The dearest friends I have never met (1/7/2015)

When I was single, a friend suggested I sign up for an online dating service.

I adamantly refused.

“No, thanks,” I replied. “I can meet enough crazies in real life; I don’t need the World Wide Web bringing more my way.”

Given some of the folks I had encountered just in my daily goings about, I could only imagine who I would end up on a date with. I shuddered at the thought.

During my week-long employment at the Piggly Wiggly one summer, a ruggedly handsome young man asked for my phone number.

The next day, I had a collect call from the work release program, which I accepted, not knowing what that was. The dude wanted to know if I would be of legal age to date when he got out. I don’t even think I responded.

I wasn’t even too sure about Lamar on our first date.

He wanted to take me to Atlanta and it occurred to me, I didn’t know him – all I knew was his mother sold Estee Lauder and left me Tootsie Rolls and Reese’s in my work locker.

Sure, she seemed like a good person, but this could be a perfect ploy, hiding behind candy.

Flash forward a few months later and I was watching, of all things, “The Bachelor.”

Don’t judge me. I am guilty of watching some pretty trashy reality T.V. in my time.

But there I was, angry about the girl who got the final rose, so I had to find a group of like-minded people to vent my outrage to.

Eventually, we created a private group where we could share more personal happenings besides just who we thought should be picked for the fake happy ever after.

A few of us even got together, which involved two flying in to Georgia, one from Canada (she had a kayaking event at Lake Lanier) and another from Texas. The rest of us were from Georgia. We met for lunch in Helen. I didn’t tell Mama.

Lamar wasn’t so sure about it when he dropped me and a year-old Cole off for the get together.

He suggested staying with me, just in case, then reconsidered when he realized he was out-estrogened.

“What if they had been crazy people?” Mama said when I confessed where I had been.

“They weren’t,” I replied.

Again, I get it. Really, I do. My track record has brought some whackadoodles across my path.

“Was it awkward?”
How could it be awkward?

“Mama, I have known these women for years – several years. We’ve been like…pen pals for three years or more.”

That’s what we essentially were. Pen pals, online, except instead of waiting for the mail to bring us a letter, we can send an email or post a private message or even start a thread and find out how they are doing, share something with them and let them know we’re thinking of them.

Over the years, some of my dearest, closest friendships have been nurtured online, with wonderful, incredible people I haven’t had the privilege of meeting – yet.

My friend, Paula and I met when I entered a writing contest on her website. She and I started corresponding via email and have been friends ever since. That was close to 10 years ago.

Another dear friend is here in Dawsonville.

While I haven’t had the chance to meet him in person yet, it was a chat conversation between us that made me realize, a lot of the friendships I hold dear, are with people I have never met.

“Do you know them, like know them in real life and not just on the computer?” Lamar used to ask when I would tell him about someone. He no longer does because he realized, you don’t have to necessarily have that flesh and blood meeting to know someone.

I would venture to say many of my online friends have been just as meaningful as those in person friends.

We’ve prayed for one another and supported each other. We’ve laughed and celebrated together. We’ve shared and created memories together. The same things we do with those friends we see “in real life.”

The irony of it is, the friends I know “in real life,” I seldom see and when I do get to talk to them, it’s usually on Facebook. Our schedules are so different and our lives are so busy, it’s hard sometimes to find a window of time to get together.

Usually, if one of my friends here needs me, they message me on Facebook. Or as my real life friend Yolande does, tweets me.

The Twitterverse knows she is still, two years later, waiting for me to clean my house so she can come visit.

A friend – one I have known online for 10 years – messaged me one day. Her job was going to have her possibly coming through Georgia this year. She knew as soon as she heard she wanted to tell me.

“Somehow, some way – we are meeting. I am hugging you in person. We’ve been through too much together for me to be this close and not come squeeze you!”

I hope I do get to meet her. I hope one day I get to meet all of my online friends – as she put it, we’ve all been through too much together not to meet. And it won’t be awkward at all.

If anything it will be just old friends, getting together.

Just this time, it will be in person.

A lesson in friendship (4/16/2014)

“Mama, can I talk to you?” Cole asked me quietly one evening.

“Of course,” was my reply, wondering what was wrong.

“Mama, I don’t think I am friends with someone anymore,” he said.

He had curled up on the arm of my chair, a pensive expression on his face.

“What happened?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I am not sure exactly. But I thought someone was a good friend, but he was only nice to me when I had my Pokemon cards with me and he wanted to trade. He is never nice to me unless he thinks I can give him something and he is nicer to that other kid that always is trashing my stuff.”

I sighed. Nothing hurts a mother more than seeing their child hurt, especially when it is something you can’t put a Band-Aid on to make it all better.

“I am so sorry to hear that,” I began. “That has to be very disappointing and hurtful.” He nodded. “And as hurtful as it is, maybe it is better you found this out now, instead of later when you think he is a better friend than he is.”

It was my child’s turn to sigh, not agreeing fully with what I had said.

I knew how he felt. I had dealt with similar circumstances when I was a child; heck, we all have. I know Mama remembers to this very day her same encounter.

She had been given a big bag full of candy that she took to school, thinking she would share with her friends Connie and Cherry.

Suddenly, she was surrounded by all these other children – children she never had spoken to before – wanting to be her friend, their hand out for a piece of candy and another, until her bag was empty.

“That taught me an important lesson that day,” Mama told me.

“To not take your bag of candy to school?” I asked.

“No,” Mama had said. “It taught me that people will only be your friend and be nice to you as long as you are giving them something. Once you run out of what they want, whatever they can use you for, they will soon disappear.”

Maybe Mama was right. It didn’t even have to be limited to just children. Some adults were far worse.

