Yesterday I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I was to go to a going-away party organized for me by the members of my Toastmasters club. In all the years I’ve been a club member, I have always tried to contribute to every meeting and every event. I hated sitting at home doing nothing, knowing that other people were doing all the work. So I went out and bought some cookie dough, and I made cookies for my own party.
I had a great time. Some of the best friends I’ve made in Virginia are those I’ve met in Toastmasters. Cyd was a Toastmaster, as is Janet, my friend who doesn’t talk about it, and my married male friend. The man who held my hand at Cyd’s funeral, lending me some of his strength so I didn’t completely break down, is a Toastmaster. I can only hope to meet such fine people at the local Toastmasters clubs in Denver.
As an agnostic, I’ve often heard and have sometimes written about how much we give up when we give up church, because a church is a ready-made community of friends. For me, Toastmasters has been a pretty good substitute.
In keeping with my resolution to stop griping and try to be of use to other people, I want to encourage others to join a club. It doesn’t have to be Toastmasters; there are no doubt many organizations that can give their members what Toastmasters has given me. Everyone is interested in something, and someone has organized a club so those who share that interest can get together. Join a club. Contribute to the health of the club and the happiness of the other members. It’s one of many ways that we can feed other people (see my previous post).
I should probably save this for another post in case I run out of topics, but I want to get this written down for anyone who might be reading this blog: Here are three friends that every widow and widower need.
1. The friend who lets you talk about it. You need someone who will sit, maybe for hours, while you talk about your grief, your anger and your fear without giving you advice, trying to straighten out your life for you or asking whether you should be feeling as you do–because there will be times when what you’re saying and feeling seems wildly inappropriate. This friend needs to be available in person or on the phone when you haven’t slept in days or weeks and are thinking about giving up on your life.
2. The friend who doesn’t talk about it. This is the friend that acts as if nothing has ever gone wrong in your life. When she invites you to lunch, you can be sure that she’s got a lot she wants to talk about, and none of it is going to be your grief. This friend will remind you what normal life is like, that there’s still a lot of interesting and wonderful things going on around you. She’s the one that will let you relax and let out that breath you’ve been holding. You won’t be afraid to laugh when you’re with her or to talk about the attractive man that just walked by.
3. The friend who stands in for your parent. I think that we all have a need to run into the arms of a parent when bad things happen. I know that in the last two years, I’ve desperately needed someone to stand in for my father and do what my father couldn’t because he was grieving the recent death of my mother. I need someone who will take me in his arms and let my bury my face in his chest, cry and be comforted. I don’t think I’m alone in needing this, so my advice is to find someone who knows how to hold you and whisper those assurances we all need to hear: “It will be okay.”
You may be lucky enough to find a single friend who can do all these things or you may have more than one friend for each of these three roles. And, of course, you need plenty of other friends to fill lesser roles–the friend who pretends that your company is what her family needs to enjoy a weekend at the beach, the friend who firmly believes that everyone should see a movie every Friday, the friend who is always eager to have you try the food at a new restaurant with her. Maybe in a later post I’ll list some of these.
But that’s not the reason I’m writing about this. Please take a look at the short list above. Someone you know needs one of these kinds of friends. Someone you know will need one of these friends. Consider which of the three you can be, and set out to be that friend to someone who needs you.
Just some food for thought.