Monday, June 6, 2011

"...You are Braver Than You Believe..."

There is reasonable fear and then there is crazy fear - the unforgiving thoughts that are followed by an out- loud mumble: that’s just crazy.

Yet somehow, crazy or not, these self-defeating ways of thinking seem to spring from behind, when we least expect it, and wrestle our minds all the way back to third grade. Suddenly we are found sleeping in a fully lit room - huddled under our Snoopy sheets, in full blown panic that the nightmare in the closet is about to unfold.

But the question now is, how long do we hide from the ugly one-eyed fiend…with purple fangs?!

Should we ever...really...expose the most tender and uncertain parts of ourselves, to the world? And if so - who do we trust enough to show our particular brand of crazy; the places that scare us most; our weakest of moments; our monsters in the closet.

Who, exactly, will catch us….when we are frightened to a the edge of the bed?


The conversation, as many of ours do, started in the middle.

“What’s wrong?”


“Are you sure?”

“Ok, I am afraid to die alone. “

“Why are you saying that?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I just am.” I said.

“No, I know that is coming from somewhere else. Did something happen?” she continued.

“Well I don’t have any children, Jerry is older than me, I am the youngest of five…it’s not looking good. I don’t want to grow old…with new people. I don’t want to die with some nurse in the room, I have just met, pointing to the exit sign.”

“You will never be alone Mo,” she said.

“You don’t know that.”

“Yes I do.”


“Because you will be with me.”

You guessed it! 1989.
Lisa. Joan. Mo.
And in that instant, a small concern that in recent years had grown into a startling, sweaty, afraid-to-open-my-eyes-in-the-middle-of-night fear – as if fleeing from a burning building – left my body, never to return again.

I often think of that conversation. I often tell the story of it. It was like hearing a song, for the first time, that moves you in such a way you know you have just discovered a “you gotta hear this” favorite.

I think that’s how it is when you meet a kindred friend too; like a song that gets into your heart on the very first chord. One that you play when you need to escape from it all; when you crave to remember who you really are: who we all want to be on some level: Robert Plant. And you flip back your hair, grab your air guitar – with your best friend, your side kick, your partner in crime – your Jimmy Page….right by your side…and rock out.

Yeah, our friendship, is kind of like that (but, of course, much more like the chick-rock-fantasy version…Ann and Nancy.)

So, today I decided to take an old favorite off the shelf, and rather than sit and listen to it by myself – I would like to say “you gotta hear this”.

Her name is Joan and I have known her for twenty-six years. She is a photographer. But not just any photographer. She is the type of photographer that catches life at its most vulnerable – before the say cheese, and after the flash – the lip-synching in the mirror moments that we don’t intend for others to see, but that we deeply, desperately hope that they do.

She lives for a glass of good red wine and she wears camouflage clothing with no apology. She forgives me every time I smash granola bars into the floor mat of her car and she has been stuffing “thoughts on life” post-its in her purse since the day I met her. She is the type of friend that will give you her last nickel; even if she knows it will end up in the land of broken lives (a.k.a.Caesar’s Palace nickel slots). And she is the person that reads every word of every sentence I have ever written and whether it blows her mind or numbs it, she tells me that “words can’t describe how much I love it.”

Joan is the only free spirit I have ever met that has absolutely no awareness of it. She is a born non- conformist who has never said the word non-conformist. She just doesn’t know how to not let her own light shine, and for that I admire her dearly.

And she is the person that when my brother died fifteen years ago, stopped her life entirely - which at the time was 3000 miles away from mine - and flew to my side – where she held my hand for seven silent days - as I melted into a voiceless puddle.

“Promise me you'll always remember: You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.”
-Christopher Robin to Pooh

She is my best friend, and she has contributed immeasurable amounts of joy of my life, and for that I love her dearly.

Fast forward to 1996, when I apparently tried to bring back the "Betty Rubble". Joan never said a word.

On my journey to finding a future filled with purpose and joy, I suddenly realized that yes, there is a voice inside of us that says “Change. Grow. Explore.” It tells us to pay attention to the signs along the road and trust that they will lead us to our greatest potential . But today, the voice said something else.

“Stop Looking.”

It told me to open my hands and trace my lifeline backwards – to remind myself of the beauty that I have already seen; the happiness that I have already felt; the love that is ingrained in every inch of my past. It reminded me that although the inspiration for my journey came from a very dark and despondent place, that there was always someone waiting at the edge...and...

– that I was never… really… alone. 

With gratitude for the dearest of friends,