Tag Archives: friendship

Diamonds

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painter Arch Jan 2013

 

I have been relieved to discover in my blossoming forties that I was an ass in my twenties and thirties. I truly and honestly thought I knew how shit was supposed to go down in most situations. Thankfully, in recent times, I have come to realise I’ve not a clue, which makes me much more fun to be around and far less likely to cast judgement on anyone. It’s awesome to finally be in a place of perspective where I can clearly see the embarrassing pontifications of my youth as they are. I look back on my know-it-all self as one might do with a little sister. She’s sort of cool, a bit annoying, but needs to grow up and make some mistakes.

I have had an incredibly lucky year. A few areas of my life have been crappy and hard to bear, but on the flip side, I have found a treasure chest full of diamonds this year. And that is, the very special dames I’ve been hangin’ out with. Good, honest women will make you a better woman. They won’t make you feel bad about your weight, your parenting, your filthy house. Good honest women will hit you with a clanger when you need it, pass the tissues in silence when you need it and build you up behind your back. Can I introduce you to a few honest women?

Sassy M, sweet mother of mary I have never known anyone like her. So flawed and so perfect. Sassy M is so honest about her (and your) imperfections, I have never met anyone so comfortable and F-it about who she is. Being with her always brings me into a more comfortable space with my own crap. She makes me feel OK about the crap and can always point out a yeah but to remind me that I do some things really well. When her other friends are not around, she talks them up, never down. She loves people, and lets them know. She calls me friend. She has carried unimaginable pain gracefully. She lights up when she laughs (which is often). No, she’s not flawed and perfect. She’s human and perfect. Utterly, messily, honestly human.

Fearless J suffers no fool. She is a smart, sharp, compassionate feminist. Not sure how’d she’ll feel about that description. Her outrage will fire when she sees injustice, or when some fool is being a tosser at the supermarket. She gives, and she has taught me about servitude. She has given her time, love and care to help and serve the most vulnerable. She’s totally, no holds barred honest. On more than one occasion, she has had the bravery to say what I’m too cowardly to say. As a friend she wants us to engage with our minds and hearts, and she has a limited tolerance for idle chit chat. She surprises me all the time. I can’t wait to still be friends with her when we are cranky old ladies.

Foxy Mama D is the shining sunbeam of love and foxiness. She’s the one who walks into room in a short, fitted, sparkly dress and has every eye on her, but is completely unaware of it. Her heart is incredible. She’s the polar opposite of me in lots of ways but she loves that about me and I about her. She’s taught me to ease up with some of my internal parenting thoughts. She is so at ease with being a mother. She is so full of authentic happiness. I have been watching her and learning from her for a few years now. At first I didn’t understand her, now, I probably still don’t but I’m so very thankful I know her.

Sophic S. It was hard to find a descriptor for her. Yes wise, yes kind, yes honest. But that all seemed so trite. She is the first and only friend who has ever confronted me over a disagreement in a way that led to a warm discussion. I was incredibly impressed, proud and relieved that she would serve up her disappointment to me rather than bottle it away. It led to trust and respect. She too has carried huge pain in a hand basket that came close to getting too heavy. Her life scars are precious. Her professional wisdom is wide and deep and I often pick at it for morsels. She too is brutal, kind and real about life. I can tell her anything and remain totally safe.

Kool K will know why I chose this label for her. I don’t know if there is a single person I have laughed with harder and more often. Oh she’s wonderful. I have learned an incredible amount from her about humility, grace and God. Kool K is a humble student of life. She submits herself to the honing power of life’s errors, never afraid to look deep into her wounds to find the lesson. I’m not half the woman she is, but I’m lucky to be in her periphery. I don’t see her much, but think of her often and, like the strongest of women, she affects me even when she is on the other side of the world. She’s kind of inescapable. Lucky for me.

