Tag Archives: unrealistic expectations

No such thing as a bad friend

I recently spent some time with a friend I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. She has two sons, close in age to my own. When all four boys were small, the six of us spent quite a bit of time together.

She was the consummate organizer — always quick to suggest a new hiking trail, a field trip, an adventure. I was the overwhelmed small business owner and full-time mom who gratefully followed her lead, knowing my sons would never have slept under the stars on the balcony of a mountain cabin or hiked with llamas or rafted down the Colorado River if it weren’t for her.

As the boys grew, they pursued different interests, found different friends, grew in different directions. Though their tight connections unraveled, my friend and I stayed close.

But when her family moved to Portland, the frequency of our visits dropped dramatically. Sometimes I’d only see her once a year, when she came back during the winter holidays.

In December 2009 , I was getting ready to start up Piestewa Peak with my husband and my brother, who was visiting from Seattle. I turned around, and there was my friend. We hugged and made enthusiastic exclamations about how we should get together. I promised to call.

I never did. And I felt so guilty about it that I let many more months pile up, until it felt like the tie had perhaps been severed for good.

But I mourned the loss of this special friend, to whom I’d often confided my deepest thoughts and feelings, knowing that she would always be straight with me in her response. So on her birthday last week, I sent her an email. I told her that I missed her and that every time I was hiking in the desert, I thought of her.

Much to my delight, she responded immediately. Better yet, she was here in town! We made plans to get together for a hike.

When I met her at the trailhead, it was as if no time at all had passed. My sense of comfort with her was intact, untainted by the lapse of time. For the next hour and a half, we caught up on each other’s lives as we made a wide loop through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

When it was time to go, I told her how glad I was to have had the time with her. I apologized for the fact that my self-absorbed distractions made me such a bad friend.

Her reassurance was immediate. “I stopped judging friendships a long time ago,” she said. “When we cross paths, we cross paths. When we don’t, we don’t.”

She knows that real friendships have no room for societal conventions, unrealistic expectations or guilt. Real friendships just are.

Monkey business and many caps

When my sons were small I loved reading the book Caps for Sale with them. The story, about a peddlar whose inventory of caps is stolen by some mischievous monkeys while he naps under a tree,  is a wonderful bit of silliness that’s fun to read out loud.

But it also has a great message about the futility of “best laid plans” and trying to “get all your ducks in a row.” It’s a message that bears repeating for people like me, who torture themselves with unrealistic expectations and the resulting frustration of realizing you can’t control as much as you’d like.

The weary peddlar wasn’t having a great day. No one wanted to buy his caps. He was hungry but he didn’t have any money to buy food. So he walked into the countryside, found a big, shady tree and decided to rest for a bit.

First, he checked the caps that were stacked high on top of his head: “…his own checked cap, then the gray caps, then the brown caps, then the blue caps, then the red caps on the very top.” (My fellow control freaks will note the color-coordinated inventory system, the systematic procedures and the fulfillment of duty before giving oneself a break.)

But he did eventually fall asleep. And as he slept, all of his caps (except his own checked cap) were stolen by a band of monkeys. When he woke up and saw them in the branches above him, each monkey wearing one of his caps, he asked to get them back. When nothing happened, he demanded, shook his hands and stamped his feet. The monkeys didn’t relinquish the caps.

Finally, in sheer exasperation, he threw his own cap to the ground, begrudgingly accepting the fact that he couldn’t control the outcome. And guess what? The monkeys mimicked his action. All the caps rained down at the peddlar’s feet.

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to be organized, on top of things, prepared and prescient, you have to give in to forces you can’t control.

We had a crazy day at work today. With April issue deadlines looming and Camp Fair happening this Saturday, we were all wearing too many caps. We were rushing and distracted. Some of us were tired; some were battling colds and flu.

That’s always when things don’t go right. Our Internet connection was exasperatingly sluggish. A backup toner cartridge for the color printer exploded, spreading yellow fairy dust everywhere and blocking our efforts to print materials we need to have on Saturday. While I was juggling payroll and HTML code I managed to send out an eLetter with an incorrect link to our Mother’s Day Cover Mom contest. (Here’s the correct link.)

Operations Director Debbie Davis, who’s wearing more caps than anyone these days as she also coordinates Camp Fair, finally came to me at 7:30pm and said, “I think it’s time to call it a day.”

So we threw our many caps on the ground, laughed about our frustrating day and headed home.