A Picture Tells a Story

A picture tells a story.

At the end of every year since I got an Instagram account, I go back through all the photos I posted for that year. Recently I went back through my Instagram photos for 2019, and I truly realized that some of the pictures really tell stories.

My first post for 2019 was a photo at the Charlotte airport…not much of a story except that we were starting vacation…meeting friends from Ohio in LA. But the next picture, a photo of me and my friend from Ohio, Jenn, tells a real story.

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Sure, looking at the photo above, all you see is two friends on a chilly day with the Pacific Ocean in the background. But what I see is love. Having just survived the first anniversary of my mother’s death (she died December 30, 2017), I was still reeling. I was feeling lost. And then we arrived in Los Angeles, and Jenn and her daughter arrived. After telling her what a terrible day that first anniversary on December 30 had been (there were additional factors at play)…and crying…Jenn made me feel better. Jenn, the perpetual ray of sunshine, hugged me, listened to me, and made me feel loved. So every time I come across that one single photo that looks completely nondescript and meaningless to everyone else in the world, I remember how much better she made me feel. I can look at my face in that picture and see the pain melting away. I see the relief in my eyes and in my face. That picture reminds me that good friends are hard to find. And that picture reminds me that when we find good friends like Jenn, we need to keep them.

There are other photos from 2019 that stand out for me. In fact, any photos I post on Instagram, I share for a reason…maybe I think they’re funny or cute…maybe I want to share something cool…or maybe there’s another meaning behind the picture. Of course, when I posted the picture of me and Jenn, I had no idea how powerful the picture was for me. It was only when I was looking through pictures a few months later that I saw it again, and the meaning behind it floored me. Instagram photos certainly tell stories…maybe not to the casual observer, but to the originator of the post. Most of my photos tell stories of family, friendship, and love. And then there are some that tell different stories…like this photo of me and my daughter in front of Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The story? In 2015, I took a crazy road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, and our kids. We spent a few nights in Chicago, and while we were there, I had hoped to get the kids up to Wisconsin…just so they could add another state to their list of “states visited.” There was a Six Flags amusement park we could have visited just over the line, but that would have taken too much time, so instead, I suggested Mars Cheese Castle, a giant cheese store shaped like…you guessed it…a castle. We never made it in 2015, and I regretted it. So in 2019, when I was in Chicago with my daughter and one of her friends, we made a quick trip up to Kenosha to visit Mars Cheese Castle. You can see how happy I was!

Those are just a couple of examples of how pictures tell stories, but I can look at every picture on my Instagram account and remember stories and conversations behind them. Right now, though, I keep going back to that picture of me and Jenn. I need to call her and thank her for being a good friend.

 

Hooray for Low-Maintenance Friends!

A friend and I had some tentative plans for tonight. I texted her and asked if she was still up for it, and she explained something had come up with one of her children. She didn’t totally back out of our plans, but she knew I’d let her off the hook. I said, “I’m not going to hold your feet to the fire. You don’t have to go…no biggie.”  I’m a low-maintenance friend.

What does that mean? To me, that means that I love my friends exactly as they are. It means I don’t get mad if they have to change plans or choose to change plans.  I don’t have to talk to them every day. I don’t take it personally if they don’t return my calls, texts, or emails. I don’t “expect” them to be a certain way. I simply want them to be there for me when they can. I know real life gets in the way sometimes, and sometimes, you just want to sit on the sofa and watch some mindless television. Years ago, when we had our toddler playgroup, I told all my friends that I am a low-maintenance friend. I also told them I expect the same in return.

For example, if we have plans to go to dinner on a Tuesday night, and on Tuesday afternoon, I decide I just can’t pull it off…I call and say, “I just can’t pull it off.” And that is fine…no questions asked. My friends know they can do that with me, but I expect the same courtesy in return. If it’s an important event, it’s different…I WANT to attend important events. My friend of 20+ years, Mary Ann, uses our friendship as her example of “low-maintenance friendships.” We have the same views. It doesn’t mean one or the other of us is neglecting the friendship or taking advantage of the other. It means we can be honest and realistic. We don’t get bent out of shape about silly things. We don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s no pressure. We can be forgiving.

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Photo from Barber’s Marina in Elberta, Alabama, home of dinosaurs.

In the photo above, Mary Ann and I are looking at dinosaurs on the grounds of Barber Marina. For more information on the marina’s attractions, click here.

Here’s how I tend to look at it: we all mess up sometimes. There have been countless times I’ve messed up with friends…didn’t return calls, ran very late, accidentally didn’t show for something, or maybe I was just plain thoughtless or mean. I’m sure I’ve done worse things, and I have friends who have done all this too at some time. The great thing about low-maintenance friends? They don’t freak out. They don’t unfriend you on Facebook or give you the silent treatment. They forgive. After all, if we want to be forgiven by others, we have to be forgiving, right? You know…without sin/casting stones, right?

And frankly, it’s so much more fun to take the high road. In my younger days…meaning my teens and twenties…there were times I just couldn’t be forgiving. But I’ve learned.  There is no fun in that.  Staying angry just takes too much energy. It’s exhausting, and usually, it’s worse on the person who stays mad. It’s also simply the wrong thing to do. If I ever got mad at you in my teens or twenties, I’m no longer mad. Honestly, chances are I don’t even remember being mad.

Life is a lot more fun if you don’t take it too seriously.

One thing my mother always told me was that if I want to have good friends, I have to BE a good friend. Different people may have different ideas about what that is. But for me,  being a good friend means giving your friends the benefit of the doubt. I might be able to remember the names of everyone in my kindergarten class, but I can’t always remember where I’m supposed to be on any given day.IMG_4717

This is a roundabout way of saying “thank you” to my friend who couldn’t keep our plans tonight. Thank you for reminding me how fortunate I am to have low maintenance friends. Thank you for being up front with me about tonight. Sounds crazy, right? It’s not. Right after she told me she couldn’t go, I texted her back and said, “I totally get it.” It turned into a love fest when she texted back saying, “I don’t deserve you.”  I texted back the same thing, and then she texted, “I enjoy having a low maintenance friend.”

And that was what prompted me to write this today.

In fact, THANK YOU to all my low maintenance friends out there. You know who you are. You’re the friend with whom I haven’t spoken in a few months, but you know I still love you. You’re the friend who didn’t return my call last week, but we’re cool. You’re the friend who didn’t care when I didn’t want to go to a concert with you. YOU ARE MY FRIEND.25396091_10215007394683148_3322438155130201318_n

Here’s one thing I know for sure about my low maintenance friends: you would drop everything to help me if I needed your help, and you wouldn’t complain. You would drive a long way to pick me up, or drive to New Orleans with me to get my passport renewed, or babysit my child in an emergency.  In fact, you’ve likely done it before.

My friends know I often say, “I do not do high maintenance friendships.” And it’s true. Too much drama? No thanks. There is nothing worse to me than a friendship that feels like work because we are always having to apologize to each other, or because the friend is too needy. I have been known to walk away from a friendship like that. While I love to think I can get along with virtually everyone, I can’t.

I can’t get along with complainers, whiners,  negative people, people who try to control me, or high maintenance friends. I don’t need that in my life, and at 50 (almost 51), I won’t even try anymore. It wears me out. It…is…exhausting.

Life is too short.

So, if you consider yourself a low maintenance friend, we would likely get along. Let’s hang out! But if I don’t return your call in a timely fashion, don’t freak out.