In my pursuit of personal hobbies, I'm introduced to a buffet of original personalities. And in my close relationships I am lucky enough to have some truly amazing people surround my life; all possessing qualities I find admirable and worth exposing vulnerability and honesty. Now that I feel confident in these relationships, I have to admit that it wasn't easy "courting" a new friend and getting to a place that is most personally revealing - ugly and beautiful.
Finding good friends isn't so different from dating really. There's the awkward beginning stages when you are trying to decide if it's even worth a pursuit. And once you decide this is someone you want around, you begin testing and bending boundaries, yours and theirs. The whole practice of making new friends, finding deep connections, and maintaining meaningful bonds takes time and effort from both parties if it's going to sustain anything longer than a "it got me through the rough spots" rendezvous.
But really, I'm not aiming to discuss my dear friendships. It's no secret to anyone who knows me or by my previous blog posts that I adore my friends. I am blessed and rich with meaningful relationships. Really, I want to discuss those on the fringe. People you may have, at one point in time, thought of as a friend. Or those who seem to want to get in, past the gate and through the corridor of your more secret self. I've had plenty of these friendships. I tend to fall easily for people possessing seemingly vulnerable qualities, charming smiles, and the ability to steal me away from reality. And I allow their needs to be met while ignoring my own and never feeling that I'm of a value to them or to myself. Those friendships typically end with egg being thrown on my face and my time, compassion, and care ultimately thrown away.. I've learned a lot from these individuals. Mainly that I need to take more time to learn and meet their intentions before I go and expose my heart. It's a tough lesson but one that has helped guard my time and nurturing, making sure it's not wasted on emotional vampires.
At 34 I still find it amazing how many times I've allowed someone to take over and control me. Now why on earth would someone who is opinionated, self sufficient, and educated allow anyone to control their time and emotions? God I wish I knew the answer to that. Some instances I have found that it was almost a prize to conquer and claim this loud woman as theirs. Theirs. Theirs in every sense of the word - friend, playmate, possession. Meanwhile stunting my own growth to help nurture others' dreams and goals. Well, this has been the year of peeling back those layers to discover why I have found myself in that position more times than I care to admit. I could say that I was taught to be controlled, that I was conditioned to allow someone to make my decisions for me, or that it's easier than putting up the fight. I could even argue that society has encouraged me as a woman to be the peace-maker and pick my battles. All of that could be true. In fact I find a lot of truth in all those assumptions. However, now that I've seen it laid out, recognized the patterns, and discovered the freedom in saying "No", what do I do with it? How do I move forward and reclaim my space and time (physically AND mentally) without blocking new opportunities and potentially meaningful friendships? I guess I approach it with a Nike mentality, "Just Do It".
2011 was a big deal to me. I went into the new year knowing things were about to change dramatically. They had to. It was over due and ripe for newness. Change always comes with a great deal of loss. It is impossible to change without loss. And I still get caught in my head asking the same questions over and over. But the new part? I've regained trust. I've rediscovered with truth about what it takes to have a meaningful relationship with others and most importantly I've discovered what it takes to have a meaningful relationship with myself. And it's not perfect. I fight those self deprecating thoughts daily, hourly even. But when I lay my head on the pillow at night I go to sleep with trust. And that's new. Even to some of my oldest relationships I've rediscovered a trust that is unmoving and completely justified. I've even learned to trust myself a little more. Trust that my instincts are right, that I'm allowed to speak up when something doesn't seem honest, and trusting that I'm still young enough to dream.
As cliche as it sounds, there is truth to the simple saying "It's tough out there". It is a cruel world and everyone is only looking out for number one. Put yourself on the top of that list and see what happens. Of course it comes with loss. Standing up for yourself will definitely weed out those who care for you vs. those who care to control and manipulate you. I'm finally not only seeing but accepting those truths. And it has been ugly at times but ultimately healing and renewing. And....it's only the beginning. Growth only goes upward. To stop it would be to kill it and I refuse to stop growing.
Onward into 2012 we go......