Several of my gal pals got together to celebrate my birthday last month.
Since my birthday last year was a bit of a farce, my friends - led by Faith - decided to make up for it by going all out for my 31st.
My best friend, Mary, drove all the way from Warminster to pick me up. She and my coworker, Emily, drove me to meet up at this placed called Canvas Mixers. The concept behind this place (and others like it) is fascinating.
Professional artists offer classes on various paintings and spend three hours teaching you how to paint a particular piece step-by-step. Plus, you get to drink wine and eat cupcakes. What's not to love?
Faith chose Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night class for us because she was either insanely confident in our collective artistic abilities or rip-roaringly drunk. Regardless, we found ourselves in what looked to be the most difficult art class any of us had ever taken part in.
We ended up having a FANTASTIC time. Though we were all super intimidated by the masterpiece, our instructor calmly led us through the directives that took us from stark white canvas to refrigerator-ready-Mom-I'm-awesome artwork.
I think we were all pleasantly surprised by our inner Van Gogh. Unfortunately, two of our friends are missing from this picture because they were doing a few touch-ups to their paintings. Theirs were great, too! I highly suggest classes like this to anyone looking to boost their artistic self-worth. It was so much fun and such a great way to bond with my friends. I'd never done anything like it, but I hope to go again soon (maybe with a piece that's a little less scary).
Have any of you ever done something like this?
While I was at the park with Vince today, he walked up behind a toddler on a swing and tried to push her so she could go higher. The toddler's grandmother said, "Aren't you a nice little boy! You must be a big brother, huh? Do you have a little sister that you push on swings?"
It's doubtful Vince actually processed her question, but he answered, "Yes" just the same. My heart didn't break so much as sigh at the sight of him trying to be brotherly to this little girl.
The truth is, I don't speak to Vincent about Myla. I'm not sure he'd understand anyway. He still confuses familial terms like "brother" and "sister" for "son" or "daughter." That's okay, though. One day he'll know he's got a little sister in Heaven waiting for him.
A reader who has experienced miscarriage asked me if I spoke about Myla to anyone outside my circle of close friends. The truth is, I don't actually speak about Myla to anyone - not even on the blog so much anymore.
It's not that I don't think about her every day; I do. It's not that I don't still feel intense emotions about her short life; I do. Just the other day, I saw that show Say Yes to the Dress and when one of the brides-to-be said "Yes" and her mom, all teary-eyed from seeing her daughter dressed up in her bridal attire, hugged and kissed her,k I felt the pang of loss in realizing I'd never have that moment with Myla. I allowed my heart to clench into itself as it braced for the tsunami of anger, grief and frustration that would slowly fade to resignation, acceptance and even appreciation.
But I dunno. I still feel awkward bringing her up. I'm not embarrassed by her or my experience. I'm not ashamed. I am, however, unwilling to open myself up to public scrutiny, I guess. I'm unsure of my ability to handle the emotions of others (sorrow, awkwardness, pity, frustration) while still juggling my own. So rather than attempt, I remain silent. I don't speak of her to John, to my mother, not even to my closest friends.
Mind you, I'm sure I could should the absolute need arise, but I haven't felt that driving necessity in a long time. I am thankful for that.
However, I'd like to single out two friends who've given me incredible gifts: Theresa and Lien.
And yeah, I'm posting your pictures. :)
You guys have seen me talk about Theresa a few times. She's the one who has the obsession with pink (and purses). She's also the mother of that beautiful little munch above, Maddy. She and I have been together since Freshman year of HS when I invited her to my lunch table because I was sick of eating by myself. I even feigned interest in the Backstreet Boys (had NO idea who they were at the time) in an effort to drum up conversation.
Anyway, Theresa had just had Maddy when I went through the miscarriage. Like everyone else, she found out about it through the blog because, quite frankly, I couldn't physically have that conversation out loud. I still feel like a coward that my good friends (and mother) had to find out in that manner, but truthfully it was the only mode of communication I had at the time.
Anyway, as soon as Theresa read the blog, she reached out to me. She sent me a quick message via FB just to let me know she was there in support. It wasn't this massive production - just a brief communication that let me know someone was out there grieving with me. I wasn't alone in my sorrow.
That meant so much to me.
And since then, Theresa's been the only friend who has openly mentioned her in passing. I'm always slightly taken aback by how easily she slips her into conversation. She isn't afraid to use Myla's name. She doesn't seem skittish to bring her up out of the blue. That sort of acknowledgement of my precious little girl is actually bringing tears to my eyes as I type this.
So thank you. Each and every time you did it, I was blessed. It may have seemed small or even insignificant, but to me, someone who has been starved of any sort of acknowledgement that she existed at all, it was the most comforting, gratifying gift.
This is Lien. I know Lien through her sister, Xuan. I love both of them immensely, but through the years, Lien and I have grown closer simply due to our shared love of family and terrible jokes. At least that's why I think she keeps me around.
Anyway, she only recently learned of Myla's existence. She, too, read the blog and reached out.
