Friendship

VACATION REBLOG (worth revisiting)

Who are your true friends and why are these friendships so important?

Friendships come in all shapes and sizes and it would be difficult to share my thoughts on all of them; therefore I will focus on just a few for this blog. I will cover these five:

  • Friendship with a life partner
  • A close friend
  • A sibling who is also a friend
  • Your parent as friend (I do not feel equipped to write about this matter from the parent’s point of view)
  • A co-worker who is a friend

My friends are extremely important to me. I hold my true friends near and dear and would do just about anything for them. The friendships I cherish the most were established many years ago, but having said that, I do have several friends that I only met recently. Six months ago I left a city I resided in for less than five years; yet several of my close friends live in Maine. You can gauge some friendships by communication (although some friends are better than others at this). When I moved overseas, there were individuals I expected to never hear from again and some that I thought would communicate regularly. As with many things in life, what I expected, has not panned out. Several people I thought would reach out, never have and others I that I thought were acquaintances have been great about staying in touch. Some people work hard at developing friendships and their persistence can pay off. These days you have to factor in social media, because it doesn’t take much effort to drop a line or two. I truly miss the days of letter writing; writing a letter took time and thought.

To be clear I am not writing about acquaintances (see 2.2 below): acquaintance əˈkweɪnt(ə)ns/ noun

  1. 1. knowledge or experience of something. “the pupils had little acquaintance with the language” synonyms: familiarity, conversance, conversancy, contact, acquaintanceship; More            
  2. 2. a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend. “a wide circle of friends and acquaintances” synonyms: contact, associate, connection, ally, colleague;   confrère “Mr Barnet was no more than a business acquaintance”

I am certain you all have many acquaintances; if you had an expectation that they would all be friends, you’d be in big trouble and extremely disappointed.

Friends With a Life Partner

This type of friend is quite unique due to the intimacy factor. Once you have been intimate with someone (and I don’t mean sex), it’s a game changer. I’m talking about a deeper emotional commitment where there is love and affection. Hopefully, because it matters if it’s true or not, you and your partner have shared moments, where at the time, you cannot imagine a deeper connection. Whether it’s a secret or a thought or a revelation, this kind of sharing creates a bond that can and often does, last a lifetime.

Even when there is a breakup, this close bond will ensure a lasting friendship — if you allow it to happen. Unfortunately, new partners are often intimidated by this kind of friendship and will not allow it. If you’re able to see past the jealousy, permitting your partner to be friends with ex-partners can enhance a current relationship. Your partner will see you as open and caring and trusting — all wonderful beliefs about your partner.

Keep in mind that none of us can be all things to all people. Your partner has limitations and expecting this individual to meet all of your needs is unfair and impossible. This is why it is dangerous not to have close friends outside of your relationship. Lean on others occasionally, it will make your relationship lighter, freer, and healthier.

Keep in mind that if you are outside of a relationship looking in, what you see from the outside is not always a complete picture. Couples have their own way of loving one another. Aside from physical and emotional abuse, which is never good, disagreeing and gentle prodding can be the sign of a healthy partnership.

A Close Friend

Your best friends (yes I believe you can have more than one) deserve a category all their own. Because we all know that if you have a life partner, that individual cannot and should not be able to fulfill all of your needs, emotional or otherwise. A close friend can provide an outlet for sharing and a different kind of important intimacy. It can be someone to talk to about your life partner or boyfriend/girlfriend (finding the right pronouns isn’t easy). With a close friend, no topic is out-of-bounds.

We all go through difficult periods in our lives (having just lost a dear pet, I’m feeling deep loss right now). A close friend will sometimes know you are in distress even before you know it. This person will be there to help you get through whatever difficulty you are experiencing. Refusing the help of a friend or pushing a friend away is never a good thing. A true friend is a beautiful gift and you can be sure that this person sincerely wants to help. Let this individual know that you appreciate that they are there for you and that you need them and want their love.

I like my privacy and I tend to grieve when I am by myself. A good friend will always allow you “alone” time. If you gently let your friend know that you just need a little time, they will give you what you need.

