Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Part B: Disappearing Friends

Back in the eighties I had a friend who was very dear to me named Betty. Unfortunately, I inadverently blew off our friendship. Bear in mind back in the early eighties I was somewhat of a party boy. I drank, I did a few drugs, I had a good time. My friend Betty did the same for a while, but she felt she was getting out of control, so she sought help to stop drinking. We continued to be friends for a while but because we were not in the same place after she stopped drinking, our friendship faultered.

Between the early eighties and 2003 I had also quit drinking, doing drugs and changed my lifestyle completely. I had become a different person. Today, I work out, try to be more health conscious with my food choices and generally take better care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Flash forward to 2007, I was laying out in the sun by Lake Michigan and I sat up and was looking around. I saw a girl jogging with her dog, I thought to myself, she is pretty. Within thirty seconds of that thought, she stopped and turned around and she said, "Glenn?" I didn't recognize her at first, but when I realized it was my old friend Betty, I was thrilled.

Subsequently, we made plans to get together and catch up on each other's lives. We renewed our friendship with vigor. I had remembered her  sister, Jennifer, who was in law school way back then. Jennifer is now a successful lawyer, owning her own LaSalle Street law firm. We went to a barbeque at Jennifer's beautiful home in Andersonville, just a few blocks from where I was living then.

I ended up becoming friends with Jennifer and did extensive decorative painting in her beautiful home. I worked feverishly for six to eight monthes on her house and had met her mother. Fran, her mother, was living with Jennifer and her two daughters. Fran was a wonderful lady in her late seventies or early eighties, she was living with Jennifer because she was dying from cancer.

Everything between Betty, Jennifer and myself I thought was going great until I got a blood clot in December 2007. I was out of commission for a six week period and I had scheduled work at Jennifer's home. I called her and explained, she then reassured me I could resume the work when I was physically able.

Right before I was to complete the prescheduled work, I got a late night phone call on my voicemail telling me Jennifer had  decided not to go forward with the prescheduled work. I tried relentlessly to call her to see if the work was permenantly cancelled or just postponed temporarily. I have never heard from her since.

A few monthes later Betty and Jennifer's mother, Fran, passed away from cancer. Betty called me with the news, we talked briefly because she was in the throngs of grief and dealing with her mother's death. I tried  several times to reach both Betty and Jennifer but it was  of no avail.

Since I was unable to reach them, I made them a sympathy card. I also wrote them a beautiful letter telling them how much I enjoyed their mother Fran. I went on to say in the letter, how proud Fran was of her daughters and her granddaughters because she had told me so herself.

In addition to those things, I  was given a wonderful book called "Nobody's Child Anymore." This book was given to me after my father had died, my last living parent. I had hoped the book would bring them comfort  after the loss of their mother, as it had for me after my father's passing. I took all of those things to Jennifer's house and left them with her live in boyfriend.

I  have never heard from either one of them since January 2008, neither Betty nor Jennifer even know of my leg losses.

I don't know what happened. I will never know what happened. This has troubled me for a few years now. I was speaking to Bill about this when it first happened and was blaming myself for the friendship loss. He asked, "Why are you blaming yourself?" "Do you feel that you did something to cause them to 'cut' you out of their lives?"

I have probably spent way too much energy on this loss of friendship and in spite of all the expended energy, I honestly do not know why our friendship ended, I haven't a clue. Losing  a friendship does not go easily for me, I greatly value friendship and mourn the loss of people who were friends, especially when I can't pinpoint the cause.

I have spoken to numerous people about this incident and everyone I have spoken with have themselves experienced a similar occurance. What do you suppose causes such things to occur? Do some people place less value on friendship than I?

Inexplicable friendship loss could have a few explainations. Perhaps you have done something to upset them and they won't let you know because the don't want to hurt your feelings. Another possible reason could be that you have overestimated the degree of friendship you felt existed between you and the other person.

In my case,  sometimes I wonder if it isn't medical issues that make some people feel uncomfortable. They don't know what to say or what to do, so the easiest way out is to just ignore the other person and thus eliminate the potential discomfort. I have been told by some friends that if that is the type of person they really are, than you don't need them in your life anyway.

Once again, the key to lasting friendship is continuous open communication. When people whom you consider to be your friend, all of a sudden distance themselves from you, for whatever reason, it becomes a self-perpetuating situation. Your "used to be" friend hasn't  called for example, all the while  they may be thinking , I should call them, however they don't take the time to do so. As time goes by, they feel gulity for not calling and can't really justify their not calling and so they never call out of embarassment, thus ending the  friendship.

