Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 35 - The Walls we Build - Brick by Brick

I heard Condoleeza Rice speak the other day.  She said something that peaked my interest.  "History has a long tail."  She was in the Bush administration on 9/11 and also in the Reagan administration on 11/9.  She felt that 9/11 was the beginning of a long tail of history. To be at the beginning means history is yet to unfold in our lifetimes. She said that it's easier to be at the end of the long tail of history than the beginning.  The end she was referring to was on 11/9  hearing Reagan's famous quote, "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down that wall."  According to Rice this was the end of a long tail of history starting with Truman in '45 - '47.

The symbolism of tearing that wall was representative of the end of a long cold war era. Not only do governments, administrations and leaders build physical walls, don't we build invisible walls too?  And the reason for doing this is the same.  Protection.  Unfortunately, the invisible walls are the hardest to detect, understand and ultimately to be torn down.  I've built my own walls of protection and I don't know if others would consider this to be the right thing to do.  I do know that it is for each of us to decide what is right at a particular time no matter what others think.  Sometimes our values are diabolically opposed and we have to look at the two values to decide which one is more important to us. Sometimes it's not importance, the choice boils down to which choice will allow ourselves to still look in the mirror with the least amount of regret?  In these cases, it is often a painful process to make any choice.  [This is why in my opinion the choice to do nothing often erodes at ones self esteem.]

A "friend" of mine [who was also a fellow basketball referee, we'll call her "T"] and I were inseparable in the beginning of our officiating careers.  We went to camps together, talked til 2 AM in the morning on our six hour drives home from games [to make sure each other made it home safely] and occasionally found time to go to dinner in our spare time once a year. I supported her as she passed me in our careers and arrived on the Division 1 scene.  I went to her first Division 1 game in celebration of her accomplishment. Our friendship was very important to me on and off the court.  It also was a big source of contention in my marriage.

Our friendship was fine until my then sister-in-law planted an erroneous seed in her brother's mind that I had suddenly become a gay woman after fifteen years of marriage and a lifetime of heterosexuality.   My ex accused me of being gay, trying to hide it and "promoting" the lifestyle.  The truth was that I instilled in my children from the day they were born that people were different and we should all support each other and especially our friends.  The bible was used as the "last word" regarding homosexuality but when I found other quotes about Christian love, it was decreed that my new testament quotes were not as valid as his old testament quotes. [That is another blog]  Brick by brick the wall that was built in my marriage was being dismantled.  This was a long painful and drawn out process but the beginning began with this absurd accusation. Ultimately my choice of sanity and the strength in my convictions were stronger than my oath of death due us part.  A decision I will struggle with for the rest of my life.

"T" retired from officiating before I did and moved across the country to pursue her new dream.  A dream which I whole-heartedly supported.  The solid wall of friendship [or so I thought] was to last a lifetime.   I know the saying about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime, but most people that get to the status of "friend" in my life are lifers.  So when after two years of leaving the state without returning my attempts to contact her via phone, e-mail, voicemail, skype, texting, or old-fashioned Christmas cards, I had written the friendship off as not really a friendship at all.  The brick wall protecting our friendship I soon realized  had no mortar. The bricks were kept together by gravity not cement. 

I remember one time I really needed a friend.  I had sent one correspondence that during a period shortly after my divorce about the cruelty in which my immediate family had displayed towards me during this time. Her response was, "You knew how they were."  This was such a cold non-empathetic response I decided right then and there that I didn't know this person anymore. Because we know how people are, doesn't stop us from believing they will be better, be nicer, be honest.

Fast forward two years to this week.  "T" sent me an e-mail out-of-the-blue stating that she is coming back for a conference in a nearby city and wants to visit.  The long tail of history tells me that I'm setting myself up to be hurt again. Because "I know how she is."  So the conflicting values I struggle with are the choice to be a true friend to her and give her another chance vs. the choice to be true to myself.  The choice to protect myself from the pain of believing her words of I will be your friend.  The choice to tear down the brick wall or put up a barbwire fence? We both have extended olive branches but only the future will tell us if we are at the beginning of the tail of this friendship's history or the end.  If it's at the end, I disagree with Condoleeza Rice that it's easier to be at the end of the long tail of history. The pain from the end of the horse tail stings. The end of the stingray's tail killed the famous Australian Croc Hunter Irwin. Or maybe she meant "tale?"

If it's at the beginning, I only hope our heads will do the same thing that the head of the American eagle did after WWII.  The American eagle's head turned away from the arrows and toward the olive branches.

Real friendship is a rare and precious gift, strong, stable, yet fragile, and never to be taken for granted.

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