Gather. Rinse. Retreat.
I do not want to admit that I’m feeling my age, but the years are certainly starting to have an effect on me. Yes, I see some wrinkles, but mostly I feel the emotional weight from everything and everyone to which I have been exposed. Much in the same way a snowball gathers snow while it’s being rolled on the ground to make a snowman. It just gets heavier and heavier and eventually it’s not just pretty snow, it accumulates some dirt too.
From a very young age, I’ve been shy and only within the past few years have I tried to go outside of my comfort zone. I’ve tried to make friends, and to be a better friend, but much to my disappointment, my friends either move away or something happens and we stop associating with one another altogether.
I never thought being an adult would involve as much drama and gossip as I witnessed throughout my schooling. I remember one of my friends in high school just stopped talking to me one day and wouldn’t give me a reason. The only thing I could even fathom was that she was mad that I asked a mutual friend of ours to help me with my book report. In college, one of my really good friends stopped talking to me because I wouldn’t lie to her attorney… I’ll just have to live with that one. As an adult, I’ve had the same thing happen, but instead of a book or my penchant for not wanting to break the law, it was rumors that tore us apart.
Having mutual friends with another friend can be great sometimes, but it can also be taxing if jealousy is added. One friend gets hurt that a mutual friend is spending more time with you than them; then hateful things get said to get you out of the picture. I’ve experienced this personally, but it worked itself out in the end, I just had to give it some time.
More recently, I have found that trying to be friends with the opposite gender is not as easy as I thought. Which sucks, because I get along so much better with men than I do women. There are definitely some gems in the femmes who aren’t catty and back-stabby, and those are the chicks with whom I get along just fine. They are very few and far away. No, not few and far between… Most of my gal pals live at least thirty minutes away. I work with my guy friends though, and therefore chat with them more often. This gets me in a bad spot because when I get home from work, guess what I talk to my husband about? That’s right, I say things like, “Oh, babe, [my guy friend] cracked me up today.” Or, “[My guy friend] said he can fix that issue we are having with my car.” Yeah, I guess a year of talking to a husband about other men doesn’t go over very well. So then marriage issues can develop. And if you ever have to choose between a friend and a spouse, you know there is no way you’re going to choose your friend, otherwise, you will be choosing a good divorce lawyer. I’m not saying I would choose my husband just to keep the peace, but I would choose him because he is my best and closest friend, and no other friend – male or female alike – could win out over him.
I have gleaned some good lessons and gained some great perspective from chatting with people about my inability to hold onto friends. With this newly acquired information, I am going to say these are three good rules to follow in friendship:
Put yourself out there; get out of your comfort zone. Don’t expect people to come to you and magically become your friend. At the same time though, avoid hunting for friends. Remember, you are gathering- picking the delicate fruits of friendship that are right for you. Wow! That was a severely cheesy line! It makes a good point, however. If you go on a hunt for a friend, you will be too pushy and too overwhelming to the people you meet, and that’s probably not going to get you the type of friend you can be comfortable around (if it gets you a friend at all). Be yourself, but if you don’t have confidence, please find enough to introduce yourself to others. The goal is to surround yourself with people who share something in common with you – personality, hobbies, occupation, etc.
A weird rule, I know. I’m typing figuratively here. So by this point, you have a friend. If you experience something in your friendship that is not healthy or something that has put a strain on your friendship or on a relationship with a third-party (your sister or spouse for example), identify it, and then wash yourself clean of it. Talk about it, clear the slate, and see if you can start again. Holding onto something that bothers you, is not only tiring and stressful, but it is usually reflected in the way you act. My husband tells me that this step gets me in trouble; evidently people generally don’t like to be told that there is a problem, especially if the problem is thought to lie within the person that is being confronted. I would still rather air out an issue than allow it to become a bigger and bigger wedge in one of my relationships.
Like Kenny Rogers said, “Know when to walk away….” Trying to make a friendship work is great, but if you find yourself in a one-sided relationship, or in a constant struggle with one of your friends … Retreat! Pull yourself out of the situation for a little while. It can hurt both parties a lot (trust me, I know this from being both the retreated-upon and the retreater), but it will give you and your friend each a chance to reflect and evaluate what happened and why. It is also a good time to see how the other person reacts to you as well. Did they keep calm, or did they blow up and get totally offended? Their reaction can tell you a lot. If you find that you were the one in the wrong, you can apologize and try to make things work again, or you can keep moving forward. Either way, learn from the errors and work hard to not let them happen again.
I will be the last person to tell you that I’m a great friend. I clearly have failed if I’m having to ask others what I’m doing wrong, but at least I’m learning. Being a friend isn’t always cupcakes and rainbows, sometimes it’s vomit and arguments. Yes, there are books on the subject (friendship, that is, not books about vomit and arguments), and this blog, but you have to decide what works best for you. In my experience, each person I have been friends with has had a positive influence on me in some way. Whether they hate me now or not, my friends and ex-friends will always be part of who I am. In fact, I have this blog because one of my friends encouraged me to write. I also like Steampunk, pho, painting in public, and vampire books… All as a result of the friends I gathered. I can only hope that I’ve been a positive influence on those who I’ve been friends with – past and present. Despite the emotional weight, I want to thank everyone for being the snow on my ever-growing snowball.
What are your tips for finding and keeping friends?