Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friendship

Friendship, and what it means to be a friend, has been on my mind a lot lately. It's so easy to take people for granted, to assume they'll be around until you're ready to call or stop by, but as many of you know, that's not the case.

I've always prided myself on being the friend that makes the effort. Before moving to Mexico, I was the one who sent the birthday cards, called spontaneously, coordinated nights out so we can all see each other. Obviously I'm not the only person like that, but since high school I've battled feelings of resentment when I feel like I am the only one who cares. Does that stop me? No. I still make the calls and check in on people because I want them in my life. There are people that I've distanced myself from because the effort is no longer worth it, but ever the worrier, I still think about those people all the time.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with all this. Some of you already know, but in the past 4-5 months we've lost three of our friends. At the end of the fall, Anastasia, who we knew from salsa dancing, died of colon cancer. She was really Ibis' friend, but the pain of her death still affected me. In January, our good friend Vivian Wong (also from salsa dancing) succumbed to breast cancer. Her death hit me particularly hard because she'd hidden from all of us that she was even sick. I feel guilty for not doing more, for not calling more often, and now I can't ever take that back. Both women were in their 40s.

On Monday a friend from college, Chris Carter, died. He slipped into a diabetic coma on Saturday and never regained consciousness. In his case, I don't think he even knew he was diabetic and his death has sent my friends reeling. His funeral is today and I wish them peace.

I've made a big effort in the last year or so to cut negativity from my life. Some of this was prompted by my own health concerns and a need to reduce stress, but moving to another country really teaches you a lot about who your true friends are, and who you can count on when you truly need them. It hasn't always been easy, but I feel closer to my good friends than I did when I lived down the street from them. I've also rediscovered old friends, both through my blog and on facebook. Since I moved a lot as a kid, it's been wonderful finding the people who helped make me who I am.

I swear I have a point. Last night I witnessed an interaction between friends (yes, I'm protecting identities here) that left me speechless. The callousness with which one friend treated the other, and the complete disregard for her feelings, stunned me. I truly don't understand how some people behave the way they do. Now one of them is hurting and I feel a need to fix it, even though it's not my problem.

*sigh*

What I'm trying to get across is how strongly I feel about valuing your friendships. A lot of my college friends are devastated by Chris' death, and while I wasn't close with him, it's unsettling to have someone your own age die so quickly for health reasons. I sent a lot of emails this week checking in on my own friends, just to let them know I care. (And if I didn't send you one, I swear I've been thinking about you. I do a lot of thinking when I'm alone ten hours a day.)

Finally, I'd like to thank all of you for being my friend. Many of you I've never met in person, and until last week never even heard your voice, but you've become my support system, and I'm grateful for it.

ETA: Warning - the comments have turned into a bit of a lovefest...

43 comments:

Turkey Lurkey said...

*Big hug* I had a friend once who told me that there were different kinds of friends in our lives. Ones that are there for only a page but they leave you changed in some way. Ones that are there for a chapter, to offer support during a certain time in you life, and others who are with you for your entire life. Each one is important in his or her own way. Like the saying goes.. you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. They are almost like a reflection of who you are and have the shared traits that make them so special. (Like a love for toaster ovens.)

I for one, am glad that we have become friends. (Holds up a martini.) Here's to friends! :)

Travis Erwin said...

Sorry to hear about your friends. Hope you and Ibis are staying safe.

Melanie Avila said...

Turkey, I meant to include the saying about you can't choose your family, but seem to have left it out. So very true.

I love that saying about the different friends. I've moved enough that I've learned that for myself, but it's hard for me to make that decision.

Toaster ovens rock.

*taps wine glass because I can't drink martinis*

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Travis. We're keeping our heads down.

Lisa J. said...

I can totally relate to your posting today. I had to cut ties with my best friend of over 10 years a few years ago. It hurts every day to not have her in my life but it came to a point where our friendship was toxic and I couldn't be a part of it anymore. Someone once told my that relationships/friendships are about give and take and when they become unbalanced and one person is giving way more than the other, it might be time to reevaluate if it's something you want to be a part of. That really hit me. I've tried these last few years to hold close the people who feed me positive energy and not waste so much time worrying about those who don't. I'm glad that we've re-connected and I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Have a good weekend, friend!

Melanie Avila said...

