Monday, January 17, 2011

Good and loyal friends

As a counterpoint to the previous pitiful post, I will talk about five good friends.

One was a friend from college; we played ice hockey together. A nurse, she moved to a distant state, married, had a child. but we have kept in touch for years. With prescient timing, she sent a gift with the note "... to a great friend!" This came immediately after Entomologist determined I would never have a long-term friend. Maybe I have not been the best friend I could have been to her, but I am striving.

Nurse is is not a "talker." Sometimes when I want to learn the latest, I get the buzz from her husband. Nurse epitomizes the phrase: "Still waters run deep." I treasure her friendship. Her life on an even keel, she is takes things in stride.

The other two friends are about the same age and both with the most popular first name of for girls born in the middle 1970s.

J1 the first person to befriend me in Bryan/College Station. She makes me nuts sometimes, but she unfailingly invites me to her rocking Halloween parties. She overlooked a bout of unsociability at one of those parties. She forgives my foibles. She is always supportive, always seems happy to see me, always friendly, always upbeat. We were somewhat in the same line of work, and I am thrilled that she has succeeded in making this job her own and become a statewide leader, all while pursuing a masters degree.

J2 and I worked together, or rather, we both worked for the same guy, and odd man with an encyclopedic knowledge of sports trivia. She is now the busy, conscientious mother of four, but we still have a great rapport. I hope she feels as refreshed by our in-person and telephone visits as I do. She is cheerful, upbeat, can-do and loves to share her knowledge to help other Moms. She works part-time as a freelance web designer, even when she moved far fro the community whose website she maintained.

Photographer and I were acquaintances in our southern Arizona town, but not close friends. We became closer with frequent phone calls full of advice and recounting of experiences, mostly of the outdoor adventure variety, after I moved to Texas. He is droll, exuberant, and an excellent father figure, despite having no children of his own. When he learned I could not afford a mammogram a year after completion of breast cancer treatment, when I was uninsured, he sent me a check with instructions to make an appointment immediately.

Founding Mother (so called because she founded a chapter of our alumni association in our town) is possessed of a true sixth sense: she is an empath, and has predicted events to the effet of averting disaster. Founding Mother is, without question, the most intuitive person to come into my life.

Founding Mother nominated me for an alumni award, which I won. I was and remain so touched.

I remember with embarrassment a day she asked me to lunch. I forgot about the appointment (very out of character for me), and went to lunch with a co-worker. It was not until I saw her sitting in the restaurant did I remember our date. She was totally forgiving. Even 15 years after moving away, she invited me to her daughter's wedding in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Friendship is a two-way street

When I was a child, I asked my mysterious European-born maternal grandfather what he did at shul (synagogue).  He said he counted his blessings.

It's a lesson I endeavor to apply to my life. Despite the content of this post, I still spend time every evening counting my blessings.

My mind is not in a very good place on the friendship scale. Of late, several friends--or women I thought were friends--revealed themselves to be manipulators who availed themselves to my good nature, helpfulness, compassion, then cut me loose when my utility to them had run its course. In short, they used me.

Artiste/Cleric declared, almost self-righteously, that she was using me. She needed to vent (same almost-verbatim rant on four separate occasions), and I was "available" one time and more or less a captive audience the other three times. I listened with care and compassion--all four times--despite the fact that I had pressing tasks and a limited amount of time. Now that I've served my purpose, Artiste/Cleric has no further use for me. She said she had no intention of ever pursuing a friendship. For others in our community service organization, she spoke of books; to me, rants and venting. And I was glad to listen. She told me I should be happy to have served a purpose. Happy to have served a purpose! I'm not happy, however, to be used and discarded.

Entomologist, from a previous post, summoned me for multiple vent sessions, under the guise of inviting me for a hike. She asked if I wanted to meet her in a nature area south of town in 15 minutes, although she was aware the trailhead was at least a 20-minute drive from my house. Ostensibly, I was to drop what I was doing and hightail it on down there. Both times I had just returned from a long bicycle ride. Not only was I coated in sweat and salt from evaporated sweat, but I was wearing bicycle garb and shoes, so had to at least change clothes, fill up a water bottle, and find a hat. A quick shower would have been nice. Both times I said I could meet in 45 minutes. But you know: a friend in need is a friend indeed, or so I thought. I was delighted at first to have found a hiking partner, not so much when every hike was an unrelenting rant about her work and personal life.  I was not permitted so much as a word.  Of course, she had no interest in reciprocating when my life hit a rough patch.

Entomologist once told me her family was going to spend a week at a beach house. Stupid me! I actually thought she was inviting me for a day or two! Nope. My task was to 50 miles round-trip daily for a week to caretake her one-acre vegetable garden, six cats, dog, fish, ornamental plants, plus feed the squirrels and birds. The second and third year, Entomologist just assumed I would be caretaking and summonmed me to each year to pick up the key and receive my instructions.

Yes, once again, a friend in need.

(I know; I know, several people have told me I was on a fool's errand, and if were stupid enough to accept this task then I deserved the consequences.)

It's in my nature to be a good, loyal friend, to be supportive when people are in need. Why do these seemingly good people treat me as a utility rather than as a friend?