The Wonder of True Friends

I just started reading a wonderful memoir. The way I found it is even more interesting. I had been thinking about how much I love this song by the Dixie Chicks. Take a listen. It’s well worth your while…

I found a way to explore northern Thailand as a college student in spring 1974!

Yep, “taking the long way” is a great description of my life. I have always been quite independent and, as one close friend in Salt Lake observed, ‘zealous’. When I focused on something new, I could usually make it happen, in spite of the fact I rarely had any money. As you might guess, in the midst of all of that, I have had only a few true friends, because I was always taking off to some other state or foreign country for a new adventure. When I decided it was time to go do something different, I simply did it. How many relationships can keep up with that lifestyle?

But back to the amazing memoir: “Let’s Take The Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship” by Gail Caldwell. Since I loved the title “Taking the Long Way” I looked it up and found it had been already “taken” by Gail Caldwell’s book. Then I had to find out more, so I checked it out of my local library.

This is a well-written memoir by a Pulitzer Prize winning former chief book critic for the Boston Globe. How’s that for credentials? And yes, it is a wonder to read. Here Gail eulogizes the kind of close, true friendship that one rarely finds in one lifetime. What are the chances of finding that one true friend who practically knows what you are thinking and what you may say next? She also beautifully describes the way so many of us writer, introvert-types jealously protect our independence and solitude. Gail begins by defining herself as “a gregarious hermit” and then wonders how she finally met “someone for whom I wouldn’t mind breaking my monkish ways.” Ah, don’t we all know that fine line between loving our freedom and yet deciding to let one worthy friend into our life.

Friend in Chinese

I found this memoir particularly poignant because I only have a few true friends in my life right now. Only one friend made the effort to stay in touch emotionally when we moved down here five years ago, and Mike is the friend of a lifetime for me. What does that mean? For me it means absolute trust that this friend loves and respects me, to the extent that we can easily disagree and argue, but love and loyalty is always solidly beneath. That bottomless loyalty is the greatest prize in my life. I need to know that this is someone who would never betray or doubt our intimate life together, and will certainly be there at the end of my life if possible.

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Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool: A Review

I experienced a unique and piercingly beautiful film yesterday! Based on Peter Turner’s memoir, this film follows the playful and passionate relationship between Turner (played by Jamie Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award-winning actress Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening).

Annette Bening in Film Stars dont die in Liverpool

I loved the way this film skillfully intertwined their budding romance in the late 1970s, with Ms. Grahame’s death in 1981.

What starts out as a vibrant and totally unexpected love affair between a legendary femme fatale and an unknown fellow actor in Liverpool England, quickly deepens into a passionate and caring relationship. Thus her decision to spend her last days on earth with him and his great family.

This 2017 film so skillfully and seamlessly takes the viewer from their early days of lustful romance, to Turner’s present uncertainty about how to handle Gloria’s obviously serious illness. Seeing her again brings back so many exciting memories for Turner as he watches her slowly fade away.

The skill of director Paul McGuigan in taking us back and forth in these characters’ lives, explains everything about their love for each other, so much so that Miss Grahame pushes Turner away when she realizes she is very ill. She hopes to spare him some degree of pain, but pain cannot be avoided in death, not when love is involved.

Grief comes in many forms…

Grief the price of love

My last post about misfortune and friendships turned out to be somewhat controversial, at least to some. Putting my anger so obviously on display can be seen as weakness. After all, aren’t we supposed to get beyond that sort of thing as we age? Can’t we turn our anger into compassion for ourselves and others?

I like to think we can, but not immediately. A loving friend, who knows of what she speaks, observed yesterday that my response to my own failing health is so normal and so a part of “The 5 Stages of Grieving.” Yes, grieving is not just about losing a loved one. It can also be about losing a belief that sustains you. In my case I lost my illusion that my body is strong and healthy, and somehow immune to the millions of accidents and other misfortunes that life can throw at me.

It has been so confusing to me to be angry that I even caught this disgusting infection, while not blaming those who refuse to be around me because of it. I so understand their fear of contracting it. It’s the worst! But where do my feelings figure into this discussion?

My husband Mike is an interesting person to talk to about illness and friendships. He lost friends when he somehow contracted Myalgic encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) at age 35 in the early 1990s. He had no idea what he had at first and either did most doctors. They would do lots of tests, and when they couldn’t figure out a proper diagnosis, they took to blaming him or his depression. His friends also had no idea how to react and some just decided to vaporize, but the hardcore ones remained for decades by his side. Of course he of all people understands fear of illness, but he also had no interest in looking up those who vaporized when he was very sick.

Mike has grieved for years over the loss of his high level of health before he suddenly became ill in his 30s. He has also developed an amazing level of compassion for those who struggle with illness, pain and frailty. He does not seem to judge anyone. He just understands.

grief and learning to swim

I will continue to deal with my own losses day by day. I do feel sorry for myself sometimes, and when I do I remember one of my favorite lines from an incredible therapist I saw for five years in my 30s:

“At least when you are feeling sorry for yourself, you are feeling something for yourself.”