“Just Take the Fucking Donuts”

Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.

– Amanda Palmer

885536_10206153809660777_4587160091555152170_oI knew her immediately, even from across the street. “Katrina!” I yelled from my car, to the beautiful woman sitting at a table in front of Starbucks on Main Street in Northampton. “I’m looking for a parking spot!” It was 1:30pm on Sunday, and we’d penciled in this coffee date months ago, knowing she’d be in town for her 35th Smith reunion. We wound up meeting at Thornes so that she could get a bottle of Kombucha. I got an iced latte, and we sat down to talk.

Sitting down with Katrina Kenison for the first time in person after many years of reading each other’s blogs, some beautiful offline exchanges, me reviewing one of her books, her writing a blurb for one of mine, and–most recently–writing together in one of my two-week online groups– needless to say, it felt like meeting up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages and we could just pick up where we left off.

Looking into her eyes across the table, we both teared up pretty much right away. She was coming off of a weekend spent with college friends, all of them now in their late 50s, connecting deeply and dancing late. I was coming off of a week spent in the hospital with Mani, back to my girls and life and reflecting on where we are now.

In other words, the timing was perfect.

I’d sent her a message a few days before, saying I’d have to play our date by ear. At that point, I wasn’t sure if we’d be in Boston for three days or three weeks; thankfully, the latter is what came to pass. Mani was given a pass to come home, to continue the quest for further diagnosis, treatment as an outpatient, and healing at home. I was given paperwork to file for eight weeks of unpaid medical leave from my job; a reality both reassuring and world-rocking, for many reasons.

We talked about writing. About what women really want when we come together. About retreats and collaborating and what it is to create safe space. About health and friendship and mending and forgiveness and community.

“Who do you call on? Who do you lean on?”

Her insightful question caught me off-guard for some reason; I felt tears first behind my eyes and then leaking out of them, the fleeting impulse to pull them back, and the allowance to just cry for a minute.

“I don’t even know you…” she said.

“Oh, but you do,” I responded.

My mind scanned for friends, for family, for Mani, for myself. For what happens in my own moments of need, to just fall apart before I come back together. There are no heroics in doing it alone. Sometimes you have to take off the Superwoman cape and burn it already.

In an instant, I flashed on how I’ve learned not to hide–from Mani, from myself, from life. I thought about friends near and far. In the days since this conversation, I’ve begun responding more and more to online messages by saying: “What’s your number?” And then picking up the phone to say, “Hi! It’s me.” Add to Contacts.

And just as the words “my sisters” came out of my mouth, I heard my name and looked up. There was one of mine, waiting for my sweet sixteen-year-old niece to come out of the bathroom. They’d just had lunch and were doing a little shopping. I introduced Katrina and Joanna. “This is one of my people!” I said, standing up to give her a hug.

Katrina told me more about her friend Lisa, who has a brain tumor. About the nurse who lives with Katrina and her husband now, the meals they coordinate for Lisa and her husband through a website called takethemameal.com — which my other sister, Larissa, proceeded to run with and set up on our behalf.

And of course, I asked if we could take a picture. Several attempted selfies later, she liked the goofy one best, which I’m sharing here with her permission.

Saying goodbye to her, I found I missed her already. And also that I’d met a true friend–this time in real life. Crossing that bridge is the best. From screen to voice to eyes.

11169402_10206153692657852_1035230570742429582_nIn the past week, dozens of friends have signed up for meals that taste like love to arrive at our doorstep, frozen from afar and fresh from nearby, sent us messages, and donated money to help us through. The girls and I have shared our table. Though she is still in a lot of pain intermittently, Mani has gained a few pounds in as many days–no small miracle.

Meg Casey, another kindred spirit and friend I originally “met” through this blog many years ago, set up a youcaring.com page for us, to help offset the expense of me being on leave and Mani needing to eat as cleanly as possible as she rebuilds some strength and trials new foods (a slow and complex proposition with mast cell disorder).

And yet, this morning. I was fretting over fretting.

Mani reminded me: One day at a time. For all of it. Such good things happen when we let each other know what’s happening in our lives. Again, to quote Amanda Palmer: “Just take the fucking donuts.” Take them and say thank you. I bought lunch for a homeless man named Julian who sits on a bench in front of CVS the other day. It cost me $6.50. He hadn’t eaten in two days. We wished each other a good day. I might have improved his; I know connecting with him made mine.

It’s so easy to tell myself we don’t deserve this and that other people are worse off. Take the donuts, buy the donuts, give the donuts away — it is why we are here. You and I and all of us in this together.

Katrina and so many friends have reminded me this week that we ALL deserve to be taken care of. If only it were easier to ask. Like everything else, we are here to keep practicing. Giving when we are able, and receiving when we need to.

So blessed.

Shabbat Shalom.

18 thoughts on ““Just Take the Fucking Donuts”

  1. Katalina4 says:

    From screen to voice to eyes. So moving, all of it.
    Watching it all develop on Facebook lately, the support, the love, the friendship… BEAUTIFUL.
    Beautiful to be thus loved, you two.

    Like

  2. Pamela says:

    Having met both of you in person, I am so happy you had the delight to meet each other. I wish I could have joined you. This is beautiful as always Jena, and a reminder to take all the goodness on offer. I’m so happy you have real people to lean on during this difficult time, and of course you have a crowd of us cheering you on and hoping to be leaned on out here.

    Like

  3. Amanda Magee (@AmandaMagee) says:

    My stepdad used to take me out to breakfast when I was at points in my life that confounded me. He would ask what I wanted and what my plan was. I hated the breakfasts, which were always in public, his strategy being that I wouldn’t get huffy or weep, boy was he wrong. It’s those questions, asked by people who love us, that help us get to there we need to be.

    Sending so much love to you and Mani. Hoping the strong rains here are visiting you as well, soaking this new wisdom deep into your soul and taking root.

    xo

    Like

  4. em-i-lis says:

    This is beautiful, Jena. To take the fucking donuts with grace is an important lesson to learn. It’s hard -at least for me- but makes the difficult times a bit easier and happier. XOXO

    Like

  5. Lauren says:

    This touched my heart to read. Of course, I believe so deeply in connecting and reaching out, and did with Katrina about two years ago. We met and kept in touch, her youngest son lives a mile from me outside of Atlanta, and now we have adopted each other into our lives – a surrogate mom and a surrogate daughter. Love. We all need it! I am glad you both met and I will keep both you and Mani in my heart. I love the picture — looks like old friends! xoxo Lauren

    Like

      • Lauren says:

        Oh yes! Her write up for your writing class. It seems you have connected with a dear high school friend of mine, Andy Pyman. He mentioned you’ve never met but still the connections expand! Happy days to you and your family! xo

        Like

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s