Life has been... happening - to say the least - recently and that certainly got me falling back in a lot of things. I had a HUGE pile of letters from my penpals accumulated, waiting and basically feeding a stab of guilt inside me. A lot of things came together to make this happen, from my studies to all sorts of things in my personal life draining my energy and eating up my time. As I recently started reorganizing my time, I found myself thinking if things had fallen off the wagon because after the breakup I needed a time to settle back in my single ways, or if it has been actually happening for a while. As a matter of fact, I realized that for a while my pattern was that of a letter-per-year, and that was basically because I couldn't get my life properly under control. All this in spite of me having a filofax :-).
|"Letter Writing Monday"|
at a local Starbucks.
This month I had an epiphany and decided to start making time for the things that are important for me. :-) My studies, clearly, are important to me, but lately they had been consuming all of my time. When I wasn't studying, I was too tired to do anything other than sleep. Thus it was clear that some me-time had to be scheduled. This is how my "Letter Writing Mondays" came to become a fixed happy date with myself, which have been working fabulously. :-) Maybe I'll write a post about those later on.
As I started grabbing the reigns of my life and live it the way I want to, making myself happier :-) other things I've been ignoring started to come to my attention. Among those things there was the question of friendship and how one experiences it.
What is Friendship?
Friendship is a particularly elastic type of relationship that, unlike romantic relationships or familiar relationships, don't seem to be bound by strict, well known rules. Friendship can't be defined in a cookie-cutter fashion because this is a free type of bond between people. Are two friendships alike? No, definitively no, and sometimes, something that can be allowed in the frame of one friendship might not be in the frame of another. And that's alright, that's how it goes.
But then, we all know about relationships dubbed "friendship" that don't seem to be so, that aren't... good. If friendship has no rules set in stone, how do we know this? How do we judge this? Often we don't realize we are in a relationship we call friendship, but something feels "off" or it's not working. We might feel uncomfortable or upset, and rationalize these feelings as product of our own fault for not being understanding enough, or supporting enough or we might even think that this thing will eventually stop annoying us. We swallow it because we expect to get used to it. But do we?
It might seem stupid, but certain things our friends do don't have to be put up with. Relationships aren't perfect and people don't fit exactly to one another, so it's expected that some things will require negotiation and compromise for the benefit of all. However, there are things there that are not that small, and turn out to be very important for us. These can be seemingly small things, but when they bother us it's because they have a meaning for us. It's not the thing, it's the principle.
The things that bother us do so because we feel, uncomfortable, neglected, disrespected, used, cheated, lied to... you name it. So, as free form as friendship is, it does have - if not rules -characteristics that make friendship what it is. Friendship is based on Love, and feeling good matters in it. Friendship is positive for us and helps us grow as human beings.
Can We All Be Friends?
Though we'd like to think so, truth is that not everybody can be friends. It doesn't mean that there are people who just can't have friends. Indeed there are some people with unfortunate attitudes or personalities that keep them from establishing or enjoying friendships, but that's not everybody's case. Most people usually have characteristics and skills that allow them to connect with different people and make friendships. Curiously, as we start making friends and cultivate them, we grow and change, learning not only new, exciting traits from our friends, but also developing new traits as well. We could say that making friends makes us better at making friends. Our experiences, both the ones we share as the ones only we experience internally define us and enrich us. These things probably decide how we make friends from then on, how we approach them, make the connection and keep them. It also can define those "small things" that can make or break a friendship, teach us about our limits and not only make us more tolerant, but also show us what are those things that make a difference. It is also possible that through friendships we learn new boundaries, adopt them, as your friends "teach you" about the value of this or that, the meaning of this or that.
However, in spite of all your friendship-experience, and even if you are the sweetest, most lovable person in the planet, you probably won't be able to be friends with everybody, and that's ok, because some people just don't click together. That doesn't mean that they are bad or mean, it just means that they don't click. If you have penpals, you know about that: there are people who are so great on their profiles, and they are awesome on their e-mails, but when the letter arrives... nope, you know it's not going to work. Sometimes, it even works in paper, but once you meet it all falls apart. That last case has never happened to me, personally, because all the penpals I've met are FABULOUS. My penpals are all super-awesome, that's the truth :-) The reasons for people not to click are many. If it happens, hey, it happens. You are not a failure and they are not monsters, it's just a case where you are Star Trek and they are Star Wars. It's alright, not the end of the world.
