Look Forward and Up, not Back

This is the first day of the new year and I am promising myself to look forward and up, and not back.

I don’t make resolutions, so I don’t think my decision can qualify as such, but it is a decision, a decision which will be very difficult to do, I might add, but it is necessary. I have to look forward and up because if I don’t, I will get stuck in the past.

What I want most of all is for my life and my work to make a difference, even now, though I am not a spring chicken! I still believe that miracles happen, no matter one’s age. I still believe there is talent and are gifts inside me I have yet to birth. I cannot afford to get stuck.

Iyanla Vanzant has said that in order to grow, people have to “do the work.”  She wrote, in her New Year’s message, “Do not be a slave to what “used to be” be open and willing to be do a new thing in a new way.  It about a new level so STEP UP with your head up!”  Moving forward and up means looking in, which is never pleasant, and yet, doing the work needed to keep our focus where it needs to be involves looking in and seeing what is there, not what we wish were there. It is, frankly, a “yucky” exercise, this looking in, but after the yuck comes release from something that has kept us from being our true, authentic and gifted selves.

What I want is, in spite of my weaknesses and foibles, to make a difference for somebody. I can give something, some part of myself, to someone who is struggling, who is sad or lost. I can share what I have and add something to someone else’s life.  I am fairly reclusive, but I can ditch some of that and share what I have been given by God.

As I write this, I am thinking about how many people are struggling on this, the first day of a new year. I am struggling, but my struggle is nothing compared to what others are going through. I have a friend whose son is critically ill; he was in and out of the hospital so many times last month that I wondered how my friend was holding on. Yesterday she called and said he was in the hospital again …on the eve of a New Year. She cried. I cried with her. She said, “I so wanted him NOT to be in the hospital on New Year’s Eve.” I can share some of myself with her.

I have another friend who lost her mother three weeks ago…and her mother last week. I have had a lot of loss in my life. My mother, father and sister have died. As a pastor, I have lost so many people I loved. I can share with my friend, who, at 52, had never lost anyone close.

I think it was Deepak Chopra who wrote that there are no bad experiences; what we call “bad” are really life lessons. And I have learned that we waste good lesson time if we do not study what happened, do the dreaded “look inside” exercise, and learn the lesson or lessons we were supposed to learn. Another friend of mine calls the experiences that come from bad times “blessons.” A blessing and a lesson, rolled into one. Looking at my own struggles as “blessons” helps them to be bearable, and encourages me to get on with my life, to look up and forward …and not back.

My friend with the sick son sits today in a hospital where she sat all night at his bedside. She is afraid to leave. I am sort of afraid to go to her, because I don’t want to see her hurt …and yet, part of looking forward and up is about seeing who’s out there who can use what I have. I have lots of compassion. I can share that.,

I will be writing out my goals, personal and professional, for 2013 later today. Part of the plan is to look up and forward. In everything I do, I will have to make sure those two things are being done. I am going to force myself not to look back. I am going to leave what’s behind …”back there,” take my blessons, put them in a place close to my heart …and move as God directs.

I think people who make a difference in the world must do that sort of thing, don’t you think? I do…

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: Losing A Friend but Not Really

I don’t even know what to title this piece for us “girls.” I know, though, that this thing, whatever it is, is widespread among us.

I am talking about the situation where two women are friends, and then one of the pair gets a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and the other person in the friendrelationship feels abandoned.

The woman who has the new relationship begins a whole new life with the love of her life …and leaves her friend behind, all the while insisting that nothing has changed.

But the one left behind knows all too well that much has changed. Maybe her friend, now in a relationship, feels the same love for her that she did, but the thing that matters most – the time spent together – has been altogether changed, and the friend left behind …feels left behind.

I had an amazing friend. We did everything together; we talked on the phone several times a day, about nothing. We had always been friends, but then her husband died and our friendship deepened. When her husband died, I was with her as much as I could be, both as friend and pastor. She and her husband had had an amazing relationship, and her pain was beyond belief.

The fun we had! Even while her husband was alive, we really “hung out.” She was there for me when I was divorced. I went into a shell and hid myself in my house. I wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t answer my door, but there she was, outside my house, in her car, patiently waiting. She later told me that she would have sat there all evening until I opened the door.  When I saw that she was not going to leave, I opened the door for her, pissed. She said not a word and was not at all bothered by my  “pissness.” She came in, fixed me some tea, got herself some, and sat down. We said nothing, but she was there …and silently, I was so glad. When my divorce was made final, she was there. We went out to “celebrate” after the pronouncement was made.

She coached me in how to look more “like a pastor.” She had (and has) a great sense of style and gently reminded me that blue jeans and tee shirts probably wouldn’t cut it in the work I was doing. She took care of me and I took care of her. She met my family and became part of my family, as I did hers. She would cook ribs for me (she is an amazing cook) just because she knew I loved them.  As a member of the church, she would not let anyone say anything negative about me, not in her presence. She put up with me, which took a lot.

I am not sure of what I did for her, except “be there” for her when her husband died. I would call her every morning just to see how she was, long after her husband died. When she had a cold, I “tended” to her, making her take meds I deemed necessary for her. We would take road trips together, and I would drive; she was worthless on the road as a driver, but was great company as I drove. We would laugh at her music selections on those road trips. Mellow jazz, I would tell her wryly, is probably NOT the best music to listen to when you’ve been driving 8 hours … She took my jabs with grace.

