First of all, thank you for your patience while we changed servers. We got a little too portly for the original server, so we had to switch over and these things, as the Wicked Witch of the West once said, “must be done delicately.” But we’re all safe and happy in our new home, and all should be well.
Oh, my, the wind is blowing softly and I just got a whiff of herbs from my herb pots. Dill and basil. Lovely.
But I digress. So I have a day off from the killing pace. Yesterday I froze snow peas, made a huge tuna and whole wheat macaroni salad, floated in the pool, showed up for rehearsal at 2, learned Eulalie’s Ballet (over and over again, ye gods), went through until 5, a quick hour off where I jumped in the pool (I really love my pool), assembled the salad with too many onions (yuck), sat for twenty minutes and then ran out at 6 to work until 9 on a first act stumble-through, all in 90 degree heat. Vermonters don’t do well in 90 degree heat.
And I loved it! I’m having the best time in the world. At first I thought it was family. Not only do I have my real family, two of my favorite cousins, playing townspeople, but the whole troupe feels like family. But it’s not just that.
And then I realized it’s the socialization. The camaraderie, the people. As a writer (and even as a child) I always need a huge amount of quiet time to dream. As a kid I loved when my parents went off for the day and I could stay home alone, particularly when we came to Vermont. And while I miss Richie terribly I also relish the very few days he goes off without me.
But I also like being around people, talking to them. I love that about RWA, though there can be a burden there of all the subtext. My favorite conferences have been when I’ve shared a suite with three or four other people — it always gives us a safe place to come back to, not a lonely place to increase one’s feelings of insecurity.
We talk, we laugh, we work at rehearsals. We have one shared goal and not much ego (even for the stars and director. They have some, but they’ve earned it).
I’m just so happy doing this, even when people are dragging out of rehearsal. Even when I can barely walk and sleep for 14 hours.
I just need to find a way to translate this friendliness.
In the meantime, on my day off, I need to finish author’s proofs on a book, get in the pool, go to the local free store to look for white sheets, drive to the Bend (4 miles) to have a conference confab, drive 20 miles each way and shop, come home and get in the pool, and I bet Alex gets thrown in there somewhere.
Doesn’t matter. I having the time of my life, it’s all good.
Just gotta figure out how to keep it in my life.
(Oh, and I’m losing weight because I don’t eat much and I’m getting a lot of exercise — I don’t look it (note Wittle Wattle) but my clothes are fitting better (still in the new size clothes but some of them had gotten tight).
So win/win all around!
So, about friends. I live in a weird place. When I was in my early twenties I moved up here to write my first book. Fortunately found Richie and we married, and we’ve lived here for more than 40 years (and every summer of our lives beforehand). But there’s an odd vibe in the year-round residents. I don’t know if it’s just my little town, or VT, or what, though I did mention it to my therapist and she said she’d always had the sense that our town was particularly unfriendly.
First, when I was a young married, there was a women’s group, filled mostly with young mothers who didn’t work. They were my age, transplants mostly, and I was blackballed from the group. (Blackballed meaning every time there was an opening and someone’s name was mentioned, if one person objected then that person was off the list. I.e. me.) In a town of (at that time) 500 people, if 20 of the young women are in a group and you’re excluded there’s not too many people left. Trust me on this. A couple of women set themselves up to rule society, parties and such, and we were included off and on. Less so when Taffy moved up and one of the social leaders’ brother moved in with her. Life changed, our kids exploded, I got caught up in my career, everyone got divorced or moved away.
Now we have a new social order. It’s couples this time, mostly in their early to mid-seventies, with lots of money. All of them used to come here in the summer, and they’ve created a clique-ish society based more on what they were used to in their upper middle class working life.
We don’t fit there either. (And aren’t included, but that’s okay).
Another problem is we hardly drink. Oh, we’ll have the occasional beer or glass of wine, but we’re just not into it. And drinking drives most social interactions. We don’t disapprove of other people drinking, but for some reason enthusiastic drinkers don’t like to party around non-drinkers. I don’t know why.
And I know I can be hard to take. I get a little too enthusiastic, a little too over the top. I annoy people, when I certainly don’t mean too. Most of the time I’m kidding when I’m being extravagant (in behavior, not financially) and even when it’s really me, I’m doing it with a sense of humor. I have lousy boundaries and defenses, which puts people off. But I’ve got a heart of gold, really. (shrug). I just get on people’s nerves sometimes.
