By Judith Ashley
I actually didn’t realize it then but my life as I knew it started a Massive Change twelve months ago. My youngest granddaughter, who’d lived with me all her life, graduated from high school and turned eighteen. I spent the summer and into the fall using a steroid inhaler and using a nebulizer. My aunt, the last of her generation, died in April at 103. I traveled to California in August for the Memorial Service. A few other cousins from across the US attended. And I stayed a few extra days to support my cousin in the overwhelming tasks of packing up 60+ years of her parents’ life.
I came home to my youngest granddaughter moving out, my health compromised even more from the trip and looking at my own home where I’ve lived almost forty years from a different perspective. Why do I have everything I do? When was the last time I thoroughly cleaned and dusted every book in the house? Was it fair to leave all the ‘cleaning up and sorting out’ to my heirs or should I do more myself?
During this time, I was in frequent phone contact with my best friend in Ohio who had memory problems. I made a commitment to myself and to her that I’d visit in the Spring.
|Many memories of our time in Ireland.|
Shifting and adjusting to the events around me there were times I felt I was in the words of the Simon and Garfunkle song “slip sliding away”. But I hung on. I was a friend and in that world, I knew it was my job to understand, make allowances for and make the adjustments when problems arose.
I kept my commitment to spend quality time in Ohio. I traveled on May 4th and arrived at my friend’s door at 7 p.m. EDT. I left on May 20th at 2 p.m. and arrived home at 10 p.m. PDT. I’d had many ‘hopes’ for my time with my friend. Some hopes were realized. We looked at photo albums and reminisced about trips we’d made together. We ate Grater’s ice cream. We ordered pizza from LaRosa’s. Other hopes were not realized – at least my hopes weren’t. While there was a subtle shift in cognitive thinking, it wasn’t a significant shift. I left thankful I’d made the trip and yet a blanket of sadness coated my heart.
The “what if’s” bombarded me. The “if only’s” piled up. I was her best friend. She wasmy best friend. We’d been friends since we first met in July 1980 at a Glasser Conference in Houston, Texas.
Since my return to Oregon, I’ve struggled with what my relationship with my friend would be, would look like. Would it help her if I returned and spent six months or even a year? Would it help if I called her every ________ at exactly the same time?
And over arcing those questions? How can I call myself her best friend if I don’t do each of those things and more? After all, best friends show up however they are needed.
So I’ve been on a journey reframing my concept of who I am within the context of the words “friend” and “friendship”.
Dr. William Glasser, MD was a very wise man. His psychological theory “Choice Theory” is an explanation of how and why we behave. One of the concepts is about ‘true conflict’.
Thinking about my conundrum from that perspective I know there is no way I can be in Ohio for six months or a year because I have other commitments here. And, to be honest, she is used to living alone. I’m not sure that having someone, even me, living with her 24/7 would make her happy. My visiting again? Yes.
So, the conundrum is of my own making in many respects. It is the picture I have of myself as a friend that is not being matched by my actions. And, if I did match my actions to that picture of myself as her friend, I’d have other pictures of myself as an author, mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, friend, circle sister, neighbor, etc. that would not be matched. There is no decision I can make that will assure all my expectations of myself will be matched. And that is a True Conflict.
Which is why I’m reframing my idea of what being her friend is.
So far I’ve come up with “as long as she knows who I am, I’ll be a part of her life. I’ll call and talk to her on the phone, send her cards and notes, and hopefully have another in person visit with her”.
Judith is the author of The Sacred Women's Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual traditions that nurture the soul.
Learn more by visiting her website.
See her author page at Windtree Press.