Don’t waste my time

“You’re too damn patient with people, too stupid loyal,” a friend of mine told me, though he used a word different than damn.  He continued: “Former friends, an ex or two , and family members who haven’t acted like family members in God knows how long, and you, Mister Loyal, keep the door open to them! And even worse –  I mean I love you, brother and I’m not saying this to hurt you but to wake you the hell up –  but even worse, you even reach out to some of these folks from time to time and let’m know you care about them and what do you get back? Squat! Stop wasting your time!”

My friend was right – is right still. Recently I’ve been thinking about his heart-filled diatribe, I guess you’d call it. The words, Stop wasting your time, seem to strike a deeper chord. Maybe they always ran that deep did and I’m just now getting it. Wouldn’t be the first time I was slow on this kind of uptake. This kind of uptake being, in part, that who you believe someone is may be entirely wrong. That we sometimes really believe someone to be someone they never were, and never will be. Or, we were right to believe someone’s initial presentation of self,  but the real intimacy that comes with loving bonds in life were too much for them, so they engaged in the age-old art of sabotage. In many if not most cases, the reason they never will be or can’t get back to being themselves is because they are so twisted up in their own unhealthiness, often caused by their history-wounds, they are unable to break free and get the help they deserve.

Some people can’t face the journey that comes with getting free of your history, which is tragic because the freedom to be who you are is a truly wonderful place to be.

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Remember to say I love you

I woke up this morning to learn a friend of mine has suffered two strokes and is now, as I write these words, in a drug-induced coma.  Right-sizing experiences like these remind me – and I would hope and pray they would remind anyone – that holding off on letting people know you love them is a tectonic mistake in judgment.

Grudges over  past missteps and “bruises” – real or imagined – impede far too many people from letting people know they are loved.  When you let someone know  you love them,  you will not always hear or read the same in return. Please don’t let that stop you from telling them they are loved. Who knows what wounds live in the minds of others, and impede them from saying I love you too? And then again, maybe they don’t. And that’s okay too.

Life happens to us whether we like it or not. We have say in how we respond to it.

Pray for my friend, please. He’s a truly good man. First thing I’m going to tell him when I see him is, “I love you, brother.”

On Peter, on Cape, on writing , & a coming wave – by, Smerkle Grumpy

Once in a blue moon Peter lets me write a piece for his blog. Mostly he goes for long walks with his dog, Charley, while I tap out words on this here keyboard. We don’t talk much about what I want to write but he knows there are times I think it’s important for those who’ve been knowing him for some time, or reading him for some time, to get a peek at just how he’s doing. That’s where I come in. I like to overview him from time to time.

Now he’s doing pretty good in Berkshire County these days. He does have this idea of moving to Cape Cod in his head. A dumb thing to say, I know, because where else would he have an idea but in his head?

Anyway, first things first.

This coalition of his, this Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition (named after Peter’s father, Sanford Kahrmann, not Peter), is gearing up to become a 501c3 with a board of directors and all that hoopla and that’s damn good news if you favor equal rights for folks and bad news if you don’t. I was in the room a day or two ago when Peter lit into someone who answered the phone at  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office  (He’s New York’s version of Chris Christie, you ask me. A bully). Woman gave Peter her first name but refused to give her last name saying they didn’t provide last names and without missing a beat Peter said, “Thank you for confirming I’ve reached the governor’s office.”

He fires those rounds so quick you wonder if folks realize they’ve been hit.  Not a whole lot makes Peter mad but when he is mad you’d have to be in a coma or gone to the next world not to notice.

He’s writing more than ever before in his life now and that is making him feel good and if you’ve been reading this blog you know he just did a lead part in a play and that was damned good for him. More than I think he realizes at the moment. Anyway, with him at his writing and, as always, reading up a storm, he’s begun to think of moving to Cape Cod. He told me once the proper phrase is people are “on Cape,” not “on the Cape.” Said he learned this from a woman he fell in love with. You’re on Cape or off Cape. No need for the.

It gets confusing.  Last week I asked him, “Why Cape?” He said it was okay to say, “Why the Cape?” and I said him and these Cape people need to sort out once and for all what their where they stand on the word the because the rest of us are busy stumbling over syllables and are just fine with the word because we use it a lot. I think he might still be smiling over that one. Anyway, he said he’d been thinking about the Cape because he went there as a boy with his father and family and it’s a place his father loved and the last place his father felt happiness before he died. It’s a place he (Peter) fell in love and almost married the woman and, the underpinning of it all, he misses the ocean. I always forget that when he was a boy both sets of his grandparents lived by the ocean. One set lived right on the water, they even had boats. This was in Rumson, New Jersey. And his other grandparents lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, just blocks from the ocean. And then, later in the seventies, Peter lived right on the ocean in Seagate, Brooklyn.

