, and a single would-make-a-great-mother, all made bowling and friendship such an easy thing. During the week we all sit tied to our desks, way over our heads in work, barely sharing tales of what we did yesterday, no less what we did years ago. Yet these are people that I see day in and day out. People who accept me for what they see. People who don’t judge me for past mistakes or slights or wrong turns. There’s no way we could know each other’s upside down lives, yet we are drawn by the common need for friendship and understanding that their “upside down” lives looks hauntingly familiar.
People don’t need to be a full-time member of your personal entourage to be your friend. While you don’t have to share intimate details, you can share the best part of yourself with others who need it. An ear to listen, advice from experience — it doesn’t matter. I learn from those who have walked my path as well as those who are walking across the field somewhere. Laughing over the little things, like bowling, makes the rest of life easier. It won’t cure the disease or a broken heart or unemployment, but it will let you know you’re not alone in the wilderness.
Now…if someone could just teach me how to bowl…
We all have had our share of pain and loss, of growth and stagnation. But we found a bond over a pedicure and lunch that will keep us connected as long as we breathe.
Get to it! Go out and bring your family and friends together. Just make a date and do it. It doesn’t matter where — bring those hearts and souls together.
Don’t wait. You don’t have as many chances as you think.
What Goes Around Comes Around. As you sow so shall you reap. The pleasant aftermaths of Karma. Put goodness out into the universe and it will return to you tenfold. Be a stinkweed and you’ll wind up in the compost heap.
I like those philosophies. But I am also beginning to like ditties like Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold, and I’m Gonna Get You, Sucka. It’s human nature to want to hurt the other person/parent/group who took advantage of your illness/ineptitude/good nature. There is perverse pleasure in thinking about making “the other guy” pay for whatever indignities they lumped upon you.
The majority of us never act upon the impulse of revenge. Except for movies and TV, extreme violence never gets you where you want to go. An easier way of releasing our anger is running ten miles or chopping carrots with a meat cleaver. Because the baddies never really “get it”, their egos will always tell them it’s the “other guy’ who’s wrong. The “other guy” started it. The “other guy” is only getting what they deserve. And if you are that “other guy,” you’re sunk.
I swam through some murky waters this week. Pedestal Poser I am not. I often get myself into “situations” that have only one way out. And that way is not the rose-petal-covered-path way. But sometimes I feel the lesson is more like a class in Nuclear Physics rather than Art 101. That no matter what I do the outcome will always be the same. Goliath 1, Weird Woman 0.
Now, this might sound like a plea to the audience for sympathy or empathy. Maybe on some super sub level it is, but it is more about moving past the meat cleavers and voodoo dolls and grabbing hold of the things that mean something to you and keeping hold. If you only allow yourself to get past the anger and broken hearts and bruised egos, you will find just as many wonderful things ahead of you as before the bump/crack/ravine in the road appeared. They’ve always been there. You’ve just let someone else’s failing ego block the way.
It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. In the mind’s eye we are always right. But true class, true enlightenment, allows the other to be right once in a while, too. We don’t have to belittle or browbeat a situation to try and make it right. Sometimes a clear head, a walk through the woods, a funny movie, or a glass of wine with a friend soothes the most raggedy heart.
If you are beating the brow of someone else because they are not doing it “your way,” stop it. The world will never spin the way you want it. So move on. If you are walking the edge of right and wrong, stop it. Pick one side or the other and just get on with it. Your payback will come in a form that reflects the choices you’ve made. If you believe you don’t deserve your fate, stop it. You do. Your future, your fate, has brought you to this moment. Right or wrong, it gives you a chance to make yet another choice. If you want to deal with more confusion and trouble, fall on the weedy side. If sunshine and vanilla ice cream are more your forte, do what’s right.
Don’t know which way to fly? Find a friend. Blow off steam with someone who is there just for that reason. Hate your boyfriend? Your parents? Your job? Tell it to someone who accepts you for you. They love you because of your morals, your ideals. Your quirkiness. And they often know what you need to sweep your sidewalk clean. Their honesty in supporting you comes from the belief that you won’t let them down either. And somewhere in the exchange of thought and feelings and pain, an answer comes.
Back to Karma. I do believe in Karma. I have always been a good person, and I have been rewarded with good people around me all my life. I have survived my ups and downs because I have found it’s much more fun to play in the sunshine than down in the troll hole. For you know what happens to trolls when the sun comes out.
Now THAT would be Karma.
This past Saturday was our “End of the Summer” Barbeque and Madness Day. This year we scheduled it on the last day of Summer, although with the clouds overhead and crispy wind from the west it was closer to a Chill Fest. It’s a great time, as cousins, brothers, kids, kid’s friends, neighbors, parents of kid’s friends, and others gather for an afternoon of too much food, too much beer, and too many rides on the go-cart.