I had originally shared my blog for very different reasons, but I knew she'd come across the entries about Myla. I told her I trusted her with the information, because I wouldn't have given her the web address otherwise.
She scheduled a time to meet (a rarity for us due to where we live and the hours we work). I knew she'd touch on my miscarriage, but I thought the crux of the conversation would center on why I'd sent her the blog in the first place. While we did talk about that for a bit, she was insistent on discussing Myla (and her disdain for John's handling of things - ha ha). Good old Lien. Fiesty as hell when she wants to be.
When she brought up Myla, as I knew she would, I tried to make it as painless as possible for her. An awkward conversation knowing how upsetting the experience was for me, I didn't want her to feel bad or like she'd upset me, so I was very matter-of-fact about everything. Lawyerly, if you will.
What she did made me really stop in my tracks, though. I was eating, trying to keep the conversation going so there weren't any awkward pauses, but she reached over and grabbed my greasy hand. She looked me square in the eye and forced me to shut up for a hot second while she said, "No. This is important. It's a big deal what happened. I'm really, really sorry. I cried while reading everything. I'm really sorry."
That was powerful. I dunno if Lien realized it, but it was powerful. She not only gave permission for me to publicly grieve, but demanded the right to experience it alongside me.
She also reprimanded me - rightly - for disenfranchising her of that right by keeping my miscarriage a secret all this time.
Well played, Lien. Well played.
I appreciated that more than you realize.
This grainy picture from my wedding is probably the last one I have of Theresa, Lien and I together. They don't really know one another outside of me. I wonder if they've even thought about each other in the years since they were my bridesmaids. It's funny to think of that.
Both of them have given me incredible gifts by extending themselves in such a generous, loving way. I didn't think I needed (or could even cope with) such displays of charity.
I appreciate all my friends - I really do. This particular entry isn't about guilting others or soliciting Myla conversations from anyone else. I simply wanted to recognize and extend public appreciation for the unique and incredibly special gifts Theresa and Lien gave, completely unprovoked, to let me know they love me, grieve with me, and hope with me for the future.
I love you guys. Thank you so much for being amazing friends to me. I appreciate it more than words could ever express.
John had a special event this past weekend. He set up a dodgeball tournament and I surprised him by both attending and taking photos (I was supposed to be with Vince in Ocean City).
Anyway, I took the photos and of course everyone wanted them posted right away. So, since I had to go through my memory card anyway, I finally uploaded a bunch of other albums that've been hanging out on my camera.
Plus, I really want to have a fresh memory card for our trip, so this "spring cleaning" was a must.
As I was going through the photos, I was struck by how wonderful of a summer this really was. I was blessed with a lot of good memories to temper some of the more frustrating / difficult parts.
So I want to share some of those photos with you fine folks. Many are from my iPhone, so forgive the graininess.
Gram (known as "GG" to Vince) celebrated another birthday with us. We're so blessed to still have her in our lives. She's a wonderful, beautiful woman.
Vince and I on a nature walk at the park and feeding the geese.
We had a surprise pool party for our friend, Jay. Here are some shots of the group (and me on the ground getting said shots of the group).
Some Old Tyme Photos of Vince - we do these once a year at the end of the summer as tradition. This year he was a cowboy. Very Mal Reynolds for you Firefly fans out there.
Then just a bunch of randoms for the last two weeks.
Thanks for letting me share some fun. I appreciate all of you coming along for the ride.
Long night. Really long night. Productive night, though, so yay for that.
A good neighbor-friend of mine left the house after a few hours discussing a project we're working on. We talked for a while beyond project goals, and it got messy.
Truth be told, it was also good. I had been harboring guilt over my miscarriage and she called me out on it. I didn't realize she'd had a miscarriage, herself, many years ago. When she asked me who I'd talked to - really talked to - about this, she practically smacked me over the head when I said, "I've got my blog."
She asked, "Blogs can't talk back to you."
I said, "But readers can! They've been great!"
She replied, "E-mails and comments do not a real conversation make."
Realizing I was about to be pulled over a barrel, I weakly countered, "But I can control those."
Oh dang. Fellow bloggers, you know as well as I do that sometimes it's just easier "talking" when you're typing on a keyboard. Feeling each word bounce off your fingers and into the internet is like celebrating a thousand small victories. There really is something therapeutic about venting in such a controlled (and physical) manner. I LIKE this method. It works for me, and it works in a way that allows me to avoid emotional confrontations that I'm relatively ill-equipped to handle.
"Grandma Fro" doesn't' seem to approve. In fact, I know she thinks I'm a lunatic for "shooting off my mouth" to what she deems are "strangers."
She asked me, "Don't you have any women friends to talk to about this?"
I said, "I do, but who really wants to talk about any of this? *I* don't even want to talk about it. I'm not going to make them do it."
She countered, "Friends who know you can't keep that bottled up in you want to talk about it. At least they should. It's not healthy to run around pretending to be okay when all you want to do is scream. You can scream. I won't stop you. I'll get you a bullhorn, and all your friends should be getting them, too."
I laughed. I said, "Really. I'm okay. I think I've come to terms with things, and now that I've talked to John, I really feel okay."
