Tuesday, May 15, 2012


When I was in middle school, I had a friend whose life was a little on the rough side. She wasn't sexually abused, nor physical or mental abused. Her stepfather was addicted to prescription drugs. I think her mother took some pain killers occasionally, too. But it wasn't really bad.
Their house was always clean; her mother was real sweet. Mary's stepfather was also re­latively nice.
She was my best friend in a school I was foreign to. I met Mary in fifth grade at a school in Holmes County, Fla. In the middle of the school year, my mother remarried, and we moved to Bethlehem, where her new husband was from. Mary befriended me right away, and the great thing about it was she lived down the road from me.
We would walk to the Taber­nacle, a swimming hole, and swim for hours, or just sit around and goof off at my house or hers.
My child­hood wasn't perfect ei­ther, so she and I under­stood each other well. We were very close friends.
In the sixth grade, drug and tobacco awareness semi­nars began. The pictures and the movies I saw would scare me. I knew I never wanted to do drugs. For Mary, though, the response was different. Even at that age, I could tell that she wasn't particularly moved.
I transferred to a different school in high school, but Mary and I kept in touch. She even briefly attended my current school, but didn't stay. I could see she was straying from what I thought was good, and head­ing right into a darker lifestyle.
I tried many times to reach out to her. But she began doing drugs anyway. I alternated between trying to help her, and trying to stay away from her.
Two different times, as adults, I tried to help her. While both of us were pregnant, I moved her in with me. And during a tumultuous time I was having myself, I reached out to her again. She would straighten up for a little while, but ultimately go back to the other lifestyle.
After I had my children, I went back to college to get my degree. My major was obvious, English, but my minor was not so - Psychology. Those that knew me, knew of my lack of belief in the practices of therapists.
But I had to understand Mary. I thought that maybe if I under­stood her, I could better instruct my children. The only thing that I understand now is that it isn't black and white.
There is no one reason why people choose to be self-destructive.
I did figure out she was self-destructive. Some people don't like themselves very much. Maybe it is guilt over something they did, a low self-esteem because of where they come from or a mental disorder. Some are dissatisfied with their current situation in life.
My friend, Mary, comes out of her drug-induced oblivion every once in a while and tries to straighten out her life. But she ne­ver contacts me. I find out through a long-reaching and considerate grapevine. She talks to them, but she asks them not to tell me about her.
My psychological mind under­stands she is ashamed. My breaking heart wishes she still felt that bond we shared so long ago.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chairs That Don't Fit

In 1976, a young journalist by the name of Gail Sheehy said “We must be willing to change chairs if we want to grow. There is no permanent compatibility between a chair and a person. And there is no one right chair. What is right at one stage may be restricting at another or too soft. During the passage from one stage to another, we will be between two chairs. Wobbling no doubt, but developing.”
I am a 34-year-old mother who, until recently, held onto a chair that didn’t really fit.
I have decided to share this story because I believe everyone comes across similar circumstances and, out of a sense of loyalty, keep the old chair.
As a child, my playmates of choice were of the masculine sort. One boy in particular was my favorite as he didn’t treat me with kid gloves.
Now, although I can’t tell you that our platonic boundaries were never crossed, at the end of the day we were just the best of friends.
Time had us in different geographic locations eventually but our friendship prevailed. However,  a few years ago our delicate balance was shifted.
He (I'll call him George) began dating someone and it was serious - a status he had usually evaded. This someone came to one particular event that I didn’t think she belonged.
Wherever we were in the world George and I always had at least one visit scheduled. Every May, George had a weekend-long family reunion close by, and I joined him there. After that, we always went somewhere fun of our own choosing.
On the last little vacation, he brought his girlfriend. I wasn’t pleased. He could see her any time, so I felt like she was treading on our ritual. To make things worse, we had planned to go fishing in Florida, but her schedule couldn’t accommodate the trip. That would leave George and I alone on the boat and this idea didn’t please her too much. So we went to Six Flags so that she could come. I tried to be understanding because I guess I would have the same reservations had I been in her place.
In the weeks and months following the trip, mine and George’s phone calls became less frequent and when they did occur, tense. I sounded resentful and he sounded tired. He wanted me to be friends with his girlfriend, but it just couldn't happen - believe me I tried. We were just too suspicious of each other.
So May came around again. George called, but I kept the conversation short and away from trip/reunion talk.
I had that quote from Sheehy on my mind. I needed to let go of this chair.
As another step in growing up, I realized that I no longer had a real place in his life. And if that episode had been postponed to the next May, I would have been in his exact predicament. So to be fair, I had to acknowledge there was no real place for him in my life either.
No matter how much someone can mean to you, you can still out-grow them. The key is to let them go. If you hang on to something that doesn’t make sense anymore, you can prevent your life from moving forward.
I will miss my playmate, but I’m grateful. You see, I’m sure I could have made it all these years without George. I’m just glad I didn’t have to.