12 Feb 2015

fluffy blueberry pancakes + some thoughts on losing your best friend

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Time takes it all whether you want it to or not, time takes it all. Time bares it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again. –Stephen King

For seven years there was only S. I met her in a writing program in Russia. She wore strappy sandals that scraped along the sidewalk as she walked, the buckles had come undone, and the way she chewed gum unnerved me. It was if she knew she chewed loudly, brazenly, but asked her if she cared because she didn’t. I remember her being volcanic; she moved swiftly from one train of thought to another, speaking in tourettic spurts about nerve endings, poetry, white nights, and synapses firing. Her voice made me think of jazz with all the disjointed rhythms and erupting syncopations, and in the brief walk from our class to our dorm she exhausted me. I remember sitting in my room, in silence, thinking, what just happened?

For the rest of our time in Russia I’d hear stories about the strange girl who lived in an apartment off-campus. The girl who got arrested in The Summer Gardens for scaling the gates after hours and being invited out for vodka after she and her friends bribed the officers with 300 rubles. I saw her at parties and we exchanged pleasantries, but mostly I watched her weave in and out of rooms. Watching S was akin to live wires unwinding. She was in a constant state of unraveling. I was in awe of her. Compared to my shackled life, she seemed…free. This was a time when I thought I had a great love, and before I left for Russia he had convinced me to try to stop drinking. It would be my first of many failed attempts, but I wanted him (or the thought of him) and the promise of a life he offered. So I lived in a perpetual state of fear and burial–I could practically crack the gravel with my teeth–and seeing S move was thrilling. While I roamed the Nevsky Prospekt in a virtual straightjacket, S was ready for flight.

When we came home, we casually met up over drinks with the other New Yorkers who were in the program. We exchanged stories about our teachers, our work, and memories of the Museum of Oddities–an experience that brought on a collective silence and shudder. Over time, S and I would couple off (I guess there’s no other way to put it) and we spoke obsessively about our history of broken people and our mutual drug addictions, which had us continue the cycle of breaking our parents had started. We talked a lot about our parents (she wrestled with a cruel father and I a sociopathic, narcissistic mother). How do I explain now that we were strong, educated, outspoken women, yet we were frightened, fragile, undone? Looking back at our friendship, it occurs to me that we desperately clung to each other to make ourselves whole, and it’s only after our fissure that I suspect we both realized the unhealthy nature of our mutually agreed-upon attachment.

For years, the world was only us. We spent every day together. We obsessed over the food we ate, the workouts we did, the books we read. The men in our lives were periphery, noise, because who could understand Felicia and S other than Felicia and S? I remember my friend Angie, years ago, approaching me with trepidation. She wondered aloud if perhaps S and I were too close, because it was possible to be close to the point of suffocation, where one suffers at the expense of another. I shook my head, impossible, and Angie receded, folded into quiet. But I remember the concern that washed across her face, and when we talk about it now, Angie reminds me that it’s a good thing S and I broke up.

Broke up.

Over seven years, we endured love, breakups, trips to Los Angeles and Taiwan. I finally got sober and stayed sober. We wrote books, ascended, and obsessively maintained our lean frame to an increasingly disturbing degree. But there was so much love! I never had a sister, and we loved as viciously as we fought. Our rows were violent storms that resembled undertow. Screaming matches in the street followed by long periods of uncomfortable silence. Maybe she was the first to notice cracks in the fault? Because when I took a fancy job at a then-cool agency, our friendship became two wires detangling. I became consumed with work and she with a new boyfriend, who would eventually become her husband. Our once excited conversations became a string of rehashed memories of the friendship we used to have. We had very little in common except for our history and I think we both knew it but didn’t dare say it out loud.

It’s easy to end a friendship over an action or a series of betrayals, but it’s heartbreaking to end because of a drift. One day I was supposed to be S’s maid of honor in her wedding and the next she stopped returning my calls. It was is if we never existed, and I was devastated that she excised me so neatly. I saw photographs of her nuptials on Facebook and I wept for days. I then unfriended her. Just like that. Seven years ended with a click of a mouse. A shift from friend to unfriend.

