I think she shapes my thinking ~ invades my paradigm, maybe ~ more than I realize. She was everything that I am not: Brash. Cold. Drunk. Sharp witted. Keen eyed. Unapologetic. Always unapologetic.
Religion, apart from the odd trip to a psychic or her devotion to the daily horoscope, didn't touch her everyday. When I showed up on the front porch with cookies in one hand and Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes Jesus in the other, she didn't even flinch. We formed a friendship over time and I listened to hours of her story (A novel's worth of experience and suffering and hard living). She sometimes let me talk about mine.
At the time, I was being cajoled into thinking that I was something that I was not. The small church family that we were part of needed care and I was encouraged and praised and twist-my-rubber-arm led to believe that I was the gal for the job.
Deb saw right through the manipulation and fancy words that I, at the time, found enticing, alluring. "Why would you do that, Sandi? Nothing in it is real." She had no patience (and her impatience was something to behold!) for made-up compliments or feel good ego stroking.
But I was (and still am) looking for purpose outside of my work at home. The offer of an almost real job with almost real consequences and opportunity and responsibility was too tantalizing for me to ignore. I took the care giving role at the church. And Deb refused to talk to me about it.
She's been gone for, I think, three years (could it be four already?) and it's only been in the past month that I've begun to see what her fifty-something insight spotted right away: Flattery. I listened with hungry ears to false praise. My family is still working out the kinks that my choice then worked into the fabric of our home.
You might be seeing this in the lives of women around you, too. Women leaving their husbands ~ even their children ~ in pursuit of personal success. Women who are taking month long or repeated vacations just to "get away". Some are pursuing schooling ~ not because they feel purposeful or inspired or need to help with the family income, but because they are angry and are looking for ways to punish their men by forcing the guys to "step up". Some are openly having affairs. Some are just screaming silently, held prisoner by the duty and unending drudgery of their schedules.
For women who are pushing against the perceived confines of their circumstances, a little flattery might go a long way to convincing them that they are, indeed, capable of, deserving of, so much more than they have.
Deb would have told me that we really are capable and deserving, but her hard won experience also taught her that what we think is critically important in this life really amounts to nothing in our final days, months, years.
She had the career(s). She had the men. And the women. She was a published author and had her pilot's license. She'd done a bit of traveling and knew how to run a successful business. She'd abandoned her husband and son, too, to find herself and become all that she could be.
She was dead in her apartment for three days before anyone knew she was gone. Her son wept at her funeral, but his grief was detached, forlorn. I still don't know how to grieve for my friend who'd seen it all, done it all.
But I'm listening to her pointed interruptions as I watch the stories of new friends wind their way through months and years. I wonder if we'll see flattery for what it is and avoid being drawn into opportunities that look good and right and something-for-me-for-a-change motivating.
Is it possible to leave off that sort of temptation and just faithfully attend to what is True and future-building? I don't know. And how do we tell the difference between the thing that is going to hurt us and the thing that is going to build our lives and the lives of our loved ones?
Deb's life ~ and death ~ remind me that what we think we want or need will one day be exposed for the shadowy nothings that they are. And we will want our children. We'll want our Beloved. We'll want our sisters. We'll want our Daddy's. We'll be looking for hope beyond this side of life.
I'll keep driving by Deb's old place and remembering. She'd be so angry at me for getting all philosophical about these things! If she knew I was talking on like this she'd probably whip up the hem of her housecoat to show me how long her leg hairs had grown since I'd last seen her (Shaving was one of the many "useless" habits she'd abandoned in her final years!) or pull me over to the computer to show me her high score on the gambling site she loved so much. We'd settle into a game of Word Whomp...and she'd whomp me and gently chide me for being "actually sort of slow" at that kind of thing.
And she'd be right. And I'll keep figuring that out. But I'll get it, we'll get it, eventually. We'll figure out what's really important and give our all to pursuing that.
Check out Tia's post, "Drawing The Line" for more perspective on this. Just click on "Tia" on the sidebar.