Just Say Goodbye…

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I have been remembering a scene from my childhood.  For the last few days, this particular moment has been nudging me at the oddest moments.  The memory is so vivid, I can almost smell the dinner waiting for me on the table.  The memory is set in my parents kitchen.  I was probably an eighth-grader, 14 years old.  Dinner was on the table, and we were about to sit down and eat.  I was standing next to the table talking on the corded phone that was mounted on the wall next to the counter.  My dad was looking at me, and he wasn’t very pleased.  He had asked me to finish up my phone call so that we could all sit down and eat together.  I don’t remember who I was talking to.  It was probably my friend, Kara.  (Ugh….I hate to even use the word friend in association with that girl!)  Well, whoever it was…they were not too happy that I had to get off of the phone in the middle of whatever extremely important middle school tale they were telling.  I kept saying, “I have to go, Okay?”  And my dad was saying, “Don’t ask OK.  Just say Goodbye.”  I was trying to please both this demanding teenaged girl AND my father all at the same time.  It was impossible, and I was stuck in the middle.  I kept telling Kara (or whoever) that I had to go (OKAY?) and she kept talking.  Meanwhile, my dad, who NEVER got mad at me, WAS getting madder by the second.  If I remember the story correctly, my dad walked over and flicked down the silver bar that hung up the phone.  I was horrified.  I could imagine Kara calling up all of the other girls in our little group.  “Pam hung up on me.”  Or…”Pam’s dad is psycho.  He made her get off the phone to EAT DINNER.”

My middle school years were a turbulent time.  I was in the “most popular” group, and it was horrible.  Girls are so darn mean to each other at that age, especially at that particular social echelon.  In eight grade, there was a vote among the student body for a number of silly things:  Best Couple, Cutest Boy, Cutest Girl and so on.  I was voted “Most Popular Girl.”  When I came home to tell my mother, she said, “The way you treat people, the way you act, I can’t believe you have ANY friends.”  Well, that’s my mom for you!  What she said rang true, though.  It made me think about what kind of person I really was.  What kind of friend was I?  I attended all the right slumber parties, but I hated it.  I had a cute boyfriend, but he was a mindless jock that didn’t even interest me.

The summer before high school, I realized how unhappy I was with my friends and with MYSELF.  When I look back on that summer, I look back with pride.  I was a young girl who was on the brink of a major change.  I took my life back into my own hands.  I realized that my dad had been right.  “Just say Goodbye.”  It was as simple as that.

I spent the summer before my freshman year in high school doing what I enjoyed.  I didn’t go hang out at the baseball diamond with the other girls to watch the jocks.  I hated that kind of thing.  Instead, I remember playing a LOT of piano that summer.  I planted a garden.  I went to spend a couple of weeks at my grandma’s house.  I cultivated friendships that summer based on the people who I truly liked, not their level of popularity.  I remember calling a girl named Kim and explaining to her that I wanted to hang out with her because I liked her.  How weird is that for a 14-year-old?

I have good memories of that summer.  I think of it as the summer I re-positioned my life.  The changes I made that summer impacted all of my high school years.  When I went back to school that fall, I was a new, more self-confident person.  I joined choir again.  I joined the Drama Club.  I spent my time with people who were like-minded and who were actually nice to me.  I had friendships based on friendship, not popularity.  Yes, some of my friends were out-and-out nerds, but they were wonderful friends.

I have been thinking a great deal over the past few months about what true friendship really means.  Having horrible life experiences really weeds out the REAL friends from the casual acquaintances.  Once again, it makes me think of orbits.  Some friendships sail out of our daily orbit from time to time, but when a friend is really needed, they come back like shining stars.  Other friendships are part of the orbit of daily life, but when the going gets tough they speed out of the orbit and are nowhere to be found.

I often remember my daughter Grace’s funeral.  It was a cold winter day very close to Christmas.  The funeral was in a remote country church an hour’s drive from our hometown.  It still hurts my heart to remember the number of friends who were not able to give up an afternoon during the holiday season to be by our side as we laid our dear daughter to rest. On the other hand, there were others, who I would never have imagined even cared, who made the trip and touched our hearts.  I will never forget a dear man from our town who made a cross from pine bows to lay on her grave.  I saw him as I sat in the pew waiting for the ceremony to begin.  One of the few memories I have of that day is seeing him pass by the window of the church with a cross of pine bows carried on his back.  I looked past Grace’s casket and out through the window.  I thought of Jesus carrying the cross as I watched that man trudge up the hill to the cemetery behind the church.  This one good deed has lasted a lifetime in my heart.  It’s almost 24 years later now, and that good man is no longer alive.  He died two days after my father’s funeral.   I spent Christmas Eve morning crying at his funeral, but my heart remembered with love and kindness how he touched my life.   While I had not seen him often over the years, his act of friendship will forever be special to me.