She said, "So you don't feel guilty at all?"
GUILTY?! That word stopped me dead in my tracks. GUILTY?!
I didn't even know what to say.
I never once uttered that word to anyone. I never once even hinted that I felt even the least bit responsible for what had happened. How did she know that? How did she even think to GUESS at that?!
She saw my dumbfounded look and simply responded, "Yes. I know you feel guilty. That's probably the worst of it. There's a part of you, deep down, that thinks you did or didn't do something right that caused that baby of yours to fly off to Heaven."
I couldn't even bother trying to hide my own shame. I cried. Dear God, I cried. How could anyone know that? I almost felt like this was God pointing a finger at me or something... letting me know that I really was to blame for all of this.
But no. She went on and said, "Gina, I know because I've been there. I miscarried three of mine. Three. And for every single one I felt that guilt eating away at me. I never wanted to tell anyone, but that guilt weighed me down to hell. All the way to hell. It'll weigh you down, too. You gotta let it go."
I was confused. I felt really angry (because anger is typically my first defense mechanism). I felt emotionally undressed, and given how good I am at keeping my emotions in stylish Victorian garb, I was none too happy about looking like a Housewife of Orange County in the middle of an Elizabethan Tea Party. My anger, however, was tempered by my sorrow at her own three miscarriages. No one should have to suffer one let alone three. My heart ached for her. Finally, my own confusion as to how to proceed kept my mouth fused shut while my tears did the talking.
Seeing I had no capacity for verbally defending myself, she kept on going.
"What is it that you feel guilty for? My first, I believed, was because I didn't eat right. It was a tough time, so when I lost him, I thought it was because I wasn't getting enough food in me. The second was because I didn't take the vitamins every day like I should have. In my mind that's what it was, anyway. Finally, my last one was lost because I thought I stayed out in the sun too much. Really. I thought I stayed out in the sun too much and my body couldn't withstand all the heat."
I looked at her. Her reasons sounded about as good as mine. For me, I was afraid I'd had too much caffeine. In fact, as soon as I figured out I was pregnant, I stopped drinking my normal two cups of coffee and immediately switched to one cup of decaf. I'm STILL drinking decaf. Also, the last time I was at the OB, she warned me to keep taking folic acid because of my age. I didn't take her advice, and I was afraid that my lack of folic acid had somehow contributed to my baby's development. Finally, I haven't been the most healthy eater as of late, so I was worried that maybe something I ate triggered my miscarriage.
Uuuugh - I just can't help it. A million times a day my mind runs through various scenarios of what I could've done differently to either prevent or fix whatever mistake I'd made. I can't help but feel responsible. Growing her a healthy little body was my ONLY responsibility, and I'd somehow messed it up. How do I NOT hold myself accountable for that??? How am I NOT guilty of losing her?
And no matter how much logic tries to butt itself into this conversation, I just haven't been able to accept that "these things sometimes happen."
I know it, I believe it, and I trust that God's Will is God's Will, but my mind will still wander backwards and try to manipulate events into making sense, and the only way they make sense is if I somehow messed something up.
No matter how untrue I logically know this to be, my heart scourges itself day after day with each new "What if I only..." scenario.
And she understood it. She understood it without me having to say anything. She understood it because she lived it. She lived it three times. And maybe she lived it three times because one day, she'd be sent to pull the guilt out of a deeply saddened neighbor who couldn't bring herself to admit to anyone that this was her reality. And maybe she's done this a hundred times before. Maybe she'll do it a hundred times more. Tonight, though, she was my bit of Divine Providence, and I thank God that she came and stymied the river of guilt that bathed my heart.
She reaffirmed that all is His Will and that my read on miscarried children is correct. These angelic little souls make the choice at conception to lay down their lives for their families. This way, they can intercede fully for us as saints in the Church Triumphant. For this, I cannot carry guilt. For this, I can only carry love and gratitude.
Little Myla, Mommy loves you very much. I know that when Daddy meets you in Heaven, he's going to love you just as much as me. Pray for us, little one. Help Vincent grow up to be strong and loving. Help Mommy be the best Mommy she can be, and help Daddy be the best Daddy he can be. I wish I could kiss you, honey. I'll send my guardian angel to yours so you can get angelic ones in the meantime. Love you, munch. Goodnight. <3
Faith and John
See that beautiful lady standing with my handsome husband?
She's my husband's ex-fiancée.
She's also one of my closest friends.
I should start at the beginning somewhere...
I met John in college, just as he was coming off a terrible break-up with Faith. In fact, I found out he'd broken up with her as he chucked his cell phone halfway down the hall in disgust. Go figure.
In the coming months, I'd hear about her in passing - much the same as anyone hears of their significant other's ex, I guess. By the time John and I started dating a few months later, he'd gotten rid of most photos that he'd had of her. That didn't stop me from looking, though.
I'll be honest. It wasn't my proudest of moments, but I definitely went "psycho girlfriend" and tore through his bedroom one day looking for any shred of evidence she existed. After all, she wasn't just a girlfriend... she was a FIANCEE, and that was a dangerous title to have lingering around when you've got your sights set on marrying the guy.
