Mother(feplicitiveer) what you mean you ain’t having no more surgeries! He yelled at Conrad one early morning. He was a Banshee from New Orleans screaming at him. The irony was deafening. They had just battled a dragon together along with RudeDog. These three musketeers on one last quest together. Before things began to change.
They had ridden their steeds across the land of Tennessee. A joyous trip to launch Conrad into the vows of marriage. Before he could enter those vows he had to prove his love by slaying that dragon. The dangers were many, the tales legendary, and the adventure served to solidify the bonds of friendship amongst them. In less than 2 years only one would remain. This story began when facing another pacemaker replacement.
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Death is a heck of an enemy.
Some truths are harder to accept than others
Been thinking about how or what I would say about friends. I know a LOT about what it is like to HAVE good friends. Very little to say about what it means to BE a good friend. Originally this was going to be a story of some of the many adventures I’ve had with my friends. Sometimes the reminiscing is to hard, especially for a guy with no tear ducts.
I realize at this moment (march 8th 2012 arkansas) that my doorbell has rarely ever rang over the years. Most the people I see, require me to ring their bell. I’m starting to realize that I’m a really crappy friend who managed to somehow bully some pretty spectacular people into being my friend for long pieces of time over the years.
My prayer is that I fulfill the duty of being one to encourage others. The bible mentions this as a gift and if I could pick one I would love to pick that one. Not that performing healing miracles and some other gifts wouldn’t be equally wonderful. It is just that in my mind I have no skills, or gifts. That particular gift I could see how one could do and it appeals to my senses. The question is; Do I actually provide this service to anyone I know?
My tone is another thing. How does one change their tone when you don’t hear yourself like others hear you, and you don’t sound like what you sound like in your head? Especially if everything you say comes across as harsh or hurtful? Or just plain rude?
What do you do when you realize how harsh you must have seemed to so many for so long and aren’t sure what to do about it? I got on three subscriptions to LIFE and began studying as much as I could to improve. Just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Even still all I can recognize is the shortcomings I have, and how patient and wonderful my friends have been to accept me when I did ring their bell over the years.
I think about how many people I know who do so much good for me and it seems illogical to assume they they all did those wonderful things for so long out of any sense of duty. So where are they all at? What happens when you have kids and we all get busy that for some reason our relationships with others falls apart? Are friendships then lost? Do they morph into something different? Or did people just decide they didn’t want me around their kids? I could believe that. I’ve been a little on the rough side to deal with.
When I learned that someday I would get to share stories about friends I got so excited! I’ve had friends who have helped me move dozens of times. I have friends who have travelled thousands of miles to see me get married. I have friends who have travelled hundreds of miles to pick me up when I am broke down. I have had friends who remembered every birthday and every anniversary. I’ve had friends who have opened their home to me to come in eat all their food, love them my own special way, and leave them saying. “Its’ just the way he is; you have to understand. He isn’t as bad as he seems ” generally to a spouse or significant other. I’ve slept on a lot of couches and floors. Eaten a lot of wonderful food. Cooked a few meals in exchange. Been loved mightily. So I thought I must know a thing or two about friends right?
I’ never seem to know exactly how to pay people back for those amazing things. How to say thanks? With as many examples of how to be a good friend one would think that you would pick up on some clues every now and then. Despite corporate personality training I never seemed to learn to apply communicated needs identified by the things people do for others. Generally what they are saying is what they need or want from others. Love languages and learning Personality Plus I am gaining insight onto some of my friends that wasn’t there before. I never was very good at remembering or bothering to remember my friends birthdays. Never have sent an anniversary card. I’ve never helped anyone else move. Never been there for the birth of a baby. Though now with Facebook I know when everyones birthday is, or when their anniversary and that morning can send them a happy birthday hello or happy anniversary or congratulations if I log in. Not quite the same as a pre thought out card or gift though is it?
I have a great friend and a super mom and wife lives in Nebraska who told me how she used to send letters to all these people that she had known over the years. I was so sick and cynical that I convinced her that people didn’t really care about her and that she was just being selfish and interjecting her life into others without their responding. I thought it absurd. Now how I wish I would have sought to emulate her instead of convincing her I was right. In fact in “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnegie highly recommends doing just that very thing to let people know they are loved and thought of.
How sick is that thinking? That people don’t want to hear from others and that to remember others is simply to push yourself upon them. Now you know why I invest in changing my thinking and recommend you do the same. Why wouldn’t people want to hear from old friends and be made to feel like they were remembered too? Especially if you don’t get to see each other all the time.
I enjoy facebooks potential. I think it has a lot of great ability to provide some means of staying in touch with friends but the same rules apply. You have to give your friends attention. The challenge comes when you have to begin choosing which friends to give attention each day out of all the friends you have. Where if you sent them a letter once a year telling them qualities you liked about them and why you thought of them and shared a little about what you were up to wouldn’t be worth the time. Right? Or am I wrong?
So sitting here imagining our future as policy council members of LIFE I am surrounded by people whose birthdays I remember. Whose nieces nephews and whole family know me and I’ve heard tons of stories about them all.
11 “You get what you give.”
Here’s a situation. A friend wouldn’t go to a concert because the group, who he knew and had shared in other events, bought tickets and didn’t invite him. Who is right? The friend who sees it as an insult to not be invited or the friend who didn’t invite him and didn’t think of him as a friend in a spur of the moment decision? In the offended persons view, the person doesn’t see himself as included, therefore justified in his hurt. In the groups opinion, perhaps this person hasn’t learned the Art and Science of Friendship.