Through the years, I have been amazed time after time by the people who have proven to be true friends.  Often times, it has not been those whom I most imagined would be there when I needed a friend.  Thankfully, my best friends don’t let me down, and while we may lose touch from time to time, they are there, a part of my life like family.

I’m feeling a little bit like that eight grade girl again this summer.  I have been trying to please too many people.  I’m not sure if some of them are worth my effort.  Are they really my friends, or I am once again trying so very hard to be liked or to be popular?  Thirty years later, and again I am feeling like that 14-year-old girl who was so afraid of rejection.  Once again, I am hearing my dad’s words ringing through my head.  “Just say Goodbye.”

I wish I could plant a garden, but I don’t have time.  I wish I could go spend a few weeks with Grandma, but she is no longer there.  This summer will be different from that summer so long ago, but I am determined to once again make this a summer of change.

And So It Goes…

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I am really beginning to feel at home in the new office.  The bowl of lemons were a hit.  I enjoyed watching the reactions of people as they noticed the bright yellow lemons in the bright orange bowl.  Some people stared at them, but didn’t say a word.  Other people asked, “What’s with the lemons?” as soon as they walked in my door.  I would seriously recommend that everyone have a bowl of lemons in their life!  They smelled wonderful, like a citrusy burst of sunshine.  I could feel my spirits lift whenever my I glanced in their direction.  The color was beautifully refreshing amid the drab muted colors of an office.  Thank you, Seasweetie, for this bit of spiritual advice.

I like the color of the new office, too.  It isn’t a very pretty color, kind of a dark taupe, but it is a good color to sink into.  It feels calming.  I never liked color of the old office.  It was light blue, and I always felt bad vibes from that color.  Weird, huh, but whenever I really looked at that blue color, it felt hectic.  It was a busy color, better suited for a surgical suite or an IRS office.

The coolest thing of all is that my new office is in the portion of City Hall that was once the city jail.  The picture above isn’t from my office, but it was taken in the office on the floor above mine.  The upstairs still has a couple of the original jail cell doors in place.  I’ve done a little research about the history of the building, and my office space is in what was once the women’s’ holding cell.  I love that! I wonder what would land a woman in jail in the early 1900’s?

Other than adjusting to the new office, there wasn’t a lot of  good about my day.  My intern is truly about the stupidest girl I have ever encountered.  I could do a “Post a Day” on the things that girl says and does.  The crazy, angry man was at it again today, too.  He would also qualify for a “Post a Day.”  I had a good long talk with the Chief of Police this afternoon.  I feel a lot better after talking to him, although there isn’t much that can be done at this point.  The Chief did offer some great advice to pass along to the concerned business owners.

The gloomy skies and cold weather have been  mirroring my mood these past few days.  Unsettled weather is what you would call it, and it fits.  What I need is warming sunshine and soft breezes.  I have been working too hard, not feeling well, not sleeping well, thinking too much, and it is taking its toll on me this week.  I was so tired driving home tonight. It frightened me as I struggled to stay awake.   Most days, I enjoy the drive home, but today it felt lonely.  The sky was gray.  The songs on my iPod were depressing.

My phone rang when I was almost home.  It was Emily.  My spirits lifted the moment I heard her voice.  My Emily.  My sunshine.  She was all in a dither.  She had plans tonight with the new boyfriend.  She had just found out that the plans included swimming.  She was freaking out about him seeing her in a bikini.  (REALLY…how reassuring is that!?)  This is probably the first boy who has ever made her act like this.  I’m not sure how to explain it.  She glows, giggles, frets, and worries.  This boy is sweet and cute….AND he’s an older man.  He just turned 20.  While that made T and I cringe initially, they are following our rules.  Em met him while volunteering at the Red Cross.  He is an Eagle Scout.  His mother even stopped by and talked to T at work about the “situation.”  She wanted to make sure that her son had our blessing and to let us know that she was also going to monitor things, too.

