Tag Archives: friend

To those who hold a paddle

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One of the hardest parts about living on a different continent is the relational trauma it causes. For some, time and distance define the construct of how much another person is capable of mattering. For others, it’s as if we all live in a bizarre 1959 episode of Twilight Zone where time and distance don’t seem to exist…. another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.

Or maybe they just know how to use the internet.

While I don’t like the feeling that I’m growing out of certain relationships and growing into others, I’m not sure why that feeling makes me so uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem realistic that through all of life’s changing tides, the person whom we chose to be our soulmate when we were in grade school would be our soulmate after life has thrashed us both about a bit. But, sometimes they still are. And sometimes, a great friend in one context turns out to be a black hole, sucking all joy out of your life, in another. (Cue Twilight Zone theme song). We grow and we change. People we once trusted break our trust and sometimes break our hearts, perhaps even forcing us into waters so rough that forgiveness cannot tread.

So, the question I’m struggling with is when is the right time to let go, to give up, to give in, to throw in the towel. I’m exhausted from trying to keep relationships afloat that would otherwise sink. How long can you be the only one paddling the boat before your arms give out?

Home is where my feet are. I realize that there’s an extra effort involved in being my friend because of that. I can’t just grab a quick cup of coffee or attend barbecues and ugly sweater parties because I’m not usually around for them. The only way people know what’s going on in my life is if they ignore the thousands of miles and several time zones dividing us, find time to not be “busy,” and embrace the technology and time differences required to stay involved. I’m constantly surprised by the people who find the effort worth it and the ones who don’t.

I have friends that I’ve had my whole life, many of whom I’ll know until death takes whichever of us first. But some of my strongest, most cherished relationships are those that are newer, but based on love and respect, and yes, a lot of effort. If that commitment doesn’t exude from both sides, no matter how long ago the foundation was set, no new growth, and only deterioration can occur.

And sometimes, I know, the best answer is to do nothing. Let those who want to walk away (or swim, for the sake of analogy) go. I’m fortunate to have so many people in my life who are committed to loving me and who will row along beside me. I should express it to them more often because I cherish my them so damn much. As for the others, well, the inescapable end that haunts us all is too close to worry about anyone unwilling to pick up a a paddle.

Buongiorno Milano!

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Shopping Center

Milan’s cobblestone streets are flooded with Italian women wrapped tightly in fur coats and men in designer jeans and studded belts. Nodding heads on subway cars look more like Ralph Lauren billboards than tired passengers heading home from a day of work. This city has a pulse and it beats rapidly, deeply through the night and early into the morning. Where I can pass as a local in some places, Italy knows better. My pale skin, pale hair and blue eyes cause long stares and incoherent words under soft breath. Men whistle as they pass by, staring too long with eager lust in their eyes. But even the greatest offense sounds beautiful when it is muttered in Italian.

This language shakes and breathes and dives in and out and up and down. Every word sounds like a call to action, a battle cry, a plea to join a cause. And the people lift their arms high, and put their hands close to your face and speak with a passion I’ve not experienced in my most heated moments. Hymns sung to Beethoven’s Fifth in an intense and frightening way to an ear that knows no better. The metro hums with chatter and booming laughter and a sense of famiglia encapsulates the city and all of the people inside it.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

We visit the Duomo, a beautiful, skyscraping cathedral, if there ever was such a thing. Never have I seen so much art in one place. Every inch is ornate and ironic in the most beautiful way: the walls, covered in sculptures up to the ceilings, which you can barely see with human eyes; stained glass windows stretch beyond my grip of sight; the floor, a maze of complicated patterns and colors; paintings hang, two-up all the way down the church on either side. We try to make sense of everything our body is trying to absorb, but we fail and become overwhelmed, groggy from the dim lights and evaporating holy water. We leave the church, letting ourselves get lost, wandering narrow streets; every turn a new discovery, a new way to get lost again and again. We are asked for change, harassed by people on the streets collecting money for ‘Africa’ or to feed their hungry babies. We push past, pretending not to understand, and stop at a tobacco shop to enjoy a freshly rolled cigarette on a cold patio, surrounded by like-minded  locals.

And on a Thursday night, we walk into a small bar, where we are greeted by a group of men, laughing and eating cichete and drinking the local birra. Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!! echoes around us in a room with walls covered in old newspapers, slot machines lining the back perimeter. We swiftly and quietly order “due birre” from the bar and take our place at a small table in the corner. We quickly learn that’s not how Italians make friends. We are stoned to death with questions, and brought endless plates of formaggio and freshly sliced prosciutto,  deviled eggs, cheeses, salami, bread and  chips and dips. Every time we finish one plate, another one comes to replace it. Arthur works on a computer in the corner, ridden with unnecessary programs and a long history of user error. He tries to navigate Windows in Italian, and the men joke, calling him Bill Gates, gesturing to his over-sized head. They string together sentences in Italian and broken English, furrowing their brows when we don’t understand, then burning paper and building charades with toothpicks to help us along. They laugh because we don’t understand much; Armando, who knows the most English translates what he cans, and makes inappropriate gestures to either party in between his translations. The men tease each other with gay jokes and pepper their sentences with ‘fuck’ as often as possible. They apologize because I’m a girl, and immediately joke that they will take me home with them; their wives will forgive them tomorrow, they say.

