Altered Attic: Thoughts on Friendship

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on Friendship




Invisible Illness (Awareness) Week has begun! In keeping with the theme, another of my choices is to be my best possible self. And that includes reaching out, sharing, caring, helping when I can... all qualities of being a good friend. There's an old saying, to make a friend you first have to be one. True, but. Sometimes those of us with chronic illness get overlooked, passed by as though not being able to able make the party means we don't need to get an invitation. 

The text I used in this piece of art, called Thoughts on Friendship, is an excerpt from a friendship 'manifesto' I wrote several years ago, after experiencing what I call being tossed from the merry-go-round. When life as I knew it ended and, unlike those with visible injuries and acute illnesses (especially cancer - God forbid), the carousel kept right on turning without me. Don't get me wrong, my family has always been really supportive and I do have good friends. But there were a couple of years when, along with being really sick, I felt isolated, lost, alone.  Walking away from my business, my horse, my fiction-writing venture, my social identity, my life, turned out to be far more painful than I'd bargained for; it was, in a word, grief.




















We chronics endure repeated, sporadic grief cycles because we mourn the loss but there is no end. Just lots of beginnings, I can now say with gratitude. But before the warm fuzzies there was pain, feeling abandoned, let down, forgotten and it took time and effort to mend those wounds. The (almost) funny thing is, I was taking so much medication that for a few years I did look fairly sick. But in a vague, perpetual sense. Three years ago I scaled back on the prednisone and lost the moon face and extra 50 lbs. and that's when the invisibility factor really hit. Hard. People said things like, "oh, you're back" and "you seem like a completely different person" as I struggled through an evening. There wasn't an obvious reason in the world for the fatigue gnawing its way from the inside out, the cognitive disfunction (brain drain) that settled like London fog, the flu-like feeling that is my last-chance signal to get the hell out of wherever I am and go to bed! I've had lots of practice. I cried, grieved, learned the bits and pieces of acceptance, made lots of art and built a close, fabulous new community of online friends with whom I communicate regularly.   

So now, when I do venture out of my studio wearing my former-sized (healthy) clothes, jewelry and makeup I no longer even think about guilt or apologies. I am fierce. And I'm a better friend now than ever before. And my friends here, the ones who really know me get it, and that's enough, for now. 

Following is the entire piece - I welcome thoughts and comments about attributes I've overlooked, points I may have missed, i.e., YOUR opinion.
Happy Tuesday - hope it's creative and filled with friendship.



Thoughts on Friendship

     When you think of a ‘friend,’ who comes to mind? Someone with whom you can go to a movie or fishing? A neighbor who always has a cup of sugar, the person who sits next to you at church, school or work? Or, a person with whom you can entrust your life, your deepest fears, dreams you’re afraid are too big to come true?

     Friendship can be defined, classified, measured in so many ways. Perhaps the most important element is simply the willingness to be there. To be tuned to the fine strings upon which our friends’ lives are balanced. To reach for part of the burden when there is immeasurable grief or sorrow.  And to multiply the joy of triumph, celebration, good news.

     Authentic friends speak the truth even when it isn’t universal because there is freedom to reveal oneself and an openness to another’s worldview. Friends don’t quit when the air grows heavy with misunderstanding or tension. They work harder to breathe instead. Connecting with a friend at the soul level is sharing the life force that keeps us trudging, skipping, lurching, running toward whatever our destination might be. They are the fuel that sustains our journey. The food that fills our longing, hunger, blindness so that we might walk closer to our true path.

     The world is full of magic. The way leaves swirl in random patterns through the air in fall. In spring when the first evidence of new life comes in the purple and white crocuses urging their way up through matted yellow grass. It is the triumph that comes with achieving a personal goal. A letter or phone call or hug given at the exact moment that it is needed. The fullness of spirit after sharing a meal.
     It is also sick and cold and dark. Bombs, terrorists, pornography, insecurity, accidents, extinction, natural disaster, illness, loneliness. People, material possessions, financial security, peace, health and happiness can come and go so quickly that our lives can be changed in a single moment. What do we do when confronted with the raw instability of life?  When the unthinkable happens, our world is shaken, or compromised? Most of us turn to those whom we love, and who love us back, in spite of our flaws and failures. This is the reality: the only tangible worth of living in this world is the people with whom we fill our lives.

