You’ve Got a Friend

Just when you thought it was safe to visit my blog again, there is one more shitty thing that I had to come to terms with last year, and I’m sorry to keep harping on about LAST YEAR but, as I’ve said before, 2010 was a turning point for me.

A very long-term friendship came to an end and, at the time, it felt like it was the end of the world. However, with hindsight and a lot of weeding, I can now see that it was more of a beginning and less of an ending. I have always had issues with regards to friends, which I think stems back to something that happened in my childhood (doesn’t it always?).  Anyhow, I had this weird belief that people with a lot of friends are better people and when my relationship with one of my closest friends broke down last year, I struggled to accept it. I felt that by ending our relationship, I was admitting I was a failure and in doing so, I was a bad person. So I clung on, hoping that she would throw me a lifeline when all the while it was me who was changing.

At the risk of coming across all Bridget Jones-ish, I read a book by Martha Beck which really helped me to put things into perspective. It’s called Steering by Starlight (How to Fulfil Your Destiny, No Matter What). Don’t let the title put you off, she does have quite a good sense of humour, does our Martha. One of the issues she helped me with was getting to know my “inner lizard” but I digress, perhaps that’s another story, if you can bear it! Anyhow, without wanting to go into too much detail, Martha helped me to steer my way through this crisis. She advises us to do what we fear the most and then we realise that it’s not as bad as we thought it would be. She quotes a Nigerian poet Ben Okri:

Remember that all things which happen

To you are raw materials

Endlessly fertile

Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change

Your life and go on doing for ever …

So fear not, my friend.

The darkness is gentler than you think

Judy and Me on our matric dance night, 1974

Judy and Me on our matric dance night, 1974

I just want to say something here about another friend of mine, Judy. We met at Mitchell Girls’ High School (what a dump) 39 years ago. I grew up in Port Elizabeth but moved to Durban in the middle of my standard 8 year, in 1972. Judy and I sat together at the back of the maths class (the blind leading the blind, our teacher used to say) dreaming of how I was going to be a rock chick and Judy, my manager. We remained friends after leaving school, often losing touch with each other and then reconnecting and picking up where we had left off.

In 1998 Judy and I started a company together called Pinch Hitters and our plan was to offer our services as temps to Non Government Organisations. As it turned out we landed up working as fulltime “temps” for Peter’s company, CORD. When I decided to become a stay-at-home mom a few years later, Judy became Peter’s PA. She has been a fantastic friend and over the years we have actually become closer friends.

Last year, when Peter closed CORD, Judy was made redundant. Despite all the uncertainty, she has been a rock; never complaining, never pointing a finger of blame at Peter and although she was also unemployed, she even offered to loan us money to see us through. She is not particularly sympathetic to people who earn way more than her and still complain incessantly of being broke, so it really touched me when she offered to help us out.  Thanks Judes, I know you read this so I hope you understand how much your friendship means to me. Fortunately we didn’t need to take her up on her offer of a loan and she is now working with Peter again, who would be lost without her.

Lao Tzu wrote: “To become learned, each day add something. To become enlightened, each day drop something.”  As you drop things that no longer have any value (relationships, possessions and thoughts) you create more space for what you’ve already got and for what you really need.

There are many things that I have taken for granted in the past, including love and friendship. I am now acutely aware of how fortunate I am to have the relationships that I do have, with my family, friends, employees and acquaintances. So I no longer judge people, including myself, by how many friends they have. After all it’s the quality that matters, not the quantity.

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5 Responses to You’ve Got a Friend

  1. Mark Muggeridge says:

    Cathy, yet again, I am in complete admiration of your honesty and willingness to be honest, how brave you are, certainley an example for me to follow…

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Mark, I have a sense that we have a lot in common, both having taken the road less travelled!I think that fear holds us back and once we deal with that, we can be honest without caring what others think.

      I must not fear.
      Fear is the mind-killer.
      Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
      I will face my fear.
      I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
      And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
      Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
      Only I will remain.

      (The litany against fear from Dune)

  2. Mark Muggeridge says:

    Hi Cathy, I was thinking just the other day, we are travelling a similar path, the less travelled one indeed, sometimes I feel quite isolated and that is where courage can help, put the fear aside and the eagerness to please others.
    I get the quote above – really – how fear is the little-death. I am working on noticing fear I think I got so conditioned to it that I don’t notice it.
    Well now I have woken up to the fear and the impact it has and am practicing to get some mastery over and notice it when it is there, just obvserve and say ‘ oh – there it is again my automatic fear neurons’ and then move on to something stronger and more beautiful.

  3. Judy says:

    I have two complaints:

    1. That you did not become a rock chick (You could have squeezed it in between raising children and caring for a husband and aged parents)

    2. That you divulged the fact that I had a secret stash of savings (I hope that my family does not read your blog)

    • Cathy says:

      I thought I said that you never complained! You can tell your family that there will be no more stash once we sort your kitchen out, right?

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