So yes, I went tearing through his stuff in order to find a photo to console myself that at the very least I was prettier than her.
Terrible, TERRIBLE move on my part. I found a photo of her. Of course I did. I wasn't gonna stop until I did! He must've forgotten it was tucked away in a drawer, but I found it, and she was GORGEOUS. Her hair was all done up, she had her adorable "I'm Faith, and everything is wonderful in the world" smile glowing, and she was wearing one of her typical "I can wear anything and somehow pull it off amazingly" outfits. Looking at that photo immediately made me regret my decision to go snooping. Of COURSE he'd wanted to marry her. Look at her! She's freakin' adorable. She's textbook definition of "cute as a button" and I could tell that her personality matched.
Gosh dang it... that really sucked.
At this point, I hadn't met her. All I knew about her was that she looked like Snow White, part of the group disliked her, she betrayed John, and she was currently hanging out with some loser.
That didn't stop me from feeling the flames of competition. About a year into our relationship, I found out Faith was going to be at a common event amongst our friends. I, the "new girl" had been readily accepted into the group of friends - her friends - without question. I was "one of the guys" and everyone loved me. That wasn't' enough, though. I wanted to be loved more than Faith. I wanted to be better friends with the group than her. I wanted to prove to John, through his friends, that he had made the right decision and that this Faith chick needed to be kicked to the curb forever.
Terrible, I know. There's a happy ending in here somewhere, I promise.
Anyway, we met at a college party. I was nice to her - sweetly so. I wasn't going to let on that I would simply "out-nice" her and again be seen as everyone's favorite darling. I was even complemented on how well I handled meeting the ex... especially when she made herself at home dancing too close to John on a few occasions. I didn't let on, though. I wasn't going to let a thing like exposed jealousy taint my image as the confident, lovable girlfriend. Instead, I went right along with the charade and gained brownie points with everyone there due to my relaxed, fun and level-headed charm.
This charade went on for months. We'd meet up, I'd be nice on the surface, secretly seething, and then I'd make tiny comments to John later. Small, innocuous comments that would slowly but surely add up to him agreeing that she wasn't worth spending time with.
Ugh. Just thinking about this makes me cringe. Being honest about the past, however, makes you that much more aware and appreciative of the present, and so, bear with me.
Just before John and I got married, things somehow changed. I wish I could remember the catalyst. For the life of me, though, I can't! All I remember is sitting in John's car talking about her. I don't know how she came up, and I don't remember what it was that we were talking about. All I know is that during the course of that conversation, I went from intensely disliking her to feeling a true spark of compassion for her. It wasn't pity, and it wasn't "Oh... poor Faith." It was more like, "Aww... that's so sweet. This is the first time I've even considered the fact that she's a decent human being, and not only do I think she's decent, I think she's just about the sweetest person ever!"
See why I'm so frustrated over the fact that I can't remember what, exactly, made her the sweetest person ever? Chances are you're just as curious as me (and now Faith as she undoubtedly reads this).
I've already asked John. He doesn't remember either. Boo.
Anyway, at the moment the realization hit me, I actually said to John, "You realize I'm probably going to try to make her one of my best friends now, right?"
The change was THAT instantaneous.
However, just because my heart had changed towards Faith didn't mean my actions did all at once. I wasn't sure what to do with my new-found affection for her. It felt awkward and bashful. I had a lot of pent up guilt for having been such a jerk to her; I almost went overboard trying to quietly overcompensate for my previous mistakes.
Little by little, though, I found my footing with her. Little by little we managed to work around our rough edges, slowly but surely smoothing them out until they became forgotten vestiges of a history that didn't belong to us. Slowly we began to reach out towards one another, no longer afraid of imagined threats, but looking forward to trusted support and adventure.
Somehow, we became friends.
And now that I think about it, I remember what it was that sparked such an intense change. We were talking about Faith because we had originally been talking about Henry - MY ex.
I was talking about how I missed the fact that my friendship with him died alongside our relationship. He had been my best friend. It didn't seem fair that the friendship had to die just because we couldn't work as a couple. It turns out John felt the same pang of loneliness for the friendship he had had with Faith. He, too, missed the fun and joy she brought, and in that moment, I realized that my selfish, arrogant and jealous actions had caused John to miss out on Faith. I realized it had also caused ME to miss out on her, too. If John was able to see so much good in her, obviously she had something special to offer.
The same as I wanted John to see the good in Henry (and truth be told, Frank), I realized he wanted desperately for me to see the good in Faith. That was the moment my heart melted into my shoes and I readily accepted Faith as someone my husband deeply cherished. Just as John would never need to feel threatened by Henry or Frank, I knew I'd never need to feel threatened by her.
And thus began the blossoming of a real friendship. I think Faith reached a mature decision about me before I did about her (I'm ashamed to say), but I'm glad she stuck it out long enough for me to come to my senses. She didn't turn me away when I began testing the waters with her. She didn't shut me out as she had every right to do. She accepted my attempts at friendship because that's simply who she is - a wonderful person with a big heart. I don't think it's in her to turn love away. She really is too sweet of a person. :)
So over the last 5 years, we've continued to build upon those... less than savory foundations. I think it's safe to say we gutted the basement, restructured the entire thing, and made quite the house for ourselves.
