Apr 28, 2010

dear diary

okay so I had a little melt down. or a big melt down, internally. about various things. various seemingly unrelated things that all equated, in my silly squishy brain to:
Who the hell are all these people who call themselves my friends but are unsupportive, un interested, and in general apparently unwilling to make the smallest attempt to keep our friendship reasonably close and decently accessible.

And then I analyze that first sentence. "call themselves my friends"?
Do they, or do I, simply, insistantly, call them my friends.

Friend, like love, like fair, like justice, is a strange nebulous word these days. I say it, and it means one thing to you and another to me and another to the guy down the street. That guy leering. He wants to be my "friend" ...get it? Who knows what it means any more. You "friend" people on online social networks you don't even plan or necessarily want to see in this decade. You ask people to be a friend when you need a quarter. It's a strange word with even stranger variances, and semantical debates aside, it is very clear that friendship means different things to different people.

And so I suspect the real art, the skill, the finesse of relationships is listening close enough to understand, vaguely, anothers definition, and then to decide if that definition is compatible with yours. Atleast for that person. Can you accept your "good friend" really only appreciating you in a limited capacity and only supporting decisions that are beneficial to them as well as you? Then, cool. Can you accept a best friend who forgets to think of you constantly? Do you downgrade them to buddy? Keep them despite their faults?

I don't know. I just know, as a theme for this year, I've heard alot about the slow dissolution of various friendships, and this is not just including the dissonant noise in my own brain. It's easy to be let down, to be hurt, when your definition doesn't jive with a close friends about mutual boundaries, consideration or respect.

And in the end, it is also very very hard to not internalize these issues? Are WE bad friends? bad judges of character? bad at maintaining interest? affection?

I suspect the answer, to all of these questions, is yes yes yes and no no no.

Because friendships are about relationships and choices.

Which is to say:

It takes two to tango, and two to set the rules and decide the give and take of your relationship. If you can't decide on a definition and establish trust around that decision, you are going to have a problem. But you need to be honest about the rules too. Your friend is a flake? They are a flake, and they will flake on you, and if you need them not to be a flake to be your friend, you might find that friendship over. On the other hand, your friend knows you like to be called. If they can never call you when they can't make it, they aren't really being a friend either.

Which brings us to choices:
If the contract is violated, it needs to be renegotiated or it needs to be discarded. Otherwise the resentment will be paramount. Learn when to walk away. Learn when to reassess. Learn to understand what each of your friendships are about in their own unique way, and whether you can appreciate them on those (always, inevitably) limited levels. And if you can not? Then you must walk away. For yourself. For your friend. And out of respect for eachother.

1 comment:

Mischief Maker said...

I've just been talking to my almost-13-year-old daughter about this sort of thing. The hard part is that I cannot tell her that relationships will get any easier. What you've written here is the perfect blueprint for navigating friendships: Are your expectations similar, and if not can you deal with the differences?

We also have a lot of conversation about giving our friends the freedom to express their individuality (or conformity), and remembering that we are all playing a learn-as-we-go-trial-and-error sort of game here. As you said, a flaky person will flake on you. And a mean person will be mean to you eventually. A gossip will gossip about you. A fighter picker will pick fights. But on the flip side, a generous person will enhance your life by sharing their wisdom and their friends. Some people hoard as precious secrets their favorite hobbies, music, books. Other people know that these things are worth sharing and that finding (or creating) similar interests builds amazing bonds between friends. A kind person will be as kind as possible, even when time and resources are limited. Etc. I try (try being the operative word here) to teach my girls that developing the character traits you would hope to find in a friend is a big part of the friendship-retention process. But also, despite our best efforts friendships change as schedules, interests, and circumstances change and personalities evolve.

The point: What I really wanted to say is that this is very good writing.