Marriage; the easy art of losing friendships 

More like- get hitched, start to ditch!

Ok, rather grey area, I must admit. I have always struggled with this subject most of my adult life.

Married friends!!!

Not friends you acquired after they had far long established their marital statuses but friends you have known way before they got married.

Friends of the opposite sex (who you may have experienced get married).

In recent decades, people are now getting married or remarry later in life i.e late 30s/40s even 50s. They are bringing into the marriage, long term, (sometimes decades of) friendships with them. And whilst being single, these friendships were often considered healthy, cherished etc. In a marriage, it could potentially pose a threat.

You have two options and there is usually no grey area around this.

Either you stand the chance of being assertive to your spouse about the boundaries or perhaps the possibility of finality to those friendships and sounding like a right moron or a cold hearted fish…

or (and)

…you man up, be mature about it and accept these friends into the marriage, accepting that there could be a chance of letting these friendships in for the sake of good health of the marriage or on the other hand, risk that it could potentially become problematic to you and your spouse. So this is where open communication should play a vital role, no?

Now, hear this. I grew up with this friend whom I spent most of my lazy youthful days with. He became one of the closest people to me. We also worked together. He relocated to the States. I was in my early 20s. We spent almost every single day together! I met his family, he knew mine. We had lunch together, listened to hiphop together, spoke about our lives and growing up, our past and future, our partners, the idiots in our lives, our careers, life and love, rubbish etc. We would go out together, hang with each other’s friends together; we invested in the same dreams. Yeah? We were like siblings and yes stuff like that still exists in its purity. Fuck off!

He knew my dark sides. He reprimanded me for my dumb mistakes. I was comfortable in my friendship with this human being. He was an excellent friend to me. Notice how I use the word ‘was’?

So now this, a friend who is male, unmarried, single as you are, no feelings of sexual intimacy involved, no sex involved, an innate establishment of the pure fact that nothing will EVER ensue between you two! The friendship becomes precious because it’s unbelievably difficult to develop and maintain a platonic relationship with the opposite sex, right?

Well so society suggests…

We live in a fucked up world of scepticism, man-made standards, rules, should-nots, can-nots, constant suspicion. We are all ethically bankrupt that even the simplest things of life, we negate them and we build them like Legos on a bed of paranoia, doubt, ulterior motive, negativity. There is no longer truth in simplicity. Purity has ceased to exist. All our friends are friends with benefits. Friends that can validate our existence. Friends we can benefit from. Ones who benefit from us.

So with years of a beautiful friendship, bonds, moments lived, most things shared, we walk our separate ways. We geographically separate. We grew up. We moved on – from our lazy youthful days. We left dependency from our guardians and let them depend on us.

With this separation we still cling, (like we were hanging on the side of a cliff) to our friendship. I dated, broke up, got my heart broken (well so I thought) he found love. He lost her. He had a health scare. He struggled with his studies, a job, dynamics with his family etc and all through all our individual and unique ups and downs, we remained present for and with each other, cared about each other (still) ‘kept it real’ with tech- FaceTime, Skpye and all that jazz.

His line was, ‘yo, I will hit you up on FT later’. The American way of saying I will ring you at some point.

He, I understood the value of our friendship and the role we both played in each other’s lives. My sister was his friend. He knew my brothers and they would talk about the latest news on hiphop, football etc

I knew about the condition of his heart when he spoke about the loss of his mum, living without her. Bless her soul.

He was keen to help me build my business when I and my sister set up. We used his address in New York to receive our online delivery parcels.

See? huge part of my, our lives. My best friends still ask of him. We shared the same dumb ass stockbroker!!! We used to laugh about the scruffy little poor man! Not laugh at him but laugh about him!  We often wondered how a stock broker looked so sheepish and scruffy on a daily basis with no business charisma whatsoever.

