Friday, February 09, 2007

I am a Bad Friend

Tonight I gave a PowerPoint presentation for my speech class and none of the pictures came up, it was just a blank screen screaming "loser" behind me. I was so sad. I had put hours upon hours of work into this show, lots of cool pictures following perfectly my super cool itinerary. I was just so sad...

So after class I took a drive, partly to think things out and partly to avoid having to give my kids a bath, and I got to thinking about friendship. I am a lousy friend, I mean a really lousy friend. The way I handle friendships is fleeting, just like my PowerPoint. I put so much into it and then forget about the logistics and mechanics of it. My power point failed because I forgot to convert my pictures that were in my Mac to pictures a PC could recognize, duh... My friendships fail because I don't follow through, I build the foundation and then let it fade away, leaving me with the question of, "Was it me? Did I do something wrong?" Or "was it them?" But now I know, I have no stamina for a true friendship. I race in gung ho and then let it gently fly away. I don't even bother to put in the time to fight for it, just stand there with my hanky waving to it in the wind, ignoring the pounding rock of guilt that resides in my belly.

So this is a list of my failed friendships:

My first friend I can remember is Tanya. She had flaming red hair and was as sweet as could be. I was in kindergarten with her and she lived across the street. It was perfect- two little monkeys, inseparable. Then my parents decided to move (a reoccurrence in my life). Tanya wrote her address down, with the help of her Mother, so we could be pen pals. I never wrote her...

Later, In New Jersey where my Dad was transferred, I met Winona. She was Native American and super beautiful. Her hair was long and dark, and her eyes gently pierced through you. We hung out everyday and she would teach me about animals and how they were actually spirits and stuff... I was in second grade so my grasp on it was pretty juvenile, “you mean my cat Jingle's could be a relative, like Grandma?"... Anyway, I decided she wouldn't like coming to my birthday party so I didn't invite her, I genuinely thought she would have a bad time- she seemed so mature and beyond parties. I was wrong and she never talked to me again.

In junior high my best friend was Tammy. She went to the Catholic school and I went to public. We would meet before school in her apartment (I lived down the hall) and get ready for the day. All of our collective clothes were piled in her messy closet and each morning all outfits were tried on with desperation to look like the prettiest. Tammy had it worse because she had to find a sweater and earring combination that would make her polyester uniform look less retched... Then we would head into the bathroom and start curling. We curled and curled till I looked like Shirley Temple and Tammy (who's hair was very short) looked like she had an Afro. Then we would comb it all out and hairspray the hell out of it- our hair stood tall and proud.
Anyway, between the both of us we didn’t have many friends so it nice to have her around. By 8th grade I was slipping into thrift store clothing that only came in black and listening to Violent Femmes instead of Huey Lewis (one of Tammy's favorites). Plus she had done a report in school, with visual aides that ended up pinned to her wall, on how cool Reagan was as a president. As we slowly drifted away from each other I didn’t bother to put in the time to save this friendship, I was far too busy lacing up my boots.

Mary was a good, good friend that I wronged on two separate occasions. We met at the end of 9th grade; she had this bohemian quality and seemed far beyond her years. Her parents had pretty much abandoned her and she was living with her sister’s family. We were on the lacrosse team together and became instant best friends. School ended and we went to the Jersey shore for a week with her sister as our chaperone. We hung out on the boardwalk and met boys with skateboards (the best kind of boys, in my book). I ended up under the boardwalk kissing one of these cute boys’s. When I came up for air Mary was in tears running away from me, the moonlight bouncing off her long hair… I finally caught her and asked what happened? It turned out that this trip was not for kissing boys… We were never as close after that and she moved away.
The second time I literally lost Mary. We had a surprise reunion in Montreal (a stop while on my way to Europe). I was traveling with my friend Ben and we invited Mary along. She agreed, dropped out of McGill, and we jumped on the plane. My Mom was living in London so we stayed there for a week. Within that week I discovered my travel mates couldn’t stand each other… Fabulous. So we split up my time between them- Mary and I would go to Greece, then I would meet Ben in Italy, Mary in Portugal… And so on. This schedule worked out well until Portugal. I couldn’t find Mary! I couldn’t find the CafĂ© we were to meet at so I slept at the train station hoping to run into her in route. I finally called my Mom in tears, telling her I lost Mary. I was holding her boat ticket back to London and figured “oh well”. I sold the ticket and never saw her again. I heard she is living in San Francisco now.