IMG_0786Then a free round of beers come before the bar closes, but we stay inside, laughing and eating, filling the room with the sweet, choking smell of competing tobaccos. The owner pulls out his camera, points to his wall of photos, and we spend the next 15 minutes posing for pictures we’ll never see. We part ways, but not before receiving an invitation for the next night, which we know we will accept. And we will come back the next night, but it won’t be quite the same. These fleeting moments are never able to be repeated, and so we cherish them even more.

Day 58: The Beatles had it Wrong

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One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is that you need a little more than just love sometimes. It’s so nice to think that if you care about someone and they care back, everything will work out okay in the end.

What a convenient, little story book lie.

It seems so many relationships are crumbling around me lately, and it’s easy to see that my friends are better off for it, but living in that moment, with that pain, is much different when it’s happening to you. We jump back into the arms of people we know aren’t right for us because we get scared. We get lonely… If only we could see our own relationships with the clarity that our friends do.

So the love is definitely the most important part of a relationship, whatever the context. But if both parties aren’t willing to make some sacrifices, to choke on their pride, to devote the time that’s needed to make the other person happy, than the love can’t survive, and eventually, it will die.

And that’s the best part. Our hearts self-preserve, let us heal, and move us on. We develop antibodies toward a person who makes us unhealthy, and the things that used to make our hearts crumble eventually just become ‘things.’ As much as it may hurt, it will hurt less eventually. As much as you think you may regret letting go because “if only a few things would change it would be perfect”, you won’t. Because it never will change.

It’s so much easier than we make it out to be. When it comes down to it, a person who wants to be with you will. A person who loves you will never make you feel small. You will curl up in each other’s arms and you will feel your hearts beating together, feel protected. You will have outrageously wonderful sex that you didn’t even know existed. You won’t have to worry why he hasn’t called, or frantically search for clues as to what you did wrong. He will send you flowers if flowers make you happy, or she’ll take you to Comic-con if that’s your ecstasy. The right person will go the extra mile with you, for you. They will let you cry when you need to cry, and won’t bring it up or laugh about it to their friends later. There will be respect and patience and a stronger desire to win your heart than win an argument.

I only know it because I’ve seen it, but I believe it. So don’t strive for a tragic sort of Romeo and Juliet love. Find a love that’s more easy than hard, more smiling than tears, more excitement than panic. It’s out there. You owe it to yourself to look around bit.

Day 50: Care Bear

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Today, I’m thankful for one of my best friends on the planet, Ms. Carrie Stribling. I could have easily written this post last week, while I was in Phoenix and staying with her and Jake. We had a great time entertaining ourselves all week, the same way we have since we were in grade school. But, after talking to her until late last night because I was upset, and continuing our conversation again throughout the day today (thanks to Voxer… you’ll get a post soon too my little voice-activated friend) I realized how valuable a friendship is that you don’t have to be physically around for.

So, let me take a minute and tell you why she’s so great. First. She works really hard. She not only works a full time job, but she also runs her own photography business, and she’s actually really good at taking pictures. I’m not saying that in an obligatory ‘she’s my friend so I have of’ sort of way. When I first saw her work I was shocked. Not because I didn’t think she was capable, but because I didn’t realize we were at a place in our lives where we  were able to be really good at something. She’s creative not just in her job, but in the rest of her life as well. She’s planning an adorable wedding, she can draw, she blogs, photographs, works for a design company… she has a vision and she makes it work. She took a risk to do the thing that she loved, even though a lot of people told her that it wasn’t a stable form of work. She started out slow, but now she has a steady stream of work, and her skills continue to grow with every shoot. You can see for yourself here.

So there’s that. The hard work, integrity thing that makes you say, “wow, that person really gives a shit about their life.” I can’t help but admire that in a person.

Second. It’s who she is as a person. It’s only fitting her “pet name” in high school was Care Bear. (Sorry, “nickname” wasn’t quite the right word there). Carrie doesn’t only give a shit about her life, but she gives a shit about other people’s too. We were joking tonight that we will always be the people that cling onto the leg of a person trying to run from us, the way a toddler does when it wants to be picked up. Carrie will always be the apologizer, even if she don’t completely understand the reason for it. Not to be insincere when apologizing, but to be completely dedicated to a friend and a relationship. And she always is. She notices when people around her are off, if only just a little. She’ll follow you to the bathroom to hold your hand when no one else even noticed you were crying. And she doesn’t tell you everything will be okay because she knows you know that. She just lets you be sad, and then she hugs you and tells you she loves you.

