THICKER THAN BLOOD


Friendship

“There is one friend in the life of each of us who seems not a separate person, however dear and beloved, but an expansion, an interpretation, of one’s self, the very meaning of one’s soul.” ~Edith Wharton

I am the survivor of a very complicated childhood, devoid of the critical elements necessary for healthy maturation. Because of this, I grew up, harboring lots of vacancies within me. I’ve always sought ways to fill the voids, attempting to make myself whole and bridge my gaps. Some of my methods were not ideal and resulted in poor and destructive behavior. Others were far more productive and occurred courtesy of some deep and meaningful friendships that I managed to develop over the years. Despite what I was lacking, I found it easy to attach myself to others, securing anchors along the pathway of my life that prevented me from drifting too far away. Before marriage and children – which finally enabled me the opportunity to build my own family from the ground up and, hopefully, heal some of the painful wounds that lingered – my friends were my salvation from orphancy. Marriage and the birth of my kids were a positive disruption on my journey and created critical and powerful connection points along with a new foundation from which to build. Unfortunately, I slowly learned that even they could not replace the deep chasm that still lingered because of the absence of those early familial relations. So, I continued to seek out relationships that would serve as a patch, masking over the holes and offering opportunities to plant seeds that might grow into deep roots that might ultimately feel like a real family tree.

When I was 42 years old, well into my expedition and still struggling to make sense of the ever-present voids that lay deeply within me, I received a gift. There was no gift wrap or bow and no card to indicate why it was coming my way. It simply showed up on my proverbial doorstep. The gift was my best friend. Only, I had no idea at the time what lay in store for me. I have written previously about My Gay Best Friend, highlighting the distinctiveness of our special relationship. Yet, no matter how deep I dig to try to evoke my most elemental feelings about this friendship, when I write about it, I tend to focus more clinically on the exceptionality of our connection. It is strangely difficult to convey, in the context of my own personal experience, how powerful this relationship is and how humbled I am by its presence in my life. But, today, I am going to try.

I am not a fan of the term “best friend” when referring to our friendship. It seems immature and feels like it trivializes the intensity and complexity of our relationship. I joke, instead, that he is “my brother from another mother” as this more adequately paints the picture. The way I usually process my feelings towards him and the nature of our relationship is more closely akin to that of a family member. Ultimately, there is not a common construct that applies to us, which makes perfect sense because it reinforces the uniqueness and singularity of our attachment.

But, in fact, he is my best friend. He is a friend above all others – the first rung on my friendship ladder. He is at the top of my pyramid. He is the one I trust above all my other comrades. This does not denigrate my other friendships – several of which are quite intimate and trusting – it just highlights how close we actually are. We have a symbiosis that often exists with twins. We can sense when each other is suffering and have an understanding between us on how to support one another. It is implied. It is implicit. It is fundamental. When we are trying to refer to each other and express the magnitude of our relationship, we pull out the “best friend” moniker to be clear of the relevancy in each other’s life. We are able to categorize our relationship (my need, typically) and ensure that it is tended to with intention and given the respect it deserves. Both of us acknowledge, like Edith Wharton suggests, that our relationship is singular and rare and meant to be adored.

In previous writings, I have referred to my relationship with my best friend as a marriage, of sorts. What makes our association so individual yet complex is that we share many of the deep intimacies that marital partners share but they are funneled through a very different lens. We don’t have the traditional burdens of households, bills, and kids. We don’t have to engage in the complexities of romance and sex that, while incredibly meaningful in a union, also create complications that platonic, loving friendships do not have to withstand. On the other hand, we have to balance the intensity of our bond with the other relationships in our lives, particularly husbands and kids. Because there is emotional intimacy, the boundaries become blurred and, admittedly, my friend does a far better job of managing that than me. At different intervals, we have to realign ourselves and readjust expectations. Plus, we live far apart and, while our work offers us many opportunities to spend time together, we are challenged by the geographical gap that prevents us from the typical interactions that friends share over coffee or drinks. We have to work hard to schedule our personal time and, for me, this causes stress and frustration and I have to continually remind myself that there is simply nothing traditional about our friendship. While I love that, at the same time, I am challenged by it over and over again.

My friend and I met five years ago on a cold February day in New York City. I had just joined a small consulting firm, where he was employed. On this day, I was attending an offsite meeting where I would be introduced to the whole team, flown in from all over the country. As the newbie, I felt nervous and intimidated because this was my first foray into consulting and I had a limited understanding of the business. As is often the case for me, I worried that expectations would be high and that I would not stack up.