So love comes, well, it did, to him! He finds comfort, friendship, heartfelt love, a safe haven. He bounces back into life. I am happy. He tells me about it all. I, naturally and honestly (but selfishly) saw my friendship with him potentially hitting the rocks. It was threatened but I needed to be happy for him. I was. I am. I envisaged a loss. It happened.

Calls went down from thrice a week to once a week, to every other weekend, to once a month, once in six months and then deteriorated to nothing…

The friendship was silenced.

In that time I never realized he had gotten married as we never really spoke again. You know what they say about boundaries? I kept them. He didn’t only keep them. He breathed them. I learned why later.

We had to recognize these vaguely raised and grey boundaries. We never so much spoke about it or planned to develop them but subconsciously ended up doing so.

So he got married. I recognized a massive wall of China had literally and figuratively been raised. 

It’s interesting. Fast forward this to recent days. After becoming buddies with his wife, I then learnt from her that all the time I was gradually mourning my friendship with her husband, she, on the other end had identified red flags re my relationship with him. She couldn’t understand why we spoke that frequently and why he always talked about me as one of the closest people to him. And you know what?. If roles were reversed, I would feel the same way. It would be a massive issue for me. Personally, because I do not see ‘grey’ in these things as she probably did.

But perspective is a powerful phenomenon.

Theory of mind, moreso.

But there were no grey lines. I loved him genuinely, purely and unconditionally. It wasn’t superficial. When I love or care about people, I go all the way. Ask about me. My love is all the way.

So even the birthday wishes stopped, Christmas, New Year, Easter, silenced! I became a paranoid piece of bacon. Wondering if I had done anything wrong but also not being able to communicate because of this thing called boundaries.

She drew closer to me. I became a friend to his wife. She is amazing and I love her for him.

Subsequently, in the girl-code-bid to support a single female-friend -of her -husband whom she had also become quite close to, she decided to hook me up with a friend of hers whom she thought would be great for me.

I met said guy, we talked for a number of months. I subsequently visit. It didn’t work out with said friend.

My lost friendship even became more ostracised.

In that same trip was when I saw my bff after 6 years. It felt quite awkward to even give him a proper hug. Boundaries, no? Oblivion wasn’t here, rather a full sense of awareness, appropriation, purity, heart.

Conversations were minimalist. I saw him twice in a visit lasting about 3 weeks in Florida. He worked in Tampa. We never could catch up on anything after 6 years. That was it!

We spoke at length (about 20 mins) when I returned to England as he is one who checks on any loved one when they travel to ensure they had safe travels. One of his amazing qualities. Very kind.

I just couldn’t salvage it.

And with time zone, geography and distance, wife of bud subsequently withdrew. More awkwardly after said friend and I never worked out.

The tiny bit of link I had to my friend was her. She drifted. I drifted.

So that was it!
In my evaluation of the situation, I didn’t realize that when people say ‘I do’ that this was the end of sustaining old friends. Your spouse becomes your forever ‘go-to’ person. I didn’t recognize that.

I then asked. Do our spouses satisfy all our needs.? Do we bin our invaluable friendships because we become married?

If I have known you for decades and I didn’t end up with you, date you, sleep with you, marry you, divorce you, then what makes you think or perhaps consider that my continued friendship with you could threaten your marriage? Is there something I do not know?

Shouldn’t a healthy marriage with happiness and love be dependent on having a support network outside your spouse? Am I deluded?

I have another male friend who has done the complete opposite here and has integrated me into his family because couldn’t afford the risk of losing me as a friend. I am the god-mother to his daughter. I hang out with his wife. We have been on a few double dates.

Isn’t life beautiful and simple? Same similar amount of years of friendship as the one I  described. In fact very similar history but different outcomes.

So in my bid to try to understand life, I believe I have gone through a painful process losing him. Everything, a friendship that meant the world to me is dead.

I think females who make a lot of male friends in their youth (which I did as I have always preferred men as friends) could suffer the risk of losing friendships in the long run- by default as these friends get hitched. It’s an interesting one I never thought about. At least with female friends, it’s safe. You will always have your girlfriends, married or not.

