Closing doors, opening windows, emptying spaces

Last night I received a nice email from a former friend. It was an apology for things that have disrupted and eventually ended our long friendship. I read it last night, again this morning, and am now organizing my thoughts here before composing my reply.

I had the pleasure and privilege of lunching with trainer J and new tribe friend C yesterday. While J and I have had many, many free-roaming and far-reaching conversations over the months of working together, this was my first real opportunity to have an extended conversation and get to know C. I am not kidding when I say her charm, kindness, and wisdom have turned me into a huge fan-girl. Funny that a 3-hour lunch with people of such a varied age range – J is 28, I am 55, and C is 67 – could be so lively and entertaining.

One of the things C stressed as topics arose throughout our lunch, life is all about our choices and the ripple effect of the consequences. I wholeheartedly agree, even as I am not always so assured or as confident in my own, particularly when it comes to relationships.

This old friend made her own choices about our long 50+ year friendship and through the years has said many hurtful, stupid things. To be fair, I am quite certain we both have, because we are both very human. Looking back on the final series of events in my mind, I recognize that the choice to cease all communication and to terminate our friendship was more mine than hers and was my defense from what I viewed as relentless and ridiculous personal attacks.

I have zero regrets about that decision. At the time, it was among the hardest things I have done in recent years, yet it was important for my own emotional health and growth.

Now she has apologized for her words and her behaviors, and I believe the apology to be genuine and her regret for the cruel words and harsh judgments between us is real. She expressed the desire to close this chapter, reconnect and renew our long friendship. I now that is what I find myself mulling over today.

Forgive her? Of course; it would have been far more harmful to me to withhold that or to remain hurt and angry. Throughout the time since our friendship ended we have crossed paths at least half dozen times. While it was awkward at best to outright frosty hostile the rest of the time, I do not think or speak poorly of her. We had a falling out, but I wish her every happiness and success. The shortcomings in each of our personalities are well known to all who know both of us, and I have bent over backwards in my pleas that mutual friends not take sides in this dispute. There are so many things about her that overcome the qualities of her personality that I dislike and I seek to enhance the positives I found within her. For my own peace of mind, it is always better to focus and remember that she was my friend for most of my life and through some of the best and worst of events any person should have to endure.

That said, I am not sure our shared values are now enough to overcome the empty spaces that continue to exist. Many of my closest friends will refer to me as a Pollyanna or my generation’s rendition of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms. I take no offense at such characterizations; I really want to be someone who sees the good in people and merely be aware of the extent of the less desirable aspects. I have had enough issues overcoming my own negative girl; I did not then and certainly do not now need the embodiment of her message in someone in the friendship realm of my life.

With the conversation with C and trainer J ringing in my ears and both their thoughts on choices, I recognize that the woman I am today is an enhanced model of the one who struggled mightily to let go of a harmful friendship. I am not immune to the weight of the years, shared memories and experiences. I will never cease begin grateful for her support and encouragement during some really impossibly painful periods in my life, nor will I ever stop caring for and about her and her welfare. In the fair and balanced backward view, I have to acknowledge that her methods and her thinking, her overall negative outward voice are in contrast with the person I am and what I truly value in those in my realm. As my confidence and my own sense of self have evolved, I recognize that I do have choices in who I invite to be part of my life and how we spend our time. I am not so dreadful that I have no choices in the matter, that I should be grateful for anyone who is capable of tolerating being around me.

I cringe inwardly realizing how much of my adult life has been spent feeling inadequate and inferior to others in my personal life. Sometimes even in my choice of employment, I have undervalued myself and my contributions and sought acceptance and validation from peers and superiors, a few of whom had questionable values or quality of character.

After thinking about this off and on throughout this day, I recognize that my old friend and I will always be connected, that I value our shared history. However, as adults, at the places we are in our lives now, trying to rekindle the closeness we once enjoyed is not a task I want to pursue. Trust once broken is hard to rebuild, and while there is no specific instance that could be labeled betrayal, sometimes the harshness of our judgments and that ways we hurt those we profess to care so deeply alienates affection to an irreparable state. When our paths cross, I will be courteous and genuine in my interest in her life and times. But I have little desire to pursue anything that involves direct sharing of my successes and disappointments or leaving myself vulnerable to the impact of her thoughts and judgments. Where once I was completely transparent and unguarded in sharing my thoughts and feelings, I have finally matured a bit and learned to be more guarded with sharing my personal treasures with those who have wounded me with carelessness or casual cruelty.

In the perfect world people are not careless or cruel to others, yet I know I myself have been guilty of both on occasion. I have been stricken with regret when I realized my error, and I deserved the consequences of those actions. But I learned, and I try very hard to not let my temper or impatience or insecurity overwhelm my values and code of good personhood. Being human, though, means the only thing I am perfect at is my own imperfect actions.

But as I remind myself, life is long and there are many more opportunities to make good and better choices.

For today, I will acknowledge the apology and graciously accept it. As for the rest, I have no idea what may happen between us and what the future may hold. I will retain an open mind on the topic, yet with a very guarded heart.

Kitchen sink post – Energy

This started out as a simple post about energy and morphed into a lot of other things that impact that for me. Rather than trying to come up with a flashy, descriptive title that covers everything, it is just a kitchen sink post of thoughts from various events of the day.

