Breaking up is hard to do

Here's how it plays out on a TV sitcom...
Man: "I'd really like to spend some more time with you. How about tomorrow night?"
Woman: "Well, I'm working pretty late."
Man: "What about the night after that?"
Woman: "Oh, uh, I've got a lot of stuff I need to get done around the apartment."
Man: "This weekend?"
Woman: "Um..."
Man: "NEXT weekend?"
Woman: "I'll call you."
(Audience laughter)

Characters' facial expressions and sheer awkwardness make these dialogues humorous. In real life, they're not as funny ... especially when they take place within the context of a friendship instead of a casual dating relationship.

I'm not going to lie here -- I've played both roles. But I like to think I did the "blow off" thing with casual acquaintances instead of long-time pals (not that that makes me an angel).

You get to the point in some rare friendships where you've shared similar intimacies to those of a couple that's dated for a long time. You laugh at all the same things, have hundreds of memories in common, and know how to push each other's buttons.

When a long-time boyfriend and girlfriend break up, there's typically a purging process in which they return valuable items to each other and, in many cases, some items are just thrown out. So what happens when you break up with a friend? There's no engagement ring to give back or abundance of photos to tear right down the middle. It's mostly just memories, and those are pretty unpurgable.

Perhaps what makes the end of a friendship so jarring and strange is that how matter how great, it's all you had -- not much room for downgrading. It doesn't end like a romance with the typical offering: "But we can still be frien ... oh wait ... hmmm."

I guess we're left to say, "We can still be casual acquaintances." But is that any better than a romance-to-friendship demotion? With experience as a "dumpee" in both scenarios, I say no, it is not any better.

An anomaly of kindness

Anomaly: Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form or rule.
Kindness: The state, quality or habit of being sympathetic, gentile, benevolent, etc.

There are a thousand different angles from which to view Monday's events at Virginia Tech. We have in spades discussions on gun control, school safety, mental health and so on. One discussion infinitely worth having is with our children ... and, in some cases, ourselves:
• On this planet we touch hundreds of lives and they touch us back.
• At any given moment, there is a would-be mass-murdering youth wandering around a school, a neighborhood or a mall.
• We are not responsible for the violent actions of others.
• We are responsible for our own actions.
• What we do matters.

Killers like the one on that campus clearly have illnesses too deep to be undone by one act of kindness. But let's think this through for a minute.

A deranged person who fancies himself or herself the eternal victim spends a lifetime compiling "evidence" of their mistreatment. This evidence festers in the mind of an isolated person until it becomes justification for "punishment" of all kind. But what if we were to poke so many holes in their theory that they had no choice but to abandon it?

It's what scientists call an anomaly -- an abnormality in a compilation of otherwise similar observations. "Everyone ignores me ... except that one girl." "Everyone laughs when I talk ... except that one guy."

What if we had the presence of mind and social consciousness to be kind every day? What if we made eye contact and smiled at others even when it didn't benefit us directly? What if my brief greeting joined your quick inquiry to form evidence of kindness?

We can't make choices for other people, and ultimately can't blame violence on anyone but the perpetrator. But our "habit of being sympathetic, gentile, benevolent" can be the wrench that hurls itself into someone's misguided plans. You and I and our children can be that rare example of kindness to a loveless soul -- that pesky anomaly that disproves the hypothesis of hate.

Just think of it as one good apple spoiling an otherwise completely rotten barrel.

Returning to a familiar place

Recently I visited a place that could have been home to me. Another life? That's what it feels like. It was like I was in an episode of "The Wonder Years" with Simon and Garfunkel singing...

"Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence, a time of confidences.
Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."

I had a photograph taken with two old friends and it was one of the strangest feelings... Sometimes the transition from bosom buddies to characters in some kind of childhood play is so abrupt that it feels like someone's ripped a giant bandage from your body. But at the same time, the distance grew so gradually that it's like the middle of a well-crafted book (the phases of one's life fading in and out so deftly).