So this is what I tell my partner now and a in a lot of these life situations, common sense needs to be applied:

“I am happy with you keeping your female friends because I want to keep my male friends as long as”:

I am aware of the friendships, the histories and the dynamics of the friendships. If people are friends for a long time, way before I came into the picture of their lives then I think it’s unfair to make them lose their friends. Genuine ones, I must stress.

So my logic and emotional intelligence then makes me ask these questions:

  • Is or was there an attraction physically or emotionally with said friend(s)
  • Would you act any different with so-called friend if I was there or not?
  • Would you feel our marriage is threatened if I had the same level or quality of relationship with the opposite sex (that you have with yours)?
  • Do you ever compare them to me (sub) consciously?
  • Would you discuss things you don’t feel comfortable about – with me or rather with them?
  • Do you always discuss me with them?
  • Would you entertain inappropriate flirtatious messages from them even though you don’t text back? Emotional cheating?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions then we could potentially have a serious problem. If it’s no on all fronts, I welcome your friendship into our marriage. 

I use it as a yardstick to measure the status of my boundaries with my male friends and it gives me a clear stance of how (un)/healthy my relationships are with married friends.

I scored negative on all points upon reflection on my friendship status with the BFF.

  
 

 

 

 

 

 

E10

Somewhere in E10, riding on the bus, texting my sister. I look up and the bus going the opposite direction drew really close to the bus I was seated. The female driver driving the other bus, reached out and held hands with the male driver of the bus I was seated. I thought there was something quite romantic and special about it. Some passengers stared and I smiled. London Town is beaut!

My incurable disease

On 1st September – we had a small end-user consultation session for the Wellcome Trust Application organised by UCL/Kings College clinical partners at the Institute of Child Health close to Great Ormond Street by Russell Square. The aims were to provide information on a possible new treatment approach to sickle cell anemia called the In-utero transplantation & Fetal Gene Therapy and also answer questions/ get feedback on:

  • the concept of the fetal stem cell gene therapy approach
  • possible clinical trial
  • ethical concerns related to the approach
  • how they would want to engage in the grant and practicalities
  • to improve chances of WT funding and MHRA approval in future.

I work part-time, one day a week for the UK Sickle Cell Society, a charity that supports people living with sickle cell anaemia. I am the Volunteer Co-ordinator.

My role was to facilitate the attendance of about 8-10 patients who had attended the Annual General Meeting(AGM) of the Sickle Cell Society, earlier in the summer. The event was very much geared to obtain feedback (as much as possible) from these specific patients. You see, those patients who had attended the AGM had prior context and some background around the topic as Dr Stavros had introduced and presented the subject at the AGM. I succeeded in recruiting 8 people who also happen to be friends of mine. However, due to personal commitments and sickness, only 4 of us could attend.

The event started at 5:30pm which was great as I left Cockfosters on the Piccadilly line after work directly to R. Square.

There was light meals & refreshments before the meeting and wine/snacks after, which was nice. We also got refunds for our travel expenses.

We had 4 incredible clinicians address us:

  • Dr Michael Antoniou, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics.
  • Dr Stavros Loukogeorgakis – (he presented at the AGM earlier in the summer) and oops, I forgot his title!! I think he is a Peadiatric Surgeon.
  • Dr Anna David- Consultant in Obstetrics and Maternal/Fetal, Medicine at UCL Hospitals and Reader at the UCL Institute, for Women’s Health. (Basically, she is a specialist in Fetal Medicine and Pregnancy).
  • Professor Paola De Coppi- Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Professor of Paediatric Surgery at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London (I recall he was in surgery and arrived later. My immediate thought was- how normal it was for these wonderful and sophisticated minds to carry out invasive surgeries one minute and then stand in front of an audience a minute after (quite untraumatised and unperturbed I must add). The sight alone of watching my sister give birth to her first child and the amount of blood around literally made me pass out! I am not lying. I am too sqeamish! Took weeks to recover!