The coming wave I was thinking about when I picked the title for this piece is the wave of change. Change is coming for Peter but what’s nice to see is how clear and peaceful he is about it. That’s a good thing. He disengages quickly from  fight pickers or folks who, sad to say, are addicted to conflict, usually without realizing it. He keeps the door open for some who don’t have an active presence in his life. Even that Cape Cod woman. I asked him why he doesn’t lock more doors, I asked him about this yesterday or that day before. I can’t remember, and it doesn’t matter. I liked what he explained so I asked him to write it down.  Asked him to write it down. So he did. Here it is:

Sometimes people disengage from you, sometimes you disengage from them. Sometimes there are some barbs inflicted.  Anyway, it would be unfair to them and to me if I judged someone or someone judged me on poor disengagement skills. I’ve certainly absorbed some clumsy and mean disengagement techniques but they don’t deserve so much influence over me that they rob me of remembering and valuing what was and very well may be wonderful and extraordinary in someone. The very reasons I loved them and still love and care about them, in some cases. No, I’m no one’s pin cushion and am not available to absorb barbs, and hold myself and others accountable. But if healthy ways of loving someone or helping someone in life make themselves known, I’ll act on them, even if the person never learns I had a hand in helping them. I’m fine with that.”

I like Peter. No, that’s not right. I love, Peter. A young man not long ago said Peter is one of the kindest and most loyal people he’s ever known. That’ true, except of course if you start denying people their rights. Then all that changes.

Anyway, let me publish this on the blog now. I can hear Peter and Charley coming back. Peter’s laughing. Charley must’ve said something. Yeah, I know; dogs can’t talk, but they sure can communicate. Just ask Charley.

Peace out!

S.G.

Loyalty in the cross hairs

Nothing unique in saying the beginning of a year is a time of reflection, planning, gauging possibilities, setting a goal or two, among other things. For reasons I’m not inclined to study closely, I found myself thinking about a conversation  I once had with a close friend of mine. Obviously the following is not verbatim, but it certainly captures the essence of things.

Close friend: Why do you stay loyal to people that are not in your life and have in one way or another wounded you?

Me: Well, I don’t stay loyal to everyone who has been in my life but the ones you are talking about are people who, if one knew their history, have been badly wounded in life. Parents dying way too soon, spouse dying, a victims of violent crime, abuse, and so on. It’s not lost on me how desperate one can become when all hell breaks loose so I let them know, if that happens, I’ll be there.

CF: But some of these folks have been pretty nasty to you. Callous, flat out mean at times.

Me: That doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care about them. Also, the fact I’d help someone in no way means I’ll let them back into my personal life. Only if they own their wounding treatment of me and apologize would I consider that.

CF: But still, why the loyalty?

Me: Because few if any are all one thing. And the few people I retain this loyalty for have qualities to their character that in my mind make them rather extraordinary. I care about them. Having said that, they’d be foolish – anyone would be, actually – to mistake my niceness or my compassion for weakness. I won’t put up with nastiness or dishonesty aimed at me. Doesn’t matter who’s doing the aiming.

CF: But wouldn’t you feel taken advantage of?

Me: The thing is, it’s not about me, it’s about someone getting through a patch of hell in their life. I’ve been on my own, completely on my own, since I was 15. Facing the trauma life dishes out alone is brutal. If one of these people were in crisis and reached out to me, I’d find turning my back on them far more unbearable to live with than helping them.

Dialogue on a threatened friendship

– Good to see you.

– It’s nice to be seen.

– So, we’re here to talk about recent developments with a friend of yours.

– We are.

– Still friends with this person?

– That depends entirely on this person.

– Their name?

– We’ll use a fictitious one.  Jane.

– Okay,  Jane. (checking notes) The two of you used to be in a relationship up until about a year ago and then became friends. It’s been about a year since you’ve seen each other but throughout the year you’ve talked on the phone quite a bit. You went out with a couple of women you did tell Jane. What was that like?

– I was worried. You always wonder if a friendship that used to be a romantic relationship  will hold-up when one or both begin to explore other romantic possibilities . But it was alright when I told her.

– Why worried?