When in a friendship, even in an ongoing one, we must always consider those things that are important to us, that tell us something about the other person and the quality of our friendship. Those little, personal "markers", to call it somehow. Some of these could be:
- Way of speaking
- Available time or availability for the friendship
- Activities you like to do alone and those you like to do with friends
And the list of possible small little important things goes on and on and on. If we know this we get a better chance at understanding why something might bother us about someone else. If tolerance is important to you, it's understandable that a friend who makes any sort of discriminatory comments might bother us, even if those are not directed to us or the group we belong to. The markers are not fixed, and these won't be all important to you for the rest of your life, but the meaning behind the marker is. For instance, manners and punctuality might stop being markers for us, but the respect that they mean will still be something important to you.
Do Friendships End?
In the end, a friendship is a relationship, and as such, yes, it can end. This is not just a matter of friends losing contact and fading away, but friends can also break up, and this is something that must be considered when we hit a point with our markers or with something bigger. And it makes sense, why would you keep relating to a person you no longer feel connected to? Why keep calling "friend" a person, and give them your time, your thoughts and your energy when it only makes you feel uncomfortable, when it only drains you? And here it's ok to be selfish and think about what are you gaining from the friendship. If you don't feel the love, if you are not growing, if you are not feeling good... hell, what are you doing in that relationship?
Stop the romantic, self-denying notions of beautiful selflessness, where you should look forward only to give and sacrifice yourself for others. Friendship isn't a platoon of the army, where you are supposed to give your life for your country. Friendship isn't about denying yourself for the sole benefit of the other person - well, actually no healthy relationship should be about that - so don't force yourself to do so.
From personal experience, I can tell you that breaking up a friendship can be as painful or even more painful than breaking up with a romantic partner. At least, personally, I have suffered quite a lot each time I have broken up a friendship - no matter how toxic it was, and how much better I knew I would be without them - than what I suffered after breaking up with any of my boyfriends. It hurts, and it's supposed to, though if it doesn't pain you, that's alright too. It's been a long time since I've been heartbroken or suffered after a breakup with any guy, and I guess that doesn't make me a bad person.
Breaking up a friendship happens and it's needed. It's a decision you must make, where you must consider what's are you losing with staying and what are you losing with leaving.
A person I never thought would be an important friend of mine is Ellie. She and I have very different political standings and opinions, and both of us hold very strong positions. I didn't like her very much in the begining, but as we started talking and getting to know each other, share other topics, we became friends. Though our opinions and positions are important for us, it didn't break us but made our friendship stronger, because we realized we are also both tolerant and we can listen to each other and take from the other's position elements to bring growth to our own. We started understanding each other's position and that enriched our thinking. We also learned not to jump for each other's throats, and so concentrated more on all those millions of topics we shared.
Here's a case where a marker of mine changed, but not the meaning behind it.
Currently I'm struggling with a different decision about a friendship of many years. Before, as I was so snowed up with other things, these things that bothered me about her were just nagging little things that I always booked up to "that's just the way she is", and I simply adjusted to it. But as I started making changes recently to live more my life, and the way I want to, I realized that adjusting to her things wasn't a solution for me. I woke up to the realization that this wasn't the type of relationship I wanted. Honestly, it made me realize I felt neglected, like I had to take her disrespect and constantly reminding her and nagging her about our friendship. When I woke up to ths realization, I felt very bad, so I devised a little test to prove myself wrong, but all it did was enforce in me the sensation that here I'm the one working to make things work. She's nice otherwise, and very pleasurable to be with, but does it worth it?
Perhaps a while ago it was, when I was paying less attention to these things, but as I'm working to improve my life, this is suddenly something I'm not willing to continue taking. It might take me some time to get to a final resolution about this matter, but for starters, I recognized the problem. Now I'll work on it.