Where were they?


I know what $100 will buy when I am in dire straits, but I have no idea of the worth of my friends, and to have them betray me makes those straits even more dire. I would therefore offer that, although both are desirable, money is preferable to friendship.
Ah, but money doesn’t care about you. It can’t put its arms around you or bring you gifts.

No, but my friends might not do these things either. It is also true that most of the things we need don’t care about us. The food we eat, the air we breathe, our winter clothes, our snug homes; these things don’t even know we exist. I’m not saying that friendship is worthless; I’m just saying that it’s a mistake to rely upon it.

Agreed, you might not be able to rely upon them to be there for you exactly when you need them and exactly in the way you need them; but why not be appreciative for what they do give?

Just because my friends don’t give me everything I need doesn’t necessarily make what they do give meaningless, but look at it this way. If you fall into a pit and someone brings you flowers instead of a ladder, what have they accomplished? I’ll tell you: they’ve given themselves the gift of feeling good about themselves, and I think this is the real motive behind a lot of charity. Otherwise, people would not ignore the expressed needs of the supposed objects of their generosity.

After surgery on my right shoulder, Shirley, a supposedly good friend who is also a neighbor and who had gone walking with me almost every week for two decades, wouldn’t walk with me at all despite my request that she help by taking charge of one of one of the dogs (the blind one that walks on my right). She didn’t give a reason, but she was training to walk a half marathon, so I assumed that maybe her feet hurt, or maybe she didn’t feel the need for the short non-aerobic walks to which I was limited. She did, however, bring me a potted plant that I was unable to set out. Am I not grateful? Well, not very. My friend of 23 years chose to ignore my request for help without offering an explanation, but for reasons that I had to guess and that appeared trivial.

I think you misuse your friends when you expect them to do things that you could afford to pay someone to do.

Yes, I could pay someone to walk the dogs, and I could get my own exercise by walking alongside my employee, and I could get my social needs met by talking with my employee as we walked, but I want friendship to mean more than having someone to go to a movie with at everyone’s convenience. I want friendship to offer a survival advantage. I want to care for and protect my friends, and I want my friends to care for and protect me, and this experience has taught me that I can’t even depend upon people who have been my friends for a quarter of a century to do the very thing that they have often done with me for fun and exercise.

My friends have literally spent less time with me than usual. Maybe I reminded them too much of their own mortality, but in any event, they acted like I was contagious. For example, Peggy happened to be home today, so she went walking with the dogs and me, and we ran into Kurt near the library. He said he had to run because he and Jackie were going walking in the South Hills. This meant that they had to drive past my house, yet despite my request that they go walking with me, they didn’t invite me. Why? People who I hardly knew have done more for me more than people I trusted.

I also want my friendships to have depth. If my “friends” don’t care enough to help me in even minor ways, how am I to respond when they ask how I’m doing? Am I to open my heart, or am I to assume that they are just making conversation? I worked hard before my surgery so that everything I could do for myself in advance, I did do for myself in advance. It is simply not in me to ask people to do for me that which I would not do for them.

Maybe you chose your friends unwisely, or maybe they didn’t consider your surgery to be that serious.

I think I did choose unwisely, but how could I have known? They said they loved me. They stayed in my life for years. I didn’t see them betraying other people. Well, come to think of it, I did sometimes see one of them betray other people, but since he was also capable of being unusually generous, I overlooked these betrayals, not completely but somewhat.

As for not considering my surgery serious, it wasn’t serious in terms of life and death, but it was serious in terms of disability and emotional trauma, and I tried to make that clear. There comes a point when I no longer see the point in talking to people. For example, when Shirley asks me now how I am (which she only does as part of a larger conversation), I see no point in telling her. My feelings are deep and personal, and not to be shared alongside news about the weather with someone who I don’t think really cares. I had three surgeries last year, and will have at least two this year, so maybe some people have come to take bad health as a given in my life, and therefore of little note. This means that they might not have taken my surgery seriously, but that’s one hell of a disconnect, and I don’t know what to do about it.

