Carpe Friendem

I’ve got this bad habit of hanging back and waiting for friendships to happen.  I certainly don’t want to be the pushy girl who forces friendship upon other people, but I really need to make an effort to put myself out there.   I’ve always been shy and a little insecure, so I have this fear that people won’t want to hang out with me.  I know it.  I accept it.

The problem is that I hang back for too long, and then when I finally start to get to know somebody, they leave.  Many cases are just circumstance.  Bad luck, I suppose.  If somebody is going to move away, they’ll move away.  My friendship won’t change that.  Sometimes the person just gets a new job or leaves a Mom Group.  It’s not a major upheaval, but our paths stop crossing.  Either way, when I feel like I’ve missed another opportunity, I still regret it.

So, in an effort to avoid regrets, I’m going to seize friendship opportunities whenever I can.  I’ve met some really cool people lately and I hope that at least a few will become friends.  This way, even if they decide to move to Ohio (boo!), I’ll know that we’ve had a few good Margarita Nights.

Nothing But Love

Recently, I’ve been noticing that a lot of my friends are having a hard time.  These are friends from all different areas of my life, the problems are diverse & the severity is all over the board.  There’s no consistency, no pattern, no reason that they’d all be feeling this way at exactly the same time.  Basically, things just suck.

I’ll admit that I’ve dug myself into my own little hole lately.  Maybe it’s the time of year…the span from March to May has always had a lull in it for me.  I may be the only person that doesn’t really like Spring at all.  I was a little bummed when I realized that Z would be born in April.  It’s just not my favorite month.  Maybe that’s why he HAD to be born then. 

Anyway, I’ve been in a slump.

Over the weekend, I got kicked out of my funk a bit.  I spent some time with my family and then I spent some time with some friends.  I had a good cry & had a really good talk with a friend (the 2 overlapped actually).  And then that was it.  I cleared the air with a couple people on Monday, got some stuff accomplished on Tuesday.  Suddenly, BOOM….I’m feeling better.  Weird. 

Once I started checking in with my friends, I noticed that they had a lot going on too.  While I was hibernating, a really good friend made a really difficult, major decision in her life.  I wish that I’d been there a little more for her, but she seems okay.  Another friend told me that she was exhausted from being the one that was always helping people…and that sometimes she needed help too.  A third friend is beginning to address some unresolved issues she has with her family…things have come to a head.

At work the other day, I was talking to a friend with a life situation eerily similar to mine.  She’s a working mom, she and her husband both work crazy schedules and never see each other, they have no family near-by & she just feels like she’s treading water with no boat in sight.  I can COMPLETELY relate.  We talk about it every so often.  One will be talking, trying to find just the right metaphor, and the other will be nodding vigorously and saying “YEAH!  EXACTLY!”.  Damn…I wish we were neighbors. 

While talking to this co-worker, I mentioned that I’d noticed that a lot of people around me seemed to be having a hard time with various things.  I know that the economy has a lot of people feeling down, but this seems different.  Unemployment isn’t the issue, everybody who needs a job has one.  Nobody’s about to lose their house or their car.  I guess it’s a possibility that the economy is indirectly to blame.  The evening news has been a bit of a downer (more so than usual) and when you’re surrounded by unhappiness and frustration it’s bound to rub off a bit.

Later that evening I noticed a status update on Facebook by a girl I went to high school with.  She was a few years younger, my sister’s year, and I never knew her THAT well….but she played field hockey with me and I always liked her.  Her status read: “… is physically and mentally exhausted.  Will I ever truly be happy again?”.  When I read this, it made me really sad.  She has a young daughter and on a couple of occasions we’ve exchanged wall posts about the chaos of raising a toddler.  I knew that she’s been dealing with a lot, but honestly have no idea what happened to bruise her spirit.

I live with this insane fear of not being remembered, or overstepping the line of familiarity with people from my past.  I remember (most) people really well and could pick up an old inside joke 10 years later or make an obscure reference from high school.  Of course, that freaks some people out and makes me look like an obsessed stalker.  Because of this, I don’t always respond to old friends’ posts.  I don’t want to come on too strong or make them feel self-conscious. 