In all honesty, she made it easy. She's such an open, trusting person. She never hesitated to share things with me. She never hesitated to include me on stories or updates on even the most random things.
As such, I began to really appreciate and understand her as a person. I think our relationship has forced me to really grow in a lot of ways precisely because of how wrong I was when I first met her. Plus, she's opened my world to so many ridiculous and wonderful things that I'd otherwise be without.
Jewerly-making? That's her fault. Sewing? Also her fault. Terrible sense of humor? Eh... toss up between her and John. For the sake of this entry, though, let's blame her.
These last few months, I've really, REALLY grown to appreciate our friendship. Every time we hang out, even if it's briefly, I feel better. I look forward to seeing her. I look forward to hanging out. I get a real thrill from the jolt of love and positivity we seem to dose one another with. Even if we're both complaining about everything that's going on in our lives, we tend to have a good laugh and console ourselves with adventure.
She's a real blessing in my life. I'm incredibly lucky God smacked some sense into me and forced me to realize what a gem she is. I've got a lot of incredibly wonderful people in my life. Faith is most certainly one of the best.
So that, folks, is our story. Friendship found in the most impossible of places. However, when you consent to open the door - for even a moment - the power of love can do amazing things. It really, really can. :)
Update: I got an e-mail that made me laugh and then appreciate Faith all the more. Sharing a snippet here because it's true, and even if the author is spiteful, just proves all the more that love is stronger than even the most blinded hate. Maybe this reader will one day wish to be MY best friend. ;) *Grin*
"I'm glad you're ashamed of yourself! You should be for how you treated that poor girl. No way would I be so willing to accept such a snake into my heart. You should be on your knees thanking God every day that she didn't trample you underfoot, or that your husband didn't leave you in spite of yourself."
Meh. True on all counts. And I do realize how lucky I am for being given a second chance after being so terribly childish to her early on. What can I say? She's a better person than I am - it's why I wanted so much to befriend her upon realizing it! :)
I have been incredibly busy the last few days (as you could probably guess from my lack of posting).
Anyway, some good and blessed news!
First, I attended the beautiful wedding of two wonderful people up in NY on Saturday. The 5 hour road-trip was a ton of fun, and the end result of the ceremony and reception will be fond memories I'll always treasure.
The rest of the weekend I spent filling orders and creating new earrings (which I've now posted to the store... mostly).
Also, I was privileged to see one of my best buddies for his birthday as an unexpected bonus. How incredible is that???
And finally, please shoot a prayer of thanksgiving up to God for the miracle of my friend's bike accident.
And yes, I just said the miracle of my friend's bike accident.
While he was on his way to the wedding, he was thrown from his motorcycle at about 80mph. The angels must have been with him, because he ended up walking away with a dislocated shoulder and road burn.
80mph on a highway into a guardrail, and the boy not only survived, he was able to leave the hospital the very next day.
God is incredibly good to have protected him from what could have been fatal. Thank you, Lord, for keeping an eye on him. We like him around. :)
Here are some pictures!
It takes a village.
Or in this man's case - a town.
We need more stories like this depicting the incredible beauty that humanity is capable of.
God bless the people of Bussey, Iowa.
A few nights ago I had a relatively awful dream. I'm not one for nightmares... and I don't know that I'd classify this as one... but it was vividly negative enough to leave me worried when I woke up the next morning.
Odder still are the characters starring in the dream. Two guys from my past (one who passed away and another who was shipped off to Wisconsin), my best friend, Mary, and the friend I spoke of in the Broken Friendships entry. A few others were sprinkled throughout, but the main focus was on this aforementioned group of people.
I'd been badly hurt by the first two men. I'd lost a lot of blood and it was smeared all throughout the bedroom (which is where the scuffle took place). Mary had come to find me since I'd been missing from a party that was going on downstairs (we were in some sort of mountain cabin).
She found me covered in blood and saw the room in tatters. She ran back into the party and came back with - of all people - my old friend. We saw one another and weren't entirely sure what to do. I heard Mary tell him that he needed to do something. I, however, didn't want him to help me. It didn't seem fair that he should help me after having been gone for so long.
In my dream, he stayed because it was the right thing to do. He felt as awkward as I did, and we fumbled for what to say to one another. However, after talking for a few moments, we slipped back into the familiar and comfortable friendship we once had. I started to feel better instantly, and I sensed that he, too, began letting the awkwardness fall away.
Tentatively, I reached out to hug him. I wanted him to understand that I held no resentment. We hugged, but when we moved away from one another, there was blood soaking through my shirt. I thought it was mine at first... that I'd missed a gash from the earlier fight... but I then realized that it was his. He was bleeding, and I hadn't noticed until closing myself against him through the hug.