Lisa, that's it exactly. A relationship is never going to be completely balanced - one person will always need more from the other at some point - but if it's always one carrying the other, you have to decide if that's what you want. I had to make that decision last fall and the other person didn't take it well (you know this person) but I don't regret doing it. I regret hurting her, but I had to choose to put myself first.

Toxic is a good way to describe those relationships. Nothing good can come from toxicity.

WendyCinNYC said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's death. It's awful when people die so young. Your post brought tears to my eyes.

Janna Qualman said...

Melanie, this is such a touching post, and I'm so sorry for all the recent losses. *hugs*

And thank YOU for being my friend. I consider myself blessed immeasurably for all the people placed in my life. *sniffle*

Melanie Avila said...

Wendy, I'm just so puzzled by people who don't value their friends. That's really what prompted this. My friends are my life, they always have been, and I can't understand people who treat them like disposable amusements.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Janna. This year sure has been a doozy. You're definitely one who's helped keep my head above the water this year, and I'm so thankful for that (and you).

{{hugs}}

Nadine said...

I have so much to say about this post that I don't even know where to begin, but I'll keep it brief.

I value friendships so much and after moving away, I discovered who my real friends were - and one of them was not a bridesmaid who decided that out of sight, out of mind. I'm still hurting from that one.

I just want to say, thanks for being my friend Melanie. Every time I see an e-mail in my inbox from you, it makes me happy.

Melanie Avila said...

Even when it's an email full of bitching? :P I still feel bad for dumping a couple rants on you over the past couple days, but I appreciate you listening. I showed Ibis the video of you in the garden and explained that you're my friend from Hawaii that I'm always playing scrabble with. :)

It's so funny to me how you meet people. Those you think will be in your life forever fade away, and you find friends in the strangest of places. I love seeing emails from you too. :)

Nadine said...

Especially if its an e-mail full of bitching. That's what friends are for!

Sara Spock said...

Melanie, thanks for being my friend. Sorry you're going through some tough times and losing people close to you. And that I've been so busy with my own crap lately that I haven't reached out to say I'm thinking of you, because I am :-) I've head months and years like that and my friends were the gateway to feeling positive again. Thanks for being one of them.

*group hug*

Melanie Avila said...

Nadine, I try to always throw something amusing in even when I'm complaining. That's why I told you about Ibis whistling at me while I was working out, lol.

Melanie Avila said...

Aww, Sara. I've been worried about YOU! It seems like everyone has had a hard time this year - not even considering the economy - and I keep hoping that your close friends are still there for you. I miss seeing you around as much and hope things smooth out for you soon.

*joins hug*

Michaeleen said...

Mel - I don't know if you'd heard, but I'm sorry if not to be the bearer of bad news. Dave (Don Don) Mitchell passed away last year. It was a terribly sad thing, as they always are, and unfortunately preventable. You're in my thoughts. Hang in there and know that your good will will bear fruit.

Melanie Avila said...

I did hear about that. Lynn included me in the email loop that was going around. Just so sad. :(

Amy Sue Nathan said...

Melanie,
I think a lot about friendships too. I'm physically far away from some of my closest friends - and economically and situationally far away from my friends who are in close proximity to me. As writers we think alot, trying to make sense of ourselves and our words. There is no way to make sense of someone's untimely death, yet I believe these tragedies are strewn with lessons, if we let them be.

A little over 4 years ago my ex-husband died suddenly - so I'm well aware of the impact of these things. All I can say is to let it help you value each moment of each day more than you ever did before.

Janna Qualman said...

Aw. *sniff* Anytime, hoo. Anytime.

spyscribbler said...

I don't know how I'd have gotten through Glenn being gone without you around. I'm so glad I met you!

Facebook has gotten me sorta back in touch with two friends who were very dear to me growing up. We'd lost touch. I need to go visit them this summer. I'm always the one that's bad about keeping in touch. It's really not a lack of caring, but a lack of a sense of time. Like, my one friend, I have had her Christmas present for four years. I don't know how. It's just... you blink, and bam. Ages pass. I mean to do it tomorrow...

Your post is a good reminder that tomorrow can be too late.

I'm SO sorry about your friends!

Robin said...

I'm so sorry about your friend, Melanie. That's just so tragic. You are a wonderful friend, and I can't believe we met on the internet, because I feel like I made a friend for life. Hang in there. I'm going to go e mail all my friends, now!

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, that is so true. I know I value the people closest to me, it's remembering to tell them that is more difficult. I haven't lived in the same city as my best friend since 9th grade so I totally understand not being near people.