My challenge is to somehow avoid becoming that which I hate, namely a self-absorbed person who keeps his distance—who is incapable of being more than a friendly acquaintance. One of the most charming and seemingly loving people I ever knew was also a person who equated being needed with being trapped, and who often ended friendships overnight and without explanation. She was like an elaborate movie set that looked like a mansion on the outside but was empty inside, and I don’t want to be like that. Yet, how could I find it in my heart to respond lovingly if one of these people who failed me should now become ill or injured?

I know that I sometimes fail people. For example, I receive gifts slightly more than I give them, and I remember other people’s birthdays somewhat less than they remember mine. The truth is that I don’t much value gifts. I personally don’t want anything, and I don’t usually have a clue what someone else might want. But I do try to be there when people are in distress. To me, that’s the core of friendship, and things like remembering birthdays are an option. Maybe other people feel differently, and think I’m a piss poor friend for not remembering their birthdays. Instead of, “Do unto others as your would have them do unto you,” a better proverb might be, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

I am trying to keep an open heart here, but the fact is that 43 days after surgery, I’m in more pain than ever, and I’m worried about my future. It’s not a good time for me to show love. Today, I can barely be civil.

11 comments:

Strayer said...

What a pain, Snow. Life can suck. Lots of older people who led good lives, were good people, helped others out in need, now sit at home completely utterly alone in their old age and infirmity, unwanted, unneeded. It's scary to think about getting older or more disabled. It's worse yet when it's you.

If there were a big fire consuming the neighborhood, would anyone think to help you out of your home? That sort of question plays through my mind as I get older.

People are busy and if the things you might ask of your friends, they consider unnecessary, maybe that's why they're avoiding you. I can't say. The only thing I can think of to say is you might have to become your own best friend, talk to yourself, debate yourself, I don't know.

So these friends of yours, I take it you have done things for them when they were in need, too, right? And that's why now, when you are in need of help, and they're not coming to help, you feel bad? That's not a good feeling.

It's lonely too, and frustrating, to not be able to do much and just sit there alone. Boredom and pain combined are not a great combo.

You need some recreation. I do too. My attitude is sour tonight too, but not too bad. Things could be so much worse, I keep thinking, and they probably will get much worse. Jobs are being lost all over the place. Natural disasters destroying homes and lives. The usual suspects.

So just think, at least a tornado has not yet destroyed your home and at least your wife still has a job. Sometimes when I'm really in a bad way, I watch the news. You can see how horrible things are elsewhere and although that sounds rather twisted, sure makes me feel better.

For example: Farrah Fawcet is on her last days most likely in her struggle against cancer. A young football star back east was just diagnosed too.

The Slumdog Millionaire little kid actor's slum home in Myanmer was destroyed by officials, as the little boy sat in the filth crying. The India officials told CNN that the 20 shanty shacks were illegally built on a public garden space. The families were given no notice. All their things were destroyed.

These are just a tiny fraction of the bad things happening right now in our world.

Gaston Studio said...

Our expectations of others often disappoint us, don't they? I often tell my children to not put themselves in the position of being disappointed, but have to reconsider this after reading this post Snow.

Maybe we just have to accept people for the way they are, for what they are willing to give us, and for what they are willing to share with us. And leave it at that. It's a fact that one person cannot change another, so do we just give up trying? Or do we continue to use our own actions as subtle means of how another can change for the better. But is the 'better' our choice or theirs?

Natalie said...

Snow, I read somewhere that birthdays are the anniversary of the day someone was born. If you love or treasure that person, then their birthday is the day you say to them "I am glad you are here, and I treasure you." A gift need not be involved. I see it as the appreciation for having the person in your world, that is the real gift.

I am sorry you are hurting both emotionally and physically. I struggle with the same issues, being a giver sucks sometimes.

CreekHiker said...

Snow, I was in a wheelchair for some time before and after surgery. It taught me a lot about who my friends are. It's hard not to lose faith in someone when you tell them what you need and ...nothing.

Even last year when I had pneumonia / bronchitis and asked a dear friend who lives 10 miles away but passes the nearby freeway off ramp multiple times each week to please bring gatorade. You would thing I asked for her firstborn!

