Friendship and the Serious Introvert

This post is a feature article in this month’s Be Zine. To view the entire blogazine, click HERE.

I had all but disqualified myself from writing about Friendship this month. “I have no friends,” I thought, envisioning ladies’ magazine coffee klatch groups, beer commercials and Facebook statistics. I don’t have the requisite exercise buddy, shopping buddy, or the Oprah-sanctioned “5 Friends Every Woman Should Have”. That little childhood rhyme started playing in my head: nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.

I’ve decided to re-frame the topic.

I do not have a lot of friends. I do not make a point to get together with acquaintances to socialize. I am an introvert and was raised by introverts. I didn’t have birthday parties or play dates as a kid. I had one good friend who lived two doors down, and we played together almost every day. He was a year younger than I and a boy. When I was in 5th grade, a girl joined my Sunday school class, bringing the class total to three – myself, the rector’s son, and this new best friend. She still sends me Christmas cards. When I moved from Illinois to California the summer before high school, I had to start all over. After a year, I had made a good friend who was a year older than I. She was a bit bossy, but she connected me to the Girl Scout troop, the school choir, the Italian club, and my husband. I was 15 when she introduced us. I was 45 when he died. Later that year, I met someone online – a bookseller who’d just finished a course in Spiritual Psychology. I’d found my new best friend. We’ve been together for almost 8 years. 

photo credit: Carol Toepke

photo credit: Carol Toepke

What I know about Friendship is not about quantity. It is about quality. I think I have enjoyed all the important health benefits that Friendship adds to life distilled into a few precious draughts. To feel that freedom that creates well-being, we have to be able to establish a trust that allows me to be completely myself; we have to create a safe vulnerability. Honesty, copious communication, time, and kindness are the key ingredients. For me, this doesn’t happen easily. It takes concerted effort. More often, I find myself in relationships with mentors or students. I feel quite comfortable as a student or a teacher. Those are roles I can hide in. To be in a true friendship, I have to come out of hiding and operate in an arena of wholeness and equality…which is far more risky. A tremendous accomplishment of my 24 year marriage is that I know that I can survive and thrive while being fully open to another human being. Still, I suppose it has to be the right human being. And those are rare.

The love of a true friend is extraordinary. It goes beyond the giddiness of fun, beyond the pleasantries of companionship, beyond the nobility of human kindness, beyond the affirmation of attraction. The love of a true friend is challenging. It asks you to be entirely forthcoming. It asks you to question your habits and assumptions. It asks you to change and react to change. It asks you to be the best you can be. And it asks you to challenge your friend in return. Because of this dynamic love, life is never boring and your relationship never goes stale. Because of the trust you build, you can enter into the most intense realities of life with some security and the sense of adventure. As my husband used to say after another trip to the hospital, “Never a dull moment!”

My calendar is not full of lunch dates or parties; my phone doesn’t ring for days at a time. Still, I have tasted the best of Friendship and grown braver, healthier, happier and wiser. And no worms were harmed.

International Poetry Month

This post was written for The Be Zine which is dedicating its April issue to International Poetry Month. As a Contributing Editor, I am honored to be able to join with truly accomplished poets in celebrating Poetry, but I am well aware that my skills do not match those of my colleagues! Treat yourself to some truly substantial fare by visiting the magazine here

My favorite poetry is philosophy dressed in dreaming, not logic. It imagines a larger reality, a more expansive love. Rilke is the gold standard, I think.  Oh, but that is the pièce de résistance, and there’s so much more besides that. I am a poem consumer, not a gourmet chef. I know very little of form or craft, but I love to taste and participate. So I’ve written a love poem to my late husband because, well, you might as well start with breakfast. 

Exclusive

Thick, boyish lashes fringe
Other eyes, perhaps as blue,
Open, tender toward Beloved

Still smiling youths may offer
Eager grins, warm confidence
Gleaming ‘neath soft whiskered lips

Clear voices might ring
Thrilling, gentle as yours when
You sang at daybreak just for me

Surely now first loves make vows,
Grow mature together, devotion’s
Friendly joy becoming solid strength

Fathers must bend heart and arm
Wrap manhood’s grace boldly around
Each golden, blessed child – like you

No doubt live sorrowing pairs
With looming loss, still holding,
Fingers trembling, to brave last words

I cannot boast an only, greatest grief;
I know this storied world is vast.
But still I weep in fond belief
That you and I loved first and last.

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Both Sides Now

Whenever you’re trying to solve a puzzle, it’s important to look at it from different angles. 