When I entered the offices where we were meeting, I fortified myself by putting on my best game face and committed myself to winning them over. I knew I had some tools up my sleeve and planned to do whatever it took to be taken seriously. There was a lounge area outside of the conference room where we were set to meet and, while I waited for us to get started, I set my bags down on a stool at one of the high-top tables and sat down. I waited patiently for my boss to arrive so she could introduce me to the others.  Because we were at a client site, I was not able to identify my new colleagues as the lounge was filled with a mixture of people including the client’s employees. I was not prepared to start walking up to people and introducing myself. On the other hand, my future best friend, had a different strategy. While I don’t recall much before he came over to me, I do remember every detail that followed. Everything about our first interaction, through today’s lens, was authentic and represented our individual characteristics. He spotted me and figured I was the new one on the team. And he did what I have seen him do dozens of time since. He made his way over to me and, with a big bright smile, introduced himself and asked if he could sit down and join me.

Sometimes you meet someone, and it’s so clear that the two of you, on some level belong together. As lovers, or as friends, or as family, or as something entirely different. You just work, whether you understand one another or you’re in love or you’re partners in crime. You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest circumstances, and they help you feel alive. I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, or fate, or sheer blind luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something. – Unknown

When you know someone as well as I know my friend, it is hard to reflect back on when you were strangers. Nowadays, I cannot imagine the absence of our daily text banter. He is imprinted on me in so many aspects of my life that it would feel unnatural to not know him. Yet, of course, that was not always the case. On the day we met, it was as if I received a gentle tap on the shoulder, encouraging me to pay attention and remember the details of everything that followed. In fact, as I write this, I can still see his smiling face when he sat down and opened up his egg sandwich, all neatly wrapped in wax paper. Clearly in my mind’s eye I can see him dig into the sandwich, wiping the corners of his mouth after each bite. It is tattooed on my brain – like so many important moments we have shared.

We launched into a friendly conversation and used our respective skills to interrogate each other, trying to learn as much as we could in a short period of time. I discovered that he had hoped to relocate to New York from the midwest and I excitedly volunteered to help him out when the time came (he never moved, by the way). I have no idea what he learned about me (and knowing my friend, he probably doesn’t remember either as I maintain the role of documentarian in our friendship). Most importantly, what I recall is how he put me at ease and how grateful I felt. Even our superficial connection helped to start the day off well. My friend has a unique gift of knowing what people need when they need it and this, in my opinion, was no exception. My deep belief is that he was brought to me that day – and I was brought to him. There were so many opportunities for the initial meeting to have not occurred. It was New York, after all.  My train could have been late and I would not have arrived early to the meeting. Or, he could have been held up buying his breakfast and he would have showed up without time to stop and eat in the lounge. And, perhaps, we would have missed that essential opportunity to connect.But it wouldn’t have mattered.  We would have found each other. I am sure of this because my most penetrating recollection of that day – something that remains compelling even now – is me continually searching for his eyes throughout the day and the reassurance and kindness that were returned each time I found them. I still search for those eyes now, in the most intense of situations, and the exact same sentiment comes across when I find them.

My friend will tell you that he did not authentically feel the connection with me that day. It was a bit more artificial for him because he was working and ingratiating himself with a new colleague. Knowing him as well as I do all these years later, I suspect this is true. And, I also would submit that something was activated in him that took longer for him to recognize. I have a profound belief in the power of the universe and the force of inertia over which we have very little control. I adhere to the philosophy that the occurrences in our lives are almost always influenced by the signs we read or choose to ignore. In my life, I struggle to pay attention to the signals but I can mark only a handful of instances where I truly followed my gut because I felt an intense gravitational pull. One was when I met my husband. Another was when I met my best friend. Those are not coincidences.