I looked into his eyes, horrified that he'd kept such a wound a secret. It was mortal, I knew it was mortal, and I was terrified that he was about to die. Then, before I could do anything else, I woke up.
The entire morning I couldn't shake the feeling of worry. I admit that I get like this at times. When a creepy or unsettling thought enters my mind, I cannot stop worrying until it's laid to rest.
So what did I do?
I called him.
I called him even though we haven't spoken (really spoken) in years. I called him even though I knew I'd hear disapproval from certain people. I called him even though I had no idea what I was going to say.
He didn't pick up, so I left a voice-mail that simply sought to know that all was well. Considering how often I've done this in the past, I figured he'd guess I'd had some sort of dream or something and needed to have my sanity satiated.
He called back about an hour or two later. I was building a tower of blocks with Vincent, so I wasn't able to talk long (I was the only one home with him). However, we had almost verbatim the same awkward conversation we had in my dream. Ha ha. It was nice to hear his voice, especially now that I knew he wasn't dying of some imaginary slice to the chest.
There wasn't any grand reconciliation or invitations to coffee. I wasn't expecting any of that. I did, however, get what I was expecting... a returned phone call and peace of mind.
A few thoughts...
I attended a funeral today for the grandmother of a high school friend (let's call this friend Linda). I was very grateful that Linda took the time to let me know, as she ensured I was able to make arrangements to attend the Mass.
Back in high school, we were privileged to visit with "Mom-mom" on occasion. We were typically good, respectful kids, but at her house, we weren't just treating her with respect because we were supposed to. We were genuinely attracted to her gentle, open and generous personality. She'd tell us wonderful stories of Linda and her sister from back when they were little - stories we almost couldn't picture them being a part of! The same with stories of their mother. Yet we believed them because of who was telling the tale.
Honestly, for as much time as I spent with Theresa's family, I think Linda's was the family that was central to our group. Everyone felt welcome, and we all looked forward to spending time there. Considering how similar the 3 generations are in their personalities, it's unsurprising. The apples didn't fall from the tree at all in this case. Ha ha. Linda (and her sister), her mother, and grandmother are all incredibly sweet, genuine people who strive to make others feel accepted and loved. They are thoughtful, generous and humorous. I'm sad that earth lost such a light, but I'm immensely happy to know that Heaven gained her.
Anyway, the priest gave a very educational homily. I say educational because he took great pains to explain the various Catholic symbols used during the funeral Mass. He also went into detail regarding the promise of Christ's Second Coming as well as what our faith teaches occurs at death.
Though I was already aware of everything he was talking about, it was really nice to see a priest going to such lengths to ensure the people understood the rituals of the Church, and how they always keep Christ as our central focus.
One woman behind me grumbled that he was rambling. I didn't mind - I was secretly making a mental note to suggest that whichever priest presided over my funeral do the same. It's important to remind people what our rites are all about, especially when funeral Masses are likely the only times many of these folks enter a church. Utilizing the homily as something both educational for the congregation and consoling for those grieving is what priests are called to do. More power to him! :)
The rest of the service was nice. I felt slightly bad for Father because he didn't have an altar server (for example, he ended up using the altar rail as a make-shift side table for the censor since no one was there to hold it for him). This parish still has its school, so I'm not sure why they didn't just pluck a student or two from class for an hour. I remember when I was in grade school, I'd jump at the chance to serve a funeral. Not only did I get out of class for an hour, I got a $5 tip as well.
I'm not proud of my motives, but I'm being honest. That's what they were as a 6th grader.
Anyway, after Mass we headed to what must be one of the largest and most gorgeous Catholic cemeteries I've ever seen. It made me happy to know that this beautiful woman would be laid to rest in such a beautiful, serene place.
Unfortunately, I had to leave for work immediately afterwards. I really would've liked to have caught up more with the family, but time constraints would not allow me.
Though this brings me to my other thought...
About three weeks ago, I wrote an entry entitled "Broken Friendships." I described the falling out between myself and a friend, and also described the emotional toll it still sometimes has on me.
I was pretty certain that Divine Providence had goaded me into settling down to finally write out my feelings on the matter. I know for a fact now that it was God's plan for me to confront those feelings.
This same friend showed up at the funeral today.
I had just gotten finished a Divine Mercy chaplet when I turned to figure out where the chilly breeze was coming from. No sooner had I turned around than I noticed he had walked in with his partner. He had obviously seen me, but was refusing to acknowledge it. I didn't mind. I went back to my prayers as he greeted the family.
I filed in behind them after Mass as the procession led out, but I didn't want to interrupt the silence with a greeting. I figured I'd see them at the cemetery and greet them then. As I said earlier, though, I didn't really get the chance as I had to get back to work. Linda's mom, being as impossibly thoughtful as she is, had actually brought Vincent his Christmas gift since we hadn't been able to see her over the holiday.
Can you believe that? In her grief, she was off thinking about someone else. I was both touched and unsurprised. When I say that these women are a rare breed, I'm not kidding. I've never met anyone quite like them, and I doubt I ever will again. The world is a better place simply by their existence in it.
