Tag Archives: friends

When You Don’t Know What to Say

“The friend that holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away.” –Barbara Kingsolver

This quote has always spoken to me, and I was reminded of it recently when a friend going through a rough time said I “always know the right thing to say.”

I laughed to myself, as that sounded ridiculous to me. While I might be good at offering a perspective I fail to absorb in my own daily life—denial is truly a gift, my friends—most of the time I just ramble and hope that something might stick, that I might be able to help ease just a smidgen of pain.

My problem is that I’m a “fixer.”

Unfortunately, there seems to be a string of pretty crappy things happening lately that proves we all have “something” that we’re dealing with that’s out of our control.

There’s no greater feeling of helplessness than to know that someone you care about is sick, financially strapped, in pain—physically or emotionally—or, let’s be honest, dealing with death—the reality of their own or that of a parent, a friend, or the horror of the loss of a child.

There are no “right” words, and at some point you realize that things happen to you and happen around you that can’t be fixed.

And it’s not your job to fix them.

I think a lot of people unintentionally ignore these things at times, not because they don’t care, but simply because they can’t “fix” them and have no clue how to react. Those who are sick or aging aren’t necessarily the same people we’ve known them to be, and selfishly, we want them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so… mortal.

The realization that things will never be the same—and that you can’t fix it as such—is enough to make you stress yourself out in an attempt to save the world or conversely stay at home curled up in a ball, not dealing with it at all.

But just as much as you don’t want to deal with it, I can guarantee that the person who is sick or struggling doesn’t want to deal with it a million times more—but they do, often with courage and grace.

I think that in and of itself can be intimidating, the fact that you are lucky enough to be in a comparatively better position. The strength of those who aren’t can be inspiring beyond belief, but it can also make us question how we would be if faced with such a challenge.

It takes courage to face the unknown, but it’s much easier to do so when you’re on the right side of the coin, to be the one who has a choice.

But the fact is that as strong as they are or appear to be, they’re probably still scared. So we put the guilt aside for wanting them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so…mortal. Because at their core, they are the same people.

And you know what?

They know that you can’t fix things, and most don’t expect you to. They have no choice but to deal the hand they were dealt, and sometimes they just want you to hold that hand.

They don’t want to do it alone.

That’s one thing I—and you—can fix.

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I’m a Fixer

I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of introspective post for the past couple of weeks, simply to balance out the snark and also drain my over-cluttered brain.

However, I keep coming back to the same things I’ve written before, so instead I’ve been journaling and curling up in the fetal position on my couch, keeping warm with a blanket of professional and emotional rejection slips and cat hair.

But I also came across this post that I wrote right around this time last year. It struck a chord and fits things right now so accurately, that for the first time ever I’m reposting something (and promise my next post is lighter.) 

Maybe someone can relate.


I’m a fixer.

Home improvements aside, if I see something that’s off in any way I have the urge to try and make it better. But there are certain things I just can’t fix, and it frustrates me to no end.

When I was little, the fact that my mom was in a full body cast or gone for weeks at a time for surgery was completely normal to me. I thought the X-rays showing all the hardware in her back and neck were neat, and we had a kick-ass collection of braces and medical stuff to use when my friends and I played around.

But as I got older, I realized that despite the fact that she tried to keep everything normalized, my mom was in pain. All the time. She still is. The realization that there was nothing I could do to make it go away left me feeling helpless. All the time. I still do.

At some point you realize that things happen to you and happen around you that can’t be fixed.

And it’s not your job to fix them.

I bring this up because there seems to be a string of pretty crappy things happening to those around me lately, and it feels like every day I’m confronted with another story that proves we all have “something” that we’re dealing with that’s out of our control.

There’s no greater feeling of helplessness than to know that someone you care about is sick, financially strapped, in pain—physically or emotionally—or let’s be honest, dying.

I think a lot of people unintentionally ignore these things at times, not because they don’t care, but simply because they can’t “fix” them and have no clue how to react. Those who are sick or aging aren’t necessarily the same people we’ve known them to be, and selfishly, we want them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so… mortal.

The realization that things will never be the same—and that you can’t fix it as such—is enough to make you stress yourself out in an attempt to save the world or conversely stay at home curled up in a ball, not dealing with it at all.

But just as much as you don’t want to deal with it, I can guarantee that the person who is sick or struggling doesn’t want to deal with it a million times more—but they do, often with courage and grace.

I think that in and of itself can be intimidating, the fact that you are lucky enough to be in a comparatively better position. The strength of those who aren’t can be inspiring beyond belief, but it can also make us question how we would be if faced with such a challenge.

It takes courage to face the unknown, but it’s much easier to do so when you’re on the right side of the coin, to be the one who has a choice.

