Who Loves a Funeral?

I lost a dear friend last week.

Someone who I run to with all my gardening questions. Someone who shared the best lemon bar recipe I’ve ever tasted. Someone who brought me seeds for my garden and who I drove my mom to her house just so she could give my mom a tour of her amazing yard and garden. She was witty and smart. She was funny and dry. She gave daily reports of the weather via the top of her shed. She laughed with me over my bazillion zucchini’s and cheered my oldest on when he went to culinary school. She gave me a few butterfly plants that are planted right outside my office window and I seem to just stare at them and cry.

I will miss her so much.

And I can’t believe at 44 years old she is gone. On Sunday she was commenting about my potatoes and by Monday she was dead.

The worst part is I don’t really know how she died. The obituary didn’t say. Her family hasn’t said and any mutual friends we share doesn’t know either. I don’t know why this bothers me so much. Maybe it is some morbid thread running through me that causes me to be curious. I just want to know.

And she hated funerals so therefore her husband isn’t having any services.

At first I was nodding my head. Of course you want to honor the dead’s wishes.

However. I started thinking. And then I started laughing.

Who in the hell goes around saying how much they LOVE funerals?

Shit, I’ve been to so many funerals (large Italian family living in Los Angeles. We knew A LOT of people) and I can’t pinpoint one I was jumping up and down at announcing, Man, I love it here! The casket, the flowers…LOVE. IT! (Snap, snap. Hair flip.)

Funerals are not really for the dead, are they? I mean, they are, well, dead. Do they really know any different? The funerals are for those left behind. A place to put the tears. A place to say goodbye. I guess maybe I’m just someone who needs closure in a tangible way.

These emotions have been bubbling inside me for a week. Unanswered questions. Heartbreak. And lack of closure.

Rest in peace, my friend. I know she used to read my blog everyday so I thought it fitting to give her a wee shout out here. Winter just won’t be the same listening to you carry on about all you are doing in your garden – in the snow.

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Writing Challenges

When I was in high school I used to show my best friend all my silly little short stories I wrote passionately on a typewriter my parents bought me after my 9th grade junior high graduation. She used to tell me that my spelling was awful (I had the hardest time with words like ‘clothes’ and ‘deodorant’).

For Christmas one year I put together a small cookbook of family favorite recipes my mom and grandmother used to make and gave it to both my brother’s and their family, one to my parents, and one to that best friend I mentioned above. Inside the cookbook I thought it would be fun to add a few Christmas related short stories. Since no one (I mean NO ONE) said a thing about the stories I decided to put my Writer Hat on and bravely ask my friend what she thought of my short stories. I wanted to know if she liked the twist at the end of one of them. Her response? “I figured it out halfway through.”

Oh.

I know. I need to pull up my big girl pants. Writing is a tough business for us sensitive types.

Then, on another Christmas my sister-in-law picked up my 10-years-worth holiday scrapbook that I brought out to share with my family since we have been spending every Christmas Eve together from the beginning of time – or the mid-1970s, whatever. Anyway, she read something in there she didn’t like.

In a nutshell: I journaled about one Christmas Eve that took place at her house (and my brother) and I said that the highlight of that holiday was after we left their house and went to my uncle’s house where my grandmother and extended family gathered. (In our large Italian family Christmas was spent together for two straight days of talking, eating, cooking, and repeating.) It was one of my grandmother’s last Christmas but of course I didn’t know that then. Well, she got offended with what I wrote and stormed out.

Yes, in the dramatic flair of a high school drama student with a sparkly crown on her head. All that was missing was the sash around her chest.

And chaos ensued.

My brother went after her followed by my other brother and other sister-in-law, all in an attempt to calm her down and bring her back to the house so the holidays could (awkwardly) continue. Meanwhile, my parents were pissed AT ME. “Why did you write that?” “Why do you have to write stuff like that?”

When my sister-in-law did return to the house she started yelling at both me and my mother asking my mother “How can you allow her to write this stuff?”

Mind you I was thirty-five years old.

