Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Getting going

Just a quick word in support of Ginga's post on procrastination... and how good it feels to actually accomplish something you've put off doing for a long time.

I have a friend, with whom I used to be quite close, who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) about a year ago... not long after she and I had begun to drift apart. I've been stuck in place about all of this; the disease is a terrible one, and the prognosis is not good - 80% of people diagnosed with it die within five years. My friend is young, and beautiful, and brilliant, and generous. And she is absolutely surrounded by people who agree with me in that assessment.

So since I found out about the diagnosis I have been agonizing about what to do - wanting to see her, to offer to help, but not wanting to offend her or be rebuffed. I've been afraid, I guess, that whatever happened between us earlier - which was nothing in particular, at least that I know of - would make seeing her now unfeasible. Maybe that I didn't deserve to be there for her now? I don't know. But I've worried and fretted over this, and pondered it out loud. And I've never done a damn thing.

I found myself talking about all this yesterday with the counselor I see every few months. My friend has gotten a small but significant amount of local media attention - a group of her friends have formed an organization to raise money both for ALS research and for her medical expenses - and so my counselor knew who I was talking about. On top of which, Maine being Maine, she has a professional connection with my friend's partner.

My counselor has never been into giving me direct advice; we often spend the hour chatting, checking in, which can be helpful. But yesterday she gave me a blunt, direct talking-to. "You need to think about how you want to feel about yourself after your friend dies," she said. "You can't sit around worrying about what happened between you in the past. Your friendship with her is ending. It is finite. And you need to figure out what you want to do now so that you will be ok with yourself when she dies."

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Tonight, we went to a fundraiser for my friend. Something we'd planned to do for weeks - as a way of at least doing something. We didn't expect to see her there - in addition to the ALS, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy a few weeks ago, and we figured she and her partner would be at home. But they were there, with the baby, and my friend looked amazing. We talked for a bit - she was much in demand, and the restaurant was more crowded than I'd ever seen it on a Tuesday - we ogled the baby, we greeted her partner and finally met her mom, who hugged us upon being introduced, saying she felt as though she already knew us.

And I told my friend, and her sister, and her mom, that I am ready to get involved. That I want to join their organization - the next meeting is Monday - and that we want to be resources for all of them, even if it means just raking my friend's yard or watching the baby while her partner goes for a run. And, of course, there was no awkwardness or ambivalence - they welcomed us immediately.

I'm irked with myself for letting this go for so long, but really happy to have gotten off my butt and done something. Sometimes, just the littlest step toward doing something long-delayed is all it takes.