Anyway, by the time I'd gone off with Linda's mother to collect Vince's gift, my friend and his partner made their way over to Linda and her sister. I considered going back down to say a proper "hello" but I didn't think it prudent. Today was not a day for confrontations, and considering his response to my presence from the moment he entered the church, I figured that's what it would end up being for him, especially due to the emotional circumstances of a funeral.
On the way back to Jersey, I realized that it was a good thing I had written that entry 3 weeks ago. Though I didn't speak to him, I didn't have any negative emotions towards him, either. There was a bit of an issue that will remain unspoken that caused me grief, but barring that, I was content in my indifference.
I feel as though I would've been irritated or upset had I been so openly ignored previously. I realize, though, that he's got to deal with things on his own terms, same as me. Avoidance may very well be his security blanket at this point, and I'm content to give it to him if that's what he thinks he needs. When and if he's ever ready to approach our fragmented past, I am confident I'll be able to respond with a clear mind and a level heart.
So yeah... I'm definitely glad that God shoved me into writing that entry down. It forced me to confront my feelings and solidify my understanding of what transpired, because He no doubt knew I'd be seeing him today. With that foundation, I was able to give myself the closure necessary to put this entirely behind me. Maybe one day he'll be able to do the same.
These past few weeks, the topic of "broken friendships" somehow came up five or six different times in conversations with several different people.
I had been contemplating blogging about this for a while, but never really got around to motivating myself to confront the emotions that are inevitably attached to these broken friendships.
That being said, the progression of the aforementioned conversations seemed to be the workings of Divine Providence. The final exchange that solidified this realization was jump-started with the question, "Doesn't it bother you that [your friends] drop off like that?"
I suddenly put all the other conversations together in my head that added up to this question:
1. An old friend from college asked about a mutual friend that we both, for different reasons, severed ties with.
2. My "other mother" asked about a mutual friend who "moved on" upon realizing his views on homosexual marriage didn't mesh with ours (thus becoming indignant and hurt as a result).
3. The on-going Garlands of Grace saga that has led to over 100 people "breaking up" with them over their (how do I put this?) confused ideas on Catholicism.
4. A back-fired plan to find common ground that unfortunately left the friend who led the charge completely disgruntled
5. Friend of mine who is getting married mused aloud the hurt she carried due to a good friend of hers no longer being a part of her life (let alone part of her wedding day)
6. Acquaintance from high school asked if I'd be attending the upcoming reunion and if I knew the response of the friend I severed ties with from conversation number one.
As I said... it didn't occur to me until last night that these conversations were all leading me to this entry. I'd been toying with the idea for a while, but the topic has resurfaced with a vengeance, so I guess it's my time to confront it as I best I know how - through writing. I'll focus on my biggest "broken friendship" because, in all honesty, it was the most painful and is, at times, an on-going process - especially now that it's been brought up so much these last few weeks.
My slogan in life has always been "Once a friend, always a friend." I'm loyal to a fault and have swallowed more than my share of indignation just to "keep the peace."
However, I was never willing to compromise my beliefs in order to fit in or gain popularity. Those things never mattered much to me. It's probably why I was typically at the bottom of the social totem pole amongst my peers. :)
Anyway, I was highly selective of those I'd call "friend." I had plenty of acquaintances and was always well-known due to my high level of involvement and cheerful disposition, but I always knew who my FRIENDS were.
In high school, I was definitely the glue between these friends. Some of them would tease me about being "the Mom" of the group because I was always reaching out to make sure everyone was included, having a good time, and aware of what was going on with the group as a whole. I wore that teasing like a badge of honor. I prided myself in my ability to take care of my friends. I took pleasure in making sure they felt validated, important and loved. In all honesty, it was through my dedication to them that I, in turn, was validated, felt important, and understood myself to be loved. It's probably why I yearned so much for a child of my own from an early age... only in the service of others do I find myself at peace.
Even as my high school relationships blossomed, I clung to my relationship with Mary - my best friend from grade school. Even though she moved away, I did everything I could to bridge the growing gap between us. She had grown depressed... beyond miserable with her new school and those she found herself surrounded with. As a result, she withdrew from me (and the rest of the world), shutting herself off from our friendship.
I remember growing almost frantic at that. I felt so hurt and lonely without her. She was (and is) a very foundational part of who I am. To think that I'd lost her for some unknown reason was heartbreaking to me. However, through my irritating persistence and her own triumph over that inner struggle, we eventually found our way to a better relationship towards the end of college.
Having tasted the bitterness of losing a best friend, I was extremely vigilant regarding my high school friends. So when it became obvious that I'd have to "break up" with the best one I'd found, it was truly devastating.
He and I had met early on and clicked right away. We shared so much of ourselves with one another that it was no surprise that, at the end of senior year, we found ourselves romantically involved. We really did love each other. To an extent, I'm sure we still do, regardless of the hurt we now carry. Our relationship, however, was toxic. As we made our way through college, and all the changes that come along with it, we were growing apart. Instead of helping each other grow and blossom into mature individuals, we were clinging to ideas of what the other's growth should look like. That sort of thing never ends well...