My family and friends have a thing about getting together. We have Polish sausage making parties, birthday parties, game nights, pool parties, camping weekends, and all other sorts of “occasions” that bring us together. Sometimes we have real reasons to get together; the kids birthdays, Thanksgiving dinner, weddings. Other times it’s important occasions like “we’re opening the pool” party or “we’re canning pickles” party. Sometimes we dress up (Halloween); other times we puff out in ski jackets and ski boots. One group of us try to have “Adults Only” dinners where no kids are invited so that we can talk about them, sex, and the good-old-days. Other times it’s a double-generation free-for-all as adults and their grown kids and their kids kids get together to play games and feast on potluck goodies. Sometimes we go camping with our kid’s spouses parents (in-laws-once-removed?), and sometimes we have a “build a deck” party or “pour a new patio” party. Work and play and food and drink seem to swirl into a waterfall of laughs, tears, and sweat.
Throughout the years I have come to embrace getting together with those we love. Most times it doesn’t cost a dime (except for gas money), and the commradere is a reward that cannot be found on Facebook. We celebrated my father-in-law’s passing with the same people who pile into the Polish Sausage Making Party, and those who bring homemade salsa to barbeques are the same ones who were there for me after my cancer surgery. We reach out to others, and they return in kind tenfold.
I’ve always loved my friends and family, but as I get older I not only love them, but cherish them as well. Perhaps that’s because I know the road in front of me is shorter than the one behind me. Maybe its because I realize that what you get out of life is equal to what you put into it. I don’t wait for others to invite me, call me, text me. I invite, I encourage others to invite. I expand our circle all the time, and find others are doing the same. What’s a couple of more people sitting around the fire? What’s one more person grinding pork or skiing down the slopes?
But maybe it’s because I know that life is too short to waste time on people who don’t really care — about others, about themselves. The world is full of mean people, selfish people. There are people around you that put you down, judge you for your size or marital status, people who have no patience for anyone but themselves. Perhaps they have life-issues; perhaps they have self-issues. But they are part of the human race too, and no man is an island. We all have our problems. We all deal with death and diabetes and unemployment. That is no reason to be mean to everyone else.
My family and friends come from all walks of life. Some of us live three hours from each other. Some of us work two jobs or have a job and go to school. Some deal with arthritis, failing kidneys, and bankrupcy. Some lost a parent when they were young; some have children from previous relationships. But when we get together none of that matters. We share stories, compare aches and pains, reminisce about those who have gone before us, those who are yet to come, and talk about kids and dogs and recipes.
Don’t let life pass you by without sharing it with those who matter. Have a game night. A barbeque. A potluck. Invite friends over to watch a football game. Have birthday parties with no presents. Make an effort to get up and get out. Memories don’t cost a thing. Neither does true friendship.
On the other hand, the price you pay for being alone is more than anyone can afford.
I believe our lives are divided into tiers. Think of a wedding cake. The more layers, the larger the base has to be. Not too complicated, eh? Well, what I’m finding is that the older I get the more tiers there are on my cake and the chubbier ~I~ get.
Let’s go through this extra-spacey theory.
First is the top layer. Small, spectacular. Room for only one statue. You. It has to be you and you alone – after all, you are the only one in your head and heart, your thoughts and….well, you get it.
The next tier is only a quarter of an inch lower than the head tier. That’s the one you stand on. That is the one for the people closest to your heart. I know – you love everybody. But just run with this one. This second tier contains your life partner, children, parents, and brothers and sisters (if you’re still talking to them). These are the peeps that are there for you 24/7, through life and death and throwing up spells.
The tier beneath that are the people that you love and grown fond of through the years. Sometimes they are closer than family. And sometimes they switch places with the available spaces on the tier above. These are best buddies, in-laws, cousins. These are peeps that are there for you 24/7, but usually after there’s no one available from the upper tier.
The next tier consists of just good friends. Co-workers, classmates, neighbors, church friends. People you really like. People who are fun to be around; who ask what you did over the weekend and are you all right and do you need help with anything. This tier is great for doing things with like bowling or complaining about your employer, or meeting for beer and pizza.
This is where the layers get kind of thin. The next tier is composed of people who you don’t really hang out with, but like them anyway. They are other people that work with you, friends of friends, kids of friends. People you exchange gratuitous comments and complements with. People you wave at when passing them in the store or at work or at the park.
The tiers could go on and on, but let’s let the bottom layers speak for themselves. There could be a number of tiers, depending upon the depth of your don’t cares and dislikes and out-and-out hates. These people only bring us down, so we tend to say good luck and leave them as “character builders” on the bottom.
So what is the point of these tiers, anyway? Is it to bring to the surface how many people you love or should love or can’t love? Is it to show you how big your life’s cake really is? Is it some wonderful philosophy that combines life and love and frosting and chocolate and strawberry filling?
