This topic has been on my mind for some time, and over time, I’ve made repeated stabs to complete it, but I’d always run out of time or realized my thought process wasn’t complete. What was extra-ordinary about this particular blog is that I finished it last night, posted it, checked and double-checked, logged out and logged in to make sure that it WAS posted, and even posted its existence on my Facebook wall. As I walked away from the computer, however, I wondered if the writing really was finished.
I discovered the blog was gone. It had completely disappeared. The message I got from the universe–or whatever force you want to call it–was that it wasn’t finished and that it had been removed by this force so that it could be properly finished. Strangely enough, the Facebook link was still there, clearly showing the first sentence of the posted blog as if it was still there.
After some revision, here is the newer version.
I’ve been questioning Facebook’s use of the word friend. I’ve always thought that a friend was someone you were involved with on a regular basis, or someone you were close to once but are separated by distance, so now, you only talk a couple of times a year or exchange Christmas letters. The great thing is that when you are together, it’s as if you were never separated. You care about each other equally and strongly. They are people who don’t judge you or fault you in public. They might fault you in private, simply because as friends, we can irritate each other, but that’s because we can also tease each other and laugh about those flaws with each other.
When I’ve seen Facebook users who aren’t pushing or publicizing something and who have over a thousand friends, I ask, Really? As friends? Or are we talking about acquaintances?
I decided to look the word up. My Webster’s dictionary says that a friend is someone who is “attached to another by affection or esteem,” an “acquaintance,” “one that is not hostile,” someone who is of the “same nation, party, or group.”
One who is not hostile? Gee, doesn’t that mean just about the entire population around me, around you, except the guy screaming and flipping us the bird due to road rage? Are we all friends because we’re a group of customers in the same store at the same time? Are we all friends because we live in the same community? Because we’re in the same family? According to the dictionary, we are.
But wait. That definition is applied to the NOUN version of the word. A noun is static. There’s no action, no movement.
However, the VERB TRANSITIVE version of the word, which means the word requires an object whether direct or indirect, states that a friend is “to act as the friend of,” to befriend. This definition requires action, POSITIVE actions, not lies, unfulfilled promises, words of “I miss you” but no attempts to communicate, or it being all about you, where you do all the talking and they do all the listening. In other words, a verb transitive friend, is a good friend, a Facebook PLUS friend.
Great friendships are friendships of love. For love, passion for that individual to exist, love must be reciprocal. When a relationship is one-sided, where it’s all about one person and not both equally, indifference fills that void; and once indifference takes hold major cracks appear, sometimes an abyss, and the relationship is doomed. Eventually, a falling out will occur.
It’s happened to me and I bet it has happened to you, too.
I’ll admit it. At a different time in my life, I was one of those noun friends where it was all about me. Those times weren’t pretty; once upon a time, I was an extremely unhappy person, the most negative, miserable, whiney, complaining kind of person you never wanted to meet. What can I say? I was an idiot, young, and dumb about the realities of friendship. I wish I could go back and make changes, but I can’t; so, all I can do is say, “I’m sorry.” I now understand why our friendship lapsed or collapsed so easily.
One best friend I had during that time ended our two-year friendship over the phone saying she didn’t want to see me anymore because she couldn’t deal with my issues. “I just don’t feel good about myself when you leave.” Talking about my unhappiness struck a nerve where her unhappiness resided, and she didn’t like that feeling. Frankly, neither of us felt good after our gab sessions. Thank you, Lynn, for having the guts to stand in your truth and say the words to me. I needed to hear it. I deserved to lose your friendship. I saw the truth right away, but a few years had to pass before the sting was gone, and then the guilt. Later, we reconnected, but became separated again due to location and name changes on both sides. One day, maybe we’ll reconnect again.
I had an acquaintance who saw me once a week during the winter as we were on the same bowling league. One day, in particular, I gushed the woe-is-me-and-I’m-so-miserable status to the point where she looked at me and said, “Doesn’t anything ever go right in your life?” She then got up and moved, sitting somewhere else. Thank you, Bonnie, for having the guts to stand in your truth and tell me what others wanted to say but didn’t. Again, I was self-centered and selfish, leaving everyone around me as miserable as I felt. Thanks to you, Bonnie, I started journaling instead of talking, and that journaling turning into a writing career for me. Thankfully, years later, you came to a book signing and I had the opportunity to thank you in person. You were shocked to find that you’d ever said such words to another individual. Obviously, I pushed some serious buttons that day. My life wouldn’t be what it is today if not for you.
I had to change, and change I did.
Dr. Phil says it best: “We teach people how to treat us.” The doctor was right. I thought that it was a female trait, where we want everyone to be happy, so we sacrifice our happiness to make someone else happy; however, I’ve noticed that men do it too. Obviously, it’s a human condition. We want people to like us so we say yes, and then struggle with how to deal with these contrary feelings.
I made goals. I found my sense of humor.
I learned from Bonnie, Lynn, books, and some great mentors how to stand in my truth. Sometimes the problem was at work, a social organization or situation, sometimes marriage, sometimes family, sometimes a best friend. In standing in my truth, I realized that the other person might cut me off because they didn’t like what they were hearing, they realized they couldn’t control me anymore, they weren’t getting what they wanted, and so forth. I had to love them enough to allow them to cut me off. I know that the action I took was for the best of both of us, even if they couldn’t see it at the time.
