Collecting Friends

sand-summer-outside-playing.jpg

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. ― C.S. Lewis

My children are so far apart in age that it often feels like we are starting completely fresh again. There are several things that happen when you wait ten years to have another baby. One is that you end up with multiple sets of friends.

  1. The first set is the ones you have carried with you since before babies entered your world.  These are your friends that you have had since your birth, or maybe just since college, or your first job, whatever.  These are you secret holders and you guard their friendship with your life because they know too much.
  2. The second set of friends you have are your work friends.  These people have no idea of who you were before you started working with them.  They have only seen your children twice in person. However, they know every story, in detail, about those children and your husband because you spend every lunch break with them.  You never see this set on weekends, because they are in a totally different place in life than you and it would just be weird.
  3. You have your friends from church.  Bless them.  They will rally and bring casseroles to your front door when you are ill and they babysit your kids just to let you sleep.  They are awesome, but you hold back from them just a little.  Can’t let all the people in the church know just how dysfunctional your little family really is. Getting the old school friends in the same room with church friends is one of your biggest nightmares.
  4. You also have the friends you have collected along the way that have children your oldest child’s age.  They are skilled and experienced resources that you have come to treasure.
  5. And finally you have your newest friendships — the ones with children the age of your youngest.  These girls will keep you young.  They still have all the energy that you did ten years ago, and bless them, they pretend not to notice that you are old enough to be….well, that you are a lot older.

Group 1, 2, and 4 love to tease you about hanging with group 5, but you don’t care because friends are friends and God knows we need a big ol’ village to help raise these children, don’t we?  Because, life is hard and many of the lessons are learned on the playground! But what are we teaching?  Even more importantly, what are they learning?

At three, my son could not grasp the idea of playing with more than one friend at a time.  He was best friends with whomever was in the room with him first.  When the rest of the children arrived for a playdate he demanded that they go away, he and Child A were already best buddies.  Each time, I pulled him to the side and explained that it was okay to have more than one friend and that playing was more fun when we invite more people.  Should his loyalty be rewarded?  Or is it easier to just  be satisfied and content with whomever is in the room.

He begged to go to the park one day when it was beautiful outside.  It is not uncommon for us to run into friends there.  I explained to him on the way that we may not know anyone this time.  I had not called anyone beforehand.  He assured me it was okay.   As we drove up, I saw several children playing but did not recognize a single one.  His response, “Mommy, look!  All my new best friends are here.”  Yes, indeed they were. He got out and they all played without any awkward introductions. A couple of hours later we departed and left the new best friends. He didn’t know a single name, but he looked for them each time we returned.

Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/little-boy-playing-in-the-sand-6459/

Highly Edited

Preface: I feel a need to talk about personalities, writing, and the social media extrovert. Apparently, there have been several studies about introverts, extroverts, and how the personalities take on different personas in social media.  Interesting stuff, but I was clueless to them all prior to my writing this snippet.  I will save that reading for another day.  That might seem odd, but I am not doing a research paper here.  I am not presenting anything in my blog as science or anything other than what I have found to be true in living this life.  It is all just my opinion.

5A238A59-AD35-41B4-AA53-22D4FF7F47E6

Highly Edited

In real life, I am the person who relates to a lot of different people, as I discussed in my blog “Collecting Friends“.  That came in extremely handy when my husband decided to do a residency at one of the local hospitals.  No, he isn’t on a path to becoming a doctor, unfortunately.  He is battling a disease that landed us there for over a month.  If I ever at all seem ungrateful for all the love we received during that time, it is untrue.  I was, and still am, extremely grateful. I am just awkward and I don’t always have the best edit feature.

Think of the introverts that you know.  Think about how they would react under stress and needing to communicate information to multiple groups of people at once about the personal matters that are stressing them.  Awkward! That was the situation I was in.

I tend to close off when stressed.  I want to be left alone or with the few people who know me well enough to forgive me for whatever I might say. Under extreme stress, the ability to be socially kind LEAVES me and I just want to retreat into a ball. In this case, that wasn’t really an option. People needed to know how Rick was doing.  They were concerned for him, for me, and, of course, our children.  People needed to know how they could help and I needed them to help. I needed an outlet to communicate those things, but phone calls and talking aloud seemed to only stress me more. Copying and pasting the same lines into multiple group texts seemed insincere but I was guilty of it a lot.