I talked to Em until I pulled into the driveway.  One thing is for sure, no matter how tired I am while driving home, I wake right up when I walk in the door.  I have no choice.  Most days, someone is out the door of the house before I’m even out of the car.  Lola ran out.  Pepper the Wondercat was sitting in the windowsill meowing at me, and Em was waiting right inside the door.  She looked so beautiful, excited, and happy.  There was nothing special to have made her so beautiful at that moment, but I was in awe.  She wasn’t dressed up, and her hair was in a messy bun, but she was glowing with happiness, which made me feel happy for the first time all day.  I took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen.  LOUD.  My house is always loud.  Everyone was there.  What’s for dinner?  Who is staying here for dinner?  Who will be coming over for dinner?  I never know from one day to the next who, what, or how many.

Andrew was leaving to play a show at a coffee house.  Em was leaving on her date.  Luke’s girlfriend would be here any moment. Tonight there were five of us for dinner.  It’s  a different mix each day.  It keeps things interesting.  There is never any monotony in this house.  I long for a day or two of monotony.

After dinner, I crept upstairs to lie down for a while.  The house had settled down.  Luke and Shannon had taken Lola into the TV room to watch Indiana Jones.  The TV room connects to my bedroom by the back staircase, and I could hear them in the room below me.  As I listened to the three of them in the TV room, I thought about what wonderful parents Luke and Shannon will someday be.  They are two amazing young people.  Best friends, first and only loves, they have been inseparable for four years now.  Shannon will be joining Luke at Marquette in the fall.  They will be living in the same dorm.  I’ve been teasing them all summer about getting married since they’re attending the same school.  It would save us a bundle in tuition!  Of course, I don’t mean it.  I’m proud of the plans they have in place for their lives.  They have it all charted and planned out.  I hope it works for them, but I also know that life rarely goes according to our plans.

Exhausted as I was, I merely drifted in and out of sleep.  I was dreaming dreams that only added to my exhaustion.  I was unable to find the peace I was seeking.  I had wanted a quick, refreshing nap while everyone was occupied, but instead my solitude only magnified  my worries.  A text from Andrew.  He was on his way home, so I went back downstairs to wait for him.

Andrew came home in a good mood.  “Want to watch a little King of the Hill before bed, Mom?”  I poured a  Special Pepsi (Bacardi and Pepsi with a nice slice of lime) and made some popcorn.  Shannon went home, and Luke joined us.  Emily wandered in, too, happy from a wonderful evening.  My kids and King of the Hill, T sleeping in a chair, that is my life right now.  Once again, I settled in and allowed Hank and Peggy to relieve my stress and lift my spirits.

So much is unsettled.  So much is confusing.  So many things are on my mind.  And so it goes…

Ugliness

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My hearts is tender.  It is battered and bruised today.  Well, my heart has been battered and bruised for quite a while.  It’s a good heart.  It wants to be happy and filled with joy.  In fact, my poor little heart jumps at the chance to believe in happiness.  My heart leaps when it thinks good things are about to happen.  It wants to believe the best in other people.  It wants to trust.  It wants to believe in the innate kindness and goodness in the other hearts it encounters in this life.

No matter how much the rest of me experiences, my heart remains so very innocent and vulnerable.  My heart is in charge here.  My heart guides me and reacts to my experiences in life.  Sometimes that is wonderful.  As I said, my heart it sweet.  My heart is what enables me to see the wonder of the world.  My heart is what helps me see the beauty of nature.  Where my brain sees a dog, my heart sees a friend.  My brain sees a shedding cat, but my heart reminds me of the times that shedding furball roams around the house crying out “Ma!  Ma!” until he finds me.  My brain sees the filthy homeless man who wanders around near my office each day on his bike packed with his earthly belongings, but my heart wonders at his story.  My heart is what makes me go out of my way to say hello to him each day.  My heart is happy when my hello brings a smile to this mentally ill man’s face.  My heart does a good job of helping me see the wonderous, miraculous, good in the world  Even at this very moment, my brain is smelling brownies fresh from the oven, but my heart is making me love T for knowing that my day was rough and chocolate would help.

