Monday, April 23, 2012
Doing Battle In The West Wing/Jettison a Friend
Monday!!! Interesting weekend. How was yours? Mine was jam packed full of living. Friday, Schaller's was incredible. There were seven top notch singers there - the management was stunned and amazed. The regular patrons probably felt invaded (but in a good way)! It's different for me these days - I've been bringing in a lot more singers which means I sing a lot less and I also only have a single glass of red wine, so it's not the hilarious experience that it used to me. Oh God, I just flashed on one particular night when I'd had way too many martinis and Liza asked me to sing Peel Me A Grape. I protested - it's a wordy song and I hadn't sung it in a while and the lyrics were never solid. She insisted. I relented and sure enough got up there and it all just disappeared from my head so so I just kept singing the few lines I remembered over and over, laughing to be saying chop suey over a dozen times. Luckily it was at the very end of the night and the older patrons had left because I seem to remember ending the song, singing to Liza to peel me a fucking grape. Those "Sarah out of control days" seem to be behind me. These days life isn't quite as much fun without a vodka toast in my hand, but I'm not embarrassing myself and I wake up feeling great the next day. Problem solved.
Saturday a concert, Ann Hampton Callaway and her sister Liz singing songs of the '60's Fabulous. She is amazing and you should check her out if you're unfamiliar with her. You'll recognize her voice because she wrote and sang the theme song to the Nanny. Sunday, I dug down deep and decided to do battle with the west wing. The west wing is what I call the kid portion of the upstairs of my house. I have tried different strategies over the years to try and maintain cleanliness and order - nothing has worked (threats, punishments, daily monitoring and removing offending items, cleaning it myself, you name it). It is a battlefront I have conceded. But soon I'll be moving my office back into my home and I decided I just can't inhabit the house with mayhem in the west wing. Pissed off to be spending my Sunday cleaning other peoples' filth, I rolled up my sleeves and, armed with a full box of garbage bags, I jettisoned 9/10's of the crap.
Today I want to talk about friendship. Without good friends I can't see how life would be worth living. Sure a quiet night at home with a book is a pleasure, but it's the connections we have with other people, that define us, right? Family is its own topic, so I'm not talking about spouse=friend or daughter=friend. Reason I'm thinking about this today is an unsettling dinner I had last night with a friend that got me to thinking about what kind of friend I am, what kind of friend I should be and what kinds of friends I need. I'm also invested in the idea that Patrick and I can complete the transition to friends. He is important to me well beyond the romance. But what does that look like? Is there a roadmap, are there rules? Need to figure this out. Should we talk on the phone regularly to catch up or maybe just have a quarterly meal together, or should we just be unstructured and reach out as the spirit moves us? Confused but invested in putting some healthy structure around a new kind of relationship with him - something that meets both our needs.
Anyway, the unsettling dinner. This gal and I have been friends for a while. We have a bunch in common, both writers, both high powered business women, we both march to the tune of our own drummer and don't take shit. I have been there for her as she struggled with business and relationship problems, listening compassionately, giving advice when asked to. Since the breakup, she has lost patience with me as my life deconstructed, telling me to snap out of it, move on or I would lose my friends who were becoming weary of my sadness (kind of a threat), and at one point she decided my broken heart was a topic that would no longer be discussed - she wanted the old Sarah back. So as I entered the restaurant, I prompted myself on how to "be" with her so that she would still like me. I would be upbeat, funny, optimistic. I wouldn't talk about my problems at all and just let the focus be on her. Kind of felt like I was going into a job interview.
First thing she said, "I have a problem. It's your blog. It makes me very uncomfortable." She went on to berate me for writing it, telling me it was inappropriate, shaming me. I stood my ground, furious, and said that writing the blog brings me joy, that there are lots of people who enjoy reading it (even people who don't know me) and that the solution was simple - just don't read it! She persisted in berating me for living so publicly (she is an obsessively private person) and the rest of the dinner went downhill from there. Made me sad.
So, loss of friendship. It happens, right? It's serious though and ending a friendship is not something that should be done lightly. I have to separate my anger and hurt from the larger question which is, is this just a misunderstanding or have we both stopped meeting the needs of the friendship? I think I've decided a friend is not someone you have to walk on eggshells around, not someone with whom you censor yourself in a nervous way before meeting for dinner. A friend accepts and embraces the differences and doesn't rebuke or shame. A friend is patient when you're not at your best and they don't just love you when everything is going great.
Today, Sarah=hurt, angry, disappointed and sad. I have been a good friend to this person. Truth is she has failed the friend litmus test over and over. The old Sarah would write her a scathing letter and derive satisfaction from some well placed wounds. The new Sarah is going to try something different. Her friendship was, at one point, important and valuable to me. I am grateful for the good times we had. I won't close the door completely but I will let her know that the friendship has ceased working for me, that I feel judged harshly and that is not something I want in my life. I will also tell her I'm willing to talk it through with her if she feels there is a misunderstanding that could be cleared.
Challenge today is thinking about what kind of friend you are and whether you are getting your friend needs met. Life is too short to surround ourselves with people who make us feel "less than". I'm thinking there are people in our lives who linger there out of habit or sentimentality when really we should be closing the chapter and saying good-bye. Who we choose to spend our time with defines us. Be selective and fussy in your choice of friends! Good friends love us, accept us, give us succor, tickle our fancy, need us, and are a source of joy and inspiration. If you have a friend that makes you feel like shit, take them on an airplane ride, make sure they're sitting in the ejection seat and then push the button!