Despite our upbeat initial meeting and the quick bond that followed, our relationship has endured many challenges. Those vacancy signs within me still light up frequently, causing me to feel needy and creating moments of co-dependency. These disruptions force to me to make adjustments, re-balancing my friend’s role in my life. That symbiosis is a double-edged sword. I sometimes lose perspective and need to step back and administer those boundaries. Sometimes he has to force the boundaries on me. I have to proceed with caution, carefully managing my needs and expectations while continuously searching for ways to plug the holes that still leak out from within me. Co-dependency comes easily for us because our lives have become so intertwined, balancing our friendship and our working relationship and our endless desire to support each other. My friend is so skilled at nurturing me and administering first aid and TLC. Plus, as we are all amalgamations of our childhood experiences, I struggle with abandonment issues that rear their ugly head time and again. Because of our geographical distance, my triggers are sometimes activated when we are apart and I have work to address them with my adult brain rather than my juvenile psyche . I work hard to be respectful of his marriage and his personal life while also maintaining my own relationships at home. I force myself to remember that we are friends and only elements of each other’s tapestries. For both of us, it would be easy to get lost inside of our relationship. Personally, I become intoxicated by the rawness and purity of my feelings when I am with him. Like a child, I dance along the edge, indulging myself and allowing my vulnerability to show. And, while my spouse is my regular confidant and my primary source of support, my friend offers a tenderness that so uniquely matches my imagined sense of what I would have received in my childhood had my family been functional. The absence of that with my own family makes this relationship so enticing and so curative. So, I contemplate it. And when I get really close to the edge, fearful that I will slip off into the abyss of dependency, I run from it, looking for ways to diminish its importance from my life. I am textbook. I act out the drama that unfolded in my early life, trying to destroy any possibility of emotional injury. I create complications and challenges that are acutely tied to the past. But, of course, my wonderful friend is not like the family I grew up with. He is part of my new family and he patiently and adeptly works through this aspect of my life with me. What has resulted from these dynamics is one of the most authentic and mature relationships of my life. You see, with my friend, there really is no place to run, no place to hide. No matter how hard I might try to distance myself in fear that I am getting lost in my neediness, he finds me. He has a remarkable ability to pierce those he cares most about and inserts a tracking device that allows him to be intensely aware of your every move and mood. He feels it. Ordinarily, this would make me feel naked and exposed, crowded and suffocated. But, with him, I love it. I rely upon it. It is not foolproof, of course, and sometimes he misses the signals and fails to deliver. And I fail too. And we fight. And we forgive each other. And we move on. We’re best friends, after all. We’re family.

When you encounter close friends who’ve know each other for a long time, you’ll find many who share a common language and a private code that is imperceptible to outsiders. Friends, like long-married couples, tend to blend together, adopting each other’s characteristics. My friend and I are no exception and I appreciate how much we have been role models for each other. Early on, he introduced an expectation of behavior that I was unaccustomed to. Over time, the clarity of his intentions and his approaches to behavior helped me to shift my own style and expectations. I am spoiled by what we have created and I try to apply our dynamic to other relationships.  I’m only minimally successful because (a) I am trying to replicate something that is really authentically his and (b) the ability to operate in this fashion is so unique and is befitting our relationship because we both show up willing to do the work. I am grateful for the impact my friend has had on me and, when I observe others as they interact with us, I am buoyed. Most recognize the intensity and authenticity of our dynamic. Those who are not threatened by it, succumb to the force and fall right into step alongside us. Others that find it discomforting tend to back away and, there too, I am thankful.

“This is how it works. I love the people in my life, and I do for my friends whatever they need me to do for them, again and again, as many times as is necessary. For example, in your case you always forgot who you are and how much you’re loved. So what I do for you as your friend is remind you who you are and tell you how much I love you. And this isn’t any kind of burden for me, because I love who you are very much. Every time I remind you, I get to remember with you, which is my pleasure.” James Lecesne

I’ve been very open with my friend about the part he plays in my life, how much he means to me and the commitment I have to continually improve and build upon our important relationship. I am thankful that he willingly accepts his role and embraces it wholeheartedly. He doesn’t share my turmoil but he respects and honors it, ceaselessly challenging my reference points and offering a new framework and a new definition of family. He has invited me into his paradigm, helping me open doors that seemed forever locked inside me. And I know that is one of the elements of our friendship that he is most proud of and what makes him smile the most. One of his key purposes in life is to help others tap into their potential and discover components of themselves that seemed otherwise unreachable. And I am so grateful to be the beneficiary of his gifts. I know that I get to enjoy facets of his composition that he reserves for only the most special and deserved and I am appreciative of his generosity. Throughout my life, I have been drawn to too many people who resembled my family and failed to offer honesty and authenticity. My friend is a fresh face drawn from sincerity and filled with depth and insightfulness. And, for that and many more reasons, he is my very best friend. Some people surround themselves with friends who make them laugh, some seek out friends who have common interests, some search for soul mates who have their back as they trek through the muck. My best friend is all of those wrapped in one. And, admittedly, I am rather picky about those I let into my life, especially into my tight inner circle. My friend is more than deserving. He respects his place and never takes it for granted.