Caution:  Be careful to make sure that  sharing is reciprocated. There is nothing more annoying than a friend who only wants to discuss his or her own woes. Ask questions; show genuine interest and it will elevate the friendship.

Also, do not abuse the generosity of a close friend. Leaning on someone in a time of need is fine, but pick and choose when to lean. Being a constant burden will make a friend second guess the sincerity and value of the relationship. We are only human and all of us has a threshold. Keep your relationships strong by being considerate, nurturing and compassionate. Communicate your needs; assuming your friend knows, is an unfair assumption.

A Sibling

Who knows and understands you better than a brother or sister? Unless you were raised in a different household or there are many years between you and your sibling, this person can be a very close friend. I should not rule out a half-brother or sister who is a great deal older or younger. I had a half-brother who was 20 years older and before he passed away, we became very close. He was actually as much a mentor as a friend. I could share anything with him and he “got” me. The relationship was different from that of a parent because he didn’t feel the need to discipline or direct my behavior; it was all about the freedom to be who we were.

A sibling who doesn’t judge you, who accepts you for who you are and who provides a level of trust that is achieved in no other relationship, is a treasure to hold dear. I’m a lucky guy because I have a number of siblings I consider close friends. Unfortunately, I have also lost several siblings; these individuals have provided strength and love well beyond their passing.

Your Parent as Friend

It’s not easy being friends with a parent. Very few people I know are friends with their mother or father. When you are young, your parents are disciplinarians and when you get older they want what’s best for you and that often causes conflict. Being friends with your parents can be fulfilling. Practicing patience and forgiveness is key. If you keep in mind that your parents want what is best for you because their love for you is strong, you can be very close friends. You can confide in your parents, you can lean on your parents and you can usually trust your parents. Having a sit down after a disagreement can help both parties achieve a higher level of trust and understanding.

Of course there are always exceptions. My mother always told me that everything was her fault. She’d say this with a half-smile,

“Chris, save yourself money on therapy. I am to blame for all of your issues. Yell at me, lash out, be mad; then think about how much I love you and move on.”

She was a smart lady, my mom.

Friendship with a parent can go through stages of strength and at times this strength may waiver and that’s okay. Keep in mind that your parents won’t always be around. Bringing you into this world and keeping you safe are not easy tasks to manage. They want your friendship and they deserve it.

“My childhood was very colorful, and I am close friends with both my parents. We have no secrets.”

Rebecca Hall

A Co-Worker Who is Also a Friend

This can be an incredibly satisfying relationship because you often share so much in common with a co-worker. When you’re together socially it can be fun to gripe about your hours or your boss or your salary or your work environment or your benefits or your co-workers or all of the above.

Careful what you say and to whom at work; a true friend will be discreet and he or she will keep what you tell them to themselves. Such a friend is not easy to find; when you do, try your best to hold on to them.

There are those who believe you should not become friendly or be friends with someone who is higher up or subordinate. I have never felt that way. I think as with most things in life, it depends on the person. If your friend is mature and trustworthy, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If others at work have an issue with who your friends are, let them know (in a kind way of course), that it is not really their business. Still, perception and appearance are both important considerations. Managing all of this at work can be challenging. I believe it all boils down to personal integrity. You know who you are. If you are honest, thoughtful and appropriate, you should have nothing to worry about. Always remember that at the end of the day, the only person you truly have to answer to is yourself.

Separation from a Friend

As it goes with relationships, sometimes they go south. Of course it’s always better if you can repair the damage; however, that is not always possible. Some friendships grow toxic and if that becomes the case, I think it’s better to walk away. If you make that decision for yourself, it’s best to come clean with the individual. This business of just disappearing isn’t very fair to the other person and often, closure is necessary. Otherwise, you have this unpleasant, unfinished business hanging over you.

Call me a coward, but I often put my thoughts into writing and send an email or letter. This way I can be clear and provide the other person an opportunity to think about what I shared and respond. You can tell a great deal about a person by the way they reply. If they become very defensive, angry, and lash out at you, it validates your decision. If the person sincerely apologizes or asks to see you, it shows that they value your relationship and that they would like to patch things up. I find that the other person often feels the way you do and the friendship will come to an end. If you can work through it as mature adults, you’ll be happy you did the work.

