I’ve been spending a lot more time with my BFF these days. If you remember, I wrote about the loss of her husband, Bill, a few posts back, and I am doing my best to be a good friend to someone who is under a tremendous amount of stress and walking through the grief process. Our time together has been both cathartic and sad – as every memory and moment reminds me of the man who is no longer here with us. Yes, he was my best friend’s husband…but he was also my friend…and I miss him.
I realized, as today’s thoughts tumbled from my mind to my keyboard, that I’ve written about Bill or, instead, his influence in my life, in several places throughout the last year. In fact, almost a year ago I wrote this post and the prose was formed around a campfire with he and my friend. I don’t know how to explain it, but…well…have you ever just met someone who instantly lights up a room and makes you want to be a better person? Well, that was Bill.
Fuck. I miss that guy.
I don’t know why I’m so focused this morning on what I’m calling “The Lessons of Bill”. Full moon in Aquarius, maybe?Maybe I’ve been thinking of all the Billisms and all the memories. We are all a bit raw, still, from the loss. And admittedly, I’m still a bit angry that evil walks the planet in human form while good people are called ‘home’ (whatever that means).
I thought I’d share a bit with you, dear Reader, some of the things Bill taught me. So. Grab a drink. Settle in. Some of these are ‘Billisms’ in lesson form, so stick with me.
1) Replace the word ‘Love’ in the infamous Bible verse with the name of your significant other. (Essentially, the entire point of this post.) You know…”Love is patient, Love is kind. Love does not envy, Love does not boast, Love is not proud. Love does not dishonor others, Love is not self-seeking, Love is not easily angered, Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” According to Bill, if you replace the word Love with the person’s name with whom you are in a relationship and the words don’t ring true…run. Actually, he said, “You should probably take that as a sign to run for the hills.” I’m a slow learner but I’m listening now, Bill.
2) Once you’ve been shot at, everything else is a cakewalk. I asked him, a decorated military veteran, on his birthday (August 13th) last year, how he can be so calm all the time. “You’re always so fucking calm, Bill. What are you taking for that?”. He smiled that Bill smile and said, “Well, you know…I have been shot at many times. Every other problem seems insignificant compared to that.” So true, Bill. Right – as always.
3) We were together. I forget the rest. Ask him how he and my friend got together, and that’s the answer you’d get: “We were together. I forget the rest.” Bill wasn’t one to dwell on the past and put a lot of faith in the future. I love their ‘love story’ – which Dedee tells occasionally – but I love Bill’s version the best. To the point, no embellishments. No half-truths or inflated drama. No future. No history. Always in the present moment. Isn’t that a refreshing mindset?
4) We are our own worse enemies. I asked him once about the ‘enemy’ we had been fighting for decades overseas, and his response was so thought-provoking that I wrote it on a sticky note, sure it will make it into my next book. He said, “Oh, they are sneaky little bastards, but it is our own minds that are the real enemies. You gotta keep your head in the game.” I’ve had to learn when my anxiety is telling me lies and when my gut is really telling me something true. I’m learning to retrain my thoughts to not be so biased toward the negative and focus on what is actually going right in my life. It’s easy to take a hurtful word and turn it into a definition of who you are, when in fact, people can just be mean. Their response to stressful situations might be to lash out verbally or to blame you for something they need to address. This is more about them than you. Remember that. Make a list of all the things that are good and right about you and don’t let the voices of people who don’t like themselves get in your head. I wrote about that very same thing here. Might be time to revisit this.
5) Don’t let anyone criticize your methods. Bill taught me to build a fire using the ‘tepee method,’ so that’s how I build a fire. I was trying to make a fire one day, and an observer questioned my method and even tried to mansplain why my fire wasn’t going to start. I ignored him and continued to build my fire my way. It might have taken longer than expected, but it turned out to be a damn good fire. Good enough to burn a marshmallow or two, at least. I remembered Bill’s words of wisdom about not letting anyone criticize what is working in my life – even if they aren’t agreeable to my methods or think they can do it better.
6) A soldier’s greatest weapon is his silence. Pronouns aside…Wow, right? This took me 49.9 years to get. According to Bill, the best thing to do is be quiet when you are in enemy territory. The quieter you are, the less opportunity there is for people to shoot you. You get the metaphor, right?
I’m sure you haven’t heard the last about Bill Culley – a man who made everyone want to be a better person – as I walk through my own grief and listen to my friend share her stories. I’ve lost several people in my life, but rarely has anyone made the impact Bill did.
As it stands today, I’m going to leave you with a song…and then I’m going to clean my garage. I’m not sure why I told you that, but come on over and help out if you’re local. There is always something cold in the frig.