Let’s talk about friendship. What exactly constitutes friendship and what does it entail? It’s a topic that I’m learning more about every day and I’m realizing that I’ve taken my friends for granted so much in my life and I’ve often looked at my friends as people I can rely on to help me to give me pleasure to make me laugh to join me on fun excursions to invite me out. But I never really saw it as a two-way street. Friendship isn’t always about getting what you want from them. It’s about being there for someone else and I’m finding that much more fulfilling.
Of course there is a balance to be struck. We all know people — it might even be yourself — who give too much in those situations and so you have to be mindful that you’re getting back as much as you’re putting in. But similarly you have to make sure that you’re giving back as much as you’re getting — and I have a feeling that I’ve been a bit of a taker in a lot of these relationships that I’ve had and it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really kind of grown up and been there for friends. I might have been trying to take my mind off of my own life for a second, so I’d throw myself into their problems and try and make them happy and make them laugh or smile, without expecting anything in return. It’s incredible the feeling that you get from that when your friends thank you and tell you how much that your friendship means to them. It makes you feel so valued and powerful in someone else’s life.
The friendship with (dangerous) benefits
I had a situation recently where a friend of mine became intimate. We had a thing going and it was a kind of confused relationship. We weren’t quite sure what it was and we decided to just stay friends. Then I had to watch him meet someone else — this wonderful guy who makes him happy. Things are looking pretty serious for them and it’s been a real test of my resolve and my selflessness to put my personal feelings to one side, my niggling disappointment and loneliness and be happy for him for them — to be there for him — despite what I thought may have come of our relationship. I found myself saying that our friendship was the most important thing to me, but the sight of him with his new partner was sometimes so difficult for me that I contemplated whether or not I should have him in my life anymore. At times it felt too gut wrenching to bear. But I’m so glad that I didn’t push him away and discard what is a fantastic friendship with someone that I continue to share wonderful times with. This is a real turning point for me in how I address friendships: putting my personal feelings and discomfort to one side and truly being the friend that you
I say I want to be. It’s one thing to say, it’s another thing to really do it (I’m very good at talking the talk, but not so flawless in execution!)
The (tempestuous) best friend
Another friend of mine, in London, my best friend in fact: she was the girl I came out to when I was 13. I let her down recently. I said a lot of hurtful things to her in the heat of the moment. We had an argument and it got out of hand and I’ve tried to repair things but she needs space and that’s hard to hear. It’s hard to not have this drama repaired as quickly as it erupted. I’m someone who wants to brush over these problems as quickly as possible and forget it ever happened. But not everybody can work through their pain as quickly as that.
Often in the past when that’s happened, I’ve just discarded the friendship. I’ve walked away from it because it’s too hard to feel the chill and to have that distance between us, so I just convince myself that I’m in control and that I’m deciding we’re done. I’ve lost so many good people for my life in doing that and I am so determined not to let that happen with this friend.
I’ve written her a letter I called her when I was in town and she’s told me she just needs some space and I completely respect and understand that. And I’m actually OK with it, for the first time. I’m okay with not being able to force a reunion of sorts. If we’re meant to be friends again, then it’s meant to be. From my perspective she will always be my friend but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s strongly reconsidering her feelings about me now and she’s probably justified in doing that. But all I can do is try and think of her feelings before my own.
Put others before yourself — within reason of course. Don’t be a doormat, but don’t treat others like one either. Don’t expect other people to be your whipping boy, your scapegoat, to take your shit time and time again and when you say sorry, they shrug and say “it’s fine, that’s just your way”. It’s not fine. I’m still learning this every day.
Know the power of your friendships.
Don’t don’t underestimate your power in the friendships and relationships that you have. You have so much power with your friends: to help them, to comfort them, to make them laugh. You also have a lot of power to hurt them as well. So be mindful of the power you yield in their lives. Don’t focus all your attention on their power over you. It’s very easy to go through life feeling like the victim to everybody else’s crap. We all put crap on other people at times and that has an impact. We all lean on each other.
Gone but not forgotten
Lastly, never forget the friends who have helped make you who you are today. The ones who pushed you, supported you and watched as you flourished, perhaps knowing that they might lose you to a new office or foreign land in the process. Those angels who are no longer in our daily lives. Those who have drifted to the backs of our minds, but were once so prominent. We are all just one phone call away from reigniting what was a great relationship. So if you do one thing today to improve the quality of your friends, pick up the phone and reach out to an old friend, to see what they’ve been up to. It’s more than likely they’ll be thrilled to hear from you — and you never know where it might lead.
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