{hugs}}

Melanie Avila said...

Spy, I'm glad I can be there for you. One thing I hate about online friends is they aren't always online when I want them to be. :) I suppose I could fix that, but you get so used to them just being there that when life intervenes (or faulty computers) it really throws me off.

Four years is a long time!

Melanie Avila said...

Robin, you have definitely done a lot to help me. Fo' sho.

I owe you SO MUCH, I just hope I get the opportunity to repay you. Here's a start.

{hug}

Melanie Avila said...

*passes Janna tissues and an iced mocha*

Amy Mullis said...

*hugs* I need to go make a phone call. . .

Jenna said...

Great post Mel and very timely for me...I've been thinking a lot about this as we just lost Lois (my Dad's girlfriend of 10 years) last night :(.

And I know I am one of those kinds of people who can easily go too long without saying things like this so...I love you!!

You are truly a great cousin...God broke the mold when he made you :).

Melanie Avila said...

Amy, right back atacha. :)

Melanie Avila said...

Jenna, oh no! I'm so sorry. :(

I love you too! You've always been like another sister to me. That's so sweet of you to say.

{{hugs}}

Janet said...

reading this brought the golden girls theme song to mind. although I don't comment much I do keep up with your blog and think of you & ibis often! thank you for being a friend! (travel down the road and back again...)
:)

Melanie Avila said...

Aww, Janet, that made me smile. Thank YOU for being a friend.

(sorry, that was quite groan-worthy...)

Aimless Writer said...

Wow, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my best friend a few years ago. I know how hard this is.
Sending you prayers and peace.

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Aimless.

Allen said...

I always feel like the old guy here, so let me offer the COG view (creepy old guy).

I often look back on the people who have come and gone in my life. Many are simply a fond memory that feel like a single rose in a vase. Others are a garden of flowers surrounded by a lake.

Each have their purpose and I am happy for the time with them. I miss them when they are gone. To that end, most of the people who post here are in my present garden where I can come and view the beauty of the world as I wander through.

As our gardener, the next vlog you do, Melanie, you should wear overalls and carry a shovel.


as a side note, in order to get really good flowers you have to shovel a lot of, well, you get the idea.

So long as you know the difference between flower and fertilizer, the garden will be great.

COG alert over. You may return to your normal duties.

Melanie Avila said...

Allen, you're not a COG. :) I appreciate your thoughts, especially about shoveling a lot of ____. That's all I feel like I'm doing lately.

I don't know if I'll be dressing up in overalls, but thanks for being part of my garden. :)

Jen said...

I'm sorry to be so late...I've been slow on making the blog rounds lately.

*hugs* I'm very sorry about your friends, Mel.

*bigger hugs*

Melanie Avila said...

Thanks Jen.

*snuggles in*

Pink Ink said...

I'm so sorry, Melanie. I missed this post. *Hugs* to you. Death always gives us a wake up call to treasure even more so those who are living...

Janet said...

Lovefests are so much fun. :o)

Thank God for the people like you, who make the effort to keep up the connections. I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm quite fiercely loyal, but not as proactive as some other people I know. Keep up the good work.

So sorry to hear about your losing so many people so quickly. We just had a recent death in the family, and although it wasn't unexpected, it was still painful. And I'm with you; I don't understand people who mistreat their friends.

Hey, I even overcame my aversion to long comment trails to tell you I'm glad I've met you online.

Vaya con Dios.

Melanie Avila said...

Aww, Janet, I'm glad you DID comment. I've had such a positive reaction from this post it really makes it worthwhile. :)

I've slacked in my efforts over the past year or so, but by that I mean I don't keep in touch with as large a group of people. I've tightened the circle, so to speak. :) Those who've shown me they still care are in my circle. I have no hard feelings against the others, but I've stopped beating myself up for not keeping the friendships alive.

Janet said...

Yes, there is a certain point where it's not worth the effort to maintain a friendship. Our paths have headed in different directions and there aren't enough commonalities anymore. Which doesn't mean they can't be picked up again later if things change. We shouldn't pressure them or ourselves in the meanwhile.

Melanie Avila said...

Well said. I've learned to recognize fairly quickly which friendships will survive time and distance, and which will not. I'm often surprised by who stays in my life and who doesn't, but I've been able to avoid some of the heartache that comes along with it.