That’s one reason I love my job so much.  I can use my brain to make a difference, however small, in the world.  That makes my heart happy.  It’s frustrating though sometimes.  Sometimes making a difference means that the bad guy gets riled up.   The fight against injustice isn’t easy.  Think about it.  If injustice exists, then that means that someone, or many, are having a good old time getting away with unjust behavior.  Who wouldn’t be happy to be the guy on top?  Who wouldn’t be happy to be able to get away with whatever they wanted and have the folks around them turn a blind eye?  Yeah, that  kind of person who is going along just fine with their life of unethical behavior isn’t very happy when Pollyanna comes waltzing in and saying “Hey!  That’s not fair!  Yes, those rules DO apply to YOU.  No, you are NOT able to twist and turn those rules to suit yourself as you see fit.”  No, the bad guys don’t like that at all.  Bad guys don’t like truth and fairness..not if it mean that truth and fairness is also applied to them.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a letter that had been sent to City Hall full of criticism and complaints about me.  Oh, how that hurt my heart!  Why would someone take the time to do something so rude and cruel?  It wasn’t the words that hurt so much as it was the image in my mind of someone actually taking the time, taking time out of their life and their day, to try to hurt me ON PURPOSE.  That particular incident has escalated.  The more I thought about that letter, the greater my concern grew.  The letter contained out and out lies.  If I didn’t have the respect and support of my co-workers, if that letter had been taken seriously, it could have seriously damaged my career.  Losing my career would have an impact on me AND my family.  Why would anyone want to hurt my family?  It scared me to think of the ripple effect that such a letter could have caused in my life.

What if this guy continued to cause problems for me?  Could this crazy person cause so much trouble that I was no longer an asset?  Would I become a liability?  What if he was relentless?  What if it was easier to get rid of me than to deal with this nutcase?  OK….yeah.  I was becoming obsessed, which is really nothing new.  🙂  I spoke to my boss about my concerns.  Once again, I can’t say enough good about this man who is my boss.  We were friends before I ever took this position, and I can’t imagine anyone I would rather work with.  There is such a bond of trust between us.  Someday I will write an entire blog entry about our history together.  He is my friend, and I can’t imagine a time or a thing that could ever change that.  He and I have shared significant, life-changing years of our lives together.  When I met him, he was a man married twenty-plus years with a small child.  Now…he is a gay man in a committed relationship.  His strength in dealing with and facing major honesty and changes in his life continue to inspired and impress me.

He listened to me, and he understood my concerns.  We consulted with the legal department, which really accomplished nothing, but did calm my fears that I would be hung out to dry.  While my fears of personal career damage have been calmed, my fears of personal safety have increased.  I knew that this person had a history of run-ins and confrontations, but now that I know even more, it is unsettling.  There are three current restraining orders outstanding, countless cases of legal action and false accusations.  Last weekend, a fast food worker was attacked by this man.  Charges are pending.  The list goes on and on.  The more I learn, the more confused I am about WHY this person is able to skate so close to the edges of the law and still manage to walk free.

Today I had lunch with two victims of his harassment.  They had not known each other prior to their common problems.  The issues he has with them are unrelated.  They both carry mace.  They wanted my help.   What can be done to protect us from his “legal” abuse?  He has done nothing illegal yet, or nothing that can be proven.  Even as I write this, I am worried.  What if he reads this?  But why would he?  How could he?  I write, because this is MY blog, and I refuse to be afraid.  I will not alter my life due to this.  I don’t like bad guys.  I have plenty of reasons not to like bad guys.  I don’t like people who think they can live blamelessly as they hurt those around them.  I have reasons to dislike that, too.

Yes, I will get involved.  I will help.  Once again, I find myself among strong women.  Together, we are strong.  More than once, it was said, “It feels so good to know it’s not just me.  I feels so good to know that I am not alone in this.”  Bad guys don’t stand chance when strong women stand united.

Today I was reminded of so many other times when my heart has hurt over selfish, thoughtless, ugly meanness.  I remembered the first time I when I really knew that my heart was tender.  It was two days after my dad died.  Never before had I felt so alone in the world.  I had lost the greatest love I had ever known in my life.  I had lost my safety net.  I was raw with pain.  I was driving to work that morning.  My dad was not yet laid to rest.  The funeral was the next day, but I was driving in to my office for an hour or so.  It was bitterly cold.  Although the traffic here is never really bad, it was rush hour.  I was on the expressway at the busiest overpass.  Some cars were entering.  Some were trying to exit.  Cars jockeyed for position.  Ahead of me, a car signaled to change lanes in order to exit.  Instead of letting the car change lanes, the car in front of me purposely sped up and then slowed down simply to make sure that his fellow motorist would not be able to exit as he had intended.  As I watched it happening, I began to sob.  My heart was so hurt.  My recent losses were so fresh and painful.  My heart could take no more, and the pain overflowed.

