Friday, April 29, 2011

A Thought About Friendship - What We Learn from Television and Movies

A while back I wrote a blog about friendship and proceeded to give some of my own friends an assignment. What did friendship mean to them? Was there a moment or story that came to mind when I asked about the importance of friendship? A couple of blogs ago, you read my friend Shannon's story about learning about friendship through her mom's example. This week, I have an entry from Alicia Arinella. Alicia and I have been friends now for over 8 years and we've both witnessed each other go through many major changes in that time. Have a read and see what you think. As always, I'd love to hear from you!

I must admit, it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to write in response to your question, 'Will you write a little something about what friendship means to you?'

It made me wonder, how do we even figure out what friends are supposed to be in the first place. As Shannon wrote so well in her post about friendship and mom's last week, I guess we learn our first lessons from our parents. But where else do we learn about friendship?

For me, I learned a lot about frienship through movies and television. I'm a pop culture junkie (or at least I was in my formative years). I was surrounded by stories of successful pals - their loyalty, trust and companionship. So I bring you back to my early years and what shaped my meaning of friendship.

#1 - My Little Pony (The Movie)
I'm not sure if you remember this fantastic contribution to the home video market from 1986. No? Let me fill you in. So all the ponies are around preparing for a festival. Baby Lickety Split (she's got ice cream cones on her tooshy - I'm already a huge fan) is one of the ponies preparing a dance number (what's that you say, DANCE? I'm doubly in). BLS is practicing with her good friend Spike (a dragon - AWESOME). On the actual day of the performance, BLS tries to steal the number by interrupting the routine with a grand entrance while wearing a wild outfit and improving on the choreography with her own flair. She is scolded, embarrassed, and vows to run away. What follows is a big song from BLS and Spike where they sing, "I'll go it alone!" and, "Don't go it alone!" They agree to face the world together. I was riveted.

How did this seep into my real life? Pretty profoundly. Every time a babysitter came over and tried to get me to take a bath, I would pack a suitcase with my blanket (think child's binky) and "run away." This consisted of me running around a big rock in my back yard while my babysitter chased me. I was a N.I.G.H.T.M.A.R.E. But, every time I "ran away" my sister (and best friend) was always at my heels singing her own rendition of "Don't got it alone." We watched, My Little Pony: the Movie on repeat, and what we took away from it was that even when friends in your life are acting like crazy people, it's important to support them - follow them into the breech my friends - and defend them against the evils that the world has to offer (like baths).

#2 - Han Solo and Chewbacca
That's right - it all comes back to Star Wars. Although for the sake of this argument I could just as well have said Strawberry Shortcake and her band of renowned. Han and Chewie not only are the coolest cats this side of the Death Star, BUT they also have each others backs. They know that going into any challenge, it's going to be easier if they're together. They may quarrel along the way about the best way to do things, but they're a unified front in fighting the man (aka: the Emperor). Same goes for Strawberry Shortcake vs. the Peculiar Purple Pie Man.

When I was growing up, I thought I knew what their friendship was all about. However, it took some "big girl challenges" to realize that sometimes in life we face some decisions or turning points that just....well they suck. But if you have a good friend by your side, supporting you, willing to fly wing-man on your falcon? It makes it worthwhile. And it doesn't matter if this friend is male, female, black, white, or extremely hairy. A friend is a friend. For all of you non-geeks out there, try this analogy - there are a select few that I would go into a foxhole with and be happy share the long arduous hours there - no matter what the cost.

#3 - The Golden Girls
Let me just say these sassy young things were the first Sex and the City. Pioneers! These women taught me what it meant to have girl friends. Each character brought her own baggage and her own life's lessons to serve as "learning moments" for her roommates and for the audience. We all had our favorites (I was quite fond of Sophia and her need to carry her bamboo handled purse everywhere), but we learned to love them all for their uniqueness, their comic timing and their ability to solve everything with cheesecake.

To this day, I think about my life in terms of these ladies from Miami. Say, for instance, I'm at the movies and I turn and see a friend actually CRYING at Bride Wars. Well, I just pull Dorothy's dry reality out of my pocket and, in lieu of hitting her over the head with a newspaper, I just turned to her and say, "Stop it!" Through each of their unique Golden Girls's ways of handling the situations that life threw at them, I learned that you have to love your friends for who they are and sometimes provide a smack on the back of the head when they're acting crazy.