Anyway, We were told this trial had happened in Milan. Basically in my own language, Bone marrow transplant (the only known and tested cure for sickle cell) works when you extract the bone marrow, genetically correct them and then put them back. It’s rarely successful and has been reported to be life threatening with high evidence of mortalities. No, thanks!

 In fetal gene therapy, it’s easier and cheaper to administer anywhere in the world. It reduces the problems around screening. This procedure requires sophisticated infrastructure. They basically treat the foetus in the womb, safely in the amniotic fluids; before its born. It is one of the most advanced discoveries in medicine to date. The clinicians discussed risks, challenges, and the safety of this procedure. It was very re-assuring as they answered 99% of questions and when they were not sure, they admittedly accepted, reassuring us they can come back to us with an answer. 

The challenge is to get resources to move to the clinical trial level and they reported this had become a very timely co-incidence for the possibility of the WT application.

My role and those of other patients?? To provide an endorsement from sickle patients to these wonderful clinicians to pursue the approach. If that’s what it takes to give them the go ahead to make a global impact, I would be willing to contribute my kidneys.

We went away thinking of the 3 concepts or principles which they sought to achieve:

  • Confidence of the treatment 
  • Involvement of patients
  • Obtaining the grant and how they engage with us.

Basically, if they succeed in getting this treatment around the world within this, or the next generation, these guys have made a major global impact of an incurable disease that has existed since the 17th C.

I have hope…I was elated. I want to be a part of this legacy, a part of this change. This is why I support the cause. I, people living with this debilitating sickness have suffered incredibly. It would be great to not have future generations suffer further.

White Teeth

I must confess I am fascinated by Zadie Smith.

I was reading Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ today on the tube. You know that moment when you are deeply immersed, engulfed in a book and completely oblivious of your surroundings? That was this morning.

I was sat on the priority seat of the train for older, disabled people, pregnant women, you know, women with young children etc.  Now please tell me how one is meant to be oblivious, yet aware of every single person who has walked into the train.

I notice the person next to me got up and another woman sat. She was pregnant. I look up. I look around, I got the ugly looks of “you are such a horrible person”. It’s as if this pregnant woman had stood for a second longer than she should and people were anticipating that my oblivion would end due to this and in an instance I would be more ‘human’ to notice, perhaps with the eyes on my forehead. But I didn’t. After pregnant lady is seated, this even attracts more attention and then more of the evil stares of murder, as I rapidly buried my face back into my book. I am not a bad person, honestly. I usually give up my seats for older citizens and even those who look ‘old’. I give up my seat for pregnant women and for those ladies who I am not particularly sure if they are pregnant or just have enormous bellies. I used to contemplate whether to get up when I wasn’t sure as it was quite offensive when I realized they were not actually always pregnant;  but now I just say ‘to hell with it’ if having a big belle is what it takes to get a seat on the tube, have it. sod it! You might as well.. ‘White Teeth’ …(no comments)

P.S I have always wondered what disabilities mean to people. If I were mentally disabled, are people supposed to somehow figure that one out, – and then give up their seats on the train for me? I guess not! Maybe these priority signs need to be more specific on disabilities. The last time I recall seeing a mentally disabled person (I.e the psychotic depressive maniac) on the train, people were not just giving up their seats, they ran out hysterically off the train!!!  Oh well…

WHITETEETH

A message from spring by folklore

Sometime just before spring this year, I received a letter in a sealed envelope addressed to me from a lovely lady, a beautiful friend Eli, (my pet name for her) asking me not to open the envelope until the first of March. In my curiosity, I kept fiddling with the envelope trying to get cues of what may be contained in it. I gave up and decided to be patient. On 1st March, I opened it and found a handmade red and white bracelet made from wool and a letter in it.