I remember how that senseless cruelty hurt me on that day.  When I pulled into the parking lot that morning, I had laid my head against the steering wheel as the knowledge of man’s inhumanity to man washed over me.  Why?  Why do human beings have this horrible capacity of cruelty inside of them?  That day, I cried for the man who had not been able to take the exit.  Where had he been going?  What if he was going to visit a loved one in the hospital?  What if, like me, he was hurting from a great loss?  Why is it so much easier sometimes to hurt people than to be kind?  Shouldn’t the desire to allow the guy to change lanes outweigh the desire to fuck up his morning?  I don’t understand such behavior.  Thankfully, I don’t understand.  Hopefully, I never will.

That’s What She Said…

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Know what?  I am supposed to be a professional.  That is a fact that I sometimes have to sit myself down and reprimand and remind myself of.  Most of the people who I work with on a daily basis know that I am a free spirit (i.e.  A bit loopy.)  In fact, we are a fairly irreverent group.   Most of us have a few skeletons rattling around in our closets.  There are no secrets in our office, and I mean that  NONE!  Yet, we all have a great deal of respect for each other.  Within the larger department of about a dozen people, I feel a complete sense of freedom to BE ME.  Outside of those office boundaries, however, I have to wear that veneer of professionalism.  It’s like a cape that we all put on as we head out of the door.

Today I began the move to a new office suite.  Yes.  I am giving up “The World’s Best Office.”  It is a little freaky, because I am moving back to a remodeled version of my old office.  Nothing about it looks the same, but it IS the same space.  Too many emotions and events that I would prefer NOT to remember occurred in my life during the time that I was once in that space.  (Seasweetie, I could use some advice here on smudge pots and herbs to clear the sad/negative spirits!!)  I am hoping that the NEW ME who is moving back into the newly remodeled office space will stomp down any lingering bad vibes.

My (really, really awful) intern packed up all of the files and folders.  The  IT department moved the computers at 2:30 this afternoon.  We were all ready for the union workers from  Public Works to do the heavy lifting at 3:30.  I will add here that I think this entire process has been terribly bureaucratic and inefficient.  There are plenty of us to move a few cabinets and desks, but we would catch holy hell if we were to have done it ourselves.  The union reps would have filed a grievance if salaried staff would have taken on a union task.  As it is, I am probably going to be in BIG TROUBLE because I used Windex to clean off my desk.  I was caught red-handed by Public Works staff, and I was called out on it, too!  “I would have cleaned that for you!”  Uh….I didn’t know what to say.  Well, yeah, I did.  I didn’t want to wait three hours for them to get around to it, when all I wanted to do was set my stuff back on a clean desk!

On top of the office move, which is still not complete, I had to give a presentation at City Council tonight.  Today felt like one of those days when I was going in about fifty directions all at once.  Everyone wanted something from me, and no one was giving a damn thing.  Oh…par for the course.   I wasn’t feeling all that great, and it always interests me that my brain has the ability to take over and force my body to function even when all I want to do is curl up and sleep.  When I feel like crashing, or at least taking a nap,  I somehow find the energy and strength to do what needs or must be done.  Of course, that ability has a limited duration.  That’s why I crash each weekend into the Napping Blob.

So, I got a little goofy this afternoon, or I almost did.  It was late in the afternoon.  I was frustrated, tired, and standing in the middle of a mess when all I wanted to do was lay down and take a nap.  “Where does this go?”  “Where do you want this cabinet?”  Really…I don’t care, but oh….it’s my job to care.  OK.  Act like a professional.

I stood there talking with one of the workers from Public Works.  She was measuring the wall space for a large shelf that was going to be the next item to be moved.  As we talked, she pulled the metal tape out of the tape measure over and over.  I watched her, and realized that I would have done the same thing if I had been holding it.  For some reason, her actions mesmerized me.  I made her nervous, and that made me feel bad.  Really, I could be a janitor.  There was a time when I would have thought that was ALL I could be.  She is just a woman.  So am I.  Essentially, there is no difference, but to her, there was all the difference in the world.  I hated that.  In that moment, I really hated that.  I wished I could take her out for dinner or lunch and tell her that I AM NOT LIKE THAT.  I wanted to tell her about MY history, then she would know.  I knew what it was like to feel like LESS.