Our history had been wiped clean.

It took me two years to recover from her loss and we haven’t spoken a word in six. I’ll never know why we broke up, although I suspect it was for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. How do you tell someone that you don’t want to be their friend anymore because you just don’t? Because you weren’t the people you used to be? That needing another half to make you whole isn’t how you get complete–the numbers just don’t foot. Truth be told I probably wouldn’t have understood it back then the way I do now. I’ve reconciled my hurt and have found closure in losing her.

I often think that our breaking was the best thing for both of us because I lived a stunted version of myself, and I was forced to live a life independent of her, regardless of how dysfunctional that life might have been. I don’t want a reconciliation with S; I have my closure and people in my life who have grown in step with me.

Do you know I made these pancakes for breakfast for this morning and thought of her? I remember a day trip we took to Woodbury Commons and she was in my apartment and I made her this grand breakfast. Freshly-squeezed orange juice, strips of bacon coated in maple syrup and pancakes. I don’t recall if she was the pancake type, but she loved mine and she devoured the contents of her plate. I remember feeling satisfied, happy.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Paleo Kitchen Cookbook
3 large eggs
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons almond or full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon organic honey
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of fine-grain sea salt
coconut oil, for greasing the skillet
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the almond milk, honey, lemon juice, and vanilla and whisk until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut flour and tapioca flour, then add to the wet ingredients 1/4 cup at a time, while continuously whisking. Then mix in the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Grease a large skillet and place over medium heat. Once the skillet is warm use a ladle to pour 3-inch pancakes into the skillet. Once bubbles begin to appear in the surface of a pancake, drop a small handful of blueberries into it and flip. The pancake should cook on each side 3-4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.

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0 Comments

  1. efwalt wrote:

    Fabulously written post. You just described my best friend of 7 years. It ended in much the same way and for almost identical reasons. Though I’m not sure which of us really brought it to an end. I still think about her too. If you were to look at us both now you’d never think we could have ever been friends, let alone like sisters. Still, I have many happy memories and its made me a better person 🙂

    Here’s to your S, and to my A! Pass the pancakes…

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  2. This post brought back some painful memories from my early 20s. I was devastated after a close friend from college kicked me to the curb and dis-invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.

    Only years later did I realize that it was for the best that this person and her sidekick were out of my life.

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  3. Nyambura wrote:

    Felicia, I’m sure wherever S is, she knows… Love, in the little things we do for others, can never be erased.

    Light and pancakes!

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  4. Thank you for sharing this story and recipe! I have been letting go of a college friend recently in a similar way…it’s hard because you seem to still want to be friends, possibly. It’s hard that the other person doesn’t. But we can let them go…peace to you.

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  5. koolaidmoms wrote:

    Time may change the closeness but it never changes the experiences you had. It may change your perspective on them but they will always exist as a memory to draw upon as needed. A beautiful story of friendship and loss.

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  6. Love your style.

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  7. After nearly 35 years, my best friend from high school and college re-appeared in my life this past October. Our lives are so different now. She is where “we” planned to be one day, jetting across the world… dining at 5-Star Michelin Restaurants and working “volunteer” lives… She will soon celebrate 30 years of marriage. Not too surprisingly, she married the cousin of my then-fiancée… (Three days before the wedding, I started running.) She is AKST and I am CST. Like years before when we were young and searching for our first apartment together, singing Karen Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun,” we would talk for hours. We were closer than sisters. A few suspicious minds thought we were lovers… including boyfriends who competed for our attention, respectively. Last evening she called while I was talking on the telephone to the man I love. I decided to accept her call, explaining to him my girlfriend was on the line. He was between patients and said, “I’ll call you later.” Ten minutes into our conversation, the man I want to marry now, called again. Told my friend, I would call her right back expecting a brief conversation. Five minutes into our conversation, she rings my phone again. Trying not to laugh, I simply asked my Sweet Basil to call me later. She was hysterically laughing… We laughed together and talked a few hours… After nearly 35 years… We are still who we are… True friendships find a way back…

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  8. This reminds me of a dear friend of mine that a lost in a similar fashion and it isn’t easy. I completely understand and you know what I am sure there is not a day that goes by where she isn’t thinking about you.

