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friends

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Invisible Friends (not to be mistaken with imaginary)

Visible friends- They're faces are blurred to protect their identities (really to keep them from embarrassment by being associated with my crazy).

Visible friends- They're faces are blurred to protect their identities (really to keep them from embarrassment by being associated with my crazy).

I have invisible friends. I found them on the Internet. They are writers, editors, bloggers, pen pals, Twitterers, Instagrammers, and nerds. I say they are invisible, because although we converse in a multitude of ways, we have never met in person. So when I tell someone about my friend who wrote a book, or my friend who said the funniest thing this week, or my friend who posted a picture of their new puppy or baby, I sometimes get weird looks. That’s because no one has seen me with these friends of mine. There are no pictures of us together on Facebook and no one has run into us getting coffee at the local coffee shop.

There is something to be said about a friendly relationship that doesn’t require you leave your home to have an honest back-and-forth conversation. It can be very ego-boosting to have one of these friends make a witty comment on a photo you put on Instagram, or a blog post on your website. These are uncomplicated relationships. This is not to say I don’t have real, visible friends, but sometimes when you lack the emotional energy to connect with someone, having an invisible friend who can offer a few words of encouragement without commitment is nice.

There are times when my invisible friends and I engage in some deep, thought-provoking conversations. This is usually prompted by an insightful blog post, or comment, and can be very satisfying. I think I can be a little more me in these moments, because even though I love my visible friends, there is still a part of me that wants to impress, or tries not to offend. Sometimes, a part of me is missing when I am with them. Not always, but there are times. With my invisible friends, I can be my complete true self (all the time), without fear of long-term judgment or recriminations. I can be honest, and if they don’t like it, I am not as upset about disappointing them.

More real friends.

More real friends.

This past weekend I went to the reading and book signing of one of my invisible friends. Jenny Lawson, known around the Internet as The Bloggess, has been my invisible friend for seven years. I have followed her struggles with mental illness, laughed at her refreshing and candid honesty, and exchanged stories and comments through her blog and social media. I am one of her tribe. It was wonderful to sit in a room with her, and even better to have a few seconds to chat while she signed my books. There is now a picture of us together on Facebook- I am legitimized (somewhat). At the end of the night, she went home to her family, and the hundred or so of us went home to ours, and then we all got on the Internet and told her how wonderful it was to speak with her and each other.  I made a few dozen more invisible friends, and then I signed off knowing that one of my invisible friends saw me, and I am not completely crazy—just a little bit delusional.

E. Harty and Jenny Lawson at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Ore

E. Harty and Jenny Lawson at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Ore

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My Dog

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My Dog

IMG_2664 Ralph is my dog. He sports a scruffy beard, bad haircut, and a cowlick on his forehead. He won't fetch, has bad breath, growls at everything, and sucks on the fir of his toy mammoth like a puppy at his mother's teat.

Ralph is stubborn. He will find the smallest pillow in the house, drag it to the ground, and make it his bed. He refuses to acknowledge that some pillows are just too small for him. Instead, he will do absolutely anything to keep all of his parts on top of the pillow—even if it means hooking a back foot into his collar to keep it from slipping.

Ralph has deep, soulful eyes that he uses to get extra treats or make me feel like he knows when I'm sad. He gets excited when he sees me get ready for bed because he knows he will soon get to burrow under the covers and sleep behind my knees.

Ralph has a very short memory and must bark and growl at all of my friends, no matter how many times they come to visit. He forgets he just ate an entire bowl of food and begs for more if he thinks I am headed for the kitchen. Ralph snuggles by my side even if I've just yelled at him for being a d-bag.

Ralph is happy to see me when I get home, and sad when I leave. He licks the sheets at the bottom of the bed just in time for my bare feet to make contact with it at bed time. He groans with pleasure when I scratch under his collar, and growls with impatience when I try to trim the hair on his feet.

Ralph is not just a dog—he's a friend and I am his human.

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