I really find this type of behavior hard to understand, at least with regard to myself. I don't consider myself  a difficult person to talk to nor do I condiser myself unforgiving. I understand human nature and those who have felt uncomfortable  with dealing with my medical problems, but they need to understand that I am more than my medical issues.

If you are dealing with serious medical issues you should anticipate at least one or two of your former friends to alienate themselves from you. I know this is a sad truth. I take solace in the fact that almost all of the people I consider to be my friends are  still here for me.  I am thankful for them.

If you should find yourself being one of those people who find it hard to deal with a friend's medical problems, do them a favor and give them a call. Simply picking up the phone and voicing your support can make a real difference in their lives. Take it from me , I know, I live it everyday.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Part A: True Friendship

How many people, other than family, were you friends with ten years ago that you are still friends with today? It has been said to me on more than one occasion that I am lucky to have so many good friends, I think blessed is a better word than lucky.

As we know there are many different types of friendship, some are casual, some last a while and then end and some, if we are fortunate enough, we, our friends and ourselves, establish over time, a true and genuine friendship.

The importance of having true friendships cannot be overstated. My truest and strongest friendships were really tested throughout all of the medical trials and tribulations I underwent, that ultimately led to the loss of both of my legs.

Amazingly some friends were willing to participate directly in my pre and post operative situations, some were there in other ways and some seemed to have drifted away from me and all of my medical problems. Why?

My friend, Steve, has voiced to me that he believes that some people just drift in and drift out of our lives. You are friends for while and our lives and situations change and with that change, our friendship drifts apart, ultimately ending. I agree with Steve to an extent, however, I believe the likelihood of a friendship enduring over time, takes mutual participation on both sides. The willingness of both sides of a friendship to participate by being a part of each other's lives, regardless of distance or life changing events, will determine whether a friendship will continue to survive and hopefully thrive, or will eventually end.

Sometimes, based on other people's actions, I think perhaps they do not place the importance of frienships in their lives that I tend to place them in my life. Occasionally, I have mistook the type of friendship that existed between me and another, mistaking a casual acquaintance, for a true friend.

I have lost some friendships that I had thought would be long lasting and yet the friendship did not last. If you have disappointed a friend in some way, shouldn't the friend let you know what it was you did to disappoint them and thus allow you the chance to make amends?

In one instance, a person I was friends with for over ten years, severed our friendship over a small amount of money that was owed to her by me. I realize that the lending and borrowing of money can cause problems, and in an ideal world should be avoided. However, life happens, and sometimes you have to ask someone else to help you financially.

It seems reasonable to me that if the debt you owe is bothering them, they, as your friend, should let you know. It was my experience that I had mentioned the debt to my friend, acknowledging the fact that I realized I still owed them, but was unable to repay them at that time. Not being honest and upfront about your true feelings toward any given situation can be detrimental to your friendship. Communication between friends is essential if the friendship is going to endure.

It has been pointed out to me that in the aforementioned scenario, perhaps the person to whom I owed money, felt awkward about mentioning the debt, and so did not. Instead, at least from my perspective, she let this resentment she felt toward me and the debt, fester in her mind to the point she felt I was taking advantage of her. All the while, I had no idea how she felt.

What was most hurtful me is the fact that I wasn't given a chance to make amends and correct the situation, instead I was tried, convicted and sentenced. Instead of talking the situation through and coming to a mutual agreement, I received a letter from her demanding the balance owed her and she expressed the fact that "things were not going well." What she meant by that I have no idea, had her confidence level in our friendship remained intact, she would have told me what was going on in her life, as she had always done in the past.

I regret what happened between she and I. In the past she was a terrific loving friend. It still baffles me why she chose to sever our friendship instead of communicating her feelings to me and allowing us to jump this hurtle together and continue our friendship.

First and foremost no one wants to borrow money from another person, the borrowing of money is usually a last ditch effort to try to meet financial obligations. In my case, given the onslaught of all of the medical issues I have had to face, comes devasting financial consequences. Imagine, if you can that your ability to work is taken away from you, what would you do financially?

There have been many friends and family in my life who have helped me financially through these difficult medical issues, for that I am eternally grateful. Most of my friends know my financial situation and understand how financially ruinous my medical issues have been for me.