I'm stubborn, independent and I don't ask for much. But the reaction of those I love has made me fear my impending old age.

By the way, I grew up in McComb.

Putz said...

you certainly wear your heart on your sleeve...read 53 comments on your freind's love and you certainly don't NEED another friend...you need a mormon blessing from priesthood brothern ...it works

serene chaos said...

I know a lot about constantly being there for people and giving until you have given so much that you are a mere shell of what you used to be. The sobering moment comes when you ask for something small in return only to be met by excuses...

I hope your recovery is going well! Thanks for your meaningful comments on my blog!

Snowbrush said...

Jane "It's a fact that one person cannot change another, so do we just give up trying?"

I don't necessarily see it as a question of changing people, but of learning who they are and whether our assumptions about what constitutes a friendship are the same as their assumptions. That said, the hard part for me is often knowing when it makes sense to bring up an issue. If I do bring it up, I might succeed in clearing up a misunderstanding, but I also give up an element of safety and control (or at least the appearance of safety and control) since it is hard to share a hurt without feeling vulnerable.

Jane "...do we continue to use our own actions as subtle means of how another can change for the better....

Influence by example, as it were. I tend to withdraw, and not concern myself with what message that sends. I don't mean withdrawing to the point of cutting off all contact, but withdrawing so that I give less and therefore expect less. Generally speaking, I believe in cutting back, not cutting off.

Natalie "If you love or treasure that person, then their birthday is the day you say to them "I am glad you are here..."

If a person holds that assumption, and I don't do something special on their birthday, then they will indeed think I'm a piss-poor friend. Maybe there's a gender element involved here. In other words, how likely are women to take the initiative in celebrating birthdays (and other celebratory occasions) compared to men? I think women are more likely, although Peggy and I are about the same. She does remember her close relatives, but that's about it.

Creek Hiker "I...asked a dear friend..."

Do you still consider her a dear friend? Maybe, like the Mason who wouldn't help walk my dogs, she evaluated your request and found it unworthy. It's an odd concept though to say, by implication, that I will help you with things that I consider important, but not with things that you consider important.

Being from McComb, maybe one of those creeks you hiked was McCall Creek. I used to love going there, and I also used to hike the trail around Percy Quin, it being one of ONLY two trails of any length in the whole state.

Putz, what is a brothern? A spelling error maybe? In any event, I never refuse any blessing from anyone. I haven't observed blessings to make any identifiable difference, but I always appreciate the thought.

As for wearing my heart on my sleeve, I would say that I am far more open in my writing than I am in my conversations. This means that you see more of me than do people who I've been around for years. However, I haven't noticed that they want to see a lot of me. Almost every person I write about has the address to my blog, yet I can write about them with almost no thought that they will ever read it.

Snowbrush said...

Serene Chaos, your comment came in while I was answering the others, so please don't think I overlooked you.

"The sobering moment comes when you ask for something small in return only to be met by excuses... "

I have this fear that, if I confront my friends, they will turn it back onto me by saying I'm too needy or demanding. In practice, I'm not, but I have the fear of looking like I am. That's just the worst thing to me, to look like I want more caring, closeness, help, etc. from someone than they want from me. The truth is that I'm still young enough (60) that most of my friends have yet to encounter serious disability, so they don't know what it's like to not only feel disabled but to also feel that they're on their own when it comes to dealing with it.

Chrisy said...

so very sorry to hear that you're still in so much pain....it's such an isolating thing...and it also affects the mind...people can say all they want about 'staying positive' when you're ill but from experience I've found that when you're very ill you don't have the ability to be positive...am hoping that the doctors are listening to you and understanding how bad you feel...surely surely something can be done!

Gaston Studio said...

Dropped back by to see how you're doing and noticed this comment of yours in reply to someone else:
"most of my friends have yet to encounter serious disability, so they don't know what it's like to not only feel disabled but to also feel that they're on their own when it comes to dealing with it."

I think you may have hit the nail on the head with that one Snow!

Snowbrush said...

Chrisy, you're so right in all you said.

Jane, thanks for asking. I'm hanging in there in the belief that it WILL get better. I need to post an update for everyone.