The first couple of days we sat in silence from social media not really wanting the attention that a cancer diagnosis can bring until we knew more.  We did not want to hear about everyone’s Great Aunt Sally who fought the battle and lost. We also weren’t quite ready for the extremely energetic crew that would blow off the diagnosis because of the good prognosis; the journey was still going to be tough. We did not want to be the entertaining subjects of people’s evening meal. Hell, we didn’t WANT cancer. But we live in a small town, and after several days, you can bet word was starting to get out to that collective group.  A few people that had been by the hospital reminded me that it was up to me how much everyone else got to know.  “Take care of yourself and let others handle the things.”

Having lived in a small town all my life, I know that if you do not tell people the exact truth they will make up a truth all their own.  With an excellent long-term prognosis, I did not want anything other than the exact truth getting back to our kids.  There was no room for gossip or fear.

That Sunday, I began posting regularly on Facebook about what was going on in our hospital lives, the coming tests, the results of the last tests, where we were asking for prayer, and where our prayers had been answered the previous week.  All were summed up with #byebyehairycell because, I was feeling snarky after the first post, it added needed humor, and it just stuck. Sometimes those updates only took me a minute to write. Sometimes, ashamedly, I poured over the words for hours late at night before hitting the post button. They were never especially long but I found myself reading and rereading the words I was putting on the page and dissecting every little piece before releasing it for the rest of the world.  Why?  I can guarantee you that only the first pass had anything to do with grammar, punctuation, or typos. Most of those were edited and found the day after each post or still exist.  I am not a great editor and it just wasn’t my top priority.

What I found was that I needed to absorb the words on the page and come to terms with what each line said before I could release them for everyone else.  I needed to get comfortable with the words the doctors were throwing around before I would be able to talk openly with others. Writing them down and editing the sentences again and again and again would help me with that.  Recounting the blessings of the week on paper and making sure that each post I made on Facebook had a positive ending helped me with that. Those are not the kind of things you can do in a live conversation. It doesn’t make the emotions less real.  Each one of those posts were the exact truth, but they were all highly edited, because we end on the high notes with sunshine and rainbows.  I did not want anyone coming to me with long faces, tears, etc.

Life outside of the hospital started becoming a little more awkward as I would run into people and the conversation always went something like this:

Sweet friend:  Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you are here. How is Rick?

Me: He is doing really well, (fill in test result of the day). Today I am trying to focus on (enter child’s name). So, it is all sunshine, rainbows, and no more talk of “the disease”, okay?  All smiles, see? Thanks! Hope we can catch up soon. Wine sometime when life returns to normal?

Sweet friend: Of course. You are such an inspiration. I keep up with your posts. Your positivity is always just amazing.

Me: (now feeling very awkward). Thanks. I promise I have my moments that would make you cringe.

At this point, there was always a small tear in one corner of my or their eye, the mouth would go from a smile to a weird stress signal (teeth still showing, corners down), and I would have to make my exit because if I gave into this conversation further, I would lose it in public and that couldn’t happen because sunshine and rainbows, people, sunshine and freaking rainbows.

I hear and read that social media will be society’s downfall because it presents such a false reality. Maybe. Like the picture that I attached to this post. Somewhere behind the weird lighting, the multiple filters, and the cropping is the real messy awkward me that writes in pajamas and smeared makeup. Based on that picture, you wouldn’t recognize me in public. Somewhere behind my highly-edited posts lies my real feelings about all that we have been through, but it isn’t all for public viewing, it isn’t all pretty, and even if it was, I am still a really awkward introvert.  I only look like an extrovert online.

Advertisements

Bless ya, Baby

I often say that I may very well be the most blessed person on this earth.  You see, I have allergies and I have never been one to really adjust my settings to accommodate them.  My eyes are currently watering and I have a headache because, even as I type this, there is a dog in my lap.  I am allergic to dogs, but he doesn’t mind.

Sneezing seems to be my body’s way of fighting off whatever it decides I am allergic to that day and I am quite known for my sneezing.  It isn’t always especially loud. Though sometimes it is.  It’s just that I sneeze often and each time I start, it takes me a while to stop.  People like to count and, so far, my record is still seventeen.  That record was set umpteen years ago when I was walking home from grade school. I do not know who was more annoyed that day, me, or the cars waiting.  Sneeze that many times and you end up congested with a headache and a sore throat, but there is typically at least one stranger nearby who will bless me after each sneeze. Those closer to me wait until I am done.  And so, I have become the most blessed person in this world, I have no doubt.