For over three years I have known this woman.  I have tried to be her friend.  I admire her.  She is a breast cancer survivor.  She is a brain cancer survivor.  She is a widow.  She is a mother.  Her life is not, has not, been easy.  For three years, I have tried to show her respect.  At least I hope she feels that much.  For three years, I have tried to be her friend, but she will not allow it.  I am a different pay grade.  I am salaried.   I don’t dress like she does.  I don’t lift, and mop, and haul.  (Ha!  I do, just not at work!)  She won’t allow my friendship, and it drives me nuts.  Why?  I think I scare her.  She is always polite, but with reservations.  Why?  Believe me, I am not scary.  I don’t try to be scary!

As we stood there talking, another worker came into my office.  They debated the shelf placement.  I watched them.  She was relaxed talking to him.  Although, she still  kept pulling the tape out over and over.  She referenced the tape measure.  The previous afternoon, she had needed one as we discussed furniture placement.  She said to her co-worker, “I’m glad you brought your bag of tools over last night.”

I about lost it.  I almost burst out laughing and said, “That’s what she said!”  I had to leave the room.  In fact, I grabbed my keys and left the building.  I couldn’t hold it in!  Maybe it was because I was so damn tired, but I felt like a middle-schooler.  I had to call T.  Our family has been regularly watching The Office.  As any Office viewer knows, Micheal Scott’s favorite phrase is “That’s what she said….”  It’s now something that is heard often, no…..constantly….in our house.  We all jump at the chance to use “That’s what she said…”  It’s become the family game, and today, I almost blurted it out.

Maybe I should have said it, but it would have cracked that veneer of professionalism.  What stopped me?  I have thought about that ever since I walked away instead of just saying what popped into my head.  I chose to walk away instead of be myself.  Yes, I called T and laughed.  I called my son, Andrew, too, but why didn’t I just say it?  Why did I maintain the space between us.  I’m not sure if I am proud of myself or if I am ashamed.  Maybe tomorrow, I will tell her.  Maybe I will share my joke.  I know it would make her smile.  As I think about it, I wonder if it is me who is afraid.  Maybe I am afraid that I will not be accepted back into the world where I once felt that I belonged.

Blogging Friends

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Sometimes I miss the old blog.  Those of you who read the “Other” blog will understand why  I miss it.  You will certainly know why it has been a positive experience not to write the previous blog any longer.  Without dwelling on it, or spilling the beans so to speak, I will just say that the old blog dealt with one not so pleasant subject.  One subject, and I beat that subject into the ground.  Getting rid of the old blog was difficult emotionally, but WordPress made it surprisingly easy.  Just a couple of clicks and hundreds of blog entries were gone.  A year and a half of the worst times in my life were recorded in excruciating detail, but I am glad that they are gone.

This new blog is still taking shape, and I’m trying to find my voice.  I’m still wandering down this path and searching for my place in this world.  I am beginning to become friends with this new blog, though.  By disallowing myself to dwell on the old subject matter, it has helped ME not to dwell on it as well.  Sometimes, though, it’s not easy.  When I was hurting or upset, writing helped, and I miss that one final outlet.

Even though I deleted the old blog, I was able to take something very important along with me.  While the blog had become something of a nemesis, the friendships I made in the blogging world carried me through some very difficult personal times.  I have found that these real friendships are much more healing and more valuable than the thousands of words I threw out into cyberspace.   Those words are gone, and sometimes that loss saddens me, but the network of support that those words built still remains.

As my former blog readers know, I wrote about searching and seeking answers.  I wanted reasons, and I wanted meaning.  I didn’t want to go through hell and have it mean absolutely nothing.  Even though I could not change the details or results of my situation, I wanted to think that I hadn’t walked away ruined and less of a person.  Well, I’m still working on that one, but the load is beginning to lift.

I’m still learning, and sometimes I falter, but I am beginning to trust my heart once again.  I am beginning to listen to the tiny voice of reason that had been there (sometimes shouting!) all along.  Now, when the going gets tough, and it sure does get tough at times, instead of pouring out my heart, soul, anger, pain, and a variety of other negative emotions into my blog, I pick up the phone and I reach out to a REAL person.

