Lost and Found 7 / Losing Friends, Finding Friends

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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