– I think two things are tied for first and foremost. I didn’t want to hurt her and I didn’t want to lose the friendship. But it never occurred to me to be anything but honest with her. While honesty is not always easy and dealing with the ramifications of being honest are not always easy, it’s always easier than dishonesty and dealing with the ramifications of that. You start misleading someone about who you are or what you are doing in life, especially those who love you, one misrepresentation gets built on another and the story never ends happily.

– So, what’s happened lately that’s caused you to lock the door on her?

– Not lock the door. Protect myself. Door’s not locked. I blocked phone and social media for now. Hopefully not for always. Email is open.

– Okay, you’re protecting yourself.  What was the turning point?

– When you know someone well you learn their patterns in life. Their habits. When patterns of behavior change it means something. It doesn’t necessarily mean something bad or negative, but changes in someone’s regular pattern of behaviors mean something. So I noticed changes. Historically Jane is a very active user of Facebook, throughout the week, though with her current job, less so, and on the weekend. So I began to notice that were blocks of time on Facebook for example, on the weekends, where there was no activity. On top of that there were times she would say she’d call and simply didn’t. Another change in pattern. I began to think she was dating or getting involved with someone so when I asked about this, she reacted with anger.

– Would it have made you angry if she’d been dating?

– Not at all.

– And this last weekend there’s been a visit planned?

– She had said she was going to visit this last weekend but in the week prior it became clear she was looking for a way out. She wasn’t saying this directly, but she was looking for a way out. She also sent an email she later acknowledged was abusive. When someone, anyone, starts writing me things in anger like “because not everyone’s an asshole like those other mo fo’s” or “fuck you” I disengage. I’ve got two choices in that moment, fire back or pull back. I’d rather pull back. She was furious that I’d sent an email  saying I was concerned she wasn’t being entirely honest about what was happening in her life which, as it turns out, happened to be exactly the case. She finally said she’d been on Match, which is fine. Said she’d met a nice man but sent him on his way because she realized she wasn’t ready to get into a relationship. Also fine. Then,  a day or two later she wrote to tell me she’s decided to enter into a relationship with a former boyfriend.

– She sounds over the place when it comes to relationships.

– Not necessarily so at all. It may very well be she was all over the place when it came to being up front with me.  I’m hoping that’s the case. I’d much rather her relationship with this man turns out wonderfully for both of them and that the problem was being up front with a friend. Having said all that, I’m not going to accept dishonesty or verbal abuse from anyone as a matter of course. But I’d rather reject the behavior first and give the person some slack than cut them off completely.

– Now, I’ve known you a long time.

– Longer than anyone.

– And I know Jane crossed a line when it came to the subject of suicide. You’d told her knowing that option was there was comforting for you, and she accused you of trying to make her feel guilty which I know was not the case.

– The subject of ending one’s life, suicide, with me, is kind of like the subject of war with Michael.

– Your closest friend.

– Michael was a Marine. Lost his legs in Vietnam. Saw shit people who haven’t been there can’t even imaging. Unless you’ve been to war, you’ve got no business bring up the subject with someone whose been there with anything but respect. I’ve lost a brother, mother and birth-mother to suicide, a childhood friend, and a guy I used to work with. I won’t tolerate anyone walking into that subject with me with anything but respect. She knows better, or she should.  The very fact I talked about it with her was testimony the level of closeness and safety I felt with her.

– Why are you open to continuing this friendship?

– Rarely does anyone deserve to be defined by a few weeks of behavior in their life, a series of unhealthy choices. Certainly not Jane. I’ve known her for awhile and know a lot about her life, her history. She is a remarkable person in many ways. But right now the ball’s in her court. She steps up to the plate and makes amends like we all should do when we misstep or lose our cool, we’re fine. All is well. I look forward to meeting her new boyfriend. She doesn’t or can’t, there’s nothing I can do about that. She’ll either figure out it was safe to be honest and open with me or she won’t. My responsibility is to be honest, try to make the healthiest choices on the table, knowing that by doing so they’ll be easier to live with down the road.

– What if she does nothing now but down the road reaches out to you?

– Door’s open. Honesty, amends, taking responsibility is the way to go for all of us.  Now, having said that, there is this possibility. If life badly wounds her or someone she loves and I can help, I will. But friendship won’t resume at that point absent the honesty and amends. But there is no way I wouldn’t help her or one of her daughters or anyone she loves if I could.

– It sounds like in your core you’re still her friend.

– You’re right. I am. But whether it can ever be an active friendship again is not up to me.

– Sitting down for this dialogue was an act of friendship, wasn’t it?

– You do what you can for those you love.