Archives for posts with tag: friendship

We love to talk about whether a year has been “good” or “bad.” (Or is it just me?) The real answer is usually “both.” For purposes of this post, I am only addressing my own progress, or lack thereof.

For the first time, I chose a personal “Word of the Year” for 2013.

Did I live up to it? No and yes.

No, in that I have not done yoga every morning. Or most mornings. Yes, in that I can still kick higher than my head, and have actually done so unsupported by furniture recently. (No guts, no glory.)

No, in that I haven’t posted as regularly to this blog as I intended, nor have I added any visuals. Yes, in that I have posted about more personal topics, and haven’t abandoned the blog. Also, I’ve linked to posts from my Facebook page, and shared posts directly with people I don’t even know, including real, live, published writers. Another yes: I attended WordCamp this fall.

No, in that I have not found a “real” job. Yes, in that I have, with the help of my friends, a new resume, and some ideas on what I would like to do next. Yes, in that I have applied to some interesting jobs, and made it to a phone interview once. I’ve joined a professional group in a field of interest. Yes, in that I am actually telling people I am looking for work.

Yes in that I am reaching out and developing new friendships. Yes in that I have pushed myself far out of my comfort zone by joining Toastmasters, and will be giving my “Icebreaker” speech on January 28th.

I plan to choose another Word of the Year for 2014. I was considering the following: Control, Connect, or Direction. I think now I prefer “Momentum.”

There is nothing like working retail during the holidays to remind you of your feet, and of the simple pleasure of a pedicure.

These days, there seems to be a nail salon on every block; not so in my girlish youth. In high school, perhaps inspired by the 1940s movie stars I admired, I painted my own toenails bright red.

At some point I stopped. From time to time I’d buy a new bottle of polish and treat my tootsies, but I didn’t have my first salon pedicure until I was in my 30s. Unaccustomed to that level of pampering, and feeling guiltily self-indulgent, I did not develop a habit, and don’t recall knowing anyone who did.

Around the time I moved back to the Bay Area in 2001, I noticed that extreme personal grooming seemed to have become a thing. I saw salons and spas everywhere. (To this day, I don’t know if it was geography or Zeitgeist, or whether I simply hadn’t been paying attention.)

Back to the salon I went, still feeling a little self-indulgent and self-conscious. Then I learned the secret (at least for me)  of truly enjoying the experience. Company.

Two of my fellow soccer moms and I decided to go for pedicures together. We did, and enjoyed it so well that it became a semi-regular event, often followed by lunch or a glass of wine. Suddenly, instead of an exercise in self-centeredness, it was a communal ritual. No longer a waste of productive time, it was an opportunity (or obligation) to relax and catch up with each other’s lives.

I gave up regular pedicures when I left my real job. Not too long ago, I indulged again, accompanied by two of my dearest friends, on the day of our high school reunion. The three of us sat in a row. One of my friends had never had a manicure or pedicure (we’d decided to go crazy that day, and get both) and she was mildly apprehensive. We put her in the middle.

The process began. The nail technicians greeted us, and we chose our colors. Our feet in warm water, our backs on massage chairs, our minds on each other, the three of us talked and laughed. I remember glancing out at the rest of the  salon a few times, noticing other patrons in other chairs. They were mostly women, and the happiest looking among them were with someone else.

I do not mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with a solo trip to a salon; I get my hair cut by myself. I am simply reminded that pleasure shared is pleasure multiplied.

My friends and I left our chairs that day feeling fresh and fancy, and pleased with ourselves and each other. The rookie among us said, “I want to do that again and again and again.”

Me too.

Reunions offer a particular kind of joy: the past and present converge, and the resulting emotions are layered and complex.

I recently attended a high school reunion, and during the same trip I made a visit to my former office. I was also able to spend hours of time in long conversations with several of my oldest and closest friends.

I doubt a stay at the most exclusive spa would have been more reviving. I came home with a reserve of energy and optimism that I can still tap.

Today I am anticipating another reunion, but not for me.

My literacy student, B.R., had a Big Brother when he was a kid. I’ve heard many stories about the time they spent together. Jim, the Big Brother, took B.R. places he’d never been, and exposed him to music he’d never heard. B.R. was exposed to a broader world than he had imagined. He told me about his gratitude, and his wish to look his Big Brother up someday, just to see how he was doing. The last time B.R. mentioned Jim was  Monday night, as we were wrapping up our lesson.

At home that night, on a whim, I got to Googling. I had a name and an occupation to work with.

In a few minutes, I found someone who could very well be THE Jim, and an email address.