This time though, when I read this update, I just felt that a response was necessary.  I thought about how many people I knew who were feeling pain and I wanted to help.  I wanted to make her feel better.  I wanted to make all my friends feel better.  I wrote to her and told her that I was sending her good thoughts.  She immediately wrote back and thanked me.  It was so simple, but I think that it brought happiness to both of us.

Sometimes you need to bring  joy to others in order to find joy in yourself.  That’s the point I’ve hit- I’ve come through a rough patch and now I want to pull others up with me.  I can be there for the people I care about.  It’s the one way I know that I can help.

It’s nothing but love.

Friendship

My friend Jessica (Yes, I have a friend named Jessica.  I’m not speaking in the third person or removing myself from this sentiment) believes that friendship has “a reason and a season”.  People come into your life when you need them or need to learn a lesson and when that need has been fulfilled, it’s perfectly okay to let those people go.  After expressing a little paranoia that eventually my days would be numbered too, she clarified that there are people, very special people, who stay in your life forever.  You just never know which category a person will fall into until it’s already happening.

I like that theory.  I like the idea that there’s no pressure and that the friends you pick now don’t necessarily HAVE to be your best friends forever.  As much as I like the idea of having a BFF, a lifelong best friend, I just can’t see it ever working for me.  To hear me talk about my friends, you’d think that I’d moved around my entire life.  In fact, I lived in the same house until I left for college.  I’ve just been in a lot of different “places”.  I know a lot of people, I’ve made my way through many different circles.  Are all of these people my best friends?  Absolutely not.  Do I care about every single one of them and periodically think about them and wonder where they are?  Yes.

Perhaps it’s a giant personality flaw on my end.  Maybe it’s a sign of insecurity that I seek out people I KNOW I’ll leave eventually.  Maybe I’m afraid of the commitment.  Maybe I’m afraid that *I* won’t be interesting enough and they’ll leave me.  Maybe I’m just in such a state of flux that I don’t know myself well enough to find people who will fit.  Maybe I just grew up in a tiny town with all the same people and now I meet people and collect acquaintances just because I can.

The last couple years have been a huge whirl of friendships and heartbreak.  Being a parent has made every feeling a little more raw for me.  Love is so much more intense, but so is hurt.  When somebody forgets about me or is thoughtless or is blatantly hurtful, it stabs my heart.  I don’t want my children to see their mother so weak.  I don’t want them to ever feel like this, like they don’t fit it.  And so I move into survival mode.  Fight or flight.  Neither of which are particularly conducive to friendships.  I admit that I have been at fault…there are a million ways that I could have handled situations differently.  It’s a learning experience.  Everything is.

Over the last year I’ve made the conscious decision to remove a few people from my life.  Did it go down in a blaze of glory, screaming and crying or bitter purging letters?  Nah.  It was more of an eye-roll and the thought “wow, I don’t need this crap.” -I can see these people for what they are-  In most cases, insecure.  They make themselves feel better by pulling others down.  I’ll admit, insecurity is one of my challenges.  What an easy target I must have been.  It’s wild when you remove yourself and you can actually SEE the same thing happening to someone else.

SO, for the most part, I’m light and happy and a lot less stressed.  But every so often, I feel a little twinge of doubt.  Was I too hard on her?  Maybe I should try to mend bridges, reach out and reconnect.  I KNOW that this isn’t a good idea.  I KNOW that it would not be at all productive.

Does it sound like I was dating these people???  I guess it IS a bit like a break-up.  A really bad, messy break-up.  I started dating my husband in high school, so I missed out on all of this.  Maybe if I’d dated more, and had more romantic break-ups, I’d know how to handle a sometimes bitter end of a friendship.  I’d know that you DON’T go back to the boyfriend that makes you feel fat or ugly or inadaquate. 

To be clear, I don’t have a string of friend break-ups behind me.  A lot of times we just drift apart.  I leave or they leave. Somebody gets a new job, somebody moves.  We keep in touch by email or Facebook.  And then we don’t.  And then something happens…a birthday or a baby or a silly dream….and we reconnect.  Maybe it’s briefly, maybe we stay in touch because we have something new in common (lately it’s been babies).  You can’t force it.  You just have to go with the reason….or the season.