To read “A Little Story About Loving Yourself”, a story I created for this puzzle series, click HERE.

From Every Angle

A Little Story About Loving Yourself

If you’re puzzled by relationships…

might he be the one…and feel that perhaps something is missing in your life…

something's missing…and you’ve done the same thing over and over, hoping something different might result…

patternimagine what might happen if you simply followed your bliss and did what you love.

do what you loveA life may emerge that is not what you dreamed or expected or even what you may have been promised.  Still, it is actual and dynamic…and there you are, being yourself and still doing what you love.  That’s not a bad outcome, is it?

whole scene

© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Present Moment, Beautiful Moment

January 7 – past and present

1984 – It’s my wedding day.  The weather is chilly and foggy in Northern California.  I am too excited to sleep late.  I have a date with my fiance for a morning meeting.  He comes to pick me up at my parents’ house.  My grandmother is aghast that we are seeing each other before arriving at the church; it’s just not done.  But we know what we want.  We want to focus on each other, on the meaning the day has for us personally before being caught up in the ritual.  We park the car under some oak trees in the foothills.  We decide it’s too damp and cold to walk, so we sit in the car and talk.  We are calm and happy.  He drops me off at the house.  The next time I see Jim, he is standing at the altar, grinning.  I take his hand.  I notice it’s cold and clammy, so unlike the warm bear paw I expect.  I smile at him.  He’s caught up in excitement.  The wedding mass is a long event.  We emerge from the church and see sunlight for the first time that day.  It doesn’t last long.  The reception in the Parish Hall is intimate and bustling.  It’s dark when we leave.  I get home and change.  My mother takes care of the dress.  The station wagon is packed with my belongings, gifts, and leftover bottles of champagne.  We drive south to Pebble Beach.  I’m hungry.  I hope the restaurant at the inn is still open by the time we get there.  We find we are able to get sandwiches at the bar.  We retire to our room.  I feel so incredibly grown up; in one day, I’ve suddenly matured.  I’m married.  I’m 21 years old.

scan0027January 7 – this morning

The sun comes in the southeast window, and I begin to stir.  As my mind brightens, I remember the day.  Steve is sleeping beside me.  I pull out the battered photo album from the box in the corner and settle back on the bed.  Was it really cloudy that day?  I flip through the pages in front of me, my mind turning over more leaves than my fingers.  My phone beeps.  My daughter is texting me to let me know she’s thinking of me today.   Her baby face smiles at me from a photograph.  She will be turning 30 in a few weeks.  Steve begins to stir.  I look at his face as his eyes open.  “What are you doing here?” he asks.  That’s a good question!  “It’s a long story,” I laugh.  But that doesn’t really answer the question.  I am living.  I am aware now of the present moment.  As I look around, I see the beauty of this day, this year.  The air is cold and dry.  The trees outside are bare, the branches dusted with snow.  I look down at my left hand.  It is lined by swollen veins and wrinkles.  There’s a brown spot just there.  I have a ring on my index finger with a blue topaz heart set in it.  No other rings.  My fingers press Steve’s arm.  “I am waking up.  And you?”  “I am Steve-ing.” 

present moment

© 2015, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

A Celebration of Femininity

Female energy.  I see it as a sisterhood of excitement…

My daughters

…and of compassion.

connect

I recognize it in generations of curiosity and understanding…

female curiosity

… and in powerfully individual dreams.

female dreams

It is the energy of a sparkling and fecund Universe…

female sparkle

 …and our human response to it.

female

A response that encourages our own growth…

female hope

 …and the growth of other lives around us.

female growth

 It is creative…

female creative

 

…and loving…

humanity 3

…and life-affirming.

female life

Feminine energy in harmony and peace is a vibrant good in the world.  

My three daughters

May it resound across dividing spaces, bringing us closer in union with All.  

between* Dedicated especially to my mother, my three sisters, and my three daughters.  Your energy brings me life!

© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

This photo essay is featured in The B Zine, Vol. 1, Issue 3 – An online publication of The Bardo Group/Beguine Again.  Please visit the site to see my colleague’s works by clicking HERE.  Enjoy!

80 Years in Eight Days — Day Number Eight: 10 Inspirational Instructions

This is the end — the last day of the year, the last installment of my mother’s birthday project, and the last entry on this blog for 2014.  My mother is 80 years old today.  Here is a list of 10 Inspirational Instructions that she has embodied throughout her life.  They are also serving as my New Year’s Resolutions for 2015.  My mom is indeed an inspiration, and I hope she’ll keep breathing life in for many more years.

