Tag Archives: friends

Across the Universes

imageMy Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.

I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.

What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.

In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.

Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.

Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.

Friends are precious, even irreplaceable, but they are also fragile.

I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.

Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.

I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.

So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…

…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.

Kind of like my blog.

I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?

Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!

In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.

If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.

This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?

Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.

It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.

Or simply end.

And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.

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Perfect Sunday?

(Prompted by WordPress’s Post a Week 2011 challenge. I meant to post it last Sunday but didn’t like it… this is an edited version!)

What would my perfect Sunday be?

Achievement! Both in the practical sense and the creative. I would communicate well and happily, make some little discovery or learn something new and useful. I would successfully complete at least one project; have lots of energy and direction through the day; have reason to believe in a bright future; begin some wonderful book or series that inspires me and makes me want to know the characters forever….

Any concerns will have been laid to rest… the day is always a lot brighter when niggling worries have been cleared up.

How the above differs from my usual Sunday…

Usually I only achieve one or two things, maybe part of a thing. Then I get so tired or distracted that I spend the rest of my time reading a book or watching TV. I might start a project or explore new software, and get tired of it even though it’s supposed to be my hobby.

On a good Sunday I hear from friends and have a good chat with them; on a poor Sunday I get no response to anything, and even the forumites aren’t speaking to each other, so I feel bored, disappointed and peeved. Or I do hear from friends and they aren’t saying what I want them to say… when you want a long chat, you get a ‘yes/no/I suppose’ email. When you are hoping to discuss something specific, they ignore it and bring up a topic of their own. On especially bad days they might say something that makes you wonder “is he/she annoyed? What did I say?” And if you’re upset or worried, even mildly, your heart sinks slowly into your boots, even after you’ve stopped thinking about it, and you end the day at an all-time low. Which is why, if something sets your mind to rest the next morning, you can feel so good in comparison! “The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la!”

Some bad Sundays can trail on for months…

Anyway, I have decided to start a new hobby, one that might take me away from the computer and shake me up… scrapbooking! (Adds it to lengthening ‘To Do’ database). Oh, I asked Mum for ideas for a scrapbook theme, thinking it might spark her interest, and she said “Horrible TV Adverts,” and went back to peering closely at a stamp.

Sigh.

The Pearls of Age

I’ve always liked the company of older people, and felt a little less at home with younger folks (who are more unpredictable in some ways).

Mum was talking about things from her childhood. She remembered buying dresses… they were taken ‘on approval’, and delivered in boxes and tissue paper. She kept missing trams and jumping on while they were on the move. The conductor would say “you’re not supposed to do that!”

I said I remembered double-decker buses with the door at the back with stairs — they had bus conductors with ticket machines. Mum said admiringly, “you’re quite old too!” and I said “thank you.”

I’m fascinated by any nuggets of wisdom older people decide to share… they are individual but have the ring of truth. Like from the rather worried old lady who said you know you can be perfect, but you must expect to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself. (I have a horrible habit of lying awake at night counting the very many mistakes I’ve made. Sometimes I think wistfully about Ally McBeal’s boss who said tactless things, then in the next breath he would mutter “bygones!”)

Liz Smith (elderly actress) had a lot to say that I was interested in. She said you can’t know why people react the way they do; it’s probably connected to things that happened to them. It’s rare to have true friends; people who know exactly who you are and what you’re about.

Liz wanted to talk with other passengers (while on her cruise) but couldn’t bring herself to make the first move — she was convinced they wouldn’t want her. I feel that more and more, even on the internet; I hesitate to comment, email or join in as much as I used to. I used to have an opinion on everything, but now I watch everybody else making mistakes and putting their foot in it, knowing that this time it isn’t me. More and more I decide it’s safer to pretend I’m not even here!

Perhaps it’s all part of getting older.

A friend and I were having a discussion recently — we were saying how we used to blithely do things that now make us curl up in horror and amazement. We were not mountaineers or explorers… but she used to ride rather nervy horses over jumps she wouldn’t even consider these days. Whereas I used to fill in those email letters that asked for your mother’s middle name!! Perhaps along with age we learn fear… but hopefully other, more positive things as well.

I wonder what pearls of wisdom might drop from my lips when I’m over 80 — everything I’m doing and thinking now takes me closer to those truths! It’s an interesting thought.