But the fact is that as strong as they are or appear to be, they’re probably still scared. So we put the guilt aside for wanting them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so…mortal—because at their core, they are the same people.

And you know what?

They know that you can’t fix things, and most don’t expect you to. They have no choice but to deal the hand they were dealt, and sometimes they just want you to hold that hand.

They don’t want to do it alone.

That’s one thing I—and you—can fix.

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Paper, Plastic, Perspective

She was ahead of me in the checkout line on her phone and snapping her gum and orders at the cashier, all while looking as if standing there for five minutes was the end of the world. The cashier tried to make small talk, but was dismissed with a brush of this customer’s hand as she swiped her credit card through the reader.

I was annoyed just watching her.

When it was finally my turn to move up, the cashier began with the normal pleasantries as she started to scan up my order. I told her I was good and smiled, but made that little “eyebrows raised while looking at the back of the bitchy lady” face to let her know I felt her pain.

It was lost on her. She continued on with, “I’m great! How can you not be happy? It’s just always nice to talk to nice people.”

Now granted, I know for a fact from past experience that this cashier is a little bit “special,” and I mean no disrespect in that way. But seeing as she also tried to put canned goods on top of my bread, it’s possible she didn’t notice that woman’s rudeness. Maybe she did and she just didn’t care.

It was all a matter of perspective.

The bitchy woman was bitchy regardless, and while the cashier could have taken it personally or let it affect her mood, instead she just kept smiling and doing her job. 

As she continued to clumsily bag up my stuff, we continued our conversation about how it doesn’t take much to be nice, how just taking the time to smile can make all the difference in the world. 

This stuck with me.

There are moments when I focus on the bitchy woman instead of the smiling cashier, when the one negative thing out of my day will serve as the catalyst for a downward spiral.

I’m getting better with that externally, but I admit that I often see things that happen to other people through some sort of filter that inexplicably doesn’t apply to me. Anything positive is deflected when directed my way, but anything negative—real or perceived—is often absorbed and dwelled on in moments of doubt.

When I’m stuck in my head for whatever reason, I become blind to the simple things that could help pull me out, or at the very least, make me smile. 

Not cool, Abby, not cool.

So I suppose it’s a matter of realizing—no, not just realizing, but accepting the fact that (sometimes) I am a good friend, a good writer, etc. and that I do have great friends that care about me, even in those moments when I might not care about myself as much as I should.

Yes, that’s kind of cheesy and I’ll always be more sarcastic and snarky than sappy, but it’s all about those little reminders and perspective. If they can see the good in me with all my quirks and issues, then I want to try and see the good in almost everyone/every situation I face.

Except that bitchy lady. She was seriously rude and gave me the stink eye when she incorrectly assumed I was encroaching on her allotted grocery space. She can go fly a kite.

Anyway, everyone but her and those like her. The point is that kindness can go a long way—not to just other people, but also to yourself. I’m good at the former, and working on the latter.

Each day is a new chance to try.

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Breaking Through

“I was tied, but now unbound. My head is off the ground.”

I don’t have a lot of people that I’m close to, much more by choice than by chance. This wasn’t always the case, but after getting burned and disappointed one too many times, I built up walls and distractions to steel myself against ever feeling that way again.

“For a long time I was so weary. Tired of the sound, I’ve heard before. The gnawing of the night time at the door.”

But the thing about emotional walls is that they also keep you from feeling just about anything except numb. I’m okay with this most of the time, or at least I think I am until something happens and I’m reminded that while I can be okay with this, that doesn’t mean I have to be.

“Haunted by the things I’ve made. Stuck between the burning light and the dust shade.”

A good friend sent me a CD of some of her favorite music. I popped it in my truck on the way home and brick by brick, with each of the 12 simple tracks on the disc, the whole damn wall came crashing down.

“I said now I used to think the past was dead and gone. But I was wrong, so wrong, whatever makes you blind must make you strong.”

I pulled into my driveway and sat parked with the engine off and the music on. As I watched the squirrels hop from tree to tree, I did something I rarely ever do. I quit fighting it.

And cried.

“In my time I’ve melted into many forms. From the day that I was born, I know that there’s no place to hide.”

I’m not quite sure what “it” was that I was fighting. Not sadness over anything in particular, but rather a culmination of stress, of love, of loss…of life. Without distracting myself in an effort to feel, well, anything, I started to feel everything.

“Stuck between the burning shade and the fading light.”

There are times I worry so much about liking someone or something too much and having it taken away that I default to feeling too little or nothing at all.

I forget that most of the people that like me did so before I started trying to make sure it stayed that way, before I worried about what I said or did.

