Some (friend)ships sail, some s(t)ink.

I am probably the only human, especially the only English human, that likes the English weather. Living in the Southern Hemisphere genuinely has me missing it. I have said that a lot over the last five years, but yes, I miss the English weather. Shoot me. Summer is Summer. Winter is Winter, and aww, the love I have for the English Autumn… The need for hats, scarves, gloves and heck, even a coat, in Winter, dreamy. The zero need to grease up your skin with sunscreen, even when you know it’ll rain at some point. The seasons in general. They happen when they’re meant to. Here, it’s Autumn, but we have days when it’s also Summer, and wet like Winter. But never a consistent season. What got me thinking this was the arrival of the darker mornings. Sure the clocks will change soon so this will in turn halt for a short while also, but for now, being dark when i’m leaving the house is just great. It just feels like no one else is around, you’re at one with your thoughts and it’s just a judgement free simple time.

Friendship is kind of like the weather. As we age and we leave the safe zone of the school playground where you’re just thrown in to a group of mini humans and just become friends, easy, we realise how it can change so quickly, so often, and sometimes it is even so predictable.

What I didn’t predict when I had my birthday recently, was that i’d hear from less people than I have fingers, and i’d receive two cards. I’m no princess, but i’ve never received less than 10 cards. Birthdays are a fabulous day. They are your day and you get to share that joy with the loved ones in your life. The boy done good don’t get me wrong, we had a great time at Cirque du Soleil, but I did sadly miss the love from my friends. Not in a spoilt brat type way, but just yeah, I felt no one cared, no one really saw the need to wish me many happy returns. I was sad. I won’t sugar coat it, I was sad. Once again it reminded me, I expected too much from people, when I really can only trust myself. Yet, I still can’t fully fathom how to LIVE for myself. I’m in my late 30’s and i’m still trying to think back to that lesson I clearly missed at school, on how to put yourself first and be the real YOU. Did I miss the lesson, or did I close my book on society?

I keep a blog, and i’m Insta-obsessed, but I don’t really do FB. The argument that because I don’t use FB, and because my wall isn’t open or my birthday isn’t published, just highlights that people rely on that service too much. How lazy have we seriously got! Or am I wrong for not opening up to that service. I know which answer i’m picking.

I think friendship is a mysterious topic because friends are kind of our first relationship. Families are what we’re born in to, and for the majority of us, we don’t get to pick them, we’re stuck with them, and we don’t have a lot of say over that, but as soon as we start encountering other little humans, we have NO say over it. You’re literally in a class room, sitting next to a wee little cutie with her pigtails, and BAM, you’re friends. That first relationship is formed, FRIENDSHIP.  From such a young age, we start experiencing all the positive emotions that come along with that relationship.

We also start experiencing all the negative emotions, and frustration, and sadness, that come along with other people not behaving the way we want or not wanting to be our friend, because that’s what we all think. We think it takes two people to be friends.

We think that friendship is a voluntary mutual association which you each benefit from. Do we think about it this way, that we have a list of conditions for someone to be our friend. There are the basics that most of us share. That we need to know each other. We have to actually interact with each other, either virtually or in person.

Then most of us also assume there has to be affection or positive feelings on both sides. And then there’s a whole other unwritten manual we have about what people need to do to stay our friend; what it means to be a good friend. And, not surprisingly, it usually looks like exactly the way we prefer to express our affection or support for other people. That’s what we want mirrored back to us, exactly the way we think we’d do it.

So then you’re a good friend to someone and they’re supposed to be a good friend back to you. The truth is, we use our friendships just like other relationships in our lives, to provide emotional validation and as a measure of whether we’re popular enough or good enough or loved enough.

We get upset with our friends for not doing X, Y, Z, which we then think that means they don’t care about us, or we are not good enough, or we get upset that we don’t have enough friends. So, when we interact with people, we’re not actually curious and interested in the other people, we are just focused on ourselves and whether the person likes us and then we kind of feel better about ourselves. I say ‘we’, I say ‘us’, surely it can’t just be ‘me’ picking the bad apples can it?

Most of us think that friendship means you know each other, you like each other, and you are nice to each other, right? You spend time together, you do things together, you have fun. That’s pretty much what we think, and that other people need to be a good friend to you so that you can feel loved and supported and valued. That looks like being a good friend the way you naturally want to. If you’re someone who cares a lot about being on time and making plans then you think being a good friend means being on time and making plans. It’s a mirror of the way you already naturally communicate with other people.

We are wrong.

I’ve spent some time listening to podcasts and reading articles about friendship, not because i’m a failure on paper for having people abuse the friendship I put out there and then leave me for dead, but to help me understand the science behind it and how society is changing the basis of friendship these days. My default assumptions about friendship have been far from correct, and I think it has caused a lot of suffering for me, affecting many areas of my life over the years, not allowing me to focus on more pressing matters.