For some, my desire to shed toxic individuals will come across as cold and dismissive. I have decided that I only have time for friends who are loving, forgiving, true, and real. I value my time on our planet and I’d prefer that my relationships be authentic and fulfilling. Divorce, partner or friend, is never easy, but sometimes it’s the only healthy solution. Don’t judge others or yourself, judging makes life burdensome.

Reconnecting

Sometimes years go by and you do not hear anything at all from an old friend and then suddenly, there they are sending you an email or calling you on the phone (a call is less likely these days; texting is safer). You wonder of course:  1) why you are hearing from them now? 2) should you respond? and 3) if you don’t respond will you wonder what it was he or she wanted?

People lose touch with one another for all sorts of reasons. Often, time goes by and one feels reaching out would be awkward and often it is. Be open-minded; reconnecting may be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have had former friends I was upset with contact me and frankly, I couldn’t recall why I was angry with them in the first place. That tells me something: it might have been something very small and petty and perhaps it’s time to get past it. Forgiveness has enhanced my life in so many ways.

I am not claiming to be a “friendship expert.” What I do know is that I have had a lifetime of meaningful friendships and without my friends, I would be a lesser person.

“No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend.”      

Ben Franklin 

“The best mirror is an old friend.”     

George Herbert 

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”     

Thomas Aquinas

Next week: Medeira, Portugal. I am excited to share this travel experience.

Do you have a story to tell or would you like to share some advice? Please add your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you.

What I’m Really Thinking

You Don’t Want to Know

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

I vaguely recall a Jim Carey film where he actually says what he is thinking everytime he opens his mouth. I can’t tell you the title of the film or the outcome, however, what I do know is that it was a disaster. We live in a society where many people choose to stay in the dark because the truth is just too painful and that’s fair.

This isn’t the first time I am writing about truth and it won’t be the last. It’s front and center in my life and I grapple with it on a daily basis. I feel terribly self-righteous and I don’t like it. I’m finding middle ground through discussion and writing. The political untruths hurled at us on a daily basis are disgusting and getting worse. As an individual I feel powerless to change the direction humanity seems to be going in. The best I can do and will do, is allow truth to lead the way in my own life and to be truthful with others.

When People Say, “Tell Me The Truth,” Beware

I’m often asked what I think about this or that. Having had all kinds of different reactions to my candor, I find myself choosing my words very carefully. I’ve noticed that people say they want to hear the truth, what they really mean is: “Tell me the truth-light, water it down a bit, sugar coat it, couch it in praise, make it so it doesn’t hurt, tell me a white lie, don’t damage my ego, and what I don’t know won’t hurt me.” That’s a lot to sift through.

For example, I recently had a friend speak to me about a girl he’s seeing from overseas. He wanted my approval. Sometimes I want to crawl into a hole and put up a sign that says, “Leave me the fuck alone. What I think doesn’t matter and even if it did, you don’t really want to know.” The truth is, in this case I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep seeing this girl. I see a my friend as a ticket out of her country, a golden ticket. Trust me, he doesn’t want to hear what I think and I don’t want to lose a friend.

Here’s what I said, “How do you feel about the relationship? If you’re enjoying seeing this woman and she makes you happy, how can anyone tell you to stop seeing her.”

Fortunately, that satisfied him and I came away unharmed; eardrums and peaceful day still intact.

I once introduced a friend to a boyfriend of mine who was 20 years my junior. I asked her what she thought of him. She politely suggested that he might be a little young for me. This happened over 20 years ago and I’m still angry with her. The truth is, that is what she believed and she thought it might cause a problem in my relationship with him. She was right, it did cause a problem. At the time I knew she was right, but I never expected her to share her truth. I wanted her to tell me he was handsome and exotic and smart and that we were perfect for one another and that she was happy for me. In reality, she might have believed some of those things to be true, but she cared about me and thought that somebody had to tell me the obvious truth. The problem is that the truth seldom initiates a change. Instead, it causes resentment and sometimes pain. So why do we keep asking for it? Are human beings truth seekers?

