The acid test of friendship is whether you are there when your friend needs you. And by being there I mean being present when your friend is going through things you would rather not see or think about, things that aren’t pretty, things like illness, unemployment and poverty.
Last night hundreds of my neighbor’s friends and colleagues passed that test. It was wonderful and restored some of my much battered faith in friendship.
But only some.
My personal experience makes me much more skeptical. With the exception of a few steadfast friends whose support and love have saved my life (and for this I am eternally grateful), the relationships that I counted among my longest and deepest have been conspicuously absent through the past five months. Months of unemployment, poverty and depression; months when I needed friends more than ever, especially the friends I had given fully and completely of myself when they themselves were in need.
One relationship is now reduced to text messages and emails; the other is any body’s guess. In both cases I think my unemployment is an issue but no matter, for whatever reason, they have not been present.
As for family, mine clearly failed the acid test long ago. I have no doubt that if they could erase me from my mother’s memory their lives would be happier. My mom was pretty lucid tonight when she told me that my brother David’s wife was coming in and that I should not be there when she visited because it would be “uncomfortable.” I had planned on spending some time with her over the next few days – maybe bring her here for the day. She gently suggested sometime next week.
All I know is that if the tables were turned, as they have been in the past, whether family or friend, I would be there with whatever help I could offer.
We all say we believe that everyone should be treated well, but what we really mean is that we want to be treated well. If the cold shoulder or unkindness or misfortune doesn’t touch our lives we may think it tragic or wrong or unfortunate, but the over riding emotion is relief – thank G-d it isn’t happening to me.
I have been unemployed for five months and I am so tired. I am discouraged about finding work, let alone good work. As I wait for my divorce settlement to arrive I balance the fact that I will no longer have health insurance against the fact, that I will have enough to cover food, car payments and gasoline for a few more months of unemployment.
And for those of you who say why doesn’t she work at ____ (name any store/restaurant/market) – they aren’t hiring. And for those of you who are thinking – what about public assistance (even as you wrinkle your nose in distain) as a single woman, believe it or not, with almost nothing, I have too much to qualify.
My stomach is churning and I wonder how I will find the strength to get through the family drama and the increasing isolation I experience as the result of my unemployment.
One foot in front of the other, one day at a time – I am doing the best I can.