There are people I would love to be friends with again, but I can’t do all the work.
One thing I’ve learned is that we don’t grow when life is good. We grow because of conflict, because a change has occurred externally or internally, and yet most people will do everything they can to avoid conflict. When we are frustrated, we are in the midst of a growth opportunity. When we deflect, rationalize, and criticize those who are involved in our growth, we are turning down that opportunity, closing doors of possibility and of greater things, the very things we desire and have asked for in life.
My friends and I don’t just talk about getting together; we do it, and we do it regularly, even if regular is once or twice a year; and in-between times, we talk on the phone or exchange e-mails frequently. We feel good about ourselves when we leave each other’s company. We talk about our goals, our desires, what we’re doing. We rarely vent, but when we do, we end up laughing at the stupidity of getting that upset about something or someone we can’t change; so, we help each other find the best solutions. We don’t spend time talking about other people but talk about what we’re learning about ourselves. They’re FUN times, and we look forward to the next time.
Yes, there are times when we disagree and even through those rough moments—because they really do last only moments, not months or years—we don’t have to ask “still friends?” because we know we are. We’re already laughing about how stupid we were to have disagreed the way we did.
A plus friend is someone you want to stay in touch with because you connected with them on a deep level. You genuinely care about each other. You accept each other flaws and can even make fun of them, because you know they’re right even though you don’t like to admit it. Real friends are plugged into each other. You enhance each other’s lives. Time spent together can be both serious and fun, but the laughter rules. You feel good about yourself when leaving their presence. They make you want to be a better person. Your enjoyment of each other is mutual.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve had some truly remarkable, special mentors in my life.
To Maris: My writer friend and best mentor. We’ve watched each other grow and change. We also know how to have a great conversation about murder that actually scares off other patrons in the restaurant who have the misfortune to sit within listening distance. Spending time with you is always a learning experience.
To Mary/Mari: A true mystic. You were the friend who could see my heart, my dreams, when no one else could. If not for you, I would have had a much tougher time getting through that dark period. You were the light I looked to and you unselfishly shared your wisdom. Anytime someone says the same of me, I instantly think of you. Even though we haven’t chatted in years, I still hear your voice, hear your words, and see your smile and twinkle of your eyes that reflected that deep pool of wisdom. Nature became another dimension for me because of you.
To Sister Mary Generous: We’ve met only once in person at a screenwriter’s seminar in L.A., talked once on the phone (I believe), but wow, what a friendship!!!!!! Space and time don’t matter to us as we thicken the bond regardless. You’re a hoot and a holler, and we’ve always been there for each other despite the distance, sharing all that we know and then some. One of these days, we’ll walk down a red carpet together!
To Cyndi: There’s no beginning and most definitely no end to you. You’re one of a kind. We connected so fast, we can’t remember a time when we haven’t been friends. Laughter is the glue of our friendship despite all the many tears we’ve shed—fortunately, never at the same time. A move and new path for me created distance for a while; but now, a new journey for you brought us back together again. Fortunately, our renewal is better than it ever was before. Why? Because now I’m the wise one. LOLOL (To everyone else: She’ll howl with laughter, and then both deny and admit it.)
To Bev: Our relationship grew over time, and over time, the more we shared, the more we found we had in common, to a point that these commonalities are unlike anything else we have in common with others, which makes our relationship way too much fun and comfortable. We have like backgrounds and are frustrated equally by the same things. We can vent safely and know the other understands completely and then laugh in our venting, though we don’t vent often. One of these days we will travel.
To Westie, Penny, and David: Wow, the doors that opened because of you. I lump you together because you know the history we have in common, the future that is ours to command. Because of each of you, I have grown by leaps and bounds unlike anything I had ever known and ever thought could be. You taught me well. I wish more time could be spent talking, sharing, learning, and discovering.
To Kelly and Carrie: My two beautiful, bright, and equally strong daughters. Ours has not always been an easy path, but it never lacked honesty. We’re there for each other, as much as we can be despite distance. Days spent together are noisy and fun. I always smile remembering how when one boyfriend (of mine) a few years back, after meeting you two, said, “I sure would hate to come up against you three in a dark alley.” Not only did he see you both as physically strong, but intellectually and emotionally strong, as well. You make me proud. And naturally, I’m proud of the cute, funny, equally smart grandchildren you’ve produced. What’s nice is that now we’re truly friends and from time-to-time, you’re mothering me, which can produce hilarious results.
And To Sharon: My first best friend since the 7th or 8th grade when we were alphabetized, seated by our last names; in fact, we were seated that way in most of our classes. We found commonality in our secretarial paths, our family situations, and plain but good old interest in boys. Though we were separated by distance for a long time, now that we’re in neighboring communities, we make a point to meet several times during the semester for lunch and a movie. I appreciate you as much now as I did then, recognizing that you and your mother were often a lifeline for me.
Today, all my friends—those not on Facebook, and those who are—you are lifelines to me. We thrive because we have loving friendships. Our friendships are our history, our present, our future.
Thank you for being my friend.