Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009

Be Choosy About Your Friends

I always thought I needed to have girlfriends. Some I needed to have a steady diet of because I guess they validated my being. I have found that I am happy being my own guide and not having to depend on what someone that I care about really thinks about me. Never in a hundred years would I believe I had it in my power to be happy with myself without someone else’s approval.

I needed someone to raise my children with who faced some of the same situations as I faced trying to be the best of mothers. Someone to share a coke with. Someone to shop with. Someone to travel with to events we both enjoyed. I needed someone to laugh with, cry with, share secrets with.

There have been friends who I have lost whom I might have tried harder to keep. I have had friends who used me and I am sure I used them. I don’t think either of is consciously used each other, but maybe we did since the friendships have gone by the wayside. Some of the friends I made when I was younger weren’t good for me. I am easily influenced and made mistakes in judgment by having them as friends.

There have been friends who I know now I must have forced the friendship by being the one to suggest we do things together and maybe that isn’t want they wanted to do. I had friends who I pursued with much more fervor than they did for our friendship to remain intact. Some friends must have been bored and were a friend to me to ease that boredom and have something to do.

I have had friends who did more for me than I did for them both emotionally and financially. Maybe when you can’t keep up with the gifting that goes along with friendships, the friendship dies a natural death. Maybe one of us grows emotionally and leaves the other one behind. I haven’t completely figured that one out yet.

I have had friends who depended on me more than I could give. I am sure I have depended on friends more than they could take. There have been friends who probably think that I have let them down, but it wasn’t intentionally done. I have had friends who I have hurt and been hurt by. I have intentionally hurt some friends because I was hurt and struck back in an unkind way. I regret that I acted so immaturely, but I was immature at the time.

There have been friends in the different ages of my life that I have drifted away from because one or the other of us moved. There were friends from work, but when jobs changed and you weren’t in close proximity to them anymore, the friendship withered and died. I don’t believe they weren’t friendships and dear ones at the time, but circumstances changed things. Sometime our children drifted apart and we no longer had so much in common.

I have learned now that many of those, who at the time I thought were going to be friends until death, were really acquaintances who had a lot of commonalities with me at the time, but not enough to sustain the friendship over time. Our ships set different courses and they have sailed off in a different direction. It would be nice to reconnect someday with some of them. The wonderful thing about the Internet is that a lot of friends have reconnected if only briefly. It was easy with some to catch up with forty years between us in a matter of a few emails. Our tastes seem to have a way of changing.

Now the friends I have seem to be the ones I went to grammar and high school with. I think those friendships were forged in steel and our paths keep crossing at different stages of our lives. I have lost friends to death and that is heart breaking. At my age, that will happen more and more and all you can do is remember the fun times you had when you were friends.

I have few close friends now, but don’t look at that as something terrible. The friends I have now bring me joy, have faith in me, encourage me to do and be my best, to be creative. We laugh at the same things and cry as only women can do. My friendships are deeper now and less shallow as the ones I had when I was younger.

At my age, time is against having friends who aren’t what I consider real. There just isn’t time to waste on breadth and not depth. I like to think I am a genuine person and expect the same from the people I associate with. I don’t have time to play around the edges of the sandbox. Time is ticking.

My heart has been broken to the place that it isn’t mended completely by the loss of friends. I wonder where things went astray. I think deep down inside of me I know, but I will never really know what went wrong with some of them. You think you know someone to the core and you find out that you really didn’t know them like you thought you did. There have been friendships that have been extended that should have been ended so both parties could get on with life without regrets.

Via the internet, I have made some wonderful friends. People who share some of the same ideals I do. Women who like doing the things I do. That we haven’t physically met doesn’t make a difference. I have been fortunate though in making international friends who have put themselves out to come to visit me and friends who live in the states who have done the same. It is like we have known each other forever. Maybe we get along so well because we aren’t around each other all the time. My grandmother used to say to me, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and I think she was really on to something. If we aren’t physically around someone very much, then we see mostly the good and not the warts. Possibly that is a Pollyanna attitude, but it seems to explain why these friendships come about and endure.

It really matters now who I surround myself with. I need those who I can encourage and those who can encourage me. I need truthfulness by me at all times. I don’t need to hear something just because it is the nice thing to say to me. I need honesty. That is something I have preached to my children and all of the kids I taught – be honest, truthful, and never steal from another person. I don’t mean to say if someone’s dress or hair looks terrible I need to tell them, but I don’t need to tell them they look lovely either when they don’t.

I want someone who will cheer me up when I am down. Someone who will be there if I need them day or night and they can expect the same in return. I want to be there to support my friends when they are down and need lifting up. I want to matter to someone. I want someone near me who is happy when I do well and who can help me out when I don’t do so well. I want to be that kind of friend too.

Most women don’t realize the power they have to lift or to crush. Women need to be mindful of just how much power they have over the ones that you love – your children, husband’s view of you from your friend’s perspective, you parents. Women, myself included, need to wield that power carefully because they don’t know what effect they have on the people you care about. As women, we need to be kind and caring and if we can’t get the same in return from those who we believe are some kind of friend, then we need to shuck them and find someone where caring and kindness are utmost to them too. If no one around fits the bill, then enjoy your own company and devote yourself to what makes you happy and certainly do for your family first. If we can make ourselves happy, then we can go about making others happy. If there is a flaw we have that we aren’t happy within ourselves, then we will never be able to be that true friend to anyone else.

What kind of friend are you?

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