The last time we broke up (because the first few times never really stuck), we reaffirmed our desire to remain friends. I soon met John, my future husband. My friend was never OK with our relationship. I truly believe it happened "too soon" in his mind, and made him feel easily replaced... somehow cheated out of the life we were supposed to have together.
I understood that and allowed him time to heal. However, he basically shut himself off from me. Sensing all the signs I'd been through with Mary, I did my best to bridge the divide. I went out of my way to befriend his new love interest (who, thankfully, turned out to be a sweet person), and I repeatedly implored him to "hang out" or "catch up." I'd leave little notes on his MySpace ('cause yes... MySpace was popular then), and I'd drop random e-mails just letting him know I was thinking about him. Most of all, though, I gave him the space and time he swore he needed.
@ 3.5 months pregnant!
However, the fragile bond I had run maintenance on shattered upon news of my pregnancy with Vincent. Knowing that, even after six years, this news would hurt him, I wanted to tell him in person in as gentle a way as I could. Instead, he afforded me no opportunity, pushing off plans with me and making it known that he didn't want to see me. I soon found out why. He'd suspected the pregnancy and responded to the news in such an incredibly childish, hurtful way that... well...
Let's just say his one comment tore down my lifelong mantra "Once a friend, always a friend."
I immediately ceased all contact with him and for the first time in my life, I intentionally cut out a piece of my heart to pack away in the attic of my soul. It was an incredibly painful, tear-filled, and angry few months.
However, when he contacted me later (acting as if nothing had transpired between us), I was able to respond with a clear head - something I wouldn't have been able to do had I not discounted him from my life. The conversation, I think, gave some closure to us, but it didn't "fix" anything.
In fact, several months after Vincent was born, we bumped into one another at an event for a mutual friend. Actually, I'm still relatively certain he came specifically at that time because he knew I was going to be there, but whatever. We met up again, and I could tell that he was looking for some sign that we were OK... that even though we weren't best friends, we weren't mortal enemies either.
I'll be honest. I really thought I was "over it" at that point. I 100% thought I had forgiven him and moved on. Boy was I wrong. Upon seeing him, my heart both leapt with joy at seeing someone I had so much love for, and revolted against itself in indignation that he should be anywhere near my son... the son he harbored such a negative reaction to not long ago.
I immediately asked John to take Vincent outside. John was only too happy to oblige, and off they went to give Mommy and Friend some time to sort out whatever emotional confusion was between them.
I am somewhat ashamed to admit it now, but I didn't exactly react with the most Christian charity. I was cordial and I returned the hug he offered. I also congratulated him on his recent graduation from grad school. However, upon thanking me for the well-wishes, he responded with, "Oh yeah - I never congratulated you on the baby, did I?"
No, Sherlock... no you didn't. In fact, I'm relatively certain "Congratulations" didn't even remotely come to mind when you first learned of his existence.
But I digress...
As a result of that immensely ridiculous remark, I felt my guard go up and the coldness sharpen my terse responses. I wasn't outright rude out of respect for our friend (who probably felt highly awkward in the middle of the situation). I honestly felt like slapping him, though. I really, REALLY did.
I started praying for John to get back so we could simply leave. He swung back moments later and we bid our farewells. I was absolutely fuming the whole way home, though. I was completely caught off guard by my anger. I guess I hadn't really "forgiven" and "gotten over everything" like I'd thought. Stupid me, I was still broken and hurting - I just hadn't had to face those emotions because I'd locked everything away.
This was about... I guess about a year and a half ago now. We've briefly spoken since that time, but it was nothing more than basic need to pass along a message from someone else.
That being said, I've probably thought about him daily. If not daily, then probably every other day. He's never far from my thoughts. None of my friends are, and honestly, I still view him as a friend. As I once told him, that mantra "Once a friend, always a friend" still remains true to me, there is just a footnote beside it now.
Two people who forge a true friendship... that never really dies. How can it? The basis for all true friendships, after all, is love. True love, in pure form, simply cannot be snuffed out. Together, we really did learn what love meant. We lavished love, support, and understanding on one another, each of us carrying the other through some of the darkest times of our lives. Those bonds, forged by the fires of unconditional love, cannot be broken.
I think that's why the pain remains, sometimes. The heart misses its dose of True Love. Our friendship (when it was functioning properly), was Christ-like. We were generous, supporting and affirming. Somewhere along the way, we focused more on our own hurt and frustration and lost sight of that true love we'd helped bloom in our early years of high school. Thus, the heart, having experienced something of Christ, yearns always for it. When the heart realizes that piece of itself has gone missing, an emptiness echoes its sad longing.
On the plus side, ever since rekindling my faith, this is one of those intentions I've dropped into the Hands of the Lord. I've reflected on it quite a bit, and am much more willing to acknowledge my part in the dissolution of our relationship. I've come a long way in extending forgiveness and now feel much more confident in my ability to exchange that forgiveness with this person should we ever come across one another again.
In all honesty, it's probably the only way either of us will ever fully heal. To forgive and be forgiven... it does begin to heal the scars.
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