Today is my day off, so I got up and started scrolling through my emails seeing what nonsense I might have to deal with on Monday. I got several notifications that former friends were searching my profile on LinkedIn and one of them requested my friendship on Facebook. One of them, I’ve rejected as a social media “friend” several times already. I knew her years ago, in real life, and she wasn’t fun.
Once, she was over for coffee and I told her my children and I had seen her walking her kids to a local park. She pointed to my half-Latina daughter and said, “Oh, I see you guys all the time, too! I know when it’s you, even from far away, because your kids are so exotic looking.”
Another time, a mutual friend of ours remarked that her son was looking to attend Temple University in the fall. She was a very proud mother, but the clueless friend said, “Oh, I went there and I consider my education completely throwaway. I learned nothing. It’s a total joke.”
But wait! There’s more.
When one of her children was born, I crocheted her a baby blanket, but in colors I thought she would enjoy, so she could use the blanket long after baby grew up. She adored it and said that she wasn’t even going to use it as a baby blanket; it would be a wrap. I saw her wearing it around town every now and again. She announced to me immediately after I gave it to her, “If you can do this, I can. It must be so simple.”
There were a lot of things like this. Like telling me she couldn’t “get into my writing” all the while demanding that I check out the pieces she’d written. Admittedly, she’s a great writer. But she refused to attend any of my booksignings when my first book came out, and when she found out I was writing it, she said, “Do you want me to pass it around to my family for critique. We’re all artists. We can help you get better.”
FYI: I studied at Harvard and have multiple graduate degrees from a couple of universities, and I’m driven like that because I’ve spent a lifetime being told how “nothing” I am. So, I overreached a bit. But okay, enlighten me on how to get better at English, rude friend. I hate that I have to talk about my education. It feels snobby, but when you’re blond and your name is Tiffani, you have to justify smart things to jealous people sometimes. All women know this story. I imagine that even clueless friend knows this story. Still, I believe in never turning away a good lesson, so I know my work is not perfect and not even a lot of people’s taste. I’m good with that. I’m open to suggestions, if I ask for them.
I know. You think this is bad enough, but it actually gets worse.
I told her once about my uncle’s suicide, when we were discussing the subject, and I told her that I’d been very close to him. She didn’t reply to my story, but instead, railed on about a relative who had recently been diagnosed with severe mental illness and had been hospitalized for a few weeks. She was furious at how this might burden her extended family and expressed that she was angry that this woman got a break from her husband and kids for a few weeks in the psych ward, while clueless friend never got any such break.
I tried to talk to her about how her words made me feel, and how they might have made other people feel, but she was never open to listening. Eventually, I stopped returning her calls and didn’t meet her at the park anymore. It was kind of sad, because there were other moments when she was actually lovely and not nasty at all, and I appreciated her friendship. For a while, I wondered if she had some sort of issue with social skills, or if she had her own battles with depression. Chronic issues like that can certainly bring a spirit down and make them direct their sadness outward. It can manifest as anger or meanness. I’ve had a lot of experience with such things in my own family. Interractions with clueless friend felt a little like this.
When I think of her today, this is how I pray for her–that she will find joy and see the light where I believe she often sees only boredom and struggle. She often complained about things I hadn’t even noticed or ever thought of. Perhaps, she’s simply a deeper thinker than I. There’s something hidden away about her, or was. She smiled a lot, but she could turn furious on a dime and go cold at the strangest things.
I don’t really know her anymore. She could be completely different now. I hope the sad parts of her have been warmed. But if I concentrate on her past words, I’ll just get sick to my stomach at the powerlessness of having to relive them. Obviously, I have some stuff to work on here as well. I’m angry because of her past racism towards my own children, her belittling of other people’s education, her dismissal of people’s art, her lack of compassion for others’ suffering. I wanted her to be better, and she just wasn’t. Ever happened to you?
As I thought of her today, I immediately went for my crochet hook (without even thinking about it) and picked up a project that I started a couple of days ago. My muscle memory took over, and I knotted and looped, my breathing calmed, my mood rose. I was in a familiar place of comfort and joy.
It’s been a long year and half, and I’m a teacher tired of coronavirus, a mother who hasn’t seen her oldest son in over a year because he’sin NYC and I’m in PA. I’m a writer who woke up a couple of weeks ago and decided never to write a book again. It’s not easy work, and I’mnot sure if I can do it for another 25 years (It’s been that long). I’d like for things, around this world and my small one, to improve quickly. They are improving slowly. I just have to wait some more. That is hard. In the meantime, I do what brings me joy; I knit and crochet at the end of a long day and I give away the products to those who can’t do this stuff and offer patterns to those who can. Crocheting and knitting gives me a sense of control when other areas of life feel like they’re spinning. Like, when you know an apology is never coming for words that were carelessly said. God bless my old friend. I hope she did, eventually, find crocheting very simple and therapeutic.
How has your art or craft saved your sanity, Dear Makers? Do tell.