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This is my friend Michelle.
I have to tell you about her today because she has inspired me for a long time, but lately so much more.
Michelle has had a really tough year.
I’m not going to get into the personal details of it all, but basically this past year the rug was pulled out from underneath her and she has had to carve out a new existence and new priorities for herself. Her old priorities haven’t changed, but she was forced to take a look at what she can and will accept in life and move on with it.
She has done it with such grace.
I don’t use that word very often, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter that she’s told me she has spent many days in bed crying…or putting on a movie for her youngest baby and letting him eat in her bed while she naps all day long. Michelle took this big pile of crap that was thrown at her and she didn’t waver in her determination that she would not unnecessarily drag her three kids through it. Deep down they knew something was going on – I mean, kids should get more credit than we give them. But they weren’t faced with having to hear or see or think about things that were way beyond their little scopes of understanding. Michelle didn’t share with too many what was going on, but those of us that did know wished we could do something to make it go away. She chose to accept the situation and look at it with an analytical eye. She talked to her therapist, went to group meetings, and thought a lot about it…but most of all, she listened to her gut instinct to tell her what felt right and what felt wrong. I admire this so much.
We all say that if we were put in certain situations we know exactly what we would do. I call bullshit on this. Life comes in shades of gray, not black and white…and you just never know. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DO UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU.
And that’s OK.
I met Michelle when I was in graduate school at Utah State University. We were both in the Deaf Education program and she was my first friend. She actually is the best and only friend I have from my two years at grad school. Michelle was fresh off an LDS mission and newly married. I liked her a lot because she wasn’t like all those other giddy, goofy married LDS couples who always had to hold hands and call each other “my husband” or “my wife.” Those others made me totally want to gag, and they are creeping ALL OVER Logan, Utah. I also knew I really liked her when we had to do an assignment for one of our classes telling a children’s story in American Sign Language. She did the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I was on the floor in hysterics, laughing at her facial expressions during her parts as the troll. I was the only one in the class laughing out loud, tears running down my face, and Michelle didn’t miss a beat.
Michelle grew up in Bellevue, Washington. And even though she was in a Mormon family of six kids and a crazy mom who drank way too much Diet Coke, she’d been a little more exposed to the real world compared to your typical Utah Mormon kid. She tried one year at Ricks College and had a breakdown over how sheltered and out of touch everyone was. She got the hell out of there as fast as she could.
I love that Michelle lets me make fun of her garments. You know, the magic Mormon underwear. She calls them her “G-Force”. I also love that she lets me tease her about baking her own rolls and using Crisco. I have told Michelle that Crisco has no redeeming qualities in my book, and in an emergency situation you couldn’t even butter toast with it. Michelle admits that she is slowly becoming her mother because she proudly drives a Kia mini-van and couldn’t live without her Diet Coke. If she starts consuming more than six cans a day, I will stage an intervention. Michelle would totally vote for Sarah Palin and she is not ashamed to admit it.
A few years ago, I lost a pregnancy when I was about sixteen weeks along. We had found out there were some terrible complications and the baby wasn’t developing correctly – and even worse, we saw this ourselves on an ultrasound. We had to go in for genetic counseling and try to figure out what was going on and what we could do while in a state of grief and shock. At this time, Michelle was living in Dehli, India, with her husband and kids. I wrote her an email explaining what was going on. And while I don’t remember the specifics of what she said, I do remember that her reply was like getting a great big hug through the computer and I felt her tears and her hurting for me as she was writing it. She understood the situation I was facing and she knew how painful it was for us – and I felt through her words that day that she truly wished she could be holding me on her lap in support. I will never forget this.
Michelle is adventurous and loves seeing and learning new things. I think this spirit is what has kept her going in the last few months – knowing that there are good times and fun things ahead, even though today can look pretty crappy and that sometimes daily life is just pure drudgery. We always talk about packing up a suitcase and getting into one of our cars and just escaping for a weekend with no specific plans about where to go and what to do. Like Thelma and Louise. I know that we will totally do this someday. Michelle’s not just a bunch of talk.
She can be the designated driver as I drink ice-cold beers out of a cooler and read the National Enquirer while barefoot in the co-pilot’s seat.
And while she’s the one that has had shit-bombs thrown at her this year with unrelenting regularity, I would be the crazy chick that would be tempted to point the steering wheel toward the great abyss of a canyon and drive that sucker right off a cliff, like Louise. But Michelle wouldn’t let me.
She’s that kind of friend.
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