It's late. I know I'm likely incoherent. But I had to write down the feeling -- the feeling of longing for a friendship that never matured, but knowing there's nothing you would do differently to alter the destination you've arrived at. Like I said -- strange.

You hate to see that

This just in from the "I know I should be more gracious but I'm not sorry at all to see this" department: Karma sometimes works in mixed media.

P.S. Check out my new links...


If nothing else (and I do mean NOTHING), poptart songstresses like Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas can offer kids a lesson in spelling.

I know this because a newly purchased car has afforded me the luxury of SIX programmed radio stations -- two more than I used to have. This allowed me to find a pair of extra "favorites." Turns out out I don't like a lot of the stations around here, thus my "favorites" now include a couple of top-40 affiliates. A-w-e-s-o-m-e.

So today, when commercials were the only thing to be had on my ACTUAL favorite stations, I tuned in to some ridiculous song about diamonds and flying first-class and a massive shoe collection. The chorus went, "G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S." Am I the only one who thinks that's a fairly long word to be spelling out in a melodious way? Anyhow, the "artist" was Fergie, and it reminded me of that other ridiculous song by Gwen Stefani a couple years ago about holla-backing or some nonsense. The bridge of that one contained the inexplicable spelling of b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

Please don't think I'm comparing Gwen to Fergie here (though both happen to be solo singers who've broken away from popular bands and have exceptionally nice gams). I actually get a kick out of Stefani as a person and think she has a boatload of talent. Fergie? No comment.

These singers teach kids a lot of things, though -- like how to dress scantily and run around a stage in high heels. But most of all, I like to think somewhere, some over-MTV-exposed grade schooler is taking a spelling test and saying to herself, "Does that have two Ns or one? Wait ... b-a-n-a-n-a-s ... thank you Gwen!" And three years later, when that same girl goes to buy her first pair of pierced earrings and is in search of an under-dressed material-girl role model, she'll remember "Glamorous" and F-e-r-g-i-e.

Because sometimes you just have to share

So I've been listening to this musician online for about a week or so and really enjoy her style -- unique and fresh yet timeless. Then I saw her on Leno last night and discovered she was just as good live. Now I have to share, for those of you who haven't yet heard. Her name is Brandi Carlile and you can listen to her new single "The Story" (which is what first got my attention) on her MySpace page: Here.

About 55 seconds into the song, you'll see what makes her special. She's like some magical mixture of Sarah McLachlan and Janice Joplin meets Joni Mitchell and Andrea Corr. Carlile's music may not be your cup of tea, but there's no denying her dramatic musicality.

Lost in translating

"Listen to your heart." "When God closes a door, He always opens a window." "Maybe it's a sign."

At times I'm tempted to throw up my hands and say, "OK I give up. What are you trying to tell me here, Lord?" I find it difficult to decipher between challenges that are faith-stretchers and those that are slamming doors -- test of strength vs. hint to quit.

I've never been one to begin a sentence with, "God told me to..." There's nothing inherently wrong with sentences that begin that way, but my Maker usually communicates with me in more subtle ways. It typically involves the opening and shutting of doors. I seek guidance for a decision, then the proper path makes itself plain. Typically.

But what, then, when circumstances turn A-typical? I'll be strolling along, minding my own business and feeling confirmed in my pursuit. Then things begin to drop off and a "Dead End" sign looms in the distance. If I ignore the sign and press on, will I discover it is a mirage and be rewarded for my perseverance? Or will my fears be confirmed at the end of the path and I'll see my journey exposed for what it is -- a waste of time?

This is the virtually constant struggle inside me. I feel so passionate about the direction of my endeavors at times, but then something clasps my ankle as if to say, "There's a reason this isn't working out for you."

I guess for now I can stand still in the middle of trail and wait. How long, I do not know. Perhaps I'll just wait for a sign...