Needless to say I never (and I mean NEVER) allowed ANYONE to read any of my scrapbooks again. In fact, I now hide them whenever I have company coming over.

But that event was the turning point for opening my eyes at a challenge I think I’ve had my entire life and one that these days I have to constantly – as in EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. – tell myself that I can move past and not be defined by what others think. So what if they don’t like my writing? Who cares if they don’t support me in the job that I feel was a true calling of mine? What difference does it make that they snicker at the silliness of it all behind my back? Big deal if they read something and only point out a few typos and that’s it?

Every day I have to work at being a Big Writer Girl who isn’t so sensitive and who has to move past the need to be accepted as a writer by her family/friends.

Believe me, it’s fucking hard.

Enter blogging and social media.

Oh Me Gawd, someone hold me. If I had known back when I started it all (blogging and social media) that it would have caused as many problems as it has, I might have been less public about it from the beginning.

When I first began blogging I was over at Typepad, which meant all my friends and family knew where and how to find me. That was actually one of the big reasons for putting my Typepad blog to rest and beginning anew over here in Wordsmitheryland.

That best friend I mentioned in the beginning of this post? She is the one that read my blog and felt I was talking directly about her. The post was about people who are so busy with life and how I choose not to live my life that way. (It was longer, I believe, but that’s the gist.) She felt I wrote that in direct response to her (she never did understand that all that I write about on my blog(s) is about ME and that “too busy with life” post was about every single person I know). Our friendship began to suffer around mid-2008 when I did the blog post and around the time of personal and huge life changes in my own life.

Anyway.

To this day we are still considered “friends” but we are not really talking or involved in any sort of relationship even though she is godmother to my firstborn and I am godmother to her firstborn and we’ve known each other since we were tweens.

Since that incident on my blog there has been nine hundred other posts that have stepped in and caused the same problems.

In another words, my words have gotten me in trouble since I began writing those little books in the third grade on tablets of paper my dad gave me.

And then there is social media.

I can’t even count how many times someone (my extended family) will comment about what I write about on Facebook. (Give me a break, seriously, it’s Facebook, not the United Nations.)

I complain too much. I shouldn’t have said this. I said that in a bad way. I hurt someone’s feeling talking about the other thing. I shouldn’t talk about that. Why does she have to say this or that? I showed someone what you wrote because I was like, she is saying that on Facebook? My mom will call me and tell me that so-and-so said they couldn’t believe what I posted. I will have family members tell me how they roll their eyes at what I write about on Facebook. A week doesn’t go by that someone won’t negatively comment to me about something I have posted on Facebook.

I’ve heard it ALL.

And every time I (literally) scratch my head. What? Really? WHY DO YOU CARE? It’s Facebook! It’s a fluffy place to talk about fluffy things. And I somehow made you mad or offended or pissed off? Seriously?

Fuck.

That is my life. It never stops.

Which is now why I have a blog without a name so I can’t be as easily found. And no one in my family has asked for my new blog. And for awhile I got away with blocking people on Facebook until I was called out on it and was like, “oops.”

And to this day not one person in my extended family ever asks me about my writing, my books, or my projects. But, I will say I am kind of used to that by now, but sometimes when I think about it the lack of care hurts me. Sometimes my mom will say, “When are you going to ever be done with that book? You’re going to be fifty before you get it published.” Or she will write on my Writer’s Digest magazines, under headings of “How to get published in whatever-year” “WHEN??? HA HA HA.”

Maybe people don’t know what to say to writers – kind of like how people don’t know what to say to someone who just lost a loved one. I don’t know. And believe me, I don’t let this hold me back – but I do have to work on keeping that weight on my shoulders from hurting and crushing me. I have to constantly keep my head above water and remind myself regularly that I was meant to be doing this – despite not having any support – because I have loved writing since the third grade when I wrote about doughnut sisters (yes, actual doughnuts, complete with sprinkles). 

And for the record, the book my mother was referring to IS finished – along with almost ten other novels and non-fiction books AND a children’s book – I am only rewriting and editing now.