So I guess I absorbed a lot about what friendship was "supposed to be" through different cultural influences, but until I went through some serious changes, I didn't really know what friendship was all about in reality. For instance, you and I were always close, but when my mom died and you dropped everything to be my side and sang your own version of "Don't Go it Alone," rode wing man to my fear and hit me over the head with a newspaper, it solidified my feelings about you. And now? Well you're stuck with me forever.

And I'll be your wingman anytime.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Episode 5: Traveler's Illness

In this short episode, the stress of traveling has set in, but today is the day I leave Accra for Ho... and it's a long drive....

Most of us who have traveled have experienced it before, but between the stress and the new water/food, my body chose to, unfortunately, speak up!

About Best Laid Plans: BLP (http://bestlaidplansfilm.blogspot.com) is a documentary web series that asks the question: what do you do when life throws you a curve ball? I set out to find out. I participated in a volunteer vacation, shot my first short film and interviewed people about how they handled their own "Best Laid Plans" moments. I promise to keep the episodes short (and hopefully entertaining!), so please watch if you have a couple of minutes. As always, I'd love to hear from you. Did you have a "best laid plans" moment? Let's hear it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Thought About Friendship (and Moms)

Last week I wrote a post about Best Friends. In it, I asked for stories from other people about what having good friends mean to them. When my extraordinary friend and writer, Shannon, said that she would put down some thoughts about this ever-important relationship in her life, I was thrilled. See her essay below and, if you’d like to read more about Shannon check out her blog.

As always, let's hear from you. I know ya'll must have a friend story you're dying to share!



by, Shannon Rigney

There are many qualities of my mother that I would like to emulate. She's funny as anything. She has good fashion sense. She makes a mean steak, and a great rice pilaf. I hope that one day my daughter looks forward to spending time with me as much as I do with my mom.

But, the quality of my mom's that I would most like to acquire is that she is a great friend. To see my mom with her closest friends is to watch a give-and-take of love, honesty, and humor. She treats her inner circle of friends like family. They're with each other forever. One way that my mom and her friends make sure that they stay glued so tightly is they carve out significant and regular time to be together. Mostly they have a glass of wine and some cheese, but they also cook together, go to movies, or just hang out. It doesn't matter what they are doing. They have a blast just because they are together. And all these shared moments and belly laughs do more than just pass the time in a happy way. All this love and time they devote to each other helps them weather difficulties.

Because there are bad times. My mom has been angry with her friends many times, and vice versa. But she never lets her feelings stew. She and her friends keep their connection real by telling each other straightaway when something gets under their skin. They practice a level of honesty that most people – myself included – aspire to but, like Zen mastery, probably won't achieve anytime soon.

I have lots to learn from my mother's attitude toward friendships – the way she holds them so dear, the way she prioritizes and makes time for them, and, mostly, the way she honors them with honesty. One thing that my mother had going for her when she was my age is that she lived in the suburbs amongst other women her age who had all made similar choices. They had all decided to have children and, mostly, stay home to raise them. My mom talks about many afternoons spent talking and laughing with her best friend while all of us kids ran around the yard.

Here in New York, I've got no yard, not a ton of free time, and no best friend with kids the same age as mine. In fact, few of the women whom I would call my best friends have any kids at all. And, of the women I know who do have children, most of us are working either part or full time. Scheduling even one afternoon together can be hard.

These minutes and hours with my friends are necessary to keep me balanced and happy. They remind me that I am more than a parent, more than a collection of work and dinner and bedtime rituals. They help me remember how to be light, how to be myself, how to laugh until I cry.

Those moments sustain me. Sometimes I feel like I am practically holding my breath until the next visit with a girlfriend supplies me with oxygen. I am trying to recreate with mere crumbs what my mom and her friends built with a full harvest. Time is the greatest commodity, the thing that most of us don't have (or at least don't have when we'd like to). And, yet, time is exactly what allowed my mom to build up the strong friendships that have carried her through the challenges of her life. For now, all I can do is do the best I can to spend time with the people who matter to me, the people who give me my air supply. And when I do have them with me, I'll enjoy every moment, breathing in enough to keep me going until the next time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Art of the Possible

Recently I've been thinking a lot about my impending birthday (I'm about 5 months away). I'm in my mid-30's and am fast approaching sitting on the other side of the "mid." I'm not depressed or embarrassed about my age, but I do feel kind of anxious about the whole thing. It isn't that I care about wrinkles - well okay - that's a lie. I do care about wrinkles and the fact that they are grinding into my face jackhammer-style, but that doesn't give me palpitations. It's not that kind of anxiety.