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  9. JMD398 wrote:

    I’ve read many times that sometimes the people that enter your life are like seasons and are meant to stay. Summer, spring, winter, fall and the year come and go. Sometimes the unavoidable happens for more or less reasons. Enjoyed the post. Now lets eat those cakes 🙂

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  10. Laurel wrote:

    You are singing my song Felicia! I experienced the deep and profound loss of a friendship I once held dear, above almost all else, as did she. I too reconciled and made peace, dried up my forever tears and moved on after I realized I had to stop trying because just WHY was I still trying?

    Posted on 2.12.15 · Reply to comment
  11. petra wrote:

    I don’t know. I try not to close doors on friendships anymore. I had my fair share of unfriending episodes. big love affairs that ended in heartbreak. because that’s what friendships among women can be, no? and guess what, some of them walked back into my life, or I into theirs. and none of it was planned or anticipated. and it still surprises me and freaks me out. out of the few friendships that recovered that way, not many, none got back to where it was. some distance stays behind. it’s uneasy at times. but what I learned from all of this is that life is long [hopefully], that we all change, and that you just never know. sometimes, you need these clean breaks. you need a period of silence because it’s too painful to even get the occasional bit of information about what they do. but years later, when both sides have gone through whatever it they needed to go through, there might be a chance of reconciliation. I got really pragmatic about this. people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. and the most flighty ones [reason] can turn out to stick around for ever [or to come back when you least expect them], and the lifetimes ones may disappear when you least expect it. what I’m trying to say is that I get you, I guess, and that it is what it is, and that it might be something else down the line. that thought always helps me when I notice people drifting away.

    Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
    • I’m not really closing the door–I’m just choosing not to leave it wide open. If reconciliation happens, awesome, but not every cut can be made whole and I’m okay with that.

      Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
  12. This really resonates. I’m still in the processes of grieving a painful friendship death. I did a piece for HuffPo about this, and circled around the topic a bit– just too raw still, and I didn’t want it to become passive-aggressive, but man– hard stuff! There are different drifts, but that meaningful important, friendship that is lost, lingers… beautifully written.

    Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
    • I completely hear you. I’ve had some time so it no longer hurts, and it’s actually made me redefine the kind of people I want in my life and what it means to be a good friend. Through every hurt there’s knowledge and I feel glad for the relationship S and I had, and am okay with the fact that it was important in one moment in my life.

      I’d love to read your article. Please share if you see this comment 🙂

      Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
  13. Sara wrote:

    Beautifully written post. My one true friend break-up was with a girl who sounds a lot like S – we had some of the most amazing spontaneous and free moments, but it was mixed in with a lot of manipulation and rudeness towards my husband. It hurt a lot, but all in all I’d rather have had those experiences than skipped over it all.

    Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
  14. I enjoyed reading it very much. Love your style. Pancakes look so delicious 🙂

    Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
  15. Such a beautiful description of friendship. Some aren’t made to last but those can be the most fun… kinda like men. The ones that weren’t good for me are the most fun to remember.

    Posted on 2.13.15 · Reply to comment
  16. I needed this today. I’ve been pondering the disappearance of a close friend who one day suddenly stopped returning calls with no explanation–no fight, no tension, no rift that I can name. She just stopped. My automatic response in such situations is to assume that I’m at fault, despite any evidence to the contrary. I wonder what I’ve done, what’s wrong with me. Your post, and this comment thread, are much-needed reminders that these things–the fraying of the cords that connect us–are things that happen, and are not unique tragedies but perhaps part of the whole rich fabric of being human. Thank you.

