:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Greasy Popcorn Adventures only get you so far (Wendy)

" 'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously.
'Why of course you can!' "?

~ The Great Gatsby

Towards the end of high school, I had this idea about reuniting with my best friend from my elementary school days. I had literally not seen her since probably 4th grade when she transferred to a private school, but boy did those childhood memories wax poetic… snowy afternoons after school watching Scooby Doo at her house, sipping marshmallow laden hot chocolate while eating her mom’s salty popcorn cooked in oil on the stovetop (a real treat for a girl who usually got nothing but stinkin’ air-popped corn)...
But the relationship was even deeper than that. For one, she had the COOLEST playhouse I had ever seen. It was an actual miniature house, fully-furnished, complete with an easy-bake-oven.
Our friendship had intellectual roots too. I remember her vast love of books, specifically of the Black Stallion series and how I deeply admired her ravenous literary appetite (while I struggled to finish Pollyanna in under a year).

So, armed with this solid foundation, we made plans to reunite. I’m not sure why, but we decided that the logical activity for two former best friends who haven’t seen each other in over a decade, would be to go to a movie. So we went to "The Pelican Brief". I vaguely remember it as being some kind of courtroom drama-thriller heavy on intricate details and blah blah blah. I know that Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington were in it. For me, there wasn’t enough dancing or jokes about poop. I was bored. She, however… well I guess all those Black Stallion stories had paid off because she had developed into a full-blown intellectual. I think she was studying law or medicine or something like that and she had skipped a few grades. So we’re in the car after the movie, and, having no real common life context anymore, started to discuss the movie (oh THAT’S why we went to a movie!). She launched into a full discourse analyzing the legal complexities of the movie, and I was basically left mumbling “yeah! … Denzel is hot”. So I guess what I’m getting at, is that while it was really great to see my old friend and I will always have a place in my heart for her, some people’s brains grow at a faster rate and I think we all know which end of the spectrum I was at.
But seriously, she had developed into a studious and serious young lady and I… well, our differences outweighed our greasy popcorn adventures. This was a fairly hard lesson to learn and I haven’t seen her since. And truthfully, in retrospect, I kind of wish I’d just left my memories alone. Sometimes I wonder if the ‘what if’ is actually better than the ‘Crap, guess I know now’.

I think the memory of this incident has had an impact on my Call Bill project. I am deathly afraid of ruining my beautiful memories.

But I bit the bullet and did call one of my Bills, because in this case, it was about more than trying to relive golden memories. So we decided to get together. It had probably been 3 years since we’d seen each other. In this particular case, it was a complicated relationship and our sabbatical was not by accident. Our relationship had become somewhat unhealthy.
But let’s face it, after three years, hindsight comes as a mirage whereby the process of idealizing and framing the person in an overly flattering light is almost inevitable. So, given my revised view of this Bill and maybe a renewed compassion, I decided that we should reunite.
Luckily, I’ve been burned enough to at least have no false expectations – the voices of reason still being audible.

So I went and met with this Bill of mine. And you know what I found? There was a reason for our sabbatical. Oh, our meeting wasn’t horrible, it’s just that he spent an hour and a half talking about himself… his achievements, his whirlwind lifestyle, dropping fabulously famous names… and that’s fine, but literally after not having seen him in 3 years, he barely asked a single question about me. It was an “Oh yeah!” moment as I walked away -- the one-sided relationship, the confusing feeling of utter invisibility to someone who claims to care about me… it all came rushing back. But you know, the closet therapist in me actually has a pretty big tolerance for people like this because I rationalize “Well, they must NEED someone to listen, and I guess I’m okay with being that person to them”. But in all honesty, that’s not sustainable.

I don’t want to make our meeting out to be a failure, tho. I actually think of this particular Call Bill experience as a success. Against all odds, I was happy to know that we still shared that personal bond that we always had. I really don’t know how to describe it… a familiarity… a recognition of the person he is beneath all the b.s…. I don’t know, but it was palpable and I realized that I haven’t given up on this person, I’m just waiting to become visible to him. That may never happen, but NOT giving up on someone is a far better feeling than having irreparably frayed edges of relationships laying around. It was a good reminder, a good confirmation of my choices, and hope that bonds can still remain when everything else is gone.


Angie said...

Definitely a success- you called him! It's not on you at all that he's a less-than-ideal friend.

I was chuckling when I read your post, because I had a very similar experience a couple years back with an old college roommate - we hadn't seen each other in 10 years, got together for several hours one evening, and she literally did not ask me a single question about my life...I also had that "oh, right, THIS is why I haven't kept in touch with you" ah-ha moment. It's refreshing to be reminded that you get to choose who you want to spend your time and energy on, and to say "no, thanks" to emotional vacuums!

Steph said...

YOU CALLED a BILL!!!!!!!! You did it! Attagirl!
I love, love, LOVE that you realize that, in spite of what might appear to anyone else to be a total failure, it was a success. You took the risk, got re-acquainted, and learned something important. Plus, you are big enough in the aftermath to leave the window cracked for that relationship... who knows? Maybe Bill will decide to come chuck a couple pebbles at that window someday. Then you can decide at that time to re-open the window all the way and resume that relationship. How incredible - POSSIBILITY! It's a beautiful thing!
Your perspective is always a joy to behold and something I look forward to experiencing. Keep it coming!

patresa said...

i like this about you--your tolerance for people others might find intolerable (should i be worried we're friends?). i see it as part of your analytical, curious nature--the desire to see past the surface of people. like empathy. empathy is pretty powerful stuff for both parties!

also, you're not a giant, egomaniacal blowhard, so i've never known you to feel the need to talk about yourself very much. your "about" page would be case in point, wbj.

so glad you called this bill. so glad you saw through this bill. way to go, wendy!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Well, I think this is really cool Wendy. It's amazing to me how every time I read one of the COFFEE blogs, I'm like, "YES, I know what you mean! Just yesterday.... last week.... 6 months ago....!" Your word, familiarity, well I think maybe that runs very deep across so many relationships. I am with you, never give up on people, but accepting who people are for who they are (or maybe where they are), that can be quite peaceful.