I love the Housewives of (fill in the blank) franchise for so many reasons. I believe the producers tell the reality stars to share their truth as much as possible. That’s all we need for good, honest entertainment. Watch people get hurt and angry because they are being told things they don’t want to hear. And it’s their supposed friends telling them these things.

“I can’t believe you shared that with Betthany.”

“Who are you to go around telling people things I’ve shared with you in confidence.”

“What makes you think you know what really happened?”

“You’re doing this to destroy me because your jealous of my life.”

The beauty of it is that it’s all real. They are shedding real tears. These women are truly angry, feeling betrayed, and honestly scorned. I’m always surprised when any of them kiss and make up. How do you ever forgive some of what’s been put out there for all the world to hear?

Image may contain: text that says 'YOU KNOW THAT THING INSIDE YOUR HEAD THAT KEEPS YOU FROM SAYING STUFF YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T? YEAH, MINE'S BROKEN. fb/ Gotta Love It'

Ask Yourself Whether or Not You Want the Truth

Just because I believe it to be true, does not actually make it true. That is my barometer; it’s a mantra I repeat over and over again.

I only ask for a person’s opinion or thoughts when I know I can handle what they have to say. There are a handful of people in my life that I can count on to be real and honest: really honest. I know that when I ask these people to share their thoughts, their response will come from love and kindness. It may be difficult to process, but it will be honest and said in the most compassionate way; empathy and sympathy are so important when a person is in this position. We’ve all been there; don’t beat me up when I’m already broken. Don’t say it in a way that will sting worse than the actual truth. Always be kind and save the painful stuff for when the person is in a good place and they can handle it.

If you’re one of these people that says, “You can’t be angry with me because you asked for the truth,” you are not a nice person. Consider the reason you choose to suddenly be 100% honest; whom did it benefit.

Who Can You Really Trust?

This is so important. Take an inventory of the people you know and decide who among your friends and family you can go to for the absolute truth. These are people who care about you, your feelings, your well-being, your best interest. They will be thoughtful about what they say without hurting you. These cherished few will find a way to get the message across without sending you to therapy or to a medical doctor for Xanax.

No doubt most people in your life would like to think that they are “that” person — the one you can confide in. In truth, it’s not an easy position to be in. It’s like walking a tightrope without holding a pole for balance. If and when it’s done correctly and with compassion, it can change a life forever. I can count on one hand, the number of times this kind of honesty has come my way. I remember the time, the place, and every word said to me. I love and respect the person who delivered those words and I repeat those words whenever possible. The impact cannot be measured. Consider the weight of this role.

A Difficult Challenge, but worth the effort

Half-Truth

Leaving out some of the details, can be just as effective when you are providing feedback. It doesn’t make you a liar, it makes you a compassionate person.

If someone you care about asks you if you love them, why not just say, “yes I do.” Saying, “Yes, but you make me angry when you . . ., or I have been questioning my love lately,” is unnecessary. There is a time and place for absolute candor, never when a person is vulnerable or in pain.

Growing Up & Growing Wiser

Just because we get older, doesn’t necessarily mean we become wiser; like anything in life you have to work at it. We also have to accept that because we are human, we might occasionally mess up. For me it’s all about intention. If someone intentionally lies to me, I have little or no tolerance. Tell me a white lie to protect me from the truth, and I am a whole lot more forgiving.

Knowing when to share the truth, how much truth to share, and with whom you can be truthful, is all part of maturing and knowing yourself and others better. “The truth will set you free,” because truth liberates your heart and mind. You learn to trust what’s in your heart when your thoughts have been validated. It feels great when the heart and mind are in sync. The strength and confidence that comes from truth cannot be underestimated. So why do people lie?

There is so much lying these days, sometimes it’s difficult to sort through it all. Consider the source, consider the intention, and consider the weight of the truth. No lie is a good lie and most liars are not worth your time or energy. It’s okay to rely on your gut because your instincts are so often correct, when when there is a lot at stake, it’s better to check the facts and side with truth.