Every day I am aware of my friend’s impact on my life and the slow dimming of those vacancy lights. Some days, when I am in dark places, I struggle to understand why I was chosen to endure the pain that has been present throughout my life. If part of the purpose was that it would open me up to appreciate the gifts of my friend, then I have found a lovely silver lining. And I am grateful. I sure do love my brother from another mother.

NOMINATION


LIEBSTER AWARDI haven’t had a whole lot of time to write lately which, I suppose, is both a good thing and bad.  On the positive side, my lack of time is a direct correlation to the amount of time I am investing in my startup (and, I am pleased to report, not fruitlessly). What disappoints me is that I love writing my blog and I am always excited to see what will come out when I dedicate the time to focus in on what is going on in my head and venture out on the expedition that naturally follows. Sometimes the words call to me and sometimes, with focused attention and consideration, I can take myself to places to find those words and I am always amazed at what I find.

Fortunately for me, my friend and fellow blogger Claire Sinclair staged a little intervention by generously nominating me for The Liebster Award which is an online award offering from bloggers to other bloggers. Liebster comes from German and has a variety of definitions including dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, and endearing.  All adjectives that come to mind when I think of Claire and ones I would like to have associated with me.  So, I’m grateful to Claire for paying it forward to me and I am excited to not only share what I am asked to as part of this nomination but also pay this recognition forward to other bloggers whose writing I find to be engaging and transformational.

First, I need to answer the 11 questions that Claire has laid out for me and then I need to provide 11 random facts about myself. I love these type of exercises but, if I had to do it differently, I would probably ask friends and family to provide me with 11 random facts about me. In fact, after this is done, I might just do that!

I was recently having a discussion with my best friend regarding how I might like to celebrate my 50th birthday. (Seeing that in writing, by the way, freaked me out just a little bit). It’s still 2 years away – or I could say that it is only 2 years away – so it was one of those wistful discussions about something that we really don’t need to focus on right at this moment but might be fun to think about.  Frankly, now that I have articulated it this way, I’m not seeing the fun in it so much! Anyway, he asked me what I might want to do as I typically celebrate milestone birthdays in a pretty vigorous way. My 40th was a big blowout in my yard with (as I phrased it at the time) “every single person I love.”  Apparently, I loved about 80 people because we had a packed house. I did truly love every minute of the party – especially the sea of friends strewn across my back lawn, passed out from way-too-much-celebrating. One of my friends had donated a bunch of feather boas to the party and I found loose feathers randomly around my house for months thereafter, reminding me of the joy of the celebration. It was a unification of people from all periods in my life. People who meant something to me (at 40, I thought I loved them all). It was wonderful and it made me happy.  Following on the heels of that, when I was approaching 45, a friend who had attended my 40th reminded me of how much fun we all had at that party and instigated a 45th birthday celebration. I don’t think it was ever my intention to indulge in a mid-decade acknowledgment but it sounded like a good idea at the time and, once again, we celebrated en masse.  It was a Hawaiian-themed event, again in my yard, and, while there were some new faces this time, it just made me happy.  Since then, my priorities have changed – my entire life has changed. So, when I think about turning 50, I think of it through a new lens.  And that lens is much more reflective. When my best friend and I had the discussion about how I might like to celebrate, I shared that I wanted to be roasted but, perhaps, not with such a negative connotation. I wanted to hear what the people I cared about the most had to say about me.  Seems fitting. As does this exercise.  So, let’s go!

Here are my answers to Claire’s questions:

1. What do you rant most over?  Hmmm.  That is a tough one.  There are definitely things that bug me in life but some of my big triggers are centered around people who are not accountable and people who are disloyal or untrustworthy.  Stuff usually does not cause me to rant. I might get really aggravated about how slobbish my husband or kids are but that doesn’t really get me going. People behaving badly really does.