So having lunch today with my associates and the topic of energy came up. I get it. They are all younger and fitter and hipper and generally cooler than I am, and it is as it should be. They are also more fatigued and haggard looking at times, which is also to be expected to some degree. Hard-working, workaholic young lawyers, hungry to make names for themselves, putting in the hours, living on less sleep, crap food, and the single and dating (or trying to date) lifestyle. Whereas I am not an attorney, have considerably more experience managing my workaholism, and I have nothing to prove to anyone in this firm or outside it regarding my professionalism, expertise, or work ethic. My lifestyle is also a lot tamer, and I prioritize exercise, adequate sleep, and healthier eating over getting out and socializing with my peers, etc. Between my own business and what I do for the firm, I bill at least as many hours as they do every month and possibly work slightly more overall. None of us are digging ditches or pounding nails to make a buck, either, so the physical demands of our occupations is comparable.

When it comes to lifestyles, mine is not better or theirs worse; priorities and choices are simply different.

But apparently I seem to have consistently more energy than they do, per opinions around the table. And since I am the oldest person in the firm, it does seem a bit unusual. Not really, though, and for the reasons delineated above.

Stress makes a difference as well. Stress for me is pretty minimal anymore, and I like this unstressed version of me so much I am actively trying to reduce any stressors even further. The exercise helps more than I would have ever thought, but so does feeling in control of my own job and ability to make a living wage. Sleep, glorious sleep, is a great equalizer that should not be underestimated. Since going to bed earlier to allow me to get up and get to the gym early, I have found a new sense of balance. I might want to stay up later and read or write or chat with my friends, but I make sure I shut down and am in bed by a decent hour. Certain nights of the week I can cheat a bit, because the alarm is set for later than 3:45, but most of the time I go to bed on time and wake feeling refreshed.

And happy, so happy. Since M is the same M as a year ago and our marriage remains healthy and happy, I chalk the increase happy factor to the lifestyle changes. Feeling satisfied, feeling challenged and successful with managing and overwhelming those challenges goes a long, long way to elevating my happy factor. Because it makes sense that when I am not stressed, tired, or worried, I am a lot happier, more energetic person. And maybe that’s the vibe my associates get from me – that my overall aura is more relaxed and peaceful, the energy more positive. They are very quick to reassure me that I am always pleasant, helpful, and easy to work with, but the productivity and efficiency of things happening within the office is ratcheting up. I am not sure about that, but perhaps they are right and I was a lazier slug at points prior to now. Maybe someday I will look back on this period and feel as if I were moving in slow motion now versus this mythical future point.

I have no concrete, precise answers – apparently this is my new fallback position when it comes to complicated questions. I do know I’d recommend the protein shake concoction for them in the afternoons, versus slamming more coffee or energy drinks. My protein shakes are the new favorite food and food group so my bias may be influencing my promotion of them.

My current level of energy and motivation to exercise? I like the way it makes me feel, and ultimately I like the challenges of learning and conquering. I think once past the terrible, dreadful, painful aspects of actually going and doing it simply became part of the daily routine. Burnout happens – I see it, I hear about it, and I understand it – but right now mind is locked on in a trance-like haze that causes anxiety and panic when I do not exercise. The images mind presents – weighing in a 300 lbs., not fitting into The Dress for G and K’s wedding in just over 2 months, the insulin needles and bottles of medications – trust me mind knows how to push those buttons, pull those levers that get me off my ass and back into the gym and working on a List.

What boosts our energy and motivates are going to be unique to us as individuals. But I suspect I am not unique in what kept me out of the gym and rooted to the couch for so long, and I hope I am not unique in my level of regret for the years I was sedentary. It was what it was, my choices and my headspace were different, and feeling regretful or angry about lost time is truly pointless. I cannot get those years back for a do-over, so I learned to let it go, accept it for what it was, and leaving it where it lay. Keeping my eye on the prize right in front of me is far better and healthier for me.

Speaking of the past, friend J related to me a funny tale from an old friend of his I have met a few times. Seems friend J was skyping with this pal and going on and on about my progress in the gym, etc. I guess his pal asked how he could have never been romantically involved with me since it’s obvious he is still crazy about me after all these years. Friend J simply said he has never been attracted to me like that, and I was a better friend to him than I ever would have been a girlfriend. After they hung up, I guess friend J got worried that this tale would find its way back to me from somewhere in our wide net of mutual friends and acquaintances, so he hastened to email me about it in advance lest my feelings be hurt by his frank assessment of his lack of attraction and my ability to be a decent girlfriend.

It has been at least a few days since I have laughed so hard. I mean, I had just started dating M when I met friend J, so it’s not like I ever sized him up or thought about him as romantic boy-toy material (despite what he likes to think every woman in the whole entire world dreams of when they cross paths with him). But for him to think my feelings might possibly be a teensy bit bruised by his frank admission all these years later? Too funny. I am still chuckling writing this post.

But this is what I mean about past being past and trying to recover prior events for a do-over. Believe me, despite the many times other friends express disbelief that friend J and I have always been just that – friends – I do not spend any part of any days wondering what might have been and if I missed my chance with him (OMG – ROFLMAO).

There are a few past events I wish I could revisit, all related to a desire for just another couple of minutes with beloved family members and close friends who died too soon, another opportunity to tell them again how much I love them and will miss them long into the future. Not taking better care of my health, or dating the younger brother I never wanted and am now stuck with for the rest of my life do not even come close to my occasional wishful thoughts for opportunities to change past events.

I believe my lack of excessive concern or worry about events and things I cannot change or impact or influence has done a lot for freeing more of my energy and ability to wring as much as I can from the moments I do have right here, right now. I cannot change my sedentary past, but I can build a more active, healthy future. Negative girl is locked away, and if mind has its way and stays as strongly convicted as it presently is, body will continue to get up off the couch, to move with purpose, and to get shit done.

And that is more than enough to keep me fueling my energy reserves in positive, healthy ways. Speaking of which, time for that protein shake before Friday night’s yoga class. Mind is still lobbying hard for a gym workout; body may rebel after an hour of yoga in 105 degree temperatures. Energy will be the deciding factor.