Skipping ahead to Owen. We met at work and became instant friends. He was a display artist at a retail store and I was a manager. We would hide in his basement office and dream of all the things we should be doing instead of working. Finally we did quit to do something more exciting- we started a furniture business. That would be less work and more fun… Needless to say it was so much work it hurt! We would work fifteen-hour days and spent way too much money. Owen and I made some beautiful furniture but no one was buying it. We went further and further into dept- so it was decided he needed a job. I was in school full time and working two jobs already. Owen ended up funding the Company, and was the transportation (I didn’t drive,) and he did most of the selling, and so on… I let him and only did what was asked of me. I was busy with school and was tired of working so much. I wasn’t as committed as in the beginning and was just going through the motions. Our friendship finally exploded into pieces…
The company was closed down and it was a messy divorce of two friends.

My friend Jane and I first met in upholstery school. We would talk casually in school but we became really close in a furniture shop where we were both upholsterers. We talked incessantly all day, about everything under the sun. She was so sweet. It turned out we had some mutual friends and started hanging out outside of work. I asked her to be my maid of honor at both my weddings (another story). I liked Jane so much I was making a conscious effort not to mess this up. The furniture shop we worked at closed down so I asked her to move into my studio space, along with some other friends. We would do upholstery jobs together, go see bands together or just hang out talking. I felt like I had, at last, gotten it. I was a good friend and I had a good friend. But alas, it was not meant to be. We lost the studio. I decided to move into a smaller studio with another friend. And Jane made no effort to continue the friendship. I never bothered to ask why. I knew.
When children are raised in a multicultural environment we tend to believe they would be open to others and their differences. To be open to exploring others lives, walk in their history and understand that this point where we have met is just an intersection in a long, traveled road. Without sharing the journey with others (and embracing it ourselves) we disconnect from each other and become one-dimensional. Without the rich history and exploration along the way the meaning and depth may be lost. So to skip along in this multicultural world we live in is detrimental to our connection to people, the land and history.
We built this land from the legs up and if the finishing pieces did not connect what would happen to the stability of the country as a whole? As a multicultural society we need to have the foundation set in place to hold the rest of us together. We are not a melting pot swooshing all the cultures together and watering them down, but instead a country made of different people working as a whole. All Americans need to strive to retain the integrity of their culture and at the same time, share it with others. Creating a road for future generations that embraces them individually and as part of the entire land.
We are so busy going forward, planning the future, and finding the quickest route, we forget to use our senses. To stop, look and listen to the streams or to feel the land between our toes. We need to explore our history and people and get to know our surroundings. There is so much here to discover, why should we hastily keep moving? We ought to bring our rushing life to a standstill and learn to understand people and their relation to this land. I am no longer interested in the prize at the end, but instead traveling within my day, savoring the moment
We need to stop and talk to strangers. It will not solve major world problems or the inhumane treatment of people. But individually we would feel more a part of our community and this space we share. And down the road maybe this local level of understanding would grow and make it better for the next generation. The lines of communication need to be open so we can cross barriers and develop a better perception of this multicultural world. We should have a better relationship with the people, the land and our history in order to be open to others and their differences. It is not enough to struggle to retain our own integrity in this troubled land; instead we need to talk to strangers and hear their story. To run blindly with our hands tied through a world full of light and texture is tragic. I am ready to stop running. I am here, standing still.