2. Why did you start blogging? This one is easy!  I started my blog back in 2010 to help support my consulting business. It started, purely, as a business blog. It was intended as a vehicle to help give voice to my perspectives on workplace matters like diversity, women’s leadership, work/life alignment, etc. Almost without my realizing it, I suddenly started sharing personal stories about my life and noticed that people were paying attention and offering really meaningful feedback.  And, more importantly, I recognized the catharsis of sharing my story. Practically overnight, I stepped away from the business focus and made this about my life and my personal journey of humanity.

3. Do you have an idol, who is it and why? I don’t really have idols. I think idols are unrealistic because it assumes that someone is more than human. I have people who I really admire and who have inspired me. They are probably not who you might expect. They are everyday people who really motivate and excite me. They are my most favorite people in the world. So, my idols, if you will, are the following people and I’ll tell you why. First, my husband. He and I are completely different in so many ways but he is someone I truly admire. He has a sense of love and loyalty that I don’t always understand or appreciate. He has been so committed to me for nearly 23 years and has never once wavered on how he feels about me, despite me giving him lots of opportunities to do so. Next, are my kids. Perhaps because my older son is a teenager and more mature, I have begun to see aspects of him that I genuinely appreciate and applaud. I can envision who he might be as an adult. His confidence and sense of morality surprise and delight me. There are definitely days when it feels like the roles have reversed and he is the teacher, guiding me through unchartered waters. I cherish the moments when he stops and takes time to talk to me or ask for my help and I find myself transported and inspired. My younger son is also a role model for me because of his uncanny ability to express love and compassion in a way that I have never seen possible in my own life. He is an old soul who can empathize with those around him. Even when he is facing adversity, he finds a silver lining to adhere to and provide himself with a ray of light that represents goodness. I admire his openness and his kindness.  Finally, one of the biggest influences in my life is my best friend. He is an inspiration because he models behavior that encourages me to expand myself in ways that I never imagined possible. I have a genuine appreciation for his triumphs which he acknowledges modestly yet thoughtfully. He has taught me to be present and to appreciate the simplicity of my life that provides me with pure joy. He has forced me (sometimes reluctantly) to acknowledge parts of myself that I would have otherwise ignored. He is a catalyst for growth and change because I get to luxuriously cherry pick through the field of wisdom he offers both intentionally and passively. All of these people encourage me, whether they recognize it or not, to be a better person and raise the bar in my life.  They are my idols.

4. What is the best advice you have ever received? Believe it or not, the best advice I ever received was from someone I ultimately didn’t end up respecting very much. But, this one piece of advice has stuck with me for years. It is about parenting. When my children were very young, I lamented about not having any free time to myself. She, on the other hand, had teenagers and was seeing the world through a very different lens. She said to me “Right now, you just want 30 minutes to yourself. One day, you will be like me and wish you could have 30 minutes with your kids.” I have never, ever forgotten her words and I have honored that notion as my children have gotten older. It caused me to focus on being more present with my children and respecting the time I had with them. And, while I am not quite at the point where I cannot even get 30 minutes with them, we are definitely headed in that direction so I am very conscious about finding meaningful time with them and tuning into what they may want or need. I meet them where they are and find ways to incorporate myself into their lives rather than vice versa.

5. Where is the farthest you have traveled? I am not as well-traveled as I would like but I think I literally just came back from the farthest place I have been to.  Yesterday morning I returned from Ecuador. It was the first time I had been to South America and, outside of some trips to Western Europe like Italy, England and Germany, it is the farthest I have traveled from home.

6. If you could be living anywhere in the world, where would it be? I have thought about this one a lot. As I said, I am not well-traveled and most of my travel is domestic and as a result of work. So, I don’t get to experience a lot of the destinations I am fortunate to travel to outside of the airport, taxis and hotels. I never imagined myself living outside the U.S. and I don’t think I have any great desire to do so.  I might want to live in London for a while or somewhere in Europe.  I love cities with lots of energy. Having grown up around New York City, I have a healthy love and appreciation for it yet am happy to get to leave there and come home to the suburbs. I also really love the ocean. It calms me and grounds me. So, ultimately, I would probably choose to live in the Bay Area, near the water but close enough to go into San Francisco and experience the city that I love so much.

7. What is your favorite indulgence? I love handbags. Beautiful, designer, high-end handbags. I cannot get enough of them. I spend way too much on them and all my close friends know I covet them. I believe in earning my rewards and am holding out for a particular Louis Vuitton tote that I have had my eye on for years. When my business reaches a certain level of success, this will be my treat.  For now, however, I overindulge on lesser expensive bags like Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, etc.

