Friday, April 1, 2011

With a little help from my Friends

Quito, Ecuador---I go through life thinking that "I am an Island." I do not like to ask for help. I’ve tried to be independent and self-reliant. But I write this humbled by the fact that this year would not have been possible without a group of friends that supported my idea to live overseas, crew on a boat and then later rallied around me in some emotionally dark hours when I was so far away.

When the unplanned situation of moving my dog Turbo back home came up I was in the Canary Islands. There was no getting around it or putting it off any longer. My dog needed to be rescued. They stepped up to doing above and beyond by getting him (a 10 hour drive round trip) taking care of him all along, unsure if he would even make it. It became a total group effort of six people who organized his care, one being a foreign student from Peru that lived in my house and I’ve never even met. I called the group “Team Turbo”. They worked out a journal system to “check in” and report when they stopped by my house, sometimes to just give him and Convict (my cat) some petting.

I almost lost my best friend from college, Lisa, in a terrible skiing accident in Colorado before I left. It was unimaginable to think of her not growing old. She doesn’t even know how much it scared me. But all my high school, college, and once Daytona friends that are now scattered around the US all had similar reactions to me doing this…like it was meant to be. A reassuring thought on the many sleepless nights when I wondered “what the heck am I doing?”

My sister went through a terrible divorce while I was gone. Ever since my Mom got Alzheimer’s and later passed away, we have always been each other’s shoulder to lean on and I was not around during some hard times when she needed me. Yet she was always sending me emails and was my biggest supporter of this year away. I couldn’t have a better friend or amazing human to have as my only sibling.

Besides my sister, there were several relatives in particular whose support was unconditional. My cousin Martha, battleing cancer at the time, was a loyal reader with her children. As she was going through so much herself, her encouragement to me was self-less and inspiring. If my adventure gave her a distraction as she said, then I'm thrilled. And Mary and Jason in South Africa, invited me to live with them when I came close to leaving the first boat and didn't know where to go and hosted me for a 10 day break while the boat was in Gibraltar...well, there really isn't a big enough gesture to say thank you. Months later I did leave that boat and the encouragement they gave me rang clear when I took that stand. And finally, I had a couple of Aunts who had no idea the role they played. My Aunt Wanda battleing cancer, kept emails coming from Kansas City and constantly checked on me right up to a week before her unexpected passing. But as if it were planned, my Aunt Viola in Oklahoma started emailing soon after, only later did I find out that she did not know that the other Aunt had been regularly emailing me and that she had picked up the encouraging notes where the other left off.

I left my CPA, Minna Hardesty, in charge of my financial mess after losing so much and appointed her as my Power of Attorney while I was gone. As much as I tried to have everything handled before I left, life just doesn’t work that way. She is more than the best accounting firm in town; she has been an amazing friend who dealt gracefully with all the issues that came up along the way…and my mail.

Terri from my management company has tried to juggle things for me usually with a bit of humor but another person who helped make this possible.

That larger group of “friends” who have followed me, reading my stories on the blog and sending comments. Thank you, you do not know how it cheered me, encouraged me and kept me writing.

And the sponsors who gifted me, thank you does not seem big enough. It was great fun to find things to assign it to and write about it.

I know FaceBook has been a great connector of people, but I never saw its impact personally until my birthday when I had 80-something well wishes; I honestly didn’t know I knew that many people. Again, how humbling.

I had two great friends who gave me a chance to sail with their family for nine months. It did not end how I imagined and their treatment of me, forgiven but not forgotten, left our friendship as a thing of the past. However, for the original opportunity, I will always be grateful.

And for the inner circle of girlfriends that know who they are, thank you.

Our life is long, our time is short. And I, I am so thankful for a little…well, a lot of help from my friends.