I have spend the last few years sorting considering how and with whom I spend my time. I made the conscious decision to rid my life of toxic liars and people who bring me pain. The result has validated the process; the friends and family I currently hold dear enrich my life. I have a whole lot less drama to deal with and life is fulfilling. Trusting yourself, treating yourself with love and respect, are all keys to honest exchanges with others. Two steps forward, one step back, the dance of life.

92 Quotes About Justice (To Make You Question What Is Fair)
Keep this in mind when you vote

Headed to Madeira next Saturday (5th). Will be reposting a blog before I leave and then the following Blog, September 12 will be about Madeira. With all that is going on with the virus and travel changes, I won’t believe it until I’m on the plane. Adults-only hotel with a seaview room; very excited.

Madeira Island News - maps of Madeira islands and Funchal
I’ll be in Funchal. Madeira is an island off of the Northwest coast of Africa

To Thy Known [sic] Self Be True and/or Big Fat Lies

Be the real you | Quotes & Writings by porijai pakhi | YourQuote

Disclaimer: I want to start by stating that my blog is not meant to be the answer to all of your problems or the world’s problems for that matter. I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned some things and accumulated a few stories. Sharing with my readers is my way of letting you in and hopefully, allowing for some thoughtful contemplation. Needless to say, if you do not agree with my point of view, it might be better just to click delete or move on.

This Week

I’m on retreat in Estoi, Portugal for a few days. Estoi is a beautiful, historically rich town in the hills not far from my home. My stomach has been a bit jittery because of COVID-19, uncertain times, economic upheaval, to name a few things, and I thought it would do Paco and I some good to spend time in the country where there is little distraction. I’m surrounded by orchards, beautiful hills, and the Algarve sun. It’s a time for reflection and calming the nerves.

I can’t get my arms around this virus. Hearing about death and the destruction of lives on a daily basis is a lot to take in. I don’t want to turn it off and become detached — I don’t want to plunge into a deep depression either. Again, it’s about balance. Balance seems to be the most important lesson I have learned as I get older. Empathy is an essential part of being human; however, too much empathy for me, means anxiety. Like everyone else, I’m afraid of getting or spreading the virus. They say this is the new normal. Well I say, I don’t care for it.

What You See

A recent photograph of Paco & me

Posting this photograph of myself is a bold move. When my friend Patricia took it a few weeks ago, I recoiled with disgust. She liked it, so she sent it to me even though I didn’t. I don’t like what I see at all. I know that I am 61 years old and no longer in shape, but honestly, I’d rather not look at it. I see someone who ate too much during quarantine and whose face is revealing far too much of just about everything I’m not too fond of. In my delusional mind, I’m young and still fetching. So here’s the dilemma: do I embrace the man you see in the photograph or do I continue to go along with what’s inside my head?

The answer for me is a little bit of both. I need to be grounded and aware of aging and be confident enough in my physical appearance to be comfortable presenting myself to the world. I certainly don’t want to look at a photograph of myself and give up. The good news is that after seeing this picture I decided to get rid of most of the sugar (the true killer) around my house and spend more time on the elliptical machine; fortunately, the pounds are starting to slowly disappear. There are so many things you can do to make yourself more attractive:

  • smile
  • dress well (even if you’re just going to the market)
  • go to the gym, walk, swim, run, hike, bike . . .
  • get a facial, haircut, massage — for yourself
  • have work done if it makes you feel better, but don’t over do it. Have you been to the upper east side in Manhattan lately? It’s a shit show of plastic surgery gone wild.
  • get a tan. Believe it or not, you can get a great tan with SPF 30
  • eat healthy foods
  • be with people who appreciate you for who you are
  • be around people who let you know when you are at your best
  • pay attention to your posture
  • remind yourself that earned every line on your face
  • take stock of the simple things
  • meditate
  • sleep and take an afternoon nap if you can
Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on Pexels.com
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Okay enough of this bullshit about me and my body. The bottom line is honesty with yourself and acceptance. Funny how those two things can change sometimes after a good night’s sleep or even better, after someone flirts with you a bit.

