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Coping With Success

Posted on 2007.05.24 at 23:34
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Limelight - The Alan Parsons Project
I suppose May is destined to be a bittersweet month for the rest of my life. Today, if you weren’t aware, marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death. In addition, May 14th would have been Kathy’s 51st birthday, except that she passed away on the 4th of July four years ago.

But I’m going with the adjective “bittersweet” rather than “sad” because there’s a lot about both of those women that I can be very happy about. For starters, I have the fact that I got to be close to both of them, and I know that I’m a better person for that circumstance.

I won’t get into all the details of why this came up, but I’ve been thinking lately about something Kathy said during her time in L.A. She had a lot of success out there – TV and radio shows, national commercials, getting her writing published in various places – and she would have had a whole lot more success had her health permitted her to work more steadily. Once, when she and I were in the middle of a couple-hours-long phone call on my nickel, she observed that it was not when things were going badly that one found out who one’s friends actually were. Rather, it was when things were going really well.

That seemed counterintuitive to me on the face of it, so I asked her to explain herself. She told me that when she was out of work or ill, there was no shortage of people willing to do things for her, or to call and check in on her. But when something exceptionally wonderful would happen, e.g., when she would land a role on a network TV show, she found that there were people she considered as friends whose jealousy was such that they didn’t have the time of day for her. They couldn’t bring themselves to even wish her well upon hearing the news, so taken up were they with their own frustrations. Understand, Kathy was not the sort of person to rub other people’s noses in her success, and she happily celebrated the successes of her friends, so this was a hard lesson for her in the human nature of certain humans.

I still maintain, though, that there are people whose friendship and loyalty come through the strongest in times of adversity. But in the L.A. show business world of large and fragile egos, I will grant Kathy a curious point that had not occurred to me prior to her articulating it. And, as I have come to learn, such attitudes are not purely the province of show business types. I have seen it happen – and maybe you have too – where the reporting of a personal success causes a friend to heap pity on themselves over their own lack of success before they can even utter a word of congratulation.

Now, as ever, Kathy gives me things to think about and challenges me to expand the borders of my world.


(Anonymous) at 2007-05-28 05:15 (UTC) (Link)

Foul Weather Friends

Perhaps what Kathy had observed was not merely jealousy. I almost never admit when things are going well for me. People are much more eager to be sympathetic when you are feeling no better or even worse than they are. Noone wants to be reminded of how shitty their life is. It's certainly better to share your joy; however, you have to be careful who you share it with and when.
charlesofcamden at 2007-05-30 05:22 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Foul Weather Friends

Yes, I agree, though there are limits to how much of myself I'm willing to keep bottled up inside. One distinct advantage of sharing my feelings is that it helps me to learn who I can be close to -- who is able and willing to deal with me and willing to share themselves just as honestly.
dummylady at 2007-05-29 14:40 (UTC) (Link)

Remembering Kathy

Yes, anyone lucky enough to have known Kathy gained something in their life. Although I only met her a few times she was always gracious and uplifting. It is sad when people can't be happy for others when they are doing well. We have people in our lives that we really care about but we never see because we are not needy enough. I guess some people need to be needed not just loved. Then there are people like my sister. She only wants to hear of pain and sadness in ones life....I think it makes her life seem less painful and less sad. If I have none then she doesn't want me around her. Anyways....Kathy was a unique and talented individual and the world has a hole left where she once was.

charlesofcamden at 2007-05-30 05:37 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Remembering Kathy

I'm happy for anyone who got to meet Kathy. A few people have asked me whether I have any regrets about the time I didn't spend with Kathy in her later years, what with her living in L.A. and all. I have no regrets at all about that. Oh, I would have been very happy to have seen more of her, and I did make it out to L.A. on several occasions. But I understood long before Kathy left Detroit that she was pointing herself towards a very large world, and that no one person, place, or cause was going to dominate her life. Knowing that she likewise held me in high esteem remains a thought that puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
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