The Power of Friendship

I’ve been quiet of late for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that major currents are running through my life right now in ways that make me feel very vulnerable to the will of the ocean. I’ve had much reason to become mistrustful, and it has colored my perception of the world around me to a point that I’d severed or strangled many of the relationships in my life. As many of you know, my relationship of eleven years recently ended, and, as public as much of my recent life has been, I remain a somewhat private person. I was adrift, and the sea around me seemed dark, dangerous, and mostly devoid of life.

I did what I think most people would do in that situation. I struggled. I rushed around trying to put together some lifeboat that would see me through, and while I’ve had some success in that regard, I still felt very much alone. My dear family in Georgia has been very supportive, and I have a few good friends here in Michigan who were kind enough to keep tabs on me, but for the most part, my days since September 8, 2009—the day I was asked to packed my things and leave the business that I’ve spent the last seven years building with my former partner—have been desolately empty.

It wasn’t because no one cared or contacted me. Several did. One friend took me out to lunch and listened to the whole sordid tale before offering me a place to stay for a while with both dogs if need be. A couple of friends took me to dinner on a couple of different occasions. Several others have offered similar lunches, dinners, coffees, and the like. But I was going to fix this. I alone had the power.

But I didn’t.

My mom went into the hospital Thursday with an extremely high blood calcium level, lethargy, and impaired kidney function. Yesterday, I found out that it’s likely her cancer is back. She should get the diagnosis today.

Through all of this… through my entire life, my mother has been a strident supporter, a friend of amazing strength and understanding, and of course, the guide and nurturer that all parents hope to be. She’s succeeded. And through her strength, my sister and I along with our families have gotten through the last six years of her battle with ovarian cancer. And in the midst of my own battle, her cancer is back.

I was devastated. I came home, lay down across my bed with a dog on either side trying to comfort me, and just sank. I let go. With waves crashing all around me, I let go of everything and just let myself sink into it. I didn’t cry. I didn’t pray. I just fell.

Then something twitched. It occurred to me to pray, and I did. The tears wouldn’t quite come, but something was moving beneath the surface. I called a friend: someone totally out of the situation except for our friendship. And the weeping began. And we talked. And I cried. And we talked. There was no advice. Just talking. Just getting it out. And in getting it out, I started to find myself. Find my strength. Find that bit that my mother herself nurtured in me. The me part of me.

And in that, I saw that on any ocean, you are never alone. Life abounds around you. Even in the smallest drop of water, life abounds. I started to see the foolishness of my previous attitude… my silence… my stoicism and hermitage. How blind I was. But no more.

I need help. And help is out there. I have put great good out into the world over the forty years of my life, and there are some amazing people who have been trying to give some back. I’ve pushed them away out of some ridiculous notion that I somehow needed to deal with everything myself, but that’s over. I started calling friends, and amazingly enough, several friends have started calling me… offering help that they’d stopped offering weeks ago because of my attitude. Yet somehow, as if on cue, they’re back.

One friend directed me to a James Mapes article, and through it, I found this blog post on friendship that seemed remarkably fitting.

I’m still in the water, and the waves continue to crash. But I’m not alone. I see that now. And I don’t have to do this alone. Thank you, everyone. Your kindnesses are more deeply appreciated than I will ever be able to express.