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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Achilles Heel

Do you know those “get acquainted” exercises many businesses and schools run where you have to reveal one secret about yourself that no-one would ever guess? You write
it on an index card, then the cards are distributed. You mingle among the group and try to match the secret to the person. Sound familiar? Well, here’s my secret. I’ll make it easy.

I moved nine times before I was eleven. Nine is a big number. My father opened new offices for the Mutual of New York Insurance Company. His letterhead said “Kenneth F. Evans, Jr. MONY.” That word (sounds like money) has to do some softening on clients subliminally. It may be what warmed new clients to the idea that they would make money with the company. My father’s job was to get those clients in the door, see that the office was up and running and then, move on. His territory was the Eastern seaboard.

My father’s completion of his tasks usually happened about a month before the moving truck, usually Allied Movers, arrived and loaded our entire belongings on the rig. We followed behind in the car and would start our new lives with the unpacking of books and pots and beds and toys and pets. The effect of moving nearly every year was that I treasured my friends. I worked too hard to make friends to toss them aside because I was moving. I have friends today that were friends from my childhood. They remain friends not because of our closeness of locale, but rather, due to the closeness of our hearts.

New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts all offered up wonderful people in different guises. I treasured the alliances I made at each new school. I earned the trust of the people I met at church. In the world when everything else changed around me, I knew enough to hold on to the people about whom I cared.

I have discovered that my propensity to hold on to my friends and not to toss them aside at the least sign of imminent discord is not typical. When I express the tenure of friendships I have nurtured through the years, people show surprise. I was puzzled at first. I learned that many people have situational friends that are there for convenience, not a lifetime. On the other hand, I believe I may invest too much in my friendships. I am deeply wounded when a friend moves on, by way of a Dear Jane letter or by selective absence in my life.

That being said, as much as I want to avoid the pain of losing a friend, I treasure the gifts that friends bestow upon me - their kindness, their humor, their staunch loyalty, and, occasionally, their form of tough love when I need it. I relish the opportunity to offer my love, my gifts of humor and cerebral creativity and, the biggie, my loyalty. My loyalty is second to none. I have often heard it said that our Achilles heel is the same as our greatest strength. So, there it is. My strength is my fierce loyalty. This quality could just as easily be regarded as my Achilles heel. All I can do with that knowledge is to choose my shoes wisely.

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