8. What are your pet peeves? My pet peeves are aligned with my rants. They are mostly behavioral. I have no patience for people who are not authentic. I cannot tolerate disloyalty, arrogance, or entitlement. Those things drive me crazy. I am not a neat freak or squeamish about certain foods. The word “moist” does not send shivers down my spine. I struggle with being tolerant of others who believe they have a different set of rules assigned to them.

9. What are your favorite television shows? There are probably too many for me to mention. I watch WAY too much television and am trying to cut back. I really enjoy well-written shows with incredibly deep character studies. Probably my favorite show of the moment is House of Cards. I became hooked last year on Orange is the New Black. I still love Mad Men and am sad to see it go. I am a big fan of most things HBO and Showtime. On network television, I continue to enjoy the drama of Scandal (it is my guilty pleasure) and cry each week at Parenthood, even though I would admit that it is schmaltzy.  And, I simply love The Good Wife.  Such great writing, such great characters and I am obsessed with Alan Cumming!

10. Do you have any tattoos and if so, what are they? I do have a tattoo!  I was always against tattoos until I wasn’t. One day I just knew that I wanted one and that it was the right thing to do. I had lost a great deal of weight and had injured myself kickboxing, resulting in a hairline fracture in my right ankle. Having never been athletic before, it was significant to me that I had reached a point in my life that I was active enough to have a sports-related injury! I wanted to commemorate this with a tattoo right in the place of the fracture. The big decision was what to put there. I knew I needed to have something somewhat discreet because of my work and, while I respect and appreciate others who have big tattoos, that is still not my thing.  I just wanted something symbolic for me.  I carefully researched it and ended up with the Japanese symbol for “truth.”It is meaningful to me because truthfulness or honesty is paramount to me and, when I fractured my ankle, I felt like I was finally living a truthful life. I have had the tattoo for nearly 3 years and I still get excited when I look down on it.  It makes me proud and happy.

11. Do you have any regrets? NO. (And neither should anyone else.)

And, now, 11 Random Facts about Me:

I doubt much of this will come as a surprise given how much I have shared in my blog but they are all little facets of my personality that, when pulled together, create the me that most people see.

1. I always believed I would die before I turned 25 so, as a young adult, I never made any plans for my life. I assumed I would be gone by some untimely form of death. Ironically, I met my husband 4 months before I turned 25 and we got engaged the day before my 25th birthday. I’ve always wondered if this was the universe providing me with more certainty of life beyond 25 and the bones of a plan.

2. Despite the fact that I most identify with being a Jew (because of my mother’s family), I grew up with no religion. This has been a struggle for me my entire life because it was one more item  in a series of aspects of my life that made me feel like an outsider. I did not even have a religious denomination to align with.

3. I watched a man have a stroke right in front of me and it was the scariest thing I ever saw. My mother’s third husband was a bit of an alcoholic and he was not very healthy. One Saturday afternoon when I was probably 11 or 12, we were sitting at the kitchen table where I was working on a project for school and he was just hanging out and chatting with me. All of a sudden I saw his arm go up in the air as if we was grabbing for something and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Unintelligible noises came from his mouth and, at my tender young age, he seemed like a Frankenstein monster to me. I ran upstairs to my mother’s bedroom and crawled under the bed in fear. I knew I had to do something to help so I called our neighbor and asked him to come over and help us.

4. I am terribly afraid of developing Alzheimer’s. There are genetic links on my father’s side of the family and perhaps on my mother’s as well. As someone who stores everything so neatly away in my mind (memorializing all experiences through images, smells, faces, etc) and am dependent on this information to help me navigate the world, I cannot imagine how I will retain any portion of my identity if I lose the ability to connect to these memories or be able to articulate my thoughts through words.

5. I have an overwhelming fear of heights. I have never been on a roller coaster nor have I experienced most amusement park thrill rides. I don’t get motion sick. It is an intellectual fear mostly. I am perfectly content flying and never have fear looking out the window when taking off or landing or even looking down to the ground from midair. But, even walking up the steps to the High Line in NYC, my knees get a little wobbly.