     Without these relationships all of the glory and accomplishment, health and happiness, is poised on a shell that could crack under the slightest pressure. Who are those nearest and dearest to your heart?  Have you invested in them all that they are worth to you? Open your heart, reach out and whether or not you are needed, be there. Breathe each day the fragility and wildness and wonder of life and love.

    Celebrate yourself and your friends. Know that I celebrate you.








15 comments:

Marylinn Kelly said...

We need to leave room in friendship for their or our own missteps. We all falter. It is not so much about forgiveness but acceptance of just how human we all are, "...when the air grows heavy with misunderstanding..." And the on-going grieving process as we adjust and adapt to change, to loss of what once was so essential. I celebrate you, this community, my friends and the opportunity to give voice to the silent aspects of invisible illness. xo

Patti said...

Brilliant Marylinn, such insight and what a gift for language. I really do appreciate your comment!!

Peggy Reynolds said...

Beautiful. Sharing this post with my dearest friends. We've loved and supported one another for more than forty years. (and yes, with ups and downs, and so much growth and heart opening) What a blessing! Thank you Patti for putting words to those feelings.

Patti said...

Oh Peggy!!! Thank you so much - don't see a way to contact you but I'd like to...

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I remember when I learned I had a rare birth defect (you'll see in my post that goes live quite soon), I cried and cried and thought my life was over. Instead it had just begun. I'm celebrating with you (albeit a bit late due to T) because I can call you a friend. One who I would gladly stand by. Such lovely words and such truth!!

Cazzy said...

Amazing post Patti, and I know how it feels, nobody understood at work how bad I felt especially on bad days, and they didn't like it if I said ow when I moved, couldn't help it sometimes. Now I have left work and I hardly see anyone, but it is fine. I get out to the shop and see people there. Trying to sort my problems out so seeing lots of doctors too!

Cazzy

Halle said...

Wonderful and personal post. Thank you for sharing this.
I often felt when my son was little that I wanted to put a shirt on him that said..."I'm not being naughty...I have autism."...because people just didn't "get" it. I'd get looks or comments in the stores. He looked "normal" so he should act that way as well.
Happy Tuesday!

voodoo vixen said...

Great post and lovely words. It never fails to amaze me how many people that make art suffer inside... maybe it brings out the art in them as a way to express themselves. I live a bit of a nomads life and one of the hardest parts of it is leaving friends behind for years at a time but the few who have survived the lengthy time and distance are always there and we pick up where we left off a couple of years before.

Dianne said...

So incredibly touching...a brave, sweet, marvelous friend you must be. and I do believe that art heals.

~*~Patty S said...

thank you Patti
is all I can say right now
oxo

Caterina Giglio said...

ah well, you know how I feel... I celebrate YOU, Patti!! cheers! xox

Karin Bartimole said...

What perfect timing for me to check in on you after, hmmm, months of my blogging absence?!? You are one of my dearest friends out there in cyber land, held close in my heart even when contact between us quiets... xoxox

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Dear Patti,

Since the beginning of summer, I have checked my mail once a day after I water my veggie garden. This morning was no different, except today I got a lovely mail art package from YOU!! Thank you beyond belief. How sweet of you!
I LOVE the ATC. It is so heARTfelt, too.

Thank you for both the ATC and the flocked wallpaper. It is lovely and you are TOO kind.

My Vintage Studio said...

Hello Patti. Your post is a personal note about you and all that suffer a chronic invisible illness. Thank you for sharing. Your art work is beautiful!
XO Sharon

CatieAn said...

Patti
what a beautiful post. I share your same sentiments about the grief and loss involved with chronic illness. I cherish the friends that have remained steadfast through all the ups and downs and I mourn the loss of those who didn't like the bumpy ride. This essay on friendship is so so wonderful. Thank you for reminding me to stay close to those I love.

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