Last night was one of those nights.  I tried all of the things that usually help turn my thoughts to more positive things.  I had a Special Pepsi.  I cleaned out a dresser drawer.  I spent some time ironing, but I still found myself pacing around with way too much on my mind.  Finally, I picked up the phone and called a blogging friend.  She has been there for me through so very much this past year.  Last night was no different.  Within moments, I was laughing out of control.  I smile even now as I think of the silliness of that conversation.  What was important is that she had me laughing at myself.  She brought me out of the rut that I had tripped and fallen back into face-first.

If there is nothing else good that has come out of all of this pain, that friendship across the miles will be something that will always be special to me.  My sweet blogging sister and I have laughed, and we have cried.  We have cussed like sailors, and wondered together over signs from the spiritual world.  Although we met through shared experience, and not such a good experience to have, our friendship is so much more now than the sadness that brought us together.   So many other blogging friends have touched my life, too,  and offered help and hope to me in horribly difficult times.  I often think of us as little planets.  Sometimes our orbit intersect.  Other times, our worlds are further apart, but we are still there in our blogging universe.

A year and a half ago, I wrote my first entry in the “Other” blog.  I don’t think there was a single day that I didn’t write an entry.  I know there were days when I wrote more than once.  My readers yelled at me, cheered me up, wanted to smack me, and offered me cyber hugs.

Interestingly, several fellow bloggers/readers and I began our journeys around the same time.  A year and a half later, we are all still here.  (Amazingly….Thankfully!)  We are older.  Maybe, we are wiser.  Some of us are happier, while some of us are still looking around in disbelief as we continue to survive in the aftermath.  Sadly, some are still in the midst of the confusion.  I believe I may be a little of each.

If you read the “Other” blog, I thank you for the love, support, and friendship…even if we did not connect on a personal basis.  If you didn’t read the “Other” blog, thank you for reading this one.  This blog is ME.  This is my real life and who I really am as a human being.  There is me to ME than the one subject of the “Other” blog.  This blog is about the things I hold dear, the things that make me smile or tick me off, the little things that I see in my ordinary life.  While the “Other” blog was my heart, this blog is my life.

The Strength of Women

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Almost four years ago, back when I was a very different person, something interesting happened.  I hadn’t thought about it for a very long time, but today I once again told the story.  It is strange and a bit difficult to look back at that time in my life.  So much, so very much, and not much of it good, has changed since that cold winter morning.  It was the first day back in the office after the New Year’s holiday.  It was a different office.  It was 2008, and I was the Executive Director of a non-profit organization.  Same job that I’m doing now,  several transformations, but essentially the same job.  I had been on the job for a very short time, and I had no idea of the horrible financial and organizational disarray that I would soon uncover.  At this point, I was incredibly optimistic about almost every aspect of my life, both personal and professional.  I was riding high.  It makes me sad to look back on the optimistic person I was on that morning, but that’s another story.  I had no idea that I was about to embark on the absolutely worst, most hellish years, of my life.

On this morning almost four years ago, I sat down at my desk and opened my email.  There was an email from a woman who worked at City Hall.  I didn’t really know her. I knew her name, and we sometimes found ourselves attending the same meetings.  She intimidated me.  Her clothes, hair, and makeup were always perfect.  She was striking and brilliant.  She carried herself with an air of confidence that I felt was lacking in myself.  She was writing to ask me to meet her for lunch sometime in the near future.

This woman’s email said that she had made a New Year’s resolution to connect with other professional women.  Ha!  THIS WOMAN considered ME a professional woman.  I was surprised and a bit intimidated.  I went on to read that she wanted to meet me for lunch, not for professional networking, but to get to know each other on a personal level.  She asked me to let her know when and where I would like to have lunch.  I really did not know what to make of it.  This was early in my new career, and I had not become a “professional lunch-goer” yet.  That was all about to change.

This story came back to me the other morning when I was having coffee with a staff member.  I had asked her to leave the office with me so that we could discuss a few touchy work-related issues in a more relaxed atmosphere.  As I told my co-worker about this woman and her lunch invitation, I remembered how intimidated I had been of this woman.  She was so “put together” in every way.  She was highly educated with multiple degrees.  She was a RN and had a law degree, and was now working in municipal government as a property manager.  (I would later learn that she was an education junkie!)  Her makeup was amazing.  I sometimes couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, because I would get caught up in looking at the way her eye shadow blended flawlessly from her lid to brow bone.  Actually, it was over the top, but I was still trying to figure out this new part of my life.  I thought that her look was something I had to study much like I studied the hundreds of economic development acronyms that were tossed around in meetings.