Please do not send me comments about how I look good in the above photograph. I hate the picture and no matter what you say, I will believe you are just trying to make me feel better. Either that or you love me so much when you look at me you only see a handsome guy. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what I believe to be true at the moment. Don’t worry, this too shall pass. Everyone gets a free pass on self-pity right now.

Being Less Than Honest With Myself and Others

Some would say that it’s healthy or natural to tell yourself little white lies — self-preservation. Like when you look in the mirror and you think, “You look good in these jeans.” That’s not a bad thing is it? I think it’s only bad if your lie hurts someone else. For example, a friend asks you what you think of her make-up after she does her face. You know in your heart she has put on too much and she looks like a clown and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, so you say, “You look perfect.” She walks around the entire day with people staring at her and even sometimes laughing under their breath. She might even do it the same way the next day thinking it looks good. In this case I believe gentle truth is the way to go.

“A little less eyeliner and not-so-much foundation might highlight your beautiful features.” Or

“Take a look in the mirror and tell me what you really think of your make-up?”

Let them see where they might have gone wrong. They might not always thank you at the moment, but that’s not what friendship is about.

On the other hand, if a friend says, “Do I look fat?”

No matter what you think, the answer is, “No, you look great.”

Two very different situations; one can be fixed, the other is much more complicated. There are nice/delicate ways to let someone know that they have put on a few pounds.

“Hey Sue, I have these COVID-19 pounds I need to shed and I was thinking of doing a long in the morning, want to join me? It would do us both some good.”

“Roger, if I recall your heart has been giving you some trouble lately; remember the slimmer you are, the better it is for your heart.”

“Hey sis, mom struggled with her weight once she hit 50; we have to be careful in our family.”

It’s all about a healthy balance, good mental and emotional health, and living with yourself.

The Problem with Denial

I know a lot of people who lie to themselves by denying the truth. The shaking your head constantly does make non-truth true, it only gives you a headache. I have found that facing the truth is often difficult for a short while, however, in the long run, you save a lot of worry and angst. For example, a few years ago I had a spot of my face that looked like a pimple, but it wouldn’t heal. I looked for pictures of it on the internet and what I saw and read frightened me. Pictures showed something similar to what I had on my face and the prognosis might be skin cancer. I put the thought out of my head immediately. Not possible with the type of skin I have, Mediterranean complexion after all.

When I was willing to look closely at the growth, I didn’t like what I was seeing. The spot was getting larger and darker and it was way too close to my right eye. After more than a year, I had it checked. Sure enough it was skin cancer. Fortunately it was basal cell carcinoma, easier to treat and less dangerous than melanoma. I had surgery to cut it; scarring was minimal and it hasn’t returned. Not taking care of it for so long made me anxious. I was worrying far too much about what it could be instead of just taking care of it. A situation where being honest with myself and having it checked right away would have saved me a whole lot of worry. I learned a big life lesson from this.

Human beings are very good about lying to themselves. We do it with big things and little things. Sometimes admitting the truth, although better in the long run, can happen too late. I don’t need to outline here what I mean. Let’s just say, be honest with yourself right from the start and you’ll be a great deal better off in the short and long run.

Quotes about Denying oneself (16 quotes)

What We Often Lie to Ourselves About

  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
  • Health
  • Extra weight
  • A relationship(s) that is unhealthy
  • Hating our jobs
  • Hating where we live
  • Our disposition
  • The company we keep
  • Finances

Is There a Solution?

I think there is: it’s called a tool box. We all need one at the ready; to tweak, fix, and overhaul. You need to yank it out whenever you start to doubt yourself or feel weak. Being human means being imperfect (sorry) and making mistakes. Knowing you have the ability to make an adjustment and move on, helps you to know things can and will improve. So if you begin to notice that you are having one or two more cocktails than you probably should, there are a few

tools you can use to get you to a better place (you can apply this tactic to many issues in your life):

  1. Admission is essential. You need to say out loud, “My drinking is a problem.”
  2. Come up with a plan to deal with the problem.
  3. Get some sort of help to insure that you stay on track.
  4. Monitor your progress daily.
  5. Enlist the help of a friend or expert.
  6. Take inventory of how addressing the problem has had a positive impact on your life.