From Miss Petrova, the one who cares for me

It was a letter written from Eli to me and it read::

Chestita Baba Marta, June (In Bulgaria: Честита Баба Марта , June)

(This is something little from Bulgaria)

On the first of March, Bulgarian people celebrate a traditional holiday called Baba Marta (or Grandma Marta in English) and it is related to welcoming the approaching spring. People all over the world meet spring with joy and new hopes but in Bulgaria, it is saved as an ancient tradition.

On that day, Bulgarians exchange so called “Martenitsi” (“Martenitsa”- singular, “Martenitsi”- plural) and tell each other, Chestita Baba Marta!” (Happy Grandma Marta). This custom is essentially to wish great health, good luck and happiness to family and friends. The name “Martenitsa” is taken from the Bulgarian word for March, or as a legend tells, an angry old lady called Grandma Marta- Baba Marta in Bulgarian (“baba” means grandmother and Marta comes from the word “mart”, which means March in Bulgarian)

In Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta is a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly and it reflects in the changeable March weather. When she is smiling the weather sunny and warm, but if she gets angry, the cold will stay for longer and it may even snow. By wearing the red and white colours of the Martenitsa, our predecessors asked Baba Marta for mercy. They hoped that it will make winter pass faster and bring spring.

The Martenitsa is made of twined red and white threads- woollen, silk, or cotton. The white is a symbol of strength, purity and happiness. The red is associated with health, blood, conception, and fertility.

The most typical Martenitsa represents two small wool dolls – Pizho and Penda. Pizho is the male doll, usually dominating in white colour. Penda is the female doll, usually dominating in red colour and distinguished by her skirt. There are many other variations and forms. Out of twined red and white threads are also made bracelets, necklaces, tassels, pompons, balls, squares, human or animal figures. Over the past several decades, the tradition has been innovated by attaching all kinds of representations and symbols made of wood, leather, ceramics, and metal foil to the thread-made Martenitsas.

When someone gives you a Martenitsa, you should wear it either pinned on your clothes, on the hand tied around the wrist, or around your neck until you see a stork or a fruit tree in blossom for the first time in the season. After that you can tie it on a blossoming tree for fertility. It is believed that the Martenitsa brings health, happiness and longevity. Like kind of an amulet, Martenitsa was attributed to a magic power believed to protect folks from “ill fortune”, diseases and an “evil eye”.

The custom of wearing Martenitsa is probably one of the most interesting Bulgarian (pagan) traditions and it is considered to be unique to Bulgaria. According to one of the many legends, this tradition is also related to the finding of the Bulgarian state in 681AD.

This exceptional piece of folklore /folktale became an education. A fact. This story was re-authored by Eli in a personalised letter to me. It left me fascinated into this revelation of how beautiful Eli and her people are. It’s the little things that matter…Lover of culture#, lover of tradition#, lover of people#Jtheexplorer#

The Eternal City

I met him Friday night
I thought he liked my friend…
Saturday evening, the penultimate day…
We went for one drink
Cabbed to the most sensational garden I have ever walked into
It was magnificent
I was short for words
He kissed me, I melted to ice
It was beautifully serene as he held me

We talked about our past, growing up and our future
We walked the Spanish steps
He could have carried me through
I said no
I wanted him to come away with me
We walked back to his hotel room
I soaked in a moment – one full action and inaction
The moment of truth but I walked away
I left sadly alone to my hotel room
Thinking how real this could have got
I could easily love this man

Sunday, Sunrise
He meets me for breakfast
Reception rings to say “your guest is here for breakfast”
I didn’t have any appointments – I knew no one in Italy
Couldn’t wait to have this breath of fresh air behold my sight
He could see it written all over my face
At noon
We are in the presence of the Holy See at the Vatican
My feet crossed across his
In what seemed like a beautiful summer day
We received his Latin blessings
Had brunch at ‘Ginger’
I smiled at him so sweetly

My heart slowly gave in to him
I sadly return to England, don’t know why stay was inevitable at this time
Catching tear drops in my hand
A lump in my throat as I kissed him goodbye in the taxi
He would be in my mind for a long time
Driving down the road to the airport
I felt sorry for myself for what I loved but could potentially not have
And more tears flowed down my eyes…
Feeling so empty and deflated
Feeling like a little girl who had lost her sense of belonging

