Comforting Words: DOF 3: Maintaining Your Friendships

Monday, December 03, 2007

DOF 3: Maintaining Your Friendships

Where to start? There is so much to tell!

Driving my tired self over an hour late to work this morning – the day after the first Divas’ Christmas party – I had the story line down pat or so I thought. The voices inside my head were in a chattering mood!

They must know about the party!

You have to tell them the menu and that you cooked almost everything by yourself! What about the fact that you shopped, prepped the dishes, cleaned and decorated (even more) the apartment and laid out a spread over three days?

What about the DOF [Dating Over Forty] series?

Are you not going to tell them that it seems for sure the beautiful, intelligent, sassy woman you saw a couple times and finally got “the information” on also does ‘disappearing acts’?

And what about 'the shrink' who you keep declaring to ‘the boys that “we are just friends,” a statement they simply smirk at every time they see you two together?

Although not as ‘exciting’ as the other stories, you must share about “Divas for Kiva.”

It was -20 degrees and over 10 centimeters of snow was on the ground already with more coming down, making my ‘already very late’ drive to work that more dangerous. However, all that was on my ‘mind-screen’ was, as they call it in the media and advertising world, the ‘copy’ and headline of this post.

DOF 3: Maintaining Your Friendships

The title seems boring but it is one of the most important piece of advice that I wish someone had told me when I started dating “back in the day.” It is also the best piece of advice that I could ever share on this blog.

The Party

The Divas’ Party was a success! A flaming success I should say based on the comments and feedback about the food, my apartment, how well behaved Angello was since his sexual encounter, the games, the music and the cause.

Not everyone that I invited came. And that is to be expected at any event. Except for one of my boys who had to stay home to nurse his sick pup and a woman who changed my life’s path a few years ago, the absences, however, spoke volumes.

The food and the drinks were all Caribbean – well aside from the cheese board. Almost every Jamaican favourite you either know or every heard of was served.

I shopped and slaved over the stove for three days to ensure that my guests had the best my country of birth has to offer:
1. Ackee & Saltfish Tarts
2. Jamaica Beef Patties
3. Peppered Shrimp (better that how they make it in St. Elizabeth!)
4. Jamaican-style Vegetable Salad (with our version of vinaigrette)
5. Oxtail and Butter Beans
6. Curried Goat (and it was a ram because I could smell it!)
7. Ham (dressed with pineapples and cherries)
8. Rice & Peas
9. Escoveitched Fish
10. Fried Plaintains
11. Jamaica Christmas Cake with rum sauce

As for the drinks, hardly a drinker I did the Caribbean proud and made Pina Colada, Brown Cow (with Tia Maria of course), Rum Punch (with Jamaican Overproof White Rum!) and Sorrel.

If I may say so myself, the apartment was beautiful and as my woman-friend Anni gushed “it has a wonderful, warm feeling and have created a superb environment, Claudette.” And she was not drunk yet!

My fire place is actually fire engine red and it formed the backdrop of a very cozy and intimate setting – perfect for the most wonderful group of people I have ever had the privilege to journey alongside.

A Hint to Point #7

Which brings me to Point #7 of the DOF series – and in true Jamaican style – my advice is “nuh dash wey yuh friends fi nobody!” I will translate in a moment.

Years ago – it feels more like eons ago – as a student in the former Soviet Union I found that among my fellow country people there were few of us who really spoke the Russian very well. Lance and I were counted in that group. The reason this was so is that we never clung to the very small Jamaican community but stretched ourselves and made very good friends with our hosts.

Another thought that comes to mind is a recollection of something that the woman in the Canadian High Commission who handled our immigration papers said. It was a reminder of my ‘Russian years'. “Do not isolate yourself, it will take longer for you to truly settle if you do,” she advised.

I personally took that to heart and from day one started making friends – using that word loosely.

How to Make and Keep True Friends

After finding a place to live, unpacking, re-packing to move house again and unpacking there, it was I who found us – no let me correct that – it was I who found a church home for myself. It was one that my ex partner and daughter would occasionally visit, usually at my begging and pleading.

I volunteered with several organizations, joined community groups, was selected chair for a social justice committee at the college where I was pursuing my second Master degree, I went to seminars, political-type meetings etc. All of this between trying to make an decent living.

There is a popular or once popular phrase here – “I am Canadian,” and I walked (and continue to walk) that talk – daily and in my own style by meeting people, bringing them home, feeding them, ‘struggling or fighting’ with them or on their behalf, comforting or simply listening to them.

The Break-Up and the Break-Down

It was not until ‘the break up’ last year that I realized the impact of my actions.