Lately, I feel a sense of possibility unlike anything I've ever experienced before. I wonder how I can embrace all of my "possibles" in one lifetime. The goals I want to achieve. The trips I want to take. The children I hope to have. How is it all possible? Does planning or choosing to focus on one thing, turn a different possibility into an impossible? Does one choice prohibit another? How can I realistically learn about all the things I'd like to learn about? I feel envious of other people's experiences, not because I regret any of my own, but because I want to have had theirs as well. I'm sure what I'm feeling is natural. Something that comes on for many people in their 30's - like an emotional clock that rides alongside the biological one - but how do you quiet it down?

I feel like a 17-year-old who is sitting down with a guidance counselor and being asked what I'd like to do in my life. The answer: everything. Well, not everything, I think I could live a very full life without ever becoming a proctologist, but I'd love to experience many, many things. I don't really want life experience, I want to have experienced life - in all sorts of different ways.

So how do you begin?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Episode 4: We've Arrived!

We've finally made it! Fatigue sets in as we make our way through the city of Accra.

About Best Laid Plans: BLP is a documentary web series that asks the question: what do you do when life throws you a curve ball? I set out to find out. I participated in a volunteer vacation, shot my first short film and interviewed people about how they handled their own "Best Laid Plans" moments.

I promise to keep the episodes short (and hopefully entertaining!), so please watch if you have a couple of minutes. As always, I'd love to hear from you. Did you have a "best laid plans" moment? Let's hear it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Have a Best Friend?

The other night I was out with a very good friend of mine to catch up and have a fabulous dinner (check out: Artisnal). In between consuming one of the best cheese plates I've ever had in my life - seriously - I had to stop the conversation a moment so that I could allow my taste buds to do a happy dance , I had the chance to catch up with a friend so busy that I mostly see her in blurs. After our dinner, I sat on the subway and thought about how important her friendship has been to me in my life. Okay, I also thought about the cheese, but mostly I thought about my friend.

I like to think of friendship as a living organism. One that shifts and changes, and grows and wanes as the years pass by. Some are finite but purposeful, some are life-long and everlasting and others, those rare others, are remarkable and breathtaking and make you wonder how you were so lucky in your life to have the opportunity to experience it. And yes, these friendships even have the power to overshadow a phenomenal block of cheese. Dare I say I've been lucky to have this last kind of friendship with a few people in my life. Their support, their honesty and their humor has contributed to the parts of myself that I like the most. Seeing one of these friends this weekend made me think about Best Laid Plans - how the series focuses so often on my dating relationships and not on some of the most significant relationships in my life: my friendships. I would ask: am I dating? Who am I dating? How can I meet people? Will I ever get married again? Will I die alone?

When you are out in the "single" world it sometimes feels like your personal life is public information in the way that a woman's pregnant belly becomes some kind of public touchable monument (pregnant ladies, start charging people a fee and start your newborn's college fund). Everywhere you go, people seem to want to know whether you're dating, who you're dating, what you're doing to meet people and so on. Your singlehood becomes a conversation piece: like a coffee table book. Everyone means well and there's very rarely malice behind it. However, like many of my single friends, I got totally caught up in that. So this weekend, as I sat across from my friend, it hit me, WHAM (much like a coffee table book slapping me in the face). I may have been single but I have some amazing friends around me. Why was I so worried about dying alone? In honor of the extraordinary relationship many of us know as best friends, I'd love to hear from you. Tell me your friendship story. It can be sappy, hilarious or simply honest. It's the type of relationship that we all have in common and I'd like to take a few posts to relish in it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Episode 3: Gateway to Ghana

In this episode: I'm so close to my trip to Ghana. The only thing standing in my way? Packing. While I try to stuff my life into luggage, my parents share their thoughts on what, if any, worries I'll have while away.