And I’ll end with one more – although I could go on for the remaining 90 days.

I love how much she’s able to love. I can honestly say she knows the darkest, most character-degrading deeds I’ve committed, and she loves me anyway. She’s had a hard time telling me things in the past, but she trusted enough to let me in so that I know her twisted, hard-to-tell stories too. And then there’s Jake. Soon to be husband, always to be a character. They just fit together. He’s thrust her into change (I know he’d appreciate my word choice there) and she’s made him an honest man. They’ve been through it, but she loves him so unconditionally. Little Ms. Life-Plan-to-be-Married-and-have-Babies-by-25 put in almost nine solid years and her blue print is with the engineers. Pretty soon she’ll have 14 kids and that many more to love.

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So, at risk of sounding like a complete lesbian, I just want to express gratitude for one of my very best friends, and part of my family. When I was out dress shopping with Carrie and her mom last week, her mom said that she thinks we all got to be so close because we all had brothers and no sisters. I think that may have something to do with it.

We found our own sisters in the world.

Who would have guessed our taste would have been so spot-on as third-graders. I love you Carebear. I’m so excited to see where you let life take you.

Day 44: Jack Ass of all Trades

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My little brother always reminds me that a Jack of all trades is an expert of none. I like to think that I’m pretty darn good with words, with people, with getting a message across when I need to. I won’t say I’m always good with any of those things, but when I make up my mind to be particularly social, I make new friends; when I’m trying to get something for nothing, become a damn good sales person; when I need to whip out a 20 page paper in a few hours, I turn into quite the Wordsworth. So I may not be an expert, but I’m good enough to get by, better than most. I don’t think even Einstein would call himself an expert – the more you learn the less you know – you know the cliché I’m referencing.

So I’ve got the things I’m “good at,” if only in my own head. But I’m also okay at a lot of things. I can look at a problem and figure it out pretty quickly. I can work through numbers (calculus aside), I can draw okay, my handwriting is decent, I can cook and clean and change the oil in my car. So, expert or not, I’m glad that I’m okay at a lot of things. I’m glad that when people need a second opinion, they value mine; when they need someone to confide in, they call me; when they need someone to draw an outline for painting pottery, they give me the marker. Being okay isn’t all that bad.

Day 43: Wedding Veils, Fried Pickles, Politics

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Today was such a fun day. We went dress shopping for Carrie’s wedding – by “we” I mean Carrie, her mother and I, and we found the dress! We had so much fun matching veils and jewelry with dresses and driving around town to find the perfect dress at the best price, of course. We had a great lunch… I’m seriously looking forward to those left overs … followed by cupcakes.

Then we met up with my new friends Lauren and Bobby for a roach coach food fest in downtown Phoenix and binged on French fries, fried pickles, Indian fry bread (noticing the theme here?) and ice cream. I’m going to have to go on the diet of the century when vacation is over, but for now, man, I am enjoying everything soaked in oil.

After running to a few thrift shops to look for hidden treasures and hitting the grocery, I headed to Frank’s place for a few beers. Frank is the older brother who I have nothing in common with. I say that if he died I wouldn’t go to his funeral, and I’m honest
ly not sure if that’s a joke or not. We just don’t get along. I think he’s arrogant, he thinks I’m spoiled, or whatever he thinks – I’m actually not sure. But Barry, his best friend for as long as I can remember, also made a long drive to come hang out for a little while. He’s been at law school and completing a fellowship, so I haven’t seen him in years. I hate to admit it, but I wouldn’t have made the less than five mile drive to see my brother if he weren’t there.

Franks apartment is suitable for one of those Febreeze commercials, where the people are blind-folded and placed inside of a wrestling ring or garbage truck or whatever. I didn’t want to touch anything, but I didn’t want to look like I was avoiding touching anything either, because I’m already spoiled. The three of us talked for about an hour or so, debating politics and religion and nationalism as it relates to security. Although I don’t care for my brother’s company, it was nice to have somewhat deep conversation with compelling arguments on both sides, without personal attacks and frivolous exceptions on either side. This is probably one of the only times we’ve been in the room together for more than an hour without spawning a riot. I’m glad we’ve both grown up enough to at least be able to be in the same room as each other. I realize that sounds extremely immature and borderline pathetic, but it’s major strides for us.

Day 38: Painted Desert

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Today was action packed with so much fun. I woke up and did yoga on the patio (in the shade, mind you) and then got around with the girls to take a day-trip up to Prescott. The weather was about 15 degrees cooler, and the grass is about 40 shades greener. We had a lazy day, wandering the streets, snacking liberally and enjoying time in the car with familiar music and a painted landscape. This is the part of Arizona that people forget is here.