When I am with these women, I do not have to pretend. I do not have to talk, I do not have to shut up, I do not have to justify or defend myself.  It’s real. Nobody compares one’s child to another’s. Nobody is better, nobody is worse. We’re honest about jealousy. We’re honest about relationships. There is no judgement so we are safe to bare all. Or not. There is no pressure so we are free to grow. And teach. Good, strong women will make us all better women.

Letting go and finding new

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scary dudes Arch Sept 2012

 

Coming home from China, after three years as an expat resident in Suzhou, was one of the most difficult periods in my life. If I thought I experienced culture shock going over, it was nothing compared to coming back. China is a vibrant, noisy, exciting, boisterous, energetic world where life is lived out on the footpath and in large groups of extended family and friends. Suburban Brisbane couldn’t be more different. When we are out on the streets here, we are alone or in nuclear family groups, quickly attending to the busyness of our day. Come sunset, we close our gates and lock our doors. We eat behind closed doors, we love, argue and raise our children in the privacy of our own homes. We have space, lots of it, and we prickle when someone enters ours uninvited. Coming home was hard. The silence was one of the hardest things to get used to. Quiet evenings, no incessant beeping of bike and car horns, quiet, civilised supermarkets where everyone waits patiently in line. And no nightly fireworks outside my bedroom window.

I had to let go of so many things during that time, and it was a pruning that left me bare and raw; a sad little twig trying to come back to life after a dry winter. If I’m honest, there was a material shock in coming from a place where I was a relative affluent with disposable income up to my eyeballs, to Australia, a regular on the highest cost of living in the world lists. On one salary. We went from two international holidays a year to budgeting to the last twenty bucks in our fortnightly coffers. It was humbling and necessary, and it forced me to reflect on what happiness really was and what my family really needed.

I had to let go of a concept that I had of myself that I was competent, educated, valued and skilled. I came out of the best professional experience of my career, to staying at home with my toddler, failing at the job day after day and wondering who the hell I was. Suddenly I couldn’t do anything well. It was a new experience of hating myself and how badly I thought I was at mothering. It was a dangerous cycle that escalated over the next few years. So much of my identity had ben wrapped up in my profession, that when that was gone, I was lost.

Possibly the hardest part though, was letting go of friends. Not the friends I left behind in China, for those, despite the distance, stuck close by (electronically) and are close still. It was the friends I returned to. After a while, I realised it was time to loosen my grip. I knew that being the returning traveller was nothing special to those who hung around. We have all been away, come home, gone again, returned. It’s the job of the returnee to reconnect, I get that. So, despite being an introvert to the core, I committed myself to making the effort to reconnect with my friends. I phoned, I emailed, I Facebooked, I called again. It was an incredible shock to me to find that a few of my long term friends had simply moved on. I had to, for my own sanity, just give up.

I should add that this was all during the worst phase of my depression, when I was sad but didn’t realise, I just thought I was failing. So everything was sadder, more black and white, less logical and more tragic. I was just desperately looking for a safety net and found it not in old friends, but in new ones. I vividly recall one very very sad day, I was walking around with my toddler, six months pregnant with twins and just killing time as I seemed to do day after day. Heading toward home I considered stopping at the park for a while, to kill another half hour or so. I almost didn’t, but did. I was sad to the point of holding back tears. A woman came along, newborn in pram and toddler on foot. We talked. I found that I hadn’t totally given up because I had the courage to suggest we swap phone numbers. A little over a year later, I ran my first half marathon with her. We now babysit each other’s kids. She cooked for me when I moved house. She saved me. She never even knew it.

It was a painful pruning, but the spring came, as it always does, and the new has replaced the old. It took a really long time, several years in fact, to recover from reverse culture shock. I feel like China was a juncture in my life. There is before-China and after-China. My life BC after couldn’t be more different to my life AC. My work life, home life, social life, all of them are totally not what they were before. Many spring buds have blossomed into full bouquets that have brought me such happiness. Too much with the spring metaphor? I’m thinking too much. Yep, much too much…I feel a little ill….just threw up a bit in my mouth.