Friends – old and new

hand

I had a long talk with my friend, Joy, today. We’ve been friends for 38 years. She is in Ohio and I am in Oregon but as soon as I hear her voice on the phone, distance dissolves and we are young again, remembering what it was like when we lived together and stayed up all night talking, laughing and trying to find direction for our lives. We were single mothers, poor, divorced and determined. I found work singing with a classical guitarist, while Joy modeled and kept us in groceries by distributing Leggs pantyhose, which were displayed in little silver egg-shaped cartons in her delivery van.

I’ve heard you can count the truly close friends you have on one hand. That has been true for me. I wondered today, after we hung up, exactly what made the quality of our friendship so rich and lasting. We have a shared history, yes, but also an openness of heart and an ease in conversation. There is a quality of feeling safe and understood, but the big one for me is having a give and take in discussions that does not involve me being the sole listener. There is a natural easy flow between us and an ability to pepper any discussion with heartfelt laughter.

Our conversation filled my thoughts as I began my walk up the driveway, which I do every evening, (well, that’s a lie! The intention is every evening, but the reality is more like two evenings a week) because my exercise ratio is off. I sit 90 percent of the time and exercise ten percent. Not good, so I walk, and to amuse myself, I sing. Tonight I sang a song one of my clients wrote:

Please carry me over to the opposite side of where I’m standing

cause I’m looking at something that’s brighter than halogen.

A small deer walked out of the forest as I sang. I was not sure what to do, because I didn’t want to scare her, so we stood frozen for a few minutes watching each other. Then I began to sing again and to my surprise she did not run away, she walked towards me. That’s what we did for awhile, I sang and she got closer. Then I continued up the drive, which is really long and steep and a pain in the butt to climb.

On my way back she came out of the woods again, I sang again and she walked toward me, stopped a short yard away and ate some grass. Her wild spirit told me that she was as close as she could risk. I acknowledged her and sat down. Deer are such an expression of gentle innocence. I will never understand how anyone can pick up a rifle and end their lives. I sat on the ground with my back to her, hoping she would come closer, but when I turned she had gone. Instead the black cat appeared rubbing her dirt-covered coat against my sleeve, encouraging me to walk home. I was grateful for the company. 

Inside I fixed tea, changed into my nightdress and finished making Joy’s birthday card. Joy works as an actress and teaches film making.  She will be 67 on Monday.

God Karen, she’d told me, I just received a new script. They want me to play a 50 year old woman!  Do you think I look that old?

 

Boundaries

I knew she was a single mother. They are my weakness, reflecting my own years of having not enough and choosing to be alone rather than grab another wrong relationship.  I agreed to see her for twenty dollars. A reading, I reasoned, could give her  perspective, a new foundation to stand on and send her forward with tangible hope. 

I quickly realized a reading would not be enough when I pulled back the veil of her life to find blood and large open wounds oozing with infection.

Okay, the healer in me reasoned. I must continue seeing her. My practical mind protested, going into matters of paying office rent, utilities and taxes. That part scolded me. These situations are not good for you. My healer bargained. Okay, I’ll give her six more sessions, then cut her loose.

By the eighth session she had claimed her strength and was moving with a warriors courage. This is the time, I told myself, to end our sessions. I practiced the speech in the morning mirror. I wrote notes to myself over lunch. Setting boundaries was never my strength. I kept reminding myself, it is not your place to take care of the world. You are a business woman, so behave like one. Before our session began I delivered my rehearsed speech.

“I’m sorry, I’d love to keep seeing you but I simply can not continue our twenty dollar fee.”  There I had said it!

She immediately burst into tears; floods, torrents, oceans of tears. “I’m so sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I know you deserve much more, but this small fee is actually more than I can afford.”

She told me spring break was coming and she didn’t have enough food for her children. She was going to ask her x-husband’s mother for a loan but hated the way the woman made her feel and her reluctance in giving it. I went to my desk, pulled out my checkbook and wrote her a check for two hundred dollars. Boundaries have never been easy.

written 4-16-08