Having compassion is an important component of friendship, by placing yourself in your friend's situation, as best as is possible, will help you understand what they are going through.

Recently one of my dearest friends, Marguerite, came to visit me. She came to see me and she wanted to plant summer flowers on my balcony for me to enjoy, a task that has become quite challenging for me to do for myself since my total leg loss. While she was here she also went to the grocery, bought food for me and left a check on the counter, all of the things she accomplished, she did without my having to ask. When she bought the food and offered the check, tears welled up in my eyes (as they are as I am writing this).

I told Marguerite the difficulty I feel in having to accept help with such things as groceries and so forth, she understood my feelings. Marguerite went on to say that she derived pleasure from helping me, it made her feel good. She continued to explain that she herself had been helped by others in the past, and this was her way of remembering that and passing it on to another.

She asked me if the tables were turned, would I offer help to her? This was a rhetorical question because she already knew in her heart, that there was nothing I would not do for her or her husband, Paul, that was within my capacity.

This is friendship in it's truest sense, being there for each other no matter what happens. Helping your friend with complete confidence and knowing that they will always do the same for you, if the situation were reversed.

I told my sister, Rhonda, that sometimes I feel like all I do is take and not give back enough in return, she said you obviously give back enough or else they would not still be your friend.

I hope that is true.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


One of the greatest aspects of our lives can be our friendships. If we are lucky we, our friends and ourselves, can develop long lasting, cherished and fulfilling relationships together.

What I would like to discuss in the next few upcoming blog entries are different types of friendships we develop in the course of our lives.

We have casual friendships, those people whom we may see several times during the course of a week but we are just exchanging pleasantries, hellos and surface conversation. These casual encounters can be at work, the grocery, the gym and so forth, but they never develop past that point. Why is that? Could it be the circumstances under which we meet that determine the level of friendship that develops or doesn't develop?

I know that I have sometimes had a casual friendship and it has progressed into a deeper friendship. Conversely, I have met people whom I thought I could or would become closer friends with but for whatever reason it didn't turn out that way.

When we meet a person for the first time, we as human beings, make an instantaneous judgment, or perhaps a better word would be evaluation, based first on their appearance. Sometimes we do not even formally meet the person, before the evaluation process begins. We simply see them visually and begin to form an opinion of that person.

I, for one, have made so many miscalulations in my first impression of another based solely on their appearance or on their actions. Why do we do this? It only stands to reason that they are doing the same things with regard to us, if they have even bothered to notice us at all.

In the next few blog entries I will be discussing lifelong friendships, how or why they develop and why the stand the test of time and longevity. I will also be talking about friends who have disappointed us, to the degree that the friendship deteriorated beyond repair, and thus ended.

Additionally, I will touch upon friends we have disappointed and the role we played in their disapproval or disappointment in us or our friendship together. I will be addressing friends who enter and exit our lives and the impact they played during certain periods of our lives.

Further, I will be detailing the various experiences I have had during the course of my leg loss, how that loss affects my friends and how they dealt or are dealing with my medical consequence.

I hope these next few blog writings will help us understand each other better and perhaps make us reexamine the role we play in each other's lives.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Why do we always have expectations? Expectations are when we anticipate the outcome of a given situation or of another's reaction to a given situation. Expectations can often lead to disappointment. Where do you draw the line between expecting a good result and dealing with a poor result? It is like walking a tight rope, we want to be optimistic and yet not be disappointed if it does not happen.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have been surprised by other's reactions because I was expecting them to do something different from what they actually did do. My sister, Rhonda, and I have discussed this many times, she feels the best way is to try not to have a lot of expectations, therefore avoiding disappointment. Her philosophy sounds good in theory but is much harder to implement in actual practice.

Of course we cannot predict how others may react but more importantly, we cannot predict how we, ourselves will react in a lot of situations. I always try to be optimistic, anticipate a good outcome and yet I find myself disappointed to varying degrees in a lot of events in my life, when the expectation did not match the actual anticipated outcome. We have all heard the expression, "well I didn't expect that."

It has been more difficult for me to deal with differing expectations when it comes to other people, because of unpredictability, than with myself. So many times we place expectations on others when they have no idea we have done so. How can you expect someone else to react in a given way, when they have no idea what you are thinking? Conversely, others anticipate that you may react in a certain way, when you have no idea of their expectation or the basis of their expectation, and then they are surprised when your reaction or action does not match their expectation.

