It's a short list of people, despite how much I rave about folk. The actual list of my FAVORITE people on the planet is short. It's carved by time, and pain, and heartache, and love. It's carved in stone that won't erode.
I met Eileen when I moved to the city, she was my first friend in a new place. She spent the night with me, and I instantly loved her. She was funny. She was smart. She was bolder than me and I felt safe with her, but also brave because of her. Eileen was FEARSOME. Once, in high school she got into a horrible fight with Simon (everyone from my high school just nodded cuz they know this story) during lunch, and those of us who had spectated had to return to class late from lunch which was pretty much punishable by death.
We walked into the classroom behind the shield of Eileen's rage and fury, and the teacher who might normally have smeared our hearts on the blackboard simply nodded as we sat down quietly. You didn't fuck with Eileen.
She was also generous, trustworthy and overwhemingly caring. Once, I was late for a speech meet (yeah I was on the speech team, you didn't get it yet - I'm a GEEK), and I straggled onto the school bus at 6:30 in my PJs with a bag of makeup,clothes and toiletries to get ready on the way. I leaned back on the bus seat, closed my eyes and Eileen painstakingly did my makeup that my sleepy self couldn't muster the will. She did my hair too, and when I opened my eyes, every guy on the bus was watching us.
"That's the hottest thing I've ever seen," one of them remarked.
I guess they didn't get out much.
Well it's 20 odd years later.
Our lives are different. I've got 4 kids and am married and I've got autistic kids and my life is chaos.
Eileen has MS.
Her life is hell.
Except, it's not.
Do you see this beautiful, vibrant woman? She can't get out of bed a lot of days. She gets restricted to a wheelchair a lot it seems from her face book. All the time? I don't think so.
She lives on the other side of the country from me and this is what I've learned, after delving back into her life via facebook:
She's my touchstone. Not the sort that you that you use to give thanks that your shit isn't that bad. That, in my opinion, is sort of a bullshit way to belittle other people's struggles. Phew! Glad that doesn't happen to ME! It's all about me!
No, instead, I look at Eileen's pics and her posts, and I see my friend. I see a person who finds JOY in the things of this world that are given her. It's not that she doesn't have bad days, and cry and rage and be angry that her life went differently than she ever thought it would. But instead, she finds her joy.
She finds things to be thankful for. She got a new shower chair - and facebooked her joy at how luxurious it was going to be. At first I cried for her - but then, I realized how self serving those tears were. Because - she was for real. That shower chair was going to be a huge luxury. A comfy place to safely sit while she slathered on delicious smells, to make her soul calm and her aching muscles soothed.
It started making me think. What's my shower chair? What's my thing, that to me, is a deep sigh of relief, of joy, of pleasure? Is it clean sheets? Is it the smell of shampoo on my children's hair?
Eileen might have physical struggles, but from where I sit, she has perfected the soul.
I love you Eileen. And I miss you every day.
Plus, you took the coolest picture I ever saw.
PS I stole all these pics off her FACEBOOK. She just has to love me anyway.