CRITIQUING GRATEFUL

Grateful: Feeling or showing an appreciation for something done, received, or to 
someone… English Oxford Living Dictionary

Years back, I was on my way to lunch in Hollywood with a woman I’ve known for now, nearly 30 years. Our friendship was oil and water. There were times when it was easy being in her A lost friendship, a broken chain in years of friendship.presence, and times, when the conversation was a lecture and criticism on her part. To be honest, after much contemplation, I sank our friendship. It became difficult for me to be a passenger in such murky waters.

November is a notable month. DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME ends, which means awakening to the Northwest’s bleak, rainy darkness, as opposed to its energizing spring and summer sunrises. ELECTION’S DAY: a rabid-fast-food-reality-show. VETERANS DAY, I coin courage under fire, saluting those who serve (and served) and are enlisted. Then there’s the granddaddy: THANKSGIVING, a celebration with family-friends, a work day off (for most of us), televised football, and the preparation of once-a-year-used-recipes, for come-back-for-second-helping meals.

The woman, who has inspired this essay, was my friend. I say friend, because I asked her to my home for holiday dinners, parties, helped her moved out of state, invited her to my wedding (still use her exquisite gift, a glass vase for flowers), enjoyed generous conversations about the nuisances of Los Angeles, movies, theater, the latest best sellers . . .  and our casual meet-ups at local coffee houses. I think back to that ride in her car for lunch in Hollywood . . .  and wonder . . .  who was right? Did she or I ever fit the definition of a friend?

Illustration showing girl reaching up toward a heart kitI recall that day (since losing thousands and thousands of dollars in a failed business) stating how grateful I was to have a banking call center job. I needed the money (be damned to my education and prior career jobs), during a time in our country when unemployment, the economy, and real estate (my investments included) were swimming in a cesspool. She, on the other hand, emphatically stated I wasn’t grateful, because I hated that job and soon would quit. Further, a $12.50 call center job was nothing to strive for, speak about, or at the least be grateful about. I knew she was focused on the creative world, publishing her books, not working anywhere she disliked, as in my mind-sucking-call-center-job. My wages weren’t even close to a penny of what she was worth, given her years of education and an impressive resume. I thought while she was lecturing me on the definition of grateful . . .  just how brave she was (during this crises in one of the largest world economies, California), living on her dwindling savings, calculating gas prices—to see if the trip was worth it, living with roommates she hated, and deciding which credit card would get paid first. I watched and listened. Her waving, frustrated hands emphasized her point of my misuse of the word grateful. Yes, I felt stupid. Maybe she was right to call me out. Yet, I also thought how grateful she should be to not be living on the streets, or sleeping in her car, or even, to have a friend like me, who has listened to her, not just in this conversation, but in others, criticizing and critiquing my use of a word, my thoughts, or validation of my lifestyle choices. Years later, I’m grateful for this friend. I realize what I want to accept in people I’m sharing lunch with.

My inner circle of women (including my sister) knows me well. We can disagree. I never feel their disrespect or that I’m stupid. I’m not embarrassed about Handwritten sign saying Thank You for Your Support!who am I, or under their inquisition. Our honesty and bond is grounding. No matter the time in between, when I don’t see each other—conversations pick up at the same rhythm as previously. These ladies support my writing and embrace our long-term friendship. I would feel a great loss (I can say the same for them) to not see them again. They’re like family—a lifelong sisterhood of love. I am grateful for them, and for all the times we’ve shared, and yet to share. Thank you:  Debi, Mary, Paulette, Teresa, and my dear sister, Valerie.

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