21 July 2005

The great thing about summer is I have lots of free time to think about stuff.

The bad thing about summer is I have lots of free time to think about stuff.

Ultimately, I believe it's a noble pursuit, but along the way my thinkyness tends to lead to days (sometimes weeks) of self-questioning, doubt, internal debate and drama, and of course, angst. (The internal drama's the best: "The real problem is that I can NEVER ESCAPE MY OWN HEAD! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!") Tiresome, painful, and even frightning, these phases of thinkyness often help me to clarify, to shift, to let go. To grow.

Recently, I've been submerged in the re-evaluation of a particular friendship, and in the process have spent a great deal of time thinking about friendship in general, what it means, what it costs, and what it's worth. And more specifically, of course, I've been thinking about my friendships, what they cost and why. Too, I've thought about myself as a friend, at what cost my friendship comes, and at what worth.

I'm difficult, I think. I'm intense. I can be demanding and self-centered and controlling. I struggle with change and I suck at saying goodbye. I can be jealous, and I can be such a bitch.

(I see you laughing. "Tell us something we don't know!")

(Or my friend Doug last night: "You are a pain in the ass, but you're sweet, so it's okay.")

On the other hand, I'm loyal. I'm forgiving. I'm devoted and supportive and helpful. I'm honest, and I'm generous. I love my friends fiercely.

Ironically, I believe that my closest friends are those for whom my friendship is the most difficult. Certainly I have the highest expectations of my closest friends, and there's almost always trouble when I can't shift my expectations quickly enough to match the changing lives of my friends.

Maybe it's those confounded journals, or my long memory, but I seem to have an excess of nostalgia in my brain center. I'm forever saying Remember when....?

Remember last summer? Remember when you used to take the time to make me laugh? Remember how funny we used to be together? Remember when you were kinder, warmer, different?

Believe me, my friends, the nostalgia thing is far more obnoxious for me than for you, because you can walk away, close the email, hang up the phone.

But the good thing about my long memory is that I never forget a kindness, and I never stop giving credit for it. Do just one really nice thing for me, and I will love you for it forever, even if you then go on to join the army or become the asshole in the attic. I'll always be there to defend you: "I know he's difficult, but listen, this one time...."

As we more fully immerse ourselves in adulthood, many of my friends are turning to their jobs for self-identity, working impossible weeks, living at the office, relishing the clarity of self provided by work. "I don't have time for friends right now," they say. "You have it easy," they tell me. "School ends at 3:00 and you're finished, but me? Sometimes I'm here until midnight. I'm working 80 hour weeks!"

The thing is, I could be working 80 hour weeks; every teacher knows it. But I *choose* not to. The last two years for me have been an ongoing quest for greater balance, greater harmony in my life. Of course my job and my work are important to me, but they're not the sum total of the person that I am. I also have my writing, improv, meditation and pilates and walking, the mountains, the dog, reading, my family, and yes -- my friends -- to define and sustain me.

In the last few weeks, some friends and I have kept up an ongoing discussion about Harry Potter, first speculations for the sixth book and then predictions for the seventh. My friend Paul and I, in particular, have been arguing about which of the six is the best, and tonight I realized why I argue so passionately for Goblet of Fire -- its climax mirrors the way I see the world. Harry has to do battle with Voldemort, but he's not alone: the ghosts of Voldemort's most recent victims emerge to offer Harry strength and support, encouraging him to keep going, to stay strong, to believe in himself, and ultimately they help him to escape and survive.

And this is how I've always seen myself. I imagine my friends in circles around me, encouraging, supporting, cheering. Believing in me. Even in my darkest times, I trust that they are there. Distant, perhaps, but there.

This quotation, originally in an email from Gail Gregory, has sustained me for seven years: "Keep your balance, know that you are greatly loved no matter what, and that whether or not you see the light, it’s there."

I'm difficult. I'm demanding. I'm intense. But oh my heart, oh my friends, I do love you fiercely.

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