Richie’s quiet, and sometimes people don’t seem to recognize how wonderful he is. Or they figure he’s not worth dealing with me.
I’m not meaning to put myself down. I do know I’m fabulous, and the things that annoy people aren’t things I’m going to change. I yam what I yam. I just accept the fact that some people find me hard to deal with (I can name you names in the business).
So I need to find a place where Richie can make friends who like to work with wood, make music, aren’t sports mad (we don’t usually care much for sports either). Where he can just be who he is. And a place where people aren’t easily bothered by some of my more outre behavior. I truly believe I lost decades-long friends simply by playing them “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (which I happen to love, and is very evocative of some of my writing). Actually I think I need to be around non-competitive creatives (easier said than done).
Or maybe just nice, friendly, accepting people who are looking for reasons to like people instead of looking for reasons not to.
But you never know what people will be like until you live there. We hope when we move we’ll find a friendlier atmosphere. My BFF, who lives here now and has lived many other places, says that anywhere else I’d have tons of friends. (The BFF hates it here, except for the beauty, and she’s going to move). I don’t know. I expect I’d be happier in a new place without friends than a place where I’ve always been pushed to the outskirts.
We need lights for our friends today. For the new ones, like Cara the Mother Superior in Sound of Music and Cakemaster at Bien Fait Bakery (Isn’t Cakemaster a fabulous title?). I don’t have a whole lot of physical friends (as opposed to virtual ones like you guys) but the ones I have are choice. Sally, my BFF since we were 8 years old. Crusie and Lani, my sisters. My cousins, Helen and Emmie and Ginny. Marph, my old roommate. Lynda.
There’s Kathy and BK and Sister B and Jo and Lynn and Alicia and so many others who are writing friends. There are you guys, even though I’ve never met most of you. I guess I have more friends than I realize. Let’s really light this sucker up with our friends, even the difficult ones (and we all have ’em).
No, I’m not friends again with Rod and Nancy. There’s just more to talk about, especially after all the comments yesterday.
I agree — Rod and Nancy are the broken ones, and I need to rise to the occasion and be charming. Usually I am, but I’ve got a slow-burning rage at their dismissal of my mother. But I’ll either have it in check or won’t go. (I get a pass — we’re burying Walter two feet from my mother — by absolute coincidence Richie’s family plot adjoins our family plot, so his parents are three feet away from mine).
I think one of the things that’s so hard is that we’ve been through everything together. The births/arrivals of our children, their school plays, picnics, weddings (Richie’s cousin married Nancy’s sister), the day care disaster. So many Christmases and Easters and summers. So the history, the lost history is hard.
And I’ve been clinging — to the history and the pain. Time to let go. Maybe I could do a little ritual — write their real names on a piece of paper and burn it as a way of letting go the grief, resentment and sentiment. Sounds like a good idea to me — I’m good at letting go once I realize it. Let go and let god. Let go or be dragged. Love that.
As for making new friends — those of you who know me know I’m very open and warm and friendly. I suppose there may be a layer of reserve but that’s easily breached (breeched?) as soon as someone reaches out. My strong personality can turn some people off. In general I’m pretty comfortable with myself and who I am, and some people see that as arrogance and vanity. It’s not. I know what’s wrong with me and what’s not, and I work on the stuff I can fix. For instance, one of my cousins has a severe weight problem. She hates her body, seems to be very angry at her husband whom she accuses of hating her body, which I doubt he does, she won’t see people in her past because she doesn’t want them to see how much weight she’s gained, wouldn’t even let me see her in a bathing suit. I show pictures of me in a bathing suit on the internet.
But I accept that certain people find me a little hard to take. Accept it with sorrow, but accept it.
But I really am nice and warm and friendly. And I am reaching out.
And my BFF is around, at least for now. And she really is my BFF — since I was 8 years old. Of course, there was the 20 years she wouldn’t speak to me …
I guess I’m gonna have a hard time trusting as well. It almost seems better not to get close, rather than get rejected again.
But I’m stepping out, changing things. You gotta put yourself on the line if you want anything.
