Crossing Muddy Waters

Have you ever wondered what makes a relationship last?  Not just romantic relationships, but friendships as well?

Last night I had a great talk with one of my dearest friends.

We did not grow up together.

I met TR (The Rock) when I moved to Oregon to go to optometry school. I had met one other person at a summer class the previous summer, but other than that I was moving to a place where I did not have any friends.

I did not meet TR right away. A few months into the first semester I went on a group shopping trip into Portland with some girls. She was there. We both were complaining our boobs were too big and nothing looked good. We promptly whipped off our shirts and compared boobs.  A bond was forged.

For the following 4 years TR was the “THE ROCK” of our group. She and her husband had a great relationship, she knew how to cook and she was absolutely committed to her pursuit of optometry. She fed us, let us stay at her place to study and we basically did everything she did. We all passed with flying colors and had a pretty damn good time doing so.  Left to my own devices, the outcome may not have been the same. Twenty odd years later, we are still great friends. We have now been friends for more years of my life than we have not been friends. I like that feeling.

I think in life, people are either rocks or floaters. My friend TR is a rock.  I am a floater.

Rocks are solid, durable, permanent.  They do well on planet Earth. Gravity works in their favor. They are great planners, nurturers and have the ability to stay the course. They are happy where they are and don’t seek constant movement or change.  Rocks sometimes suffer when forces beyond their control erode them and put them into unplanned or unexpected motion.  Storms can be tough on rocks. Rocks can sink.

Floaters are different. Floaters go with the current and are in a constant state of change. Floaters can try to tread water and stay in one place, but it requires a lot effort and leads to fatigue. Floating is effortless. All you have to do is let go and rise to the top. (It’s those boobs.) When you float, it’s easiest lying on your back. It allows you a great view of the sky and the world of endless possibilities. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination?” That was written by a floater. There is a downside. It is easy to lose sight of the shoreline unless you constantly look back or to the side… floaters can get lost.  That is both a blessing and a curse.

This summer I was on a boat with a group of people who were going to swim across Lake Butte des Mort in Oshkosh on the 4th of July. It was a motley crew… all ages and all abilities. The swim was in memory of a fantastic woman who used to swim across the lake every day.  It’s a big lake and the water is kind of brown. One of the swimmers lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and commented that the wake churned by the boat motor looked like “fine cognac.”

Initially I wasn’t sure I would swim. I was on the boat mostly for fun. When the swimmers started to swim I had to make a choice. My ex-boyfriend who is now a friend was doing a running commentary about the performance of the swimmers and their choice of bathing attire. I shed my shorts and t-shirt, jumped in and started swimming.

I guess when push comes to shove, I am not designed to sit on the boat and observe. I had to swim.

I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go… I am not in the best shape of my life. I was fairly confident I would not drown and just figured the rest would work out. I used a combination of breast stroke, back stroke and side stroke to get across the Lake. I stopped looking at the shore. I looked at the sky, the HWY 41 overpass with the semis going by, I looked at birds. I could hear the hum of motorboats and the weird tinkling sound water makes…it was a symphony.  Every once in a while I would look for my spot across the lake. I kind of got off course, but I would just make an adjustment and before I knew it I was across the lake.Swimming Lake Butte des Morts 2015

That is kind of how life works too.

Rocks and Floaters make great partners. I think that is why my friendship with TR has endured.

She has helped me more times than I can count. Her husband is kind of big so whenever my heart has been broken she tells him he needs to go beat that person up. I love that. She is my professional role model. What worked in optometry school still works 20 years later. I just do what she does. She said we should get board certified- so we did. It was a pain in the ass but it was good for me and for my profession. TR knows what to do.

I think I may be of some use to her right now. TR was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness. (MS) The sucky thing about MS is that is un-curable and unpredictable.  It’s not like cancer (which is horrible) where you cut out the bad stuff and kill it and get fake new stuff and move on.  You never know what the next day will be like. One day you are pretty good and the next day you can’t get out of bed.

She told me she fell yesterday. She got out of bed and her brain thinks she is normal- but her legs don’t work right and the next thing you know you are weaving around like a drunken sailor and boom, down you go. I told her that was okay, that I fall down a lot too. I like to wear slippery socks and my house has wooden floors. Sometimes I run to get a Diet Pepsi or go pee pee during a commercial break and boom, down I go. We laughed.

She is doing fine. One big thing that everyone who reads this should think about is this- It is absolutely imperative that you have proper disability insurance and financial planning. My friend is going to be fine in that department no matter what happens. That didn’t just happen- she had a plan.

(I was actually a little jealous talking to her – she is in a much better place than I am. When you are jealous of your friend who has MS and her disability plan- that is sick my friends.  Being single makes it even more important to have a plan. It’s a terrible feeling to worry about whether you are going to have to eat cat food when you are 80.)

OK, back to the story.  So we talked about that and then we got to the nitty gritty…..

The hardest part of having to deal with this illness is the unexpected changes. TR has a plan. She wants to get her youngest kid off to college, work really hard (because she likes it- crazy, I know!) and finally have the time and ability to treat herself and her husband to some traveling, adventures and really good shoes. And not feel guilty. MS is a sucky disease. I think it pretty much guarantees that you have to wear practical footwear for the whole rest of your life. WTF?  That is crazy.

She had her plan She thought that her next turn in life would be a turn to the right….. EXCEPT….. The road doesn’t go right. So now she has to go down a road that she’s didn’t choose, doesn’t know where it goes and …she has to cross a river. It’s a big river.

Now the river’s wide and deep and brown And she’s crossing muddy waters….–John Hiatt

The river is a scary place for a rock.

That is okay, she is best friends with a floater.

I don’t care if the water is deep, I float.  I don’t care if I can see the bottom or where I am going.  I will look at the sky.  She doesn’t have to do a thing. I have a strong grip and I will get us to the other side. It’s not going to be a straight line and it may take a while. That’s okay, it’s the journey not the destination.

Crossing muddy waters… it’s my specialty.

GGJ

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