    Posted on 2.14.15 · Reply to comment

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“If I had my way, I’d never leave my house. My home is small, and I know every inch of it. An 800-square foot box with two windows, walls, and a doorbell that plays instrumental Julio Iglesias. Half the rooms are cloaked in effulgent light and the other a cool charcoal black. I’ve become fluent at oscillating between the two. I don’t even love the space in which I live, but I’m hard-pressed to leave it.”
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Characters are delicious. When I was small, I didn’t have many friends, so I surrounded myself with books and my imagination. It’s a strange, magical thing to live your life inside your head, but this is what I did. Long, sultry summers formed a backdrop for one of the many worlds I’d created, complete with a cast of characters who felt so real you could touch them. This was more than inventing an imaginary friend or anthropomorphizing a stuffed bear; my characters were fully-formed people who had their own personalities, a particular way of talk, and facial features I’d cobbled together from television shows and magazines. They clasped pearls around their thin necks and wore sweaters and shoes made of silk and dyed blue. They were carriers of credit cards, plastic rectangular shapes I’d only seen on TV — a far cry from the crumpled bills and pennies we hoarded. My characters were breathing Frankensteins, only far less frightening. What made them real was they refused to follow a script — they rarely behaved the way I wanted them to.
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Denis Johnson once said that dialogue isn’t about what characters are saying, but what’s left unsaid. The leaner the dialogue, the bigger the bite. Darkness fell. The summer in 2005 was unseasonably chilly, and we wrapped ourselves in light jackets and thin cotton sweaters, watching the author of Jesus’ Sonchain-smoke and dole out advice with humor and humility. We were at a writer’s conference where we workshopped our stories during the day and mingled with boldfaced names in the evening. This would be the summer before I sold my first book and I was floored that my teacher at the time, Nick Flynn, found something honest and worthy in my essays that would become my memoir, The Sky Isn’t Visible From Here. Back then, I was painfully shy and prone to giving violently awkward first impressions, so instead of the cocktails and conversation, I chose to sit on the wet grass and listen to writers whom I admired. One evening, Denis Johnson gave a talk on dialogue.
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Dialogue is difficult. I often think of it as the power-lifter of novel writing because it has to operate successfully on several different levels. Not only does it have to move the story forward, convey information quickly, and grant narrative breathing space (because who wants to plow through pages without an exhale), but it also has to reveal core character truths. Dialogue delivers what narrative can’t — a voyeuristic, in-depth look into the minds of characters through what they say, and more importantly, what they chose not to disclose. Characters come to life when they speak. We visualize them as living, breathing people who have a particular way of talk, a specific view of the world and their place in it. While the author has dominion over the narrative, serving as your tour guide through the story, the dialogue serves as the wild card, the wrench that could usurp everything you’ve just read and what you’re about to read.
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These podcasts invite guests who look and sound just like them. They regurgitate the same bullshit business advice that Seth Godin wrote a decade ago, and pithy platitudes because it got that influencer turned entrepreneur rich on Instagram, and now she sells courses for $600 a pop when she’s never done the thing she teaches for anyone other than herself. These people are so obsessed with building their brand that they forgot to be human.
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And then I realized that since we have so little time, why not spend it being our truest selves. Why not fuse all the things that make us weird, strange, and unique, and bring them to bear on our work.
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Don’t listen to people who tell you that you should act or be a certain way. They’re telling you to behave in their way, in a way that’s safe, conforming, and possibly boring. They’re not wrecking things. They’re not thinking about the feel of every inch of our life slipping, slipping, slipping by. They clock-watch. They speak in coded jargon or vernacular. Plain English frightens them. People who are different paralyze them. And they’ll poke fun and use you as a prop for their amusement, but they’re small. And they’re not doing much with their life except for complaining about it.
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