Where does all of this lead? It depends on the individual and the situation. Something I find myself doing all the time is I base my expectations of others, on what I would do or how I would react in the same circumstance, this is an unfair position to place on others and to place on yourself.

My dear friend, Marguerite, has a favorite expression that may be helpful, she advises to be "cautiously optimistic." Her expression almost seems like an oxymoron to me. To be optimistic means looking for the best possible outcome, but if you put the word cautiously in front of optimistic, than are you really being optimistic? Be that as it may, placing conditions on your expectations can soften the blow if the outcome is vastly different in a negative way, than you had anticipated.

Through my leg loss experience, I have had people react in lots of different ways. Some reactions were what I had anticipated they would be, others not so much. The various degrees of empathy I have received as a result of my leg loss have ranged from, people who I know will always be here for me no matter what, to others who can't or won't deal with my difficult leg loss and it's implications in any way, sometimes resulting in the loss of our friendship.

Not having expectations of people and situations would probably be the healthiest approach to take; I don't think lowering your expectations of a given outcome is the answer because lowering your expectations may mean lowering your standards.

Realizing others cannot read your mind and when you have an expectation, making sure the other person know where you are coming from, should help in accurating predicting a given outcome.

Finally, as always, focussing on those positive expectations that have come to fruition is certainly helpful in achieving happiness and avoiding disappointment. Our having expectations of others or having expectations of the results of situations is a part of human nature. Getting control of expectations and being aware of the fact, you cannot control people and situations, will allow you to celebrate those positive expectations that did occur and disgard those that didn't, to a greater or lesser degree.

Are you confused? Me too. What were you expecting?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Getting My Feet Wet...Sort Of

Well I tried floating in my sister's swimming pool for the first time since the loss of my second leg. It did not go as I had anticipated.

I was told by a prosthetist, who has a congenital loss of both feet, and is an accomplished swimmer, that I would be surprisingly buoyant because I no longer had the weight of my legs holding or pulling me down. That much was in fact true, however, the buoyancy was such that, to me, it became somewhat frightening.

Your body sometimes reacts in ways that can surprise you. Those built in survival mechanisms can cause you to be overly cautious in some instances.

My sister, Rhonda, was of course in the pool with me, but no matter how hard I tried, or how much encouragement she gave me, I could not let go completely. I either clinged with one hand to the side of the pool or I held on to a styrofoam flotation device. This inability to "let go completely" not only physically, but also mentally (intellectually) was perplexing to me.

I realize your body has an innate system of self-preservation that will not allow you to do things that your body either mentally or physically sees as threatening to your survival. Given all that, and knowing that my sister was right there, if I let go completely, I still began to panic. This is of course, is no reflection on the trust I have in Rhonda, my sister.

Somehow in my mind, it knew I had no legs to stand on literally and figuratively, and my body and mind reacted accordingly. I realize these were my first attempts at such a thing since my total leg loss, but I was surprised I was not more successful.

I had recently read an excerpt in my daily devotional about having the right attitude. It went on to say, and I'm paraphrasing, "children get excited about swimming at the deep end of a pool; they expect to overcome any difficulties they may encounter." The devotional excerpt continued to say, "their faith in a successful outcome--their right attitude--empowers them to reach their goal."

Anyone who knows me, knows having a positive attitude is never a problem, with respect to these types of things. I always approach new things expecting to be able to do them. I think that an advantage children have, and adults sometimes lose as they get older, is that they allow their past unsuccessful attempts to persuade them, even if only subconsciously, that a new endevour is in some way going to harm them.

This perplexing phenomenon of wanting to do do something new, and somehow having a mental "block" preventing you from accomplishing the task, is somewhat frustrating. Like all things I try for the first time, especially under my circumstnces, I realize it will take time, focus, and practice, practice and more practice.

Am I discouraged? Of course not, a little surprised, indeed. Anyone who is in my situation must realize that not only are there phyisical limitations to overcome, there mental issues as well.

I may be going back to my sister's over fourth of July weekend, and if I do, you had better believe I will try floating again. Fortunately it takes no real special skill to float in a raft in the pool, something I spent a lot of time doing at Rhonda's house. We had a great time and that is what really matters.

I will let you know how I progress with this floating issue. Until then, I will continue doing what I do, learning new ways to approach my tasks, understanding that in time I will succeed.