“Well you walk these lonely streets that people send. There are some wounds that just can’t mend.”

I forget that yes, I can be okay alone within the safety of my walls, but that doesn’t mean I have to be.  And while I know these revelations are usually fleeting,  it’s nice to have a reminder that I can feel emotion without feeling like I’m weak or broken. 

“I am free from all the things that take my friends. But I will stand hear till the end.”

That by opening up to people and showing vulnerability—to even just one person—I can gain so much more in the end. If I choose to, I can feel, well, everything.

“I was broken, for a long time, but It’s over now.”

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This rare display of emotion coincided nicely with the Studio30 Plus prompt this week:

It wasn’t what I expected.

How are you?

I’m pretty sure that I could win the lottery, discover the cure for human stupidity, star in a Broadway show and get married—all equally unlikely—and when asked this question, I would reply with, “I’m okay. How are you?”

It’s a reflexive action, kind of like the way I want to slip a right jab to the noggin of people who say “could care less” instead of “couldn’t care less.”

The truth is that yes, sometimes I am fine. Then again, sometimes I’m not. And when you ask me how I am, I have a hard time believing you really want to know. But since this is my blog and I am queen of the land, I will tell you.

I am secure enough to admit I am sometimes insecure.

This isn’t something I normally broadcast to the fives of tens of people who flock to this blog or that I run into on a daily basis, but whenever someone says, “You know who you are,” I always wonder if it’s me and I don’t realize it.

Insecurity is annoying.

But I don’t take compliments well and often have a hard time accepting that people might genuinely be interested in what I have to say or do and not just because they expect something in return. I realize this suspicion is often unwarranted, but past experience has shown me that I shouldn’t rule it out.

So I’m guarded, and many of the decisions I make are often second-guessed. In fact, I will see that second-guessing and raise you a third and fourth guessing, and then a couple days of obsessing over something seemingly minute.

Taking interest in others without expectation? No problem.

Accepting others can take an interest in me without expectation? Problem.

But I have a theory.

The more blogs I read or conversations I have with people, the more I see something in the people I am attracted to that keeps me coming back—a  rawness, perhaps?

My theory is that they’ve gone through “something,” whatever that is, and have a self-awareness that produces something genuine, something that pushes things past a superficial level—online or off.

I don’t share 99 percent of the things I think or write (you’re welcome) and I have to imagine that’s the case with others (so thank you.) But when we make ourselves vulnerable and share it? It produces some good shit, and most often, a genuine connection.

Because I can see that in them, I’m slowly allowing myself to believe that the people around me can see that in me, that they like me for me and not because they feel obligated or expect something in return.

Considering you interact with me under your own power—unless one of the henchmen I sent to your house to sit on you and force you to talk to me or read my posts is actually doing his job (good help is SO hard to find)—I’ll try and drop that insecurity.

After all, no matter what you say or do, someone will find a fault or a reason to be offended. And while I try and keep things light, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t express myself and hide behind that veil of doubt that creeps in from time to time.

So how am I?

I’m secure enough to say that I am sometimes insecure—especially when I post things like this—and I’m a constant work in progress.

I’m okay with that.

Thanks for asking.

This post is in response to this week’s Studio30 Plus prompt:

The Big Question

P.S.  I updated the “Book” tab on the blog to include a clip of me on a morning talk show in case you want to check that out. Or, you know, you want to buy the book.

The Graduate

I hoped no one was looking up my dress.

The requisite white gown I had worn over it was unzipped just moments before, moments filled with waves of heat and confusion as my vision blurred and ears went deaf.

The next thing I knew, I was lying in a pool of sweat on the ground with a headache and no idea why. All I knew was that there was a crowd of (still blurry) faces looking on. My first thought?

I was sure they all looked up my dress.

Abby_5

This was 12 years ago and I no longer even resemble this person, unfortunately, but you needed to see the dress.

Graduation was overhyped—we all knew it.

It was simply a ceremony you had to go through at the end of four years of awkward moments and hours of academic effort. The last few weeks (and by weeks, I mean months) were simply gravy, going through the motions of showing up to ceramics  and an English honor’s class taught by a teacher resembling a haggard Meryl Streep who included sexual innuendo into every lecture and project assigned.

Since I was proficient in skipping, we’ll keep the streak alive and skip past those years for now.

I was actually out of school the final two weeks of my senior year due to an unfortunate incident involving my wisdom teeth, emergency surgery and a head that morphed to much more Ernie than Bert. It was not fun or attractive—much like the aforementioned randy English teacher.

That unfortunate incident was closely followed by a bout with pharyngitis. I know—it was a delightful month or so to be me. I tell you these details not for sympathy—although donations are always accepted—but because they all led up to me feeling rather under the weather come graduation day.

