Breathe Easier

I’ve always loved this time of year: the lights, the music, the food, the gifts and the cheer. But there have been tough holidays, too–the first Christmas without my brother was incredibly horrible. My grief was so overwhelming that I had to smoke a joint before I could leave my room. Last Christmas, the first without either of my parents, I cried every day of December and silently sobbed numerous times on Christmas Day. And I know, for many of you, this Christmas will be lonely or filled with grief. Many of my friends lost a parent this year, a friend lost her adult son, and I lost two friends just in the past month. Or maybe you can’t be with your loved ones because of COVID-19 and you’ll miss the gingerbread cookies or that spiked eggnog your stepfather makes or you’ll just miss the comradery, the hugging, the love.

So…what do you do? How can you get through this holiday with some kind of good cheer?

There’s always Zoom or FaceTime or phone calls. It’s not the same but it can ease the loneliness a bit. Or how about driving a few hours just to drop off a little gift and give a few friends a great big smile at how silly you look?

Penelope Twinkle Toes

Since I know this year has been tough on so many, I wanted to do a little something for a few of my friends. These women are colleagues who have become friends and they’ve done a bit of extra hand-holding with me this past year and although I hope I had reciprocated their kindness, I needed to do more. Hence my adorable outfit. ūüėČ

Since I was little, I loved unicorns. Remember those Lisa Frank stickers and notebooks with the pastel colored unicorns and rainbows and all that jazz? I loved that shit. Still do. And now that I’m closing in on 50 years old, I can embrace my weirdness. I can fly my freak flag high—and wear a purple unicorn onesie wherever and whenever I want. So I traveled over two hours to briefly visit with a few of my friends with a goodie bag of treats in the hopes of making their day. And mine. This was seriously the best gift I may have ever given myself. I absolutely LOVED seeing their surprised faces. It brought me so much joy! It made me a bit envious of Santa–except the landing on roofs or going down chimneys–that part doesn’t look like fun.

I’ve done a few other gift drop offs since my Santa Unicorn day–sans the unicorn outfit–and hope to do a few more. A visit, even if it’s a masked 6 feet away visit, is the best gift anyone can give or receive right now. And if you can’t do that, just send a note. Seriously. Please let people know you’re thinking of them and care for them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived–that is to have succeeded.” My friend, Tracy, died of cancer last month. She was 47. One of the very last things she ever wrote me was that I was one of the sweetest people she’s ever known. Her words made ME breathe easier. I didn’t know what to do for her and said as much, but then she gave me the ultimate kindness of telling me I’ve done ok. That I’m a decent person.

I don’t know if I made my friends breathe any easier when I showed up at their homes and work places in a unicorn costume, but I made them smile and laugh and tear up a smidge. For now, that will do.

Let’s strive to have more lives breathe easier.

May you all experience joy and good cheer during this holiday season. Hugging you all from afar.

Pierre wasn’t completely wrong

During the past month, I’ve found myself saying “I don’t care” quite a lot. Whether it’s to my husbanPierresyrupd when he tells me he doesn’t want to eat chicken for dinner or to my friend who complains about how much her husband spends on booze, the words “I don’t care” have started to flow freely from my mouth and I rather enjoy it.

I’m sure every single one of you have thought the same words in response to a variety of your family’s or friends’ dilemmas. Maybe it’s a lost toy your child¬†is pining for (and you know it’s buried in their closet) or your co-worker is griping about being back to work after a long vacation, and all you want to do is yell, “I DON’T CARE!” But you don’t. Because you shouldn’t or because the time and effort it would take to smooth things over after a big blowout would be massive and you’d never be able to get that time back. So instead you bite your tongue and either give a bit of advice, “Sweetie, maybe try cleaning out your room,” or you nod and pretend empathy and say, “I know how you feel.”

But it’s those times when your loved ones tell you all that is going well for them, and you want so desperately to be happy for them, and yet all you feel is irritation and anger and envy. You want to scream, “I DON’T CARE!” You want to say, “Fuck your sex life, your love life, your vacations, your time off with your kid, your youth, and you. Just FUCK YOU!”

That’s when you take a deep breath and you don’t say any of those things. That’s when you don’t pretend to be happy for them, but you find real joy somewhere deep inside that part of you that really does want happiness for your beautiful friends and family. You dig that little bit of yourself out and shine it up and show those people how much you love them and are happy they’re not as miserable as you are. Misery may love company, but Misery is a real party pooper when Happiness is trying to have a good time. So you suck it up, put a genuine smile on your face, clap your hands (it always helps me be a little more cheerful) and hug your loved one. If you get a little teary, it’s ok. They won’t know if those tears are of joy or sadness, so it won’t matter.

The odd thing is that it’s very easy for me to feel happy for people I’ve never met. Those folks that win the lottery? Although I would have loved to win it myself, I am typically overjoyed for those that do win it. Think about it. How freakin’ extraordinary for something like that to happen! Or hell, when people win prizes on game shows I get excited for them, too. Maybe it’s because these things are like little happy endings only found in fiction, and since they’re strangers they seem more like characters in a book. I don’t know what happens to any of these people after the spotlight fades, nor do I want to know. They’d probably kill the image of the happy ending and I’d¬†have to¬†hate them for it.