I joke to my other half that I don’t mind him working late most evenings as i’ve got MAFS, Temptation Island, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to keep me company, “They’re like my friends, we all sit in the living room and we just natter and I take it all in.” So do we really need to know someone to be friends with them? I don’t so. What I look for in a friendship is to feel happy around those people, and to not be overthinking, and whilst i’m switched off with these guys and gals in the electronic box in front of my eyes, i’m happy, i’m lost in the thoughts of theirs and my concerns are washed away for 45 minutes. Sure, that can simply be classified as entertainment, and it’s doing what it’s meant to do. However, as I don’t have the friendship circle or support network I once had, i’m getting my kicks this way, and I am good with that. Yes I moved to the other side of the world, but by gum, growing up we didn’t have a car in our family and with friends living in other villages were impossible to see, but letters (yep, i’m from a time before electronic mail), phone calls and plans were what friendship was powered by.

Our thoughts create connections, they create that feeling of support, they create that sense of warmth, and they create feeling loved. It means you can have so many friends if you want to and you can feel the benefits of that friendship when you think about them.  I’m getting that emotion from a source I have sought out, because I feel that others failed to seek me out once they got scared because they couldn’t cope with my health changes, or life circumstances changed so instead of just seeing us go in different directions and remaining distant friends, because, we will always have memories, and that’s a strong connection right there. Yes people change, and we can drift apart, but we are adults and we communicate that, we shouldn’t just drop people, and even more so, we really shouldn’t drop them and spend the energy they once used for that fun friendship to fuel gossip and rumours behind their back, that’s just cruel.

From the research i’ve done, I think i’ve learnt a lot about how wrong I was to be fixated on not having enough friends; it’s so clear that it was about validation. If I just learnt to love myself, and allow myself to be treated how I should be treated by myself and others, I would feel those positive feelings of connection and love that we associate with friendship, from other avenues.

You can’t really think about that many people at one time. If you really just want to bring up the feeling of love and connection, you really only need one person in your life that you can think about. Yourself. So when people are kind of obsessed with or have a story about not being able to make enough friends and not being good at friendship, it’s always just a self-referential story about how there’s something wrong with them and they just want the friends to validate, so they can feel better about themselves. This was me, and hands up waving I was wrong. That doesn’t discount previous friends actions, but it’s me saying I may have sussed this now, and I can work on letting it go.

Not everyone will like everyone, that I appreciate, and i’m sure after posting this, those that ‘know me’ will be split. Some will read it with fresh eyes, fabulous. Some will read it with eyes that know the real core of me, fabulous, again. Then there are those that will read it and just blah blah blah bag me. Okay, bye to you. Friends; if you want to feel connected to them, you can. If you think about the things you like about them, you will feel affection or love for them. You are enjoying their existence and the friendship in your own mind, they don’t have to participate at all.

Friendship is about loving and giving support and being there for the other person. But we only want to do that if we’re getting a direct return on investment? That’s kind of selfish. We only want to love and give support and be there for the other person if we believe that they’re doing the same thing in equal measure for us, , it shouldn’t be that way

We want them to deliver emotional support and validation and amusement and presents and maybe invitations to their party; whatever our particular brand of expectations are. We have different ones. A lot of us really want our friends to validate us, right? We track who gets invited places more and who texts or calls more first and who asks what kind of questions and who initiates the plans.  We keep this running tally constantly to analyze whether or not someone is performing to match our unwritten job description for the role of friend. And meanwhile, all this measuring and analyzing is actually blocking us from feeling connected, which is the whole point of friendship. And that connection, it comes from our thoughts.

When should we stop putting so much into friendships where, for instance, we are the person who always initiates plans? I’ve stupidly been here a number of times, even though I vowed to not let it happen a second time. If you enjoy spending time with your friends, you can either keep spending time with them, or stop spending time with them because they aren’t cooperating with giving you the validation that you want them to provide in the way you want them to provide it. Now, you get to choose between those two alternatives, but it’s just good to know why you’re making the choice you make.

Your friends aren’t there to create your feelings, solve your problems, do the heavy lifting for your self-esteem, or otherwise take responsibility for your unmanaged mind and emotions. Your friends are there for you to love them. Simple really. Your friends exist for you to love them, because when you love them, you get to feel the love, and that feels amazing. And when you choose not to love them, when you choose to withhold or trade your love based on whether they are following your manual for how you want them to pretend that they cause your feelings, because they don’t, you’re the only one who’s hurt. You’re the only one who feels the opposite of love, whether that’s anger or hurt or resentment or shame. Their only job is to be there for you to love them. It’s not to validate your choices. It’s not to make you feel popular or special. It’s not to invite you to their party. It’s not to initiate plans the precise amount that will solve your feeling of insecurity and your story about not being good enough to have friends once and for all, because guess what – there’s no right amount. It’s just to be there being who they are, and you get to decide whether to love them or not. But the more you allow yourself to simply enjoy someone else’s presence by focusing on what you like about them, the more you will feel the whole thing you want to feel in friendship anyway, which is connection, affection, enjoyment, love.

If in 49 weeks time I am once again eating birthday cake by myself, i’ll be sure to get myself more than one slice, as that will bring on plenty of happy, sugar fuelled, emotions, so that’s not all bad, not really. xoxo

 


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