1)Trust God, but do your homework.”  This quote she always attributed to her own mother.  I think it’s a great motto to pass on from generation to generation.  In essence, it acknowledges our humility but does not absolve us from responsibility.  We are not in control of all things, but we are in control of some.  When you’re able to dance on that line with grace, you’re living wisely.

2) Regularly make the effort to right-size and divest.  This comes from her organizational practice, and it’s a great reminder at the end of every year.  I’ve watched mom go through “weeding out” stages my whole life.  She systematically keeps her possessions under control: clothes, books, papers, housewares, pantry stock, music, everything.  Steve & I are furiously reducing inventory at the book business now.  Part of the fun is putting those things you divest into the hands of someone who will use and appreciate them.  Recycle generously!

3) Gather experiences, not things.  I remember my mother answering all inquiries about what she wanted for a gift with some version of this philosophy.  She wanted something to live, not something to dust.  I hope she gets lots of what she wants for a long time. 

photo by Josh

photo by Josh

4) “Look wider still.”  This is a Girl Scout challenge from International Thinking Day… “and when you think you’re looking wide, look wider still.”  My mother loves this slogan.  It applies so well to being broad-minded, tolerant, open and forever learning.  It’s a big world.  Even after 80 years, there’s a wider view to see.

5) “Only connect.”  This phrase became the name of a BBC quiz show in 2008.  It is derived from E. M. Forster’s novel Howard’s End, where a character says, “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”  The phrase has also been used to describe the liberal education, which celebrates and nurtures human freedom.  I just learned these references from Google.  From mom, I learned that rush of joy, that flush of understanding and the pure delight of living that shows in her face when she utters this phrase at the end of a stimulating discussion.  That I learned years ago.  

6) Don’t disown your own.  “Only connect” applies to people, too, even and especially those near and dear who have a greater capacity to disappoint us.  Looking wider than our expectations and our attachments allows us to see that we do not exist in isolation except by our own dogmatic choosing.  Long after I learned this from watching mom, I heard it echoed in the writing of Thich Nhat Hahn.  “We inter-are,” he says.  The cosmos is held together in inter-being.  Acting as though we’re separate and separating in judgment is an act of violence against the Universe.  Peace is understanding there is no duality. 

photo by Josh

photo by Josh

7) Let go; let God.  My mother has always had the capacity for anxiety.  She likes to do things “the right way”, she pays attention to details, and she fears the usual things from failure to death.  So do I.  Face it, we live in a pretty neurotic culture.  Mom showed me by her example how to recognize this in yourself and then to strive to be a “non-anxious presence”.  That doesn’t mean she was good at it.  It means she practiced.  That’s inspiring.

8) “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  This one comes straight out of the Bible (Ephesians), and it was a practice that she and my father adopted religiously.  Every night, I’d hear them from behind their bedroom door, talking in low voices and then praying in unison.  Taking responsibility for your emotions and communicating them is another inspiring example.  Own your anger; it is about you.  Talk about your anger to someone else.  Then you are re-connected and at peace.  It’s not magic; it’s useful. 

9) “Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”  This also comes straight out of the Bible (Deuteronomy), but in the very next line, those arms are thrusting out against enemies and doing violence.   The everlasting arms that my mother referred to were supportive.  They were secure and safe.  If I am to grow out of my neuroses at all, I think I need to begin to trust that the World is a good place.  I belong here.  Even though I myself and everyone I know will die, we end up right here.  That’s the way it is, and there’s nothing wrong. 

10) “Let nothing disturb thee, nothing affright thee.  All things are passing; God never changeth.  Patient endurance attaineth to all things.  Who God possesseth in nothing is wanting.  Alone God sufficeth. ”  Teresa of Avila, translated by Longfellow.  Mom had these words written up in her small hand and pasted on the inside of her desk cubbyhole door.  It was like a secret she showed me when we were worried about something.  All things are passing.  This fear, this problem, this moment.  Patience.  Change and movement is how Life is, and it is well.  I really believe that and strive to remember it.  I think that all of Life is embraced in that dynamic, including God.

All things are passing, year into year, life into life, microscopically and macroscopically.  We are so fortunate to be aware of our experience of it!  I am ever grateful to my mother for sharing her life and her awareness and so many of her experiences with me.  I look forward to more! 

mom laughing

photo by Josh

 

May each of you be happy and at peace in this year’s ending and in the continuation of Life in the New Year!