With my feet over my head and my mind literally and metaphorically falling to pieces – some of these same people encircled and held me and rocked me as I wept.

Five, one with whom I can no longer physically journey, literally stopped me from killing myself. Anni I thank you – pissed as I was then, I now publicly thank you for calling the cops on me.

Then there was my dear senior citizen, Miss I, who scooped me out of a closet (literally) and took me to the doctor.

Marlene is another woman-friend I made here - one who I met a few months before my feet were swinging above my head in Toronto at a conference.

This is a funny story – she is Jamaican-Canadian and had seen my picture and a write up about me in a conference magazine and sought me out. We spent only a few hours together – maybe a day a most – but when she heard about my dilemma last year, at her expense, she jumped on a plane from Toronto to Edmonton and spent three (boring for her) weeks – cooking and coaxing me to eat.

There were the ones who are thousands of miles away but continued to be a part of my life. Zacca, Patti and Dr. Green – three phenomenal women who from a distance helped to nurture me back to wholeness.

One took care of my mother as I was lost in the wilderness, the other two stayed on the phone with me, for hours on end, when I thought I could not live one more day.

Another Jamaican-Canadian, Miss W in Toronto, is the woman-friend that I wanted to smack for reminding me about my bit of profundity about being in relationship with a woman. She was a rock of wisdom on which I would sit frequently.

Abigail – who most readers to now knew as “A” – is both my daughter and my friend. We have had our ups and downs. She has had her challenges with – as she was told by society – my lifestyle.

A more strong or courageous young woman I have never met. She has a mind of her own –and the panache to say, "Mummy, let’s move on,” without words. Yes – she does call me Mummy, even at 20!

My Boys

And last but not least – and I am sure there are people I have failed to mention but certainly have not forgotten their kindness – my boys.

How do I explain this group of men? How do I describe the love, nurture and care that I have received from a group of men (including Lance) that the wider society – both near and far – would scorn? Where do I start to express my deep love and gratitude to this group of culturally diverse men who have adopted me not only as their fag hag but as sister?

It struck me some time ago that it was the men of the LGBTQ community that I have identified with since being in Edmonton who rallied around me. The lesbians paid their ‘visits’ but left with hardly a glance backwards but the men, ‘my boys’, pitched tents in my life and quietly encouraged and cheered me back to wholeness.

Better than Money

What does any of this have to do with Diva Christmas parties, food and dating? Everything!

Last night, we paused for a few minutes at my request. I had something to say and things to give.

What I had to say was “thank you” to my friends for being my friends and for coming into my life and being brave to 'become even more human’ alongside me. I wanted to thank ‘the shrink’ for staying in my life – even though “we are just friends” ( I can hear the boys laughing as they read this).

During my numerous shopping expeditions for this party, I bought gift bags and filled them with ‘little stuff’ – nothing expensive. The party, the fact that it was the first, these party gifts and the hours it took me to cook were all part of my way of saying how thankful I am that these people – both present and excused – are a part of my life and journey.

Without them, I would either be dead or in a psych ward somewhere, and this is not, just a statement of fact, where my ex’s “exclusive” friend and probably lover told me in December 2006 that I should be.

It was literally because of my woman-friend, D Mc, the one who changed my life the minute I laid eyes on her and the person who is responsible for me serving at a prison today, that I ‘flew’ the coop of the psych ward.

She, and all of my friends, rescued me from a fate untold.

I see the "hands of God" in all of this as all these friends are wounded healers! Each one, including my daughter, has been, for one reason or another, criticized, judged and ruled ‘unworthy’ by others.

The Translation

That phrase, “nuh dash wey yuh friends fi nobody,” means do not throw (or abandon) your true friends – the ones who have stood the test of time and/or trial – for anyone, especially not for a lover (however you understand that word).

Many will come into your dating experience who will have much to say about your friends…run from them!

I did.

Over the last few months of dating, I have been told how unhealthy or unwise it is to:
 have the types of friendships that I have
 to cherish and go 100 extra miles with and for my friends
 to be with gay men so much

That list could go on.

There is another wonderful Jamaican saying – “Good friends, better than pocket money,” – over the last year I have proven that.

Had it not been for these people who I have named and the unnamed ones – no amount of money would or could have brought me to the place where I can testify, yes testify, that “by the Grace of God who appeared as these angels – I am well!” Thank you God! Thank you my friends!

A special thanks to Mark and Mark (yes, they are a couple and their names are/is Mark) for their Cdn$60.00 donation that will go to sponsor two persons at Kiva!

Blessings and in deep gratitude,


P.S. Photographs, as usual, are Renato's. You can see more on my Facebook.

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