She traveled with me when I took my daughter to college,settling her into her dorms and getting her out for the summer. She and I laughed together and cried together. She was a protector of me in church; I was the pastor, but she was the guard. I always knew she had my back.

And then she got a boyfriend who took her all over the world, took her to the nicest restaurants, treated her like she deserved to be treated, and I felt left behind and left out.  If I called her, I was not able to get her. From talking every day we went to talking “whenever.”  She was going all over the place: to the Superbowl, to opening nights of plays in New York. She said once that, while in New York, when she and her boyfriend were in some fancy hotel, that she thought of me, knowing I would have LOVED the hotel and the play.

I had to get it into my craw that things had changed. I never doubted she loved or cared for me, but I had to accept that her life was different, and that we would no longer be the “hanging buddies” that we had been. It was immensely painful, but it was the new reality.

We have stayed in touch. We occasionally talk, albeit very briefly. She sends me emails from time to time; I have to admit, I don’t send her many, but I do respond to the emails she sends. She is still very precious to me, and always will be.

We will make our way back to each other, or, rather, I will make my way back to her, with the new reality of her new life smack in front of me. This whole situation is hard because I love her so much and want her to be happy, which she is. I just didn’t like feeling like I had been pushed to the curb. I’m not even sure I WAS pushed to the curb, but I felt like it.

I think a lot of women know this scenario well.

Though I have given myself time to heal, I have not pushed her all the way out of my life. She was and is a real friend. Even now, were I to be in trouble, I know she’d be there, no questions asked. Friends are precious; even as our relationship changed, I would tell her that. And because she will always be a friend, I will never completely let go of her or the friendship.

I don’t have any advice to anyone on this. I just wanted to share. As I get older, I realize even more how precious are friends. There is nothing quite so precious as a friendship.

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: “The Code”

Years ago, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life.  I had a good friend who had a boyfriend, and when they broke up, he and I got together.

We had had nothing going on when they were together, but after they broke up, he would come talk to me and pour his heart out, and I would listen. After a while, he and I started going out, and it ruined my friendship with my friend.

Duh. I didn’t know “the code.”

My mother died when I was quite young, and so there are discussions she and I never had. Had she lived, I am sure that she would have laid “the code” out for me… and I am sure that one of the first things she would have taught me is “thou shalt not date thy friend’s former boyfriend, husband, or love interest.”

I didn’t know.

Thing is, this guy – the one I lost a friend over – was not even CLOSE to being someone I would have picked on my own. I cannot understand what I was thinking – or not thinking. I suppose loneliness might have played a part, but I understand that loneliness is no excuse for breaking “the code.”

As a pastor, and a single pastor at that, I have learned to apply the “girl code” in my work. If I need to talk to a male member of my congregation, I am careful to make sure that when I call, I first talk to the wife or girlfriend, ask how she is doing, tell her why I need to talk to her husband, and then ask if I might speak to him.

It not only is polite and professional to do it that way, it honors “the code.”

Recently, a friend of mine became furious at another friend of mine, because, it seemed, “friend A” was interested in the same guy as was “friend B.” It seems that “friend A” had begun conversations with the guy first, and then “friend B” began talking to him, too. He, of course, talked with and flirted with both, but the aftermath of this little scenario was that now, “friend A” and “friend B” are not talking.

Seriously?

I know …someone will say that unless he has a ring on his finger, its open season, but doesn’t friendship mean something? To me, there is nothing quite as special as a good female friend; good girlfriends are true gifts. It seems to me that way too many of us women lose friends because we violate “the code.”

All this makes me think of pieces of wisdom my mother shared with me while she was alive. One was that if a guy grew up in a home where he saw his father beat his mother, he’ll probably beat you. Another was that you could tell the relationship a guy had with his mother by the way he treats you. And yet another was, “if he played around on your girlfriend, he will play around on you.”

I listened to her, and have to say, her words of wisdom have saved me many a time.

Had she lived long enough to have had the conversation with me about “the code,” I’m sure she would have put it in language I would never have forgotten, and would not have lost my friend over this…guy.  I don’t know where the guy is today, or what he’s doing. My former friend, I must say, is married, has children, and is doing wonderfully well professionally.

I don’t know if any of my female readers are in a situation where you are attracted to a guy that a friend of yours either wants to be in a relationship with or has had a relationship with, but stop before you move. Friends are rubies, precious gems, not easily replaced. Better that you sigh and set your sights elsewhere than to damage or kill a friendship that may never come again.

Thou shalt not destroy a friendship over a guy. A good friend is more than “just a friend.” She’s often a sister, the sister, perhaps, that you never had. A sister-friend tends to “be there” when a guy just cannot relate or understand. Sister-friends are the ones you can call at midnight and pour your heart out to, and they are just there. They tell you, in love, when you’re wrong, they support and celebrate you when you are right. They push for your success, and they carry your burdens when you are “there,” so you absolutely know you are not alone.

They are too precious to lose.

From experience…a candid observation.