I bet you are such an incredible listener, for the record. You are right on there too, though, gotta have balance in the friendship banter department. Anyway, rock on with your Bills. They are lucky to have you in their history and in the now.

Thanks for the great words. Truly, I do love all the connections with you ladies. I mean seriously, just last week I had this thing happen.......... :)

Holly said...

Wendy, what a great post! I had a friend in 3rd grade. She lived in a beautiful home on a farm with her highly functioning family. We moved away after only 9 months of living in the town where I knew her from (lower functioning family)...I went to visit her once a week in the summer for the next 4 years...We played for hours (dollhouse!) inside and hours outside...after a rain we would walk around in the corn fields and get all muddy. I still have pictures of that time. By 7th grade we had grown apart. That summer get together didn't go as well. Now she's a pediatritian and I am, well, not. I really don't have any desire to see her. But, those memories....wow...so wonderful and precious.
I tend to be like you in that I "understand" and have "empathy" for where other people are in their lives and their corresponding actions or inactions. Sometimes I think that this serves me quite well, and other times I think it's a bit of a curse and can lead to what you're describing with this "Bill". I'm not actually quite sure what the answer is or what to do with it. Being aware of boundaries and not letting them be crossed? (too much)....Making sure that in significant relationships our voice is heard and appreciated? Otherwise, move on sista?? I try to do these things and continue to get better at them as time keeps moving forward. I hope anyway.
I'm so looking forward to your next adventure, Wendy!

T-Free said...

"Sometimes I wonder if the ‘what if’ is actually better than the ‘Crap, guess I know now’."

This is painfully, perfectly true. And I completely understand the fear of ruining good memories with another shot. Facebook has made this possible somewhat for me, as strange as it sounds, and I have learned that sometimes even internet-only reunions were better left undone.

Oh wow. Your meeting with a Bill was eye-opening, wasn't it? You suddenly remember why you were done with the relationship in the first place... even if you didn't really realize why back when you ended it. Huh.

That said, I would consider it a huge success. You did it! You called a Bill, and reached out, and you weren't afraid! And maybe you even got some much-needed closure while you were at it. I am so happy for you. Way to go, Wendy! :)

Wendy said...

I am playing catchup here... have been a sick li'l puppy the past week and fell behind...

Angie, That's really interesting that you had a similar experience! Yes, 'emotional vacuum' is a perfect summary.

Steph, Your encouragement is so sweet. Thanks so much for that.

P. No you shouldn't be worried we're friends. You are a stellar friend. I've said before that you could give classes on it, and I stand by that. I do love really interesting people, for sure and unfortunately those kinds of people great friends do not (always) make. But I've been blessed to have friends like yourself and Angie who are both super interesting, intelligent and hilarious and also great friendship material. ;-)
Gives me something to aspire to.

Tanya, I always marvel at your comments and posts because your words seem so effortlessly uplifting and kind and clever.

Holly, yes! Love the images from your past and it's good to know that we have this similar shared experiences. You're so right about knowing boundaries... glad you're there with me in this!

T-Free. Ah Facebook. I know exactly what you mean! I have old friends and even ex-bf's on FB that I had added as a friend, but am too chicken to actually say anything to. Too afraid of that exact thing happening... It's a hard balance to strike and I'm starting to wonder if "closure" is really just a fallacy.

amy said...

Well, that's one Bill down, Wendy. Which means you're one Bill closer to your Ultimate Bill Goal Project. High five for you, Wendy Jans!

You know, I have a friend who's got a bit of the self-centeredness problem, and so many times something will come up or something will happen or something will not happen and people around me will go: And you're friends with this person because....?

Because this person really needs a friend. I mean, I'm no door mat--I learned at some point, this is someone who's not going to be reliable, who's not really ever going to have my back. It's become clear to me that it's not that kind of a friendship. But for some reason I can't just write the person off totally--I sense lost, wounded lamb-ness in there, and as irritating as this person can occasionally be, there's a lot of goodness in there, too.

I think what I'm saying is: I get why you're not giving up on this Bill, but also not having regular lunch dates with him.

And thank god, Wendy! Because I bet you'd totally be a snippy basket case after each lunch date. (I would be.)

Katie said...

Wendy!! Way to go!! You called a Bill!!!

I'm sorry I'm posting so late, but I wanted to say that I read this post the day you posted it (that's a lot of 'post' in one sentence!) and it's just great. GREAT! I totally indentified with it, because I know exactly what you mean about the small deflating of happy memories when you encounter the reality of why things didn't mesh so well. I have a few friends like that too, where I remember such good things about them, but in current conversation I occasionally get flashes of "oh yeah! I forgot you were a psychic vampire, but you're funny too, so I'll keep chatting."

People are complicated, textured. Some days they are more tolerable than others, but I think it's pure grace that you could look beneath all his puffed up junk to see that he's still a person and mostly a good one.

Good jobbie, you.