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March 14, 2005

On the powers of a one-way friendship.

Is it possible for one of your best friends to be someone you've never met, or someone who is only partially aware of that you exist?

Of course, it was possible when I was a kid. Sherlock Holmes and the kid from Danny, the Champion of the World were dear friends, and they don't, in the strictest sense, exist. Still, as an only child with the nearest neighbors over a quarter mile away (and the nearest kids my age miles after that), all those fiction novel characters were my best friends.

We sort of get to know people, real and fictional, by their actions, their words, moral stances, how disclosive they are, how open they seem, and a million other unspoken or subliminal signals that we pick up on and latch on to in our minds.

In the case of real persons, either authors or bloggers or whatever, we imagine ourselves connecting with what we find attractive about them, in the same way that I wanted to be Holmes' sidekick or the way I wanted to be Spider-Man because of, not despite, his real human problems.

I think that a less-rational, more needy, even psychotic mind turns this into something unhealthy sometimes, in the way Hinkley did after watching Jodie Foster on the screen enough times. He connected with her perceived traits, then psychotically assigned traits to her that only existed in his mind.

Still, if you read someone enough, you can get to know them on some real level. After reading Dave Barry columns for years, I think I have a fair sense of how Dave might react in certain situations, and I find myself able to adapt my own humor to the positive ways he creates humor himself. I think, as we all do, that Dave and I would be great friends. Of course, in reality, we might not have two words to say, but it is the illusion that matters sometimes.

I say all that to say that since I've been homebound with cancer, Sheila of The Sheila Variations has been one of my best friends while probably just barely knowing I exist. She occasionally links to Popping Culture and sometimes posts messages here, but like everyone, she has her own set of friends and her own world in which to exist.

Still, her writing is unfailingly disclosive and she cares about a number of things that are important to me. That disclosiveness makes her an easy read, even when she's on a deep topic.

For this 36-year old, trapped in a house for months now by a body that is literally trying to kill me, knowing I can point my browser to Sheila's website and unfailingly find something intelligent or humorous or heartwrenching or nostalgia-inducing has been a gift, and even if she never knew I existed, I would count her as one of my best friends of the last several months.

And really, it works both ways. Maybe these are my last days, and I'm taking a new friend into eternity. Maybe Sheila reads this and sees the incredible healing power that just writing honestly and personally can give. Maybe I live another 50 years and forget all about The Sheila Variations. Still, she was part of this part of the journey, part of the team that's working to keep me alive, whether they know it or not.

She's worth a read. I'm just saying.

Posted by Dan at March 14, 2005 09:50 PM

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Oh my God, Dan. I don't know what to say. My heart is filled right now.

Posted by: red at March 15, 2005 09:42 AM

I understand exactly what you're saying. I always read that people characterize their friends into categories, such as "Real Friends" and "Blog Friends". But to be honest, I've met and kept stronger ties to my "Not-Real" Blog Friends, who seem to get me and my thought processes better than most of my "Real" Friends.

Posted by: amber at March 15, 2005 10:33 AM

*sniff* I'm wiping a tear from my eye right now.

Posted by: Emily at March 15, 2005 10:41 AM

I know what you mean, Dan. Sheila is a special person--you could certainly do worse in a best friend. The blog world offers a unique opportunity for human connection. I will keep you in my thoughts.

Posted by: DBW at March 15, 2005 10:41 AM


What a wonderful post. It touches on something I've been wanting to write about for months - and does it better than I would have.

All fingers crossed for you, by the way, in the literal, personal and theological senses of the term.

Posted by: mitch at March 15, 2005 11:41 AM

That was wonderful. I'm hoping for good news for you, and keeping you in my prayers.

Posted by: Lisa at March 15, 2005 12:30 PM


Theological finger crossing. There's a sermon in there.

Posted by: Dan at March 15, 2005 02:08 PM


I can hardly think of the right words, but know that my money is on your living another 50 years and forgetting about the Sheila Variations.

I'm hoping as hard as I did back when I was 9 years old hoping for my own Father.

I sincerely hope that you receive the best news you've ever heard very soon.

Posted by: Wutzizname at March 16, 2005 12:16 PM

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