I adored him
Not one man has ever made me feel this way (well, so quickly)
It could have been false intent from his part
It could have been ordinary and meaningless
Well, I made it and framed it into a beautiful picture of love

We talked
Had got to know each other
I thought what we shared was a masterpiece. It’s still very much in my head. He made me fall for him.
I remember it too well.
Time went by quickly with him
I became emotionally paralysed
As he reminded me that I could love again
Well, maybe not love but I could share bonds of joy again
The Eternal city brought us together
As I wondered, why do things happen if there turned out to be zero possibilities?
Oblivious to him, he stole my heart
I thought about him all the way home
Whispered to myself that I wanted him to be mine
He seemed like my expectations of a perfect man

But he won’t give me his heart
Then I lost M
She escalated a fantasy in her head
I sensed jealousy and resentment
She relived this nonsense
Turned it into a reality
Threw away a friendship, chucking it into a perceived world of betrayal
Perhaps she was right
I may had fallen for this man
It was a fucking fantasy
It’s almost like he was ten different people

Cynical about what I have made him become to me
As I always seem to do
My complexities probably chased this one away
I gave him an expression of my heart
He gave me a wide berth
My poor heart, miserable since my Roman encounter
An overwhelming sense of guilt, confusion and delusion enveloped me
I think of how he could lay close to me
I wonder whether I could have made love to him
Whether a seal could have drawn him to me

But it’s now nothing but this empty gap between us
Distance it seems has created impossibility
I created this fucking problem
Like a school kid in the winter waiting for the spring
I am just sitting here waiting for that day of the uneventful
To hold my hands like that night
Kiss my lips
Make crazy love to me
Capture my heart and whisper to me saying “I have been thinking of you all the way”
And whilst I recognise how possible I could escape from my assortment of this (in words)
I also do embrace a reality that it now seems that I was destined to fall in love with a man I could never have

And again whilst I lay in an admiration of him, I form an elimination of this
But I do know what we shared in two days is enough to last
If tomorrow never comes
The man who shares the same name as my father and brother
The highlight of my trip to Rome
The one American yet to live in my heart forever x

The Mad Man

Fingers point at him
Children laugh at him
Spotted on a spot
He looks tattered and haggard
He is crazy
He is insane
He says to himself, “No I am sane”
Looking at everyone
He thinks “they are all mad
There is mutual ridicule
He knows there is an existence of discontinuity
He knows there is an exhibition of false cues
He understands his disorder cannot be masked
He seats in the market square yelling
Speaking incoherently, with huge distortions
Gazing hard at his subjects
He seeks for vulnerability in their eyes
To assault impulsively
With marvel, the climate, he disregards
They all stare at him
He is misguided
Pathological reasoning undetected
Realisations of his society’s norms are gone
Even of accepted simple structured behaviour
He looks at the world amused by his acts
The housewife who nags her husband like the pain in his soul
The unruly kids who are hyperactive with an embryonic attention span
The man who returns home every night drunk as skunk, staggering and vomiting
The young lad sniffing and smoking drugs and acting weird as him
The lady in her mid life crises with no clue of destinations
The market men and women negotiating trade on the top of their voices
His feelings all very precise
Premonitions concise
He says to himself defensively- “Are they not all mad”?
What differentiates us are standards of acceptance
He laughs hysterically at this thought
He then withdraws pensively
He opens his dirty torn sack
Cries hard while searching for a tabard he picked up from the streets
He puts this on in utter disbelief and displeasure
Covers his exposing torso
Goes through a process of self deprecation
Slaps his head continuously
And mutters something evidently
Again in disbelief, runs east bound
And never returned
In retaliation to madness
In conformity to his psyche
Whatever the drive
My imagination points it as a riddle
It could only go thus far