As I told the story of my awe and intimidation of this woman, my co-worker looked shocked.  She interrupted me and said, “I can’t believe anyone could ever intimidate you!”  Ah….those words did not feel like a compliment.  Four years later, I have a nice veneer of bravado.  I can handle anything.  I can juggle it all.  I am not afraid of anything.  I won’t back down.  I stand up for what I believe in.  Bleh!!!!  and Double Bleh!!  Yes, that is the woman I present to the world.  but that is most certainly not the woman who lives inside of me.

In the middle of telling this story,  I was suddenly crestfallen. Of course, that didn’t show.  It was all hidden on the inside, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I love the fact that I am a strong, capable, confident woman, but sometimes I hate it more than anything.  Sometimes I hurt.  Sometimes I am afraid.  I worry, too.  Sometimes, I just want someone to lean on, and someone to handle everything for me.  Everything.  Sometimes I am faced with tasks, worries, or fears that seem insurmountable.   Sometimes I don’t want to be strong…but only for a moment.  Yes, I am weak, hurt, afraid, intimidated sometimes, but then I take a deep breath and plow ahead.  As far as I am concerned, I have no choice but to be strong and do my very best.

Now, that brings me back to my story.  I did have lunch with that woman.  She would end up shaping my career and standing by my side and helping me as I navigated some sticky situations.  A year later, she and I shared an office suite in City Hall.  The day we had lunch, though, we were still basically strangers.  I sat intimidated that day at lunch as she told me about herself and her New Year’s plan.  She wanted to meet other women, not for networking or to discuss work issues.  She wanted to meet women and talk about women stuff.  No work discussions allowed.  It was fabulous.  I don’t remember what we talked about that day, but I do remember feeling enjoyment.  I had met a kindred soul.  She was a strong, confident woman, but inside where it mattered most, she was kind and soft.  I learned a lesson from her that day, and I would continue to learn more as our friendship grew.

There are women who use their soft side as a tool or as a means to get others to do things for them.  We all know women who use their weaknesses to manipulate those around them.  They are the women who “don’t know how” to do things that we all know they are perfectly capable of doing.  The don’t know how to use a computer.  The can’t pump their own gas, or pay bills, or mow a yard.  They use the “I don’t know how,” because they are too lazy or too afraid to stand on their own two feet and be accountable and responsible.  Instead, they cling to dependency as a way of life.   After years of dependency, maybe they actually do forget that they are capable of strength, and that strength can bring pride and a sense of accomplishment.  These women may be soft and pretty (or not) on the outside, but I wonder what is inside?

My friend and I no longer work together.  She has moved on to a different job.  I’m still at City Hall, but no longer in the same office or doing the same job.  The year or so she and I spent together as co-workers taught me so much.  Not only did she help and guide me with my career, but she taught me so much about strength, kindness, and the value of friendship.

With that email and the lunch that followed, she began something that grew into many wonderful friendships.  After several lunches and becoming friends, she and I decided to target other women together.  It was so much fun!  We took turns each month picking a new woman to target.  Oh, I can’t even begin to explain the fun we had as our new recruit met us for lunch and we explained that this wasn’t a business lunch.  In fact, the only rule was that we could NOT discuss work at all during lunch.  As they looked at us like we had lost our minds and lured them to lunch under false pretenses, we explained that we LIKED them and simply wanted to be their friend.  It was wonderful.  Each month, our group of women met for lunch.  Occasionally, a new face would be added to the group.  We even came up with a name:  The Non-Networking Lunch Group.   Our group no longer meets regularly, but the friendships have remained.  I’m glad to have remembered this story and the origins of the friendships I still value.  I had forgotten how these now comfortable friendships had begun.  It’s good to smile and look back on those days.

So now,  I am the woman who appears to be strong.  Am I intimidating to other women?  I certainly don’t try, or even want, to intimidate anyone.  As I remembered these lunches, reaching out, and creating new friendships, I realized that it is time again to reach out, because I know how that works.  Reaching out to someone in friendship and kindness is exactly what I need right now.