When it all went down bad and hard, my attorney said, “The first thing you’ll learn is who your real friends are.”
He was right. It was a brutal lesson to learn and said a lot more about me than it did others. What it said disemboweled me and I was the one doing the disemboweling.
I thought I had real friends. Then I realized that authentic friendships hadn’t previously existed in my life. My crisis exposed this humbling fact within a manner of seconds, days, weeks, months. The exposure continues. I learned that many of my friendships were based on superficial foundations so utterly superficial that they required me to examine the superficiality in my life. That’s been a painful examination to say the least.
It occurred to me, while floundering in the darkest of days, that I had never had a true friend (outside of dogs), because I never needed one. I was an island without shelter in the Oregon rain. That is no way to live but I lived that way in ignorance. It also occurred to me, that during the ongoing crisis, I needed one, two or three real friends to help me survive in Astoria. Miraculously, I found them (and a dog), or should I say, they found me. I didn’t deserve it and am working to honor the faith and promise they held out to me. It’s a new kind of work for me.
Here are some random personal observations on friendships inspired by my recent events. They are not meant to be prescriptive. I am merely meditating here. Perhaps they will create an oscillation within you.
- I was a terrible friend to a friend suffering from cancer. I never once visited her in the hospital or at home during her convalescence. I didn’t take the time to see her when she recovered and brought her new dog to the beach.
- I was a terrible friend to a friend who was embroiled in a lengthy and vicious divorce/custody battle. I was never there for her or her son.
- Loaning a lot of money to a friend is not necessarily about real friendship. You find out how they really care about you when they don’t pay the loan back and you never hear from them again.
- I found a reinvigorated friendship with my ex-wife. She is still there for me.
- I found a friendship with the owner of an RV park who may turn out to be the best asset I have in trying to rebuild my life. Imagine that!
- A text message doesn’t feel like a genuine act of outreach when a friend is in crisis. I am guilty of that, too.
- I lost friendship with a neighbor and neither one of us said a word in either direction, although I kept looking for their lost dog long after they gave up.
- I found friendship with a neighbor that would have been impossible in my former life.
- I made the best friends of my life in Astoria. They visited me in jail and that’s asking the ultimate of anyone. Actually, I didn’t ask them; they offered.
- I made an incredible new friend of nature because she found my rain book in the middle of the big city. She recently built a driftwood fort on a distant beach and sent me a picture.
- I made an intriguing new friend as a result of my one night as a custodian.
- I think back how I failed a couple of students when they needed a friend and I will never forgive myself for my inaction.
- I gained my sister as a friend for the first time in my life.
- Rain continues to befriend me.
- When someone prefaces a conversation with, “I don’t judge you,” they already have.
- Rapprochement is perhaps the best word going for me now. More rapprochement please!
- The word “support” has little or no meaning. Or it can mean everything. It sure gets thrown around a lot.
- It takes hard work, gargantuan effort to be a real friend. Now I know how. I can do it.
- I often used my invalid, dying dog as an excuse not to be a friend. No one would question that excuse. Who uses a great dog like that? I did.
- I’ve lost the following friends: Oregon Coast bookstores; my two photography buddies in Astoria; my burn barrel mate on the wildlife refuge; my great collaborator in art and life; my best proofreader; my wild Oregon roadie; a mad fireballing Oregon poet; all my former teaching colleagues, except one; all my former students, except one; all the writers I published, except one.
- My dad once wisely counseled me: “You make friends where you are.” Where am I now? Where am I going?
- Gulls, eagles, deer and coyotes have been good friends of late.
- Next time I hear a friend is in crisis, I will run to them, not away. That running takes guts, like Steve Prefontaine down the stretch.
- Writers have less grasp of the meaning of friendship than any group of people I have ever met. And I would know.
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