In Resolved Orrin Woodward talks about Resolving to learn the art and science of friendship. “Any man is considered blessed if he has a couple of true friends who can be counted on in both prosperity and adversity.” I wrotne; I’ve been so blessed to have these kinds of friends and help see them through to the other side. They cannot be replace? They can however; be added to by making additional friends and forging tigher bonds with the friends still alive. More important is to BE one of these friends.
Some other thoughts from Resolved. “friends aren’t competitors, but huge fans and encouragers of one another.” I know there has been times I’ve had bouts of jealousy as I’ve seen my friends succeed in endeavors I have not. Fail!
“A true friend helps his friend win his battle of the mind through loaning his friend his positive belief.” Maybe I got a C in this category. Really I think I’ve visited my friends as they lay dying of cancer to gain strength from them. Sometimes I feel like a vampire, sucking life out of the dying to keep going. I remember visiting my friend Wendell while he lay dying of lung cancer, an old biker and funny guy with an amazing history and vast mind, the last time I saw him he said “I hoped I’d be dead before you got here.” I’m hoping that was because he didn’t want me to see him sick, rather than he didn’t want to have to see me before he died. What a horrible thought, to think that a person didn’t want to see you before they died because they truly didn’t want to see you. I remember praying as he lay there, and not praying that he would die but praying that he would let go. That he would know it was ok to go on. I never once encouraged him to fight, more so to let go. Probably from my own inner desire to be released from life on planet earth.
It isn’t my goal to brag on visiting the sick, or being around people who die, in fact it seems that throughout my life I’ve been like a grim reaper. I remember having a great uncle who lived down the street and going to see him, after having walked by his place hundreds of times and never stopping, only to hear of his death a short few days later. Same thing has happened other times in life. The saddest of which was when I last saw my friend Aaron. He asked me to come out with him, and I refused. Said I’ll see you later. I wonder if he wasn’t reaching out to me knowing something was coming. Death seems to let people know it is coming in their life before it takes them. He died in a collision with a train about 2 weeks later. He was 19.
Two weeks later another friend, who had run around a lot with Aaron and I died in a car crash. In fact that summer 9 kids from the area I grew up in died. Losing close friends like Aaron especially was hard and made the prospect of making new friends something I avoided in order to avoid the pain of loss when they go.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for living a life that was supposed to end early. Instead I continue to be blessed with a long life. 34 may not seem like a long time to many, but as I write this it feels pretty long when your whole life was lived as though it could, and should end any moment. To then go through life losing people around you as you continue to live a life you weren’t supposed to get can be full of cruel irony at times. I once had an amazing friend, one of the ones who helped me move a dozen times, and would have helped me move a body, told me I’d be cursed to live to be an old man. I’m beginning to believe he was correct.
Here’s a funny story about friends. Two friends are sitting around, one is telling the other all about his new women in his life. How great she is and how excited he is. He mentions her birthday and says; “It’ll be easy to remember because it is the same as my granddaughters!” His friend looks at him and says; “what if you don’t like your granddaughter?”
Some people hear that and don’t see the humor in it. Others hear that and think, what sicko would say something like that about anybodies granddaughter. The sickest part is that’s a true story. Even worse, I’m the sicko who asked “what if you don’t like your granddaughter?” I really have to wonder why my phone doesn’t ring and my doorbell stays silent? Someday I’ll learn this art and science.
“True friends accept one another.” Part 2 in Resolved to learn the art and science of friendship; thank goodness for this truth existed in my friends. They accepted me despite my many, many, many faults. “It is only when a person is accepted as he is, that he is freed to become what he desired to be.” I wonder now if those who have gone before me, those friends I have waiting on the other side would be cheering me on and joining me in my quest for excellence, and true freedom? Would I alienate them as I have some of the other friends of late in this quest?
Really the LIFE business is just what many of my friends asked for. It represents what I spent my mental energy on after giving up my employment for the government dole. A way that friends can join together and help raise one another to new heights of accomplishment, all while generating more income than they ever thought possible, simply by taking the time to read and enjoy their lives to the fullest, going out an making more friends. So where did I go so wrong in the beginning that all the people who I first shared this concept with seem to no longer be my friends? Were they really all just hounddogs sitting on a nail that hurt bad enough to holler but not bad enough to do anything about it? Or is it that none of them thought enough of me to want to be in business with me? Truly my intentions were to simply find a way to return all the kindness extended to me over the years, through the surgeries, moves, struggles, wins, and worries that life tends to bring our way.
According to the Mental Fitness Challenge self assessment friendship is my weakest area and the one most in need of improving. So perhaps in writing this some of the people who can recognize themselves in here as those who have loved and accepted me despite my faults will take the time to assess me as well. Providing me with feedback needed to grow and improve in my abilities to be a friend to them. Perhaps they will themselves find out where they can improve so they too can seek a life excellently lived. Perhaps together we can live the lives we have always wanted, and maintain and strengthen our bonds.
I’m going to finish this little tale with another story;
A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the water bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection. And miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The bearer said to the pot, “did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw. So I planted flower seeds on your sid of the path and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
So to all my friends I thank you for carrying the full load of our friendship. I hope that this cracked pot has been able to water a few flowers of memories through the years for you to enjoy. May you live long and prosper and may I be there to cheer you on throughout your many successes in life.