There are some people who only know my email or phone number when they need something – that advice, that marketing help, the free life coach, whatever they need – but suddenly vanish once that well has run dry.

I have quietly, gently shifted them out of my life.

They probably may not realize it or maybe they have – if they have needed something and noticed I didn’t eagerly reply for the sake of being a good friend.

But here was my child, hurting because he always tried to be a friend, tried to be nice and kind and realizing that sadly, not everyone treats you that way in return. And worse, finding out that some people just flat out will use you.

He felt better about things as the following days passed. I didn’t press him for information, knowing he will come to me when he needed to talk.

And that day came.

“Mama, remember me telling you about that guy I am not friends with anymore?”

I nodded.

“Well, I don’t think we are friends anymore, but I am still nice to him. I am just not taking my Pokemon cards to trade with him and I am not spending a whole lot of my free time with him. Do you think that is OK?”

I did.

“Cole, baby, part of what you have to learn how to do is how to get along with people, even when they are not fair, even when you know how they are and maybe don’t like them. You still have to deal with them at school, at work, somewhere. So I think you are learning a very important lesson. I think you are learning who your friends are and what qualities you want in a friend; and, you are learning how to be a good friend, too.”

“I like being a good friend,” he said.

I knew he did. Being an only child puts a lot of emphasis on friendships.

“Do you think I will have these friends I have now – the ones that are my real friends, I mean – forever?” he asked.

I thought of how friendships change, evolve and sometimes end. I thought of how when Granny died, two of my friends who showed up at the funeral home I had known since I was 4 years old, and even though I hadn’t seen them in decades, they were there. One sat with my Mama the night before the funeral; the other, was not only my kindergarten teacher but the mother of a dear friend.

“Baby, some people you will know when they walk into your life, you never want them to leave and they won’t. They will be there forever. Some, won’t stay long enough for many reasons – they move away, change jobs, you don’t get to see them anymore – and you will be sad when it ends, but remember the laughs. So enjoy each friend while you have them. And always remember, use things, not people.”

He nodded, letting this sink in.

“Because you know, Mama, things and people can both be used up, the difference is, things can be replaced. People, you can’t. Once you’ve broken that trust with a friend, you never, not ever get it back.”

My child was so right. Both people and things may be used, but only things could be replaced.


The mojo lost, found (8/7/2013)

My mojo’s been off lately. I don’t know what caused it and there are several possible reasons: worst summer ever in my life history, the perpetual rain or just the general sense of loss I have experienced. But my mojo was horribly and devastatingly off kilter.

I needed a change.

So I had about 8 inches of hair whacked off a few months ago. I loved it and it was so much easier to get ready in the morning. However, it didn’t feel like me.

People told me I look sweet and there’s nothing about me that’s “sweet.”

Shoes didn’t even fix it.

New eye shadow didn’t either.

I decided I needed some red lipstick. I have always been a nudey-beigey-peachy-pink neutral gal, so I was going to listen to my friend Renee’s longstanding advice and bought a red lipstick.

“You don’t look like you,” Cole declared watching me blot my lips. I had to agree. I didn’t like the garish brightness and worried if the lipstick contained lead.

Nothing worked. If anything, I think it made me feel more like a walking affirmation my mojo was gone.

“My mojo’s off,” I cried to my friend Yolande.

“I know what you mean,” she replied. “I feel – I don’t know how to describe it but I can’t get out of this funk.” Yolande ran through her issues and we found our complaints practically mirrored each other.

“What is wrong with us?” I wondered aloud.

Something was horribly off for both of us and that was not only frightening but it was just not acceptable.

We were going to have to send out a missing mojo bulletin. Here we were, both in our early 40’s and we were supposed to be technically in our prime and these powerful, confident women, we both were pretty smart and street savvy.

We both had some common sense, a characteristic that is sorely missing nowadays, and we both had some business sense too. So what had changed?

I reminded Yolande of the first time I met her. We were in a mutual friend’s store, when a mutual frenemy came in and made a comment about my weight.

“You’ve lost a little bit but you need to lose a little bit more,” the frenemy commented.

I felt myself shrink about 10 inches in height at the comment. I had enough of the chubby comments from the ex-husband.

Yolande in all her tall, blonde glory, turned around, gave me a once over from head to toe and then glanced back at the frenemy before returning her big eyes back to me.

“You – are fabulous. Seriously, you are adorable and perfect.”

She looked back at the frenemy and said “you, you are just jealous and need to get that moustache waxed.”

“Did I really do that?” she said between laughter.

“Yes, you did!” I affirmed, laughing myself. “You were incredible! You were so vivacious and sure of yourself. I knew we were going to be friends at that very moment.”

And that’s when it hit me. That’s where our mojo was – somewhere left behind in our 20’s, when we were brazen enough to think we had no limits, that we could do whatever we set out to do. We had both been fearless, thinking we were invincible and nothing could stand in our way. We embraced our inner goddesses and acted like we truly were some divine entities here on earth. Well, Yolande acted that way, I just faked it pretty well.

We lost ourselves. That’s where our mojo went – we lost it. We lost ourselves. We forgot how to stand up for ourselves, how to be confident, how to embrace our power of being women. We somehow just let the mundane wear us down and when faced with challenges, we backed down and got beat instead of letting out a “Towanda!” battle cry and pressing forward.

“Well, how do we get it back?” she asked when I finished.

By remembering we are those fierce, confident women and embracing our inner goddesses and lifting our fellow sisters up to remind them of that. Because we all need to be told we are fabulous, adorable and perfect, even when – or especially when – we don’t feel that way.

“That’s how we do it?” she asked.

“That’s how we do it. That’s how we are going to get our mojo back.”

And by remembering sometimes, we have to just fake our mojo until it truly comes back.