But maybe it’s just when I’m feeling shitty about my own life that others’ lives look so great and I can’t help but whine and think, “Why can’t that be me?” Yet I know the grass is not necessarily greener. I know that sometimes that grass is really astroturf and although those Facebook photos make it look great, it’s really a bunch of chemicals that will probably give everyone in the neighborhood cancer.

I don’t want to be like this and I’m really not *always* this bitchy. But I am human. And sometimes it’s tough being a good person, especially when going through a difficult time.¬†I do try to be happy for others and feel empathy for those that need it.¬† So if you tell me something wonderful or even something horrible that’s happened to you, I may give you a look that could be interpreted as my best Grumpy Cat imgrumpycatpression. Just give me a minute to find that little nugget of joy or compassion I know I have for you.

Unless I tell you that I don’t care.

Then I really don’t.

Friendship is Magic?

Since I was a child, I have had a lot of friends. I’ve always been the “good listener,” the friend who will support you in any and all of your decisions, the one who understands you and is insightful and who is compassionate and giving and blah, blah, blah.

Well, I’m done with all of that. I can no longer be everyone’s friend.¬†I am just too tired and too annoyed¬†to¬†keep up this fa√ßade.

I have friends of many religions and faiths, including Christians, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics and those that just call themselves spiritual.¬†I have friends that are Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, Independent, and those that no longer care. I have friends that are black, white, brown and multi-colored. I have friends that are gay, straight, bisexual, and asexual.¬†I intend to continue to be friends with¬†all of you…but I no longer guarantee it.

A few days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in our country. It is something I had hoped for but honestly didn’t think I would see. I am proud that my son gets to grow up in a country that recognizes people like his uncles (my brother and his partner) have the same legal right to marry as his parents did. It never made sense to him (or me or many others) as to why they couldn’t marry to begin with. And the fact that what we¬†believed should have been true, now is, our lives feel a little better. Like our equilibrium has been restored.

But obviously not everyone feels the same way. Some of my friends on Faceimages5CUW7MLLbook had other things to say, and after looking at the people they were, I realized that I didn’t need to be “friends” with them. It wasn’t the fact that they had different beliefs, although that is why I first thought to examine our so-called friendship. It was because we weren’t ever really friends. They were all high school classmates of mine, but they were people that I didn’t really know anymore. And did I ever know them then?

 

During my senior year of high school, my friend Matt and¬†I were named “Best All Around.” Matt was (and is) a good guy. He’s funny, attractive,¬†athletic, intelligent and sweet.¬†I think I was all of those things, except take out the attractive and athletic and insert “big girl.” But I¬†was everyone’s friend…or at least I was friendly with everyone. I didn’t hate anyone nor had bad feelings about my classmates. I could stop at just about any table in the lunchroom and there’d be at least one person I could and would talk to. I don’t think it was because I was especially kind or friendly, I think it’s because I wanted everyone to like me. To be disliked or perhaps unwanted, was my biggest fear.

But you know what? Being disliked is no longer my biggest fear. Becoming a “big girl”¬†again might be up there on my list of scary things, but one thing I do know is that I can’t be everyone’s friend. I can’t like everybody. Not everyone deserves to be liked by me.¬†And the energy it takes to be true friends with someone with very different opinions than your own? It’s a HUGE amount of energy, people. I know this because I married someone like that.

When my husband and I first started dating, we were both completely open to others’ opinions. We were young and wanted to listen and learn from each other and it didn’t matter that we were polar opposites. We have different political and religious viewpoints…and favorite foods and hobbies and how we place the toilet paper on the roll. He’s conservative, I’m liberal. I’m an Agnostic, he’s not. He likes Miracle Whip, I like mayonnaise. He likes beef, I like chicken. I like to run, he’d rather crawl. We differ so much that sometimes….sometimes it really is too hard.¬†We argue over issues outside of our control (abortion, Rush Limbaugh, President Obama) and occasionally we get so upset that we can no longer hear what the other person is saying. (Kind of like Congress?)¬†Eventually tempers recede or we’ll say something so preposterous that we both start laughing and we’re ok again. But all of that is exhausting. Now don’t get me wrong. I love my husband and am happy I married him. He’s a good guy with a big heart. I just wish he wouldn’t cancel out my vote every election day. ūüôā

So…all of that energy it takes to maintain the relationship with my spouse? I have none to spare when it comes to my friends. None. If it’s not easy, then it won’t happen. Even when some of my best friendships start feeling a little difficult because of one issue or another? I tend to back off¬†and wait for the other person to come to me. I can no longer be that person who initiates the gathering or is the mediator for your discussions. I can’t always be that person who listens to you and offers¬†advice. I’m done. I will no longer apologize for what I believe in or what I think. I have been above and beyond tolerant with so many people for so long.

Now it’s your turn.