Tales from a sneezer:

  • I have stopped sermons. I will never forget the preacher announcing. “Hang on just a second.  Let’s give Kim a chance to finish.”  I was a teen.  You don’t forget those kinds of things and the humiliation, but the congregation all blessed me that day.
  • My sneezing also serves as friend finder. I will start sneezing in a store, and hear from other aisles, “That has to be Kim.” This also happens on conference calls in office settings.  Someone will be on the phone and hear me in the background sneezing and say, “I didn’t know you worked by Kim.  Tell her I said ‘bless you’”.
  • My sneezing caught the attention of a group of nuns who were dining at the same restaurant once when my daughter was just an infant. They giggled and blessed me, of course, but then came to the table and asked if they could bless my child as well.  We gladly agreed and explained that she had been dedicated to our little protestant church weeks before.  We have always teased that she is now indeed doubly blessed.
  • Sometimes blessings do indeed come from the most unlikely places, like the time I was walking with friends on Beale Street in Memphis.  As the sneezing began, an Elvis impersonator passed and didn’t miss a beat in responding, “Bless ya, Baby.”

So, I thank God from whom all blessings flow.  Maybe I stay congested and my head may hurt more than the average Joe, but I am never far from my next blessing and we thank the heavens for that.

The last six months have been the kind of months that will define who you are, who your friends are, and just how strong your faith is.  It started with the normal life stressors.  My baby girl started dating; he picks her up in his truck from our house and leaves with her.  This does not feel right, do you hear me Mommas?  A few months later she began driving on her OWN as in she now gets in her truck (yes, we are in the south and she has a truck) and she drives away all by herself and although it doesn’t exactly feel right, she can go to the store and run errands. So, it isn’t all bad.  My baby boy started kindergarten and has picked this time to decide that he no longer likes public displays of affection.  There will be no kissing his cheek before he gets out of the car in the morning.  Do you hear me, mommas?  That baby boy will not let me kiss his cheek!  He is not quite six yet. Is this allowed? Fine, but I refuse to remove the teddy bears from his room. My primary business closed with ZERO notice and left me with enough inventory to fill my garage and the playroom, no way to sell it, while cheating me out of close to a $1k.  Nice. Did I mention that it is seasonal merchandise?  So what, right? These things are life. Get over it.

Cancer is a part of life too, unfortunately.  So, it should’ve come as no surprise to me that just as the girl is starting to really become the typical teenager, the baby doesn’t need his mother’s kisses, and the dream business crashes, that cancer would enter our family.  My husband’s thirty-eight-day admission into the hospital and leukemia diagnosis came just eighteen hours after my business went south.

But grace, sweet grace.

I would doubt that I was a very nice person the eighteen hours that it all came down.  I would bet that no one will ever write a book about my faith during those hours.  I would doubt that I was a very nice person the weeks that followed, but can I tell you how blessed I was?  While I learned medical jargon, talked to doctors, specialists, nurses, and therapists, we received calls, visits, gifts, and messages from so many people AND do you know what every one of those people had in common? They told us, “Your family is in our prayers”. MINE? Shew, thank God.  Cause we need it.  I need it.  Somewhere along the way, I lost count of how many prayer lists we were on. I have lost count of how many prayer lists we are still on.  I no longer know the reach of our prayer chain.  I do know that “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” And so we thank you for taking our names to the Lord.  We have felt his presence with us.

He has been out of the hospital now for much longer than he was in.  It’s been two weeks since he had a chemo treatment. We are on a break between cancer treatments and life resembles what it did six months ago with two people actively parenting under the same roof again.  And even though he is not in remission yet, in some moments, it is easy to forget that he is still fighting the battle of leukemia.  We can forget that briefly until we walk into public and we see the sympathetic eyes. “How are you doing?”  “We have really been praying for your family.”

Thank you. Thank you to those who pray for my husband and thank you to those who pray for the family.  This season has been a reminder that families are a blessing and we SHOULD pray for them, and not just when they have cancer.  It is HARD out there.  Doors slam.  Things get said.  We take one another for granted.  Those babies think they are grown long before they are independent and while you love them, you don’t always like them. We all could use a little blessing and as you bless, don’t forget to pass the tissue.