6. I did not speak until I was 4 years old.  From what my mother told me, I uttered words here and there but was mostly silent. Ironically, I learned how to read by the age of 4 by studying books that my mother’s sister sent to me. I taught myself and would read quietly in my head. Suddenly, sometime after my fourth birthday, I started talking in very complete and thoughtful sentences. It was believed that the reading helped me to use my language. Frankly, I think this is all some family folklore and, in fact, that I was actually talking but, being the third child, no one actually paid attention to me and didn’t realize that I was talking in full sentences long before 4! The reading part is, for sure, true.  I remember the books that I devoured long before I went to Kindergarten and recall entering Kindergarten with a very advanced reading level.

7. I have a very hard outer shell and a very soft inner core. Most people who do not know me think I am pretty tough and hard to get to know. I tend to not be very friendly and inviting when you first meet me because I am still quite shy.  I was painfully shy as a child and would never introduce myself to other kids and used to be terrified of calling other kids on the phone to invite them to play because I so dreaded potential rejection. Nowadays, it is unconscious to me. I don’t realize that I often stand back and observe when I meet people rather than jumping into the fray. I have heard people refer to me as aloof, standoffish, elitist and I laugh. None of those adjectives even remotely accurately reflect who I am. I am definitely harder on the outside and tougher but I am thoughtful and reserved and, once I let you into my life, I am a total mush and you can easily break my heart.

8. I met my husband on a chat board before there were really chat boards. It was 1992 and we had both logged onto a very primitive chat board for work reasons. You had to come up with a name – a “handle” – in order to chat on the board and I called myself “Red” (because of my red hair at the time) and my husband was “Dano” (because of his name). Of course, the first thing I said when I saw his name was “Book em, Dano!” I needed some technical help but he and I somehow started a friendly chat that went on and on and on. We had a wildly-surprising instant connection that was palpable. We quickly moved our exchange to the telephone  and I remember laying on the floor of my bedroom in my Park Slope apartment talking to him for hours on end. He had a girlfriend and I was seeing a few people at that time but we both knew, after the first call, that we were meant to be together.

9. My husband and I got engaged 4 months after we met while living on opposite sides of the country. I was so young at the time and didn’t bother to think about the complexities of a long-distance relationship (or any relationship, for that matter, as I was a dater – not interested in long-term commitments). Nor did it occur to me the need to test drive the car before you purchased. I went with my gut. As I have experienced only a few times in my life, I was magnetically drawn to him and there was nothing I could do to tinker with that. I knew that I had no choice but to be with him. 23 years later, I think the same is true.  We had the most unconventional relationship and didn’t really “date” in the true sense of the word.  We simply met and coupled up instantly. Neither of us questioned whether it would last and we never broke up.

10. I am the first in my family to attend college. My sister, who is 14 years older than me, returned to community college after she had already worked in a series of administrative jobs in Manhattan. Both my mother and sister were legal secretaries and my father was a high school dropout who went on to become a NYC police officer and then a small business owner. My brother also dropped out of high school and went on to earn his GED after he enrolled in the Navy. My attending a university immediately following my graduation from high school was a dream for my father (and he had hoped I would continue on to law school – sorry, Dad). My mother never put much thought to it because it was out of her scope of imagination to think that I would attend a university on a full-time basis and complete my Bachelors Degree.  She assumed my life would look just like hers. It was a differentiator that distanced me from my family and was the beginning of my journey of understanding life beyond the very limited walls of my highly dysfunctional family.

11. I have been on television a number of times and had always dreamed of having a career in television. As a young child, I was on Romper Room several times and on Wonderama.  As a young adult, I was an audience member on the Phil Donahue show and was able to ask questions on several of the shows. I had a crazy crush on Phil Donahue and nearly stalked him in order to figure out a way to get a job working with him. That never panned out and I figured out I had to settle for a more practical job in publishing. I never lost my love of the talk show and always dreamt of becoming the next Oprah!

Now it is time for me to nominate and pose questions for my nominees:

1. What is your biggest fear?

2. If you were a superhero, what power would you most want to have?

3. What is a dream that has stuck with you?

4. Who has been most influential in your life?

5. What is your dream job/career?

6. If you only had three words to describe yourself, what would they be?

7. How do you think others describe you?

8. How do you define courage for yourself?

9. What stresses you out the most?

10. What is one behavior in your life that you would like to change?

11. Complete this sentence: I will no longer accept….

Thanks again to Claire for nominating me! This was fun.  I’m going to be reaching out to other bloggers to nominate them too!