The great thing about telling yourself the truth, is that you will begin to trust yourself. As in all relationships, trust is essential and necessary for success. If you want to love yourself, be true to yourself, and believe in yourself, you have to trust yourself; telling yourself lies will only lead to self-loathing and a downward spiral. Unfortunately, the further down that rabbit hole you fall, the more difficult it will be climb out and recover.

Living Life Without A User Manual : Be Honest With Yourself

Living With a Lie

“There are only two things. Truth and lies. Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognize itself; anyone who wants to recognize it has to be a lie.” Franz Kafka

My mother’s lies taught me two things:  First and most harmful, it was acceptable to lie, and second, secrets are impossible to keep.

I had a beautiful half-sister who died a horrible premature death several years ago; she was in her mid-forties. In fact, it was her birthday a couple of days ago and it was the anniversary of my brother Anthony’s death. My sister Grace found him with a needle in his arm on her birthday. She was already far gone by then and I’m certain, finding her (our) brother lifeless in her own home, must have sealed her fate.

No photo description available.
Gasha to my left

My sister Grace or Gasha (the way we spelled it), as she was known to close family, was a troubled child. She wore thick glasses and was labeled “four eyes” by her siblings and peers. We also called her monkey because of her button nose; kids can be mean and her brothers and sisters were the cruelest of all. I am not claiming innocence; in fact, I may have been the worst culprit. Perhaps it was the secret I held onto that drove me to cruelty.

My parents argued a lot; in fact, they argued night and day. My father would come home from work at midnight and my mother would dig in her hateful claws. Having been exposed to this behavior early on, I worked hard to tune them out and fantasize about a quieter world that I knew existed elsewhere. My memory of their relentless rage goes back to pre-school and a time when I was too young to understand the complicated world of adult anger. One particular memory is vivid because it involved a lie I did not understand at the time; I may have been five or six years old.

Many angry words were exchanged during one very loud shouting match and most of those words were as difficult to comprehend as a foreign language. For some reason I held onto something my father said, “Grace is not my child.” At the time I thought it was odd for my father to say such a thing and so, I dismissed them from my thoughts. Every so often I found myself daydreaming and reflecting on these words. As I grew older and more inquisitive, I wondered why my father said this to my mother. I looked at my sister differently because of what my father said. I naturally wondered who her father might be, if it were not my father. I was not aware of an affair my mother had with her first husband while she was married to my father.

When I turned nine, there was a lot going on around me; my only living grandparent passed, my mother was divorcing my father and marrying my stepfather, and I was repressing my sexuality (I remember having some strong feelings toward one of my mother’s male friends). My mom and I would occasionally spend quality alone time together — rare because she had seven children. On one of these occasions, I decided I would ask her about Gasha. My mother had a way of drawing me in as a close confidant and then shoving me away. I can’t blame alcohol because she wasn’t a drunk, but her father was an alcoholic and physically abusive; perhaps it was his influence. As a child I longed for the kind of closeness where you felt honest love and affection — not likely to get it from my mother, but I never stopped trying.

We were sitting on her bed watching an old black & white film and she was running her fingers through my hair. I may have been as happy at that moment as I would ever be with my mom.

I looked up at her and said, “Ma, who is Gasha’s father?”

My mother pushed me to the edge of the bed and said, “Where do you get these ideas?”

I told her that I had overheard an argument she had with my father a few years earlier and she told me that I was imagining things.

“Who would Gasha’s father be if it wasn’t your father? Honestly Chris, I worry about you.”

I wanted to believe my mother, so I let it go . . . until a few years later when this happened:

I was having dinner with my father at the restaurant where he worked. Our meals were very special to me and we always spoke openly and earnestly. I’m pretty sure I was in my teens at this point. I had accidentally seen my parents marriage license and came to learn that my mother and father didn’t marry until I was three years old. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t bother me. My dad told me that they couldn’t marry because my mother’s first husband was in prison and there was a law about divorce and incarceration back then. He said that they married as soon as they legally could. I shrugged and decided this would be a good time to ask about Gasha. I sort of tricked my dad and acted like I knew for certain that Gasha was not his biological daughter.