So that’s the lesson for the day. You gotta leave yourself open — to experience, to friendships, to life, instead of hiding away in your house all the time. Problem is, writers need to hide away a fair amount of the time. But you need to get back out there as well.
Today I finish clearing out my mother’s apartment. Today I work on the revisions. Today I get back to eating sparingly, with lots of veggies and fruit.
Today, I conquer!
That’s Pooska, aka Skeletor, our 18 year old kitty. She likes to climb in my lap and lay across my arms as I type. Which is fine as long as she doesn’t knead her claws.
We were talking about how much we need friends as we grow older. The unfortunate thing is, friends disappear for no particular reason.
Of course it helps if you start out with the right friends in the first place, but in a tiny town like this one you don’t have a whole lot of choices. You end up being friends with people you’d never have much in common with.
Let me tell you about Rod and Nancy (fake names). Rod’s a jolly fellow, used to come here in the summer with Richie’s cousin. He has a family tradition of always moving on to the next interesting person and leaving old friends behind (at least, that’s what his father always did). He’s also a functioning alcoholic with his own business and a strong sense of self-importance.
He came up here when we we just married and stayed with us, and his girlfriend, Nancy, soon followed. They rented a house for the winter, we bought our first house, and then when summer came and they needed a place to stay they moved in with us again. We thought they were going to help as we revamped the place but they mainly used it as a place to sleep.
Okay. We stayed friends — Nancy and I were close, though she’s a bit of a control freak with a lot of repressed anger. When they got married they asked to use the Big House (our white elephant of a summer house) and Richie’s mother said yes. Richie and I sang at the wedding and all was good.
We’d go through periods where we’d see them and periods where they disappeared. Some of that was our fault — as we went through infertility while everyone was making babies we began to isolate a bit. But we were there when needed — when there was a day care disaster of the absolute worst kind (and you know what the worst kind is) we took in her four year old every afternoon when pre-school ended.
Rod and Nancy — not so much. When Richie got laid off we didn’t see or hear from them for six months, which is difficult in a town this small. When I saw Nancy at work a co-worker was astonished that we knew each other.
Her younger son and mine were best friends for many years, until he started his father’s habit of always moving on to the next interesting group. Rod surrounded himself with drinking buddies and Richie seldom drank, but Nancy and I stayed close.
And then we kicked our son out. He was using again, he was abusive and scary and everyone said kick him out, so we did. Mind you, our idea of cutting a kid off was give him food, pay his ticket to Detroit to stay with friends, send him gift cards for grocery, etc. But Rod (in particular) thought we were terrible for doing it. And we were hurting so much it shattered us, to find out that one of our oldest friends was turning against us during our hardest time. We really felt betrayed.
But Nancy hung in there. Nancy (and to a lesser extend, Rod) were there in moments of panic. Nancy helped Richie clean and clear the house when we brought our son home after his snowmobile accident.
But suddenly they were permanently gone, and I don’t know what I did. When Taffy died they showed up at the service, and even in my shock and grief and went to hug them.
But then Richie’s mother died, and not even a card, no appearance at the service. I had a hysterectomy, called her to tell her, and nothing. No card, no flowers, no visit, no offer of food. My mother died, and the same silence.
I can understand friends drifting apart, but I don’t understand such a total lack of … ? Words fail me.
I thought I was past my grief over the lost friendship, but there’s a problem. This saturday we have the committal service and reception for Richie’s uncle, the head of the family who first brought Rod to Greensboro. So they’ll be there. Busy and helpful and friendly, after what is such a monumental slap in the face. How hard is it to send a generic card?
And I think the loss of their friendship has been part of the reason why we isolated. I don’t really fit with a lot of the women in this town — they tend to be more traditional wives, staying home while their husbands supported them. Nancy was different — she had a career, a strong opinion, a brain.
And it’s funny — the grief and the hurt doesn’t go away. But I think the thing to do is see what I can do to find new friends. And while I’d love to snub them at Uncle Walter’s service, I think calm courtesy is the best way to deal with them. Cool and polite.
The problem is, our pool of possible friends is really small here, which is one major reason we want to move.
Obviously I haven’t made peace with their loss, even though they weren’t that reliable in the first place. And I’ve had a lot of time to deal with it — at least seven years.
How do you let go of lost friendships? How do you find new in a town where you already know everyone and most of them find you a little odd?
I think I need to move.