But I was a trooper—or forced to go, the details are fuzzy—and after a pre-graduation dinner with my family and Danny (of the Goldfish Cracker Caper, and no, I did not steal his food this time around) we set off for the ceremony.

Now picture hundreds of graduates shoved into a stuffy hallway outside of the auditorium for what seemed like days, the smell of body spray and lotion vainly trying to mask the smell of smoke.

I started to feel funny—lightheaded and very, very warm.

The noise around me dulled to a muted din, but I could read the lips of my best friend as she asked me if I was alright (or maybe she asked me if I had a light or that I was quite a sight—again, the details are fuzzy.)

The next thing I knew, I was lying in a pool of sweat on the ground with a headache and no idea why. All I knew was that there was a crowd of (still blurry) faces looking on. People rushed to my side and started asking me questions and fanning me with caps and papers.

I was sure they all looked up my dress.

After being reassured that the pervs were at bay, I was taken to the training room and seen by the on-call paramedic while my classmates received their diplomas.

Abby_4

I, on the other hand, received my diploma from the paramedic.

The next day I was fine in that I didn’t have any teeth extracted from my head, the equivalent of strep throat with a migraine or the experience of passing out before a graduation ceremony.

In fact, I felt much better. While resting on the couch in my cap and gown—I had to wear it sometime right?—I decided that 12 years from then I would blog about that experience in an effort to break out of blogger’s block. OK, maybe I made that last part up, but I really did get my diploma from the paramedic.

And I’m pretty sure he never looked up my dress.

Simple Math

It started with Goldfish crackers.

goldfish_cracker

While the details are fuzzy, I remember that it was sometime in October and that on this particular day it was raining outside—indoor recess. Stuck to the board was Wilbur—a brown (felt) bear the first-grade class dressed each day with weather-appropriate clothes. Sporting a yellow rain slicker, boots and an umbrella under a (felt) gray cloud and a handful of raindrops, there was no question as to the conditions outside.

The conditions inside most likely included a fascinating discussion about shapes, colors and the pros and cons of multinationals and globalization in a modern society. That’s not important. What was important was the seating chart, for the stars were aligned—or grossly misinformed—and my desk at the time was conveniently located in a block of four with two of my best friends, both boys and both my neighbors.

Yes, they participated in the deterioration of Barbie’s reputation.

For the sake of their self-proclaimed innocence, let’s call them Mike and Danny. Danny was my best, best friend, but I kept Mike along for the ride—even marrying him once or twice in his basement and often skating sweaty hand in sweaty hand to couple’s skate at school skating parties in later years. He served a role.

With the polygamous nature of our playgroup, I think Mike knew and served this role well.

As for the day in question, we were doing some sort of math exercise that involved using Goldfish crackers as counting pieces. The details aren’t important, but what is important to note is that Danny had to leave for weekly speech therapy. His Goldfish crackers,  unmanned and vulnerable, would not be joining him.

I was hungry—or I just wanted them, again the details are fuzzy—and the Goldfish were consumed. Mike wanted in. I obliged.

Two for me, one for Mike. Two for me, one for Mike. Two for me, none for Mike, as our mid-math snack was cut short by the intrusive presence of the authoritative adult that has instigated this cracker caper in the first place. Apparently our behavior was being frowned upon and warranted a lecture.

Mike cried like a kindergarten baby, blubbering out promises to give our lisping buddy all the Halloween candy he anticipated hoarding in the coming days.

I was stoic, annoyed with both the interruption and the insinuation that I had done something wrong. I knew I should feel bad. The reaction from my teacher, the sobbing fool next to me, and the quiet hush that had fallen over the class were telling me as much.

But it was Danny. It was crackers.

So while the teacher was lecturing the class on what was most likely the importance of sharing and stealing, I was building a solid argument up in my head. I wasn’t a criminal. I knew right from wrong, good from bad, snacking from stealing.

There were countless times before and would be countless times in the future when Danny would take (and eat) things that were mine, when he would participate in some plot against my scheduled script of play, when he would be told to “get off my property” or kick me out of his tree fort. I failed to see the importance of a handful of crackers that could be easily replaced and forgotten.

It was Danny. It was crackers.

Emboldened by my rationalizations and oblivious to danger, I looked left. I looked right. I looked down at the remaining fish on Danny’s desk, baiting me as they were with their innocent smiles and bright orange glow.

It started with Goldfish crackers.

It ended with crumbs.

Simple math.

This post is in response to this week’s  Red Dress Club RemembeRED prompt to “Mine your memories and write about the earliest grade you can recall.” I’m sure I have others, but this one popped up first.

It’s time for show and tell. What’s the earliest memory you have of elementary school?