Relationships

I recently had a discussion with someone that was sad and upset (and mad) over a certain someone who failed to acknowledge, contact, interact – you name it – with the someone. She kept going on and on about how upset she was and how she couldn’t quite get past it.

Then I remembered reading something somewhere (probably somewhere super reliable like Facebook) that said, more or less, why waste your time on people who don’t care about you when you have people who DO love you right in front of you?

Of course, I’m guilty of the same thing so even as I was telling this person I was really trying to remind myself as well.

I have been through my share of bizarre and strange and hurtful relationships.

I had a friend who I grew up with. We were best friends from the days before puberty. She was my maid of honor and I was hers. We both baptized each other’s firstborns. Then suddenly she read something I wrote that she felt was directed 100% towards her (for the record, it really wasn’t but that is neither here nor there at this point) and she began to step further and further away from me. Of course, I had no idea I had hurt her with what I wrote so I continued to send her cards, emails, and messages on Facebook. Then she finally told me (she also told me that all those attempts on my part stressed her out because, get this, I was doing too much). Then we had a few email conversations and a couple of promises to get together that never panned out on her end (she didn’t call when she said she would, etc.). I told her the only way to move forward was to get all the pent up whatever out on the table and she just couldn’t do it. So, she let the relationship falter and die. Some days, I can hardly believe it. I mean, I considered her my sister and my kids called her aunt. She knows more about me than my husband. But I immediately cut off ties and deleted her from Facebook and stopped all correspondence with her. Strange. Makes me wonder just how good a friend we really were for each other if it all went poof over a couple of stupid sentences.

But she isn’t the only one.

I have a sister-in-law (she is married to my husband’s twin) who claimed we didn’t love my mother-in-law enough (yes, those were her strange observations because she judged us on how many trips we made from San Diego up to L.A. and I’m guessing it wasn’t the correct number in her I-Am-Now-God Book) that when she died they waited until she was cremated and buried before they informed us – in writing. When I gave her a piece of my mind she said she was tired of trying to figure me out and adios. Wha? That was eleven years ago.

Then there are those relationships that you are cordial to because you have to be but what do they really mean, exactly? I certainly don’t go out of my way and shouldn’t relationships be a two-way street? It can’t always be a one-way e-ticket (although a roller coaster sounds about right with some people!). You try and you call and you show you care but when the other person just clearly shows by their inactions that they don’t care, how much time and effort should those relationships take at the end of the day?

I don’t have answers to that.

I have several – more than I wish – of those types of relationships in my life. The ones where we could live five minutes away and still only see someone during the holidays. And no matter how often one calls or texts and get absolutely nothing in reply – how low does one need to beg for a relationship before you call yourself a complete putz and move the hell on?

I’ve had relationships end with friends over the years that fall into the category of convenience (we were neighbors, say, and when we weren’t any longer the relationship just wasn’t the same). Some change because we change. Not good or bad and no big argument or fight but we just drift and head into different directions and are following a different path than the one traveled on before, together. Some relationships end because I do believe they were put on your path for only the time they served and then when the purpose no longer existed, the relationships ceased.

I have a friend who lives in my subdivision and we met because our kids were in the same class and we both hailed from the southern California region and moved to Idaho around the same time. I don’t always talk to her. Life gets busy for both of us and sometimes she calls and I don’t immediately return her call. She still has a flip phone and she isn’t on Facebook (what the hell? I tell her all the time we need to move her into the new millennium) so she doesn’t text. But the minute one of us calls the other we are connected and plugged in and she is someone I can call after months of driving by her house and promising myself that I will remember to call her today – and ask for a favor or ask her a question or just call to say I was thinking of her and we will end up talking for an hour.

As I was telling that someone before about loving the ones that are near – I am working on that at the moment and trying to let go of the relationships that have fallen to the side of the road – much to my sadness.

All relationships take time. It takes a two-way street. It takes love and patience and forgiveness. And sometimes it just takes closing the book and leaving the unhappy ending the way it was written.