It took less time to find him than to compose a message and decide whether to send it. I knew how B.R. would feel about a reunion, but what about his former Big Brother? The internet offers a wonderful but creepy capacity to find people who may have very good reasons not to want to be found by a particular searcher.

I wrote a brief note, explaining how I knew B.R., and saying that if he was the right person, and wanted to be in contact, I could convey a message to B.R.  If he was the right person, but did not want contact, I just wanted him to know that B.R. remembered him with affection and gratitude. Then I went to bed.

Yesterday morning, I had a response. I’ve been smiling ever since. Yes, Jim said. Although he lives half a world away right now, he’ll be home this summer and would love to see B.R. In the meantime, we’ve arranged for me to show B.R. a video message tonight when he and I meet for our regular lesson. Jim also sent a link to a photo sharing site, where he has uploaded pictures from their time together, so many years ago.

I’m saving the video for B.R., but I peeked at the photos. There was my student in a picture dated 1981. There were several shots of him with the same serious, sad face I recognized, but several more with B.R. grinning like I know he can. The past and present converged, reminding me of the time between, and the violence and hardship B.R. had known before we met.

Somewhere between the smiling kid at the beach, fishing and learning to appreciate the Beatles, and the smiling man at the literacy center, reading and learning to overcome his fear of writing and spelling tests, there was a time that is not mine to share, so different from B.R.’s childhood fun and the present.

The sweetness in the photographs. The bitter awareness that B.R.’s happy innocent enjoyment would morph into something else entirely. The incongruence of his early adulthood to the person I know now. The cheerful thrill I feel at surprising B.R. tonight. Of course I wanted to cry, but were they happy tears or sad?

My smart and sassy single friend and I were chatting on-line, as is our habit lately. The conversation came around to her most recent foray into dating. First we kicked that word around a while. (Such an odd thing to call what we do at this age) I noticed that my friend had upgraded her description from “definitely not a date” when she socialized with this man to The D Word, and gently teased her about that.

The dating, or whatever it is, is proceeding well. So well, in fact, that my friend is confronted with the prospect of becoming a “girlfriend.”

“I won’t do it.” The last time she had been called “my girlfriend” she was 46 years old. “It was ridiculous.”

“I know,” I replied. ” I thought it was ridiculous when I was 34. I had to get married for lack of a better descriptor.”

(Just teasing, Dr. T.- Loved you then, love you now.)

Not too long ago, a dear friend and I were chatting online. We covered a lot of conversational ground; it had been a while since we’d been in touch.

We checked in on some serious subjects. “I felt better when I was writing” she remarked. “Me too,” I replied.

I had been writing sporadically, when I wrote at all.  I had abandoned drafts waiting here, and subjects I wanted to explore elsewhere. I had more than enough time, so what stopped me? Me.

So I sat down and faced my lonely blog, and chose a topic. I wrote and I posted. And I did it again and again. And I did it some more. Guess what?

I feel better.

Quite a number of years ago,  I was sitting in the backyard of my friend Lynda’s house, after a high school reunion. Lynda was there, of course, as was my friend Carol. (Carol is a sage, by the way, and as you may have guessed, she, Lynda, and I attended high school together.) Carol was holding forth on the subject of “gifts”, as in the sort you are born with.  She identified hers, and I asked her, “what about mine?” (I have to confess that at this point, I do not remember whether Diane, who deserves her own post, was still with us or whether she had headed home to her family.)

I may not recognize  all of them, but my best gift  has been apparent to me for a long time: I have been blessed with the ability to make and keep friends. Like it or not, once you are my friend, you are my friend until you officially resign. The first person to bring this to my attention was my mom; she was visiting me in San Diego while I was still in my 20s, and observed, ” You make friends wherever you go.” I remember thinking at the time, “Why wouldn’t I?” In my youth, I took friendship for granted in the same way I regarded oxygen.

My friends are my oxygen. They sustain me. No joy, no sorrow, no aggravation or amusement would mean anything without them to share it. My worst job was made tolerable by my friendship with Thu. My best job was made better because of friendships with too many folks to name. (ok, except maybe Jill. And Phong. And Jen. Oh hell- so many great people there!)

And then there’s Missy, who uses a grown up name now. We’ve been friends for 45 years  (Missy was pre-embryonic when we met.)

I am grateful to have maintained friendships with the neighbors I had when we were here in Durham for the first time, and to have recently made my first “work friend” at my part-time job. Tonight at my literacy class, I ran into a woman I trained with, and we made a plan to connect soon.

Tomorrow I will walk the neighborhood trail with my next-door neighbor. She was there when I moved into this house in 1997, and I am so glad she was still here when I came back last June. We will walk and talk about our other friends, and I will just keep being grateful.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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