I suppose I could say that I use this metaphor to remind myself about my lower tiers, and how important they are to my desert called life. After all, they are there to support me, too. That’s why they’re in my life.
But I’m not that noble.
I analyze my tiers when I daydream about winning the lottery and how I would share my winnings.Who I’d bring along for the ride. And who I’d leave standing in line.
I know – you love everybody. That is a noble thought. I try and adhere to that most of the time. But there are times when you just have to kick out the weak posts holding up the upper tier and replace them with something — or someone — who really will support you.
Choose those on your tiers carefully. Know it’s not a universal palate. And not everyone is here to help you eat your cake.
Besides, you never know who will make a good tax deduction.
I was sitting around the other day with my gal friends, sharing tales about the weekend. We all seemed to have gone through the same delightful experience, albeit in different ways. We all were relaxed, having a good time, and probably drank a little too much, for we all said, “I’m too old for this.” One sat with friends and sipped with friends all day, one went to an outdoor concert, and I party hopped. I’m sure the situations were on the same astral plane as many others “my age.” Time flows, excitement and comfort wraps around us, the atmosphere make us feel good, and before you know it we are waking up the next morning with a headache, saying, “I’m too old for this.”
This psychic phenomenon is not limited to girls sharing drinking stories. This magical phrase echoes around us all the time. My husband and I spent one glorious day working outside. The air was cool, the dogs well-behaved, and we planted flowers in pots and mowed the lawn and fixed broken things and worked in the yard a little. Maybe more than just a little, for the next morning we both woke up, joints stiff, hands scratched, and twinges in the small of our back, saying, “I’m too old for this.”
Just think of how many times you have said this. In fun and in fear. A mother with a house full of 10-year-old girls staying overnight, giggling and talking till wee hours of the morning; college kids downstairs, friends over, drinking beer and playing cards, getting louder and rowdier with each hand; babysitting more than one of anything younger than five. You’re trying to be nice. You’re trying to be patient. But hours into the melee you think, “I’m too old for this.”
As I always like to point out, age is in your point of view. When the ladies shared their drinking stories, I wanted to stand and cheer. There were late 30s mingling with mid 40s mingling with late 50s. One has a 10-year-old, one has two in high school, I have one in college and one married. Yet all three of us unconsciously slipped back into our early 20s, losing track of time and responsibilities and all the trimmings that go with it, at least for an hour or two. Were we trying to recapture our youth? Were we silly old goats trying to dance the dance of the sprite in a tutu that was too tight? Or were we just human beings who never forgot how to have fun?
By now we all know that life is what you make of it. Jobs and kids and finances and health problems plague us all. Some can pick up and make a clean slate of everything; others have to muddle through the chaos and hope they squeeze out the other side sane. So when they say laughter is the best medicine, it really is. Sharing stories, playing games, dancing and prancing and acting silly all are ways to exorcise the demons we create for ourselves. I’m too fat. I’m too dumb. I’m tired of my job. I’m tired of my mother. I’m tired of being a mother. All tinny squeaks in our ear that cause us to over-analyze, over-react, and over emote. All of which get us nowhere in the end.
So what’s wrong with not acting our age? What is our age, anyway? If judged by our bodies, it might be ancient. If judged by our responsibilities it might be grown up. If judged by our dreams, it might be juvenile. Somehow there has to be a way to unite all sides of ourselves into one happy camper. So why not let go of those inhibitions once in a while? Why not drop the fear of embarrassing yourself (or others) and laugh with others? It’s not like you haven’t been embarrassed before, or never will be again. But you would be amazed the different feeling you get when you are a part of the joke, not a victim of it.
The great thing about taking chances like these, and saying “I’m too old for this” is that you find you are really not too old for anything. Alright – maybe bungee jumping or running in a marathon when you’re not a runner are contenders for never again. But even those occurrences show that you were not too old to at least try them. The obvious choices are usually general ones: take a class about something you always wanted to know about; start walking around the block at night so you can walk in the annual Relay for Life; buy yourself a journal (or a laptop) and start recording those thoughts you thought you’d never get out of your system. Volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary and make friends with the animals.
Not up to all that work? How about wearing a color you’ve never worn before? Are you a meat and potatoes kinda dresser? Add a piece of bling to your wardrobe. Take a chance on bringing extra attention to yourself. You will be amazed at how many people notice ― and how many like the “new you.” Go to a concert and sing the lyrics at the top of your lungs. Dance like a crazy person in front of the speakers to your favorite music.
Oh sure, you say. You go dance in front of the speakers…you wear the bling. You wear the tutu that’s too tight. I hate to admit it, but I already do. And I can’t tell you how scary and liberating it is. And, even if I pull a muscle dancing the “hoochi coo”, it’s a great feeling to know that no one will ever forget the sight of me “hoochi cooing” in a too-tight tutu.
Especially with a glass of wine in my hand.
©2012 Claudia Anderson