Keeping Friends (and knowing when to let go)

After falling out (not for the first time) with a friend who lives far away in a place I’ve never seen, I was pondering the mysteries of friendship. Some people are easier to get along with than others, and it helps when they’re not busy and stressed… but I often wonder if I’m communicating the right things in the right way to the right people, and if my expectations are reasonable or the reverse.

I suppose communication styles and friendships are as individual as people are, and all you can really do is communicate in a way that feels right to you, and hope to connect with someone who has a similar outlook.

I decided to search Google for ‘maintaining friendships’, and the following were the most common tips and cautions:

(1) Be a good listener — prove you have heard by responding thoughtfully and in detail.

(2) There should be some give and take — we don’t want a situation where one friend makes all the plans, starts all the conversations and does all the listening.

(3) Communicate frequently (short but regular emails etc).

(4) Be supportive of your friend’s stance unless he/she is really about to land in trouble; avoid judging and moralizing.

(5) Be honest and genuine — preferably in a pleasant and tactful way!

I never understood people who request ‘brutal honesty’ about their cooking, artwork or whatever… I like honesty, but never brutal. Perhaps such a request is just a polite way of making people feel they don’t need to worry about commenting less than positively… but actually, we do need to do that tactfully.

Being ‘genuine’ includes feeling relaxed and ‘yourself’ in someone else’s company… if you feel you’re constantly on your guard and having to maintain a persona, then that’s not a good friendship to be in.

(6) If someone has a tendency to be hurtful, explosive and unpredictable (to your damage), or leaves most of the effort to you, it is most likely time to move on. But consider whether you’ve given the other person enough of a chance, and whether he/she might be going through a bad time just now — perhaps a bad time that you haven’t been told about. Not everyone communicates the same way, and it can be particularly tricky by email. Some people communicate naturally and well by email, but others don’t see it as a valid way to talk.

(7) Humour is good, and can save a situation from spiralling out of control.

Actually it was me who added Tip 7! Humour as a resource doesn’t seem to surface much in the other lists I’ve read, except (a) as a defensive barrier — it can be frustrating if you feel you’re not seeing the real person, or that you’re not being taken seriously… or (b) as something potentially destructive (sarcasm, thoughtless teasing etc).

This is already on the list, but is important enough to explore: real friends feel ‘at home’ with each other. The other day I found myself emailing a friend I always felt comfortable with… not the one I fell out with, but one I’ve not seen for years as we don’t live in the same country any more. I took it into my head to describe the room I was sitting in, just as it was… saggy curtains, CDs sitting around, an old and out-of-date TV that isn’t used much, computers still on the desk that aren’t even operating. The wallpaper came from a time when I was younger and more enthusiastic; those feelings are all locked up in it. It was something to giggle over or relate to… better than trying to come across as perfect and organized when we both knew that wasn’t me.

There were some singular pieces of advice here and there on the internet. I particularly liked one about how people on the edge of the crowd are likely to be the most loyal, down-to-earth and constant friends. They will have more time for you than someone who is very popular and busy. I’ve generally found that to be true.

Arguments, also, are not to be feared (unless someone is constantly browbeating you). I never sought out arguments, but at the same time never felt that a friend was here to stay until we’d rowed about something and survived it! If the friends we’re with tend to see a row as a reason for them to give their side of it but not hear yours, and especially if they see an argument as an automatic end to the relationship… well, we can find better friends; ones who don’t keep us walking on eggshells.

Do any of you have ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s you would add to that list? How do you keep your friends, even if they live far away, and in what circumstances do you decide to move on?

Vale of Tears

Dreamed there was a kind of flood disaster; people were standing around looking for help to get their loved ones to safety. When I looked round and said to the nearest person, “please help me get Zipadee out,” he fixed on me and said “help me get my brother out!”, causing me to feel frustration and irritation… how dare other people put their loved ones before mine?

All round me, that was happening… people asking for aid from people asking for aid.

I was too late to save my friend and she turned into a clear raindrop, being borne away in a huge river called The Ocean of Crystal Tears. It looked just like its name; there was no blue, mud or weeds in it, but it roiled and foamed so much you couldn’t see through it to its depths. It was icy cold.

I was telling my sad story to two important elves from The Lord of the Rings… Galadriel and Elrond. As I talked, I held myself firmly in check because I feared I might break down, and they looked as though they would like to weep themselves. But they turned to me and said “your friend is not alone; the River Mississippi saw her plight, and has dived into the Ocean of Crystal Tears to bear her company. It snakes through the centre, warm and brown, sparkling and laughing, enclosing your friend and keeping her safe till the journey’s end, when you will see her again.”