When I asked him who Gasha’s father was he said, “Joe is her father, but I adopted her and so she’s my daughter now. How did you know about this? Did your mother tell you?”

I shared that I had overheard an argument between the two of them when I was a kid and he grabbed my face and squeezed my cheeks; something he did to show affection. He hardly ever said anything negative about my mother and I wish I could say the reverse were true.

When I asked him how she ended up with Joe while married to him, he said, “Your mother has always been a bit wild.”

Truer words had never been spoken. Now that I knew my suspicions about Gasha were true, I had to consider what this meant for my relationship with her, how I felt about my mother lying to me, and whether or not I should share the truth with Gasha and our siblings. I knew early on that it would not be fair to share the truth with her. It was my mother’s place to tell her the truth. I was tormented by the lie. I did not approve of my mother’s infidelity and I could not understand why she denied the truth all those years ago. In my mind, I could never truly trust my mother again — in truth, I doubted her always. I’m also certain that I felt betrayed by my mother and it has had an affect on every loving relationship in my life.

My mother did eventually tell Gasha who her biological father was. I’m not sure when or where it happened. My brothers and sisters found out at some point as well. It seemed to me at the time that no one cared about the indiscretion or the lie. I questioned my own reaction to it:  had I made too much of it? Did it really matter? As an older adult I am obviously still questioning the lies I faced as a child and young adult — there were many others.

I recall often looking at Gasha and wondering who she resembled. When she would behave a certain way that was odd to me, I would explain it by considering who her father was or was not. Gasha had a severe eating disorder and made several bad choices in her life. She was angry, she isolated herself from those who cared about her, she refused to acknowledge her disorder, and she trusted no one. I cannot help but wonder if the knowledge that she was conceived during a torrid affair, had had a huge impact on her life and her ability to cope. Knowing her biological father was willing to allow my father to adopt her, must have tormented Gasha throughout her life; her self-worth was shattered.

My mother had a very complicated relationship with her and Gasha was resentful of the way she saw my mother treating the rest of us; she seemed to always feel slighted. I was aware of both the way she was treated and the way Gasha perceived it. I had conflicting feelings about my sister. There was a part of me that believed she didn’t belong and I’m not proud of those feelings. At the same time, I felt sorry for her.

Gasha’s downward spiral was difficult for me to watch. She married trailer park trash and she had a child with him. Freddie shot himself in the head early on in their marriage. I remember visiting her in Knoxville, Tennessee and thinking that there was hope that she’d come out on top of all the drama in her life. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Bulimia took hold of my sister in her early 20s and never let go. All four of my mother’s daughters suffered from some sort of eating disorder as a result of my mother’s obsession with weight. Gasha lived in complete denial — the disease and the consequences of starving one’s body of nutrients destroyed her life. Her two children suffered the most; watching her abuse herself on a daily basis, had to be impossible to observe. Out of respect for my niece and nephew, I will refrain from commenting on their current lives.

The question is, was it the lie that destroyed Gasha’s life or was it her personality and the circumstances of her illness? I guess we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that shielding her from the truth all of those years was not productive or right. If her biological father had stepped up and assumed his role asher father, might she have been stronger and felt more loved? I have to believe she would have embraced her father and adjusted to her circumstances. After all her two oldest sisters had the same biological father. But after being adopted by my father, Gasha, was instead forced into a situation she did not ask to be in and was prevented from being with a man she might have loved. I’m not a psychologist, however, I am fairly certain that Gasha was thrust into a situation that would have caused anyone pain and anxiety. It was a lot for a young person to take on and in truth, she had to endure the ramifications of this terrible lie, on her own. It’s a small miracle she was even with us into her forties.

When faced with the reality of a difficult truth or keeping a secret, always go with the truth. As hard as it is to share that secret and cope with its consequences, that reality is far better than living a lie.

 

“When you check your own mind properly, you stop blaming others for your problems.”

Thubten Yeshe