I have two favorite, I guess these are poems, that stick in my head whenever I think of friendships and how hard they have always been for me. It never seems hard in the beginning. It’s when some time passes and our foibles begin to surface.
One is by Ralph Waldo Emerson and it’s called Success. I even have this one framed and in my home so I can see it everyday to remind myself not beat the shit out of my psyche whenever something happens that causes me to over analyze my behavior in any situation really, not just when things crop up in relationships.
To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; TO KNOW THAT EVEN ONE LIFE HAS BREATHED EASIER BECAUSE YOU HAVE LIVED. THIS IS TO HAVE SUCCEEDED.
In this one I am reminded that I am a good person. I do things everyday without an agenda . What I do for a living causes me to be with people having intimate conversations on a daily. Whenever I make a poor choice and invest myself in a social relationship that ends because of a lack of respect, too much give or take, betrayal, etc. I look at these words and remind myself that I have been the difference for someone and my Lifetime friendships speak louder than my Seasonal friendships. I just have to remember to listen for the Gold and dismiss the whispers of self doubt and heart sickness. Mr. Emerson helps me do that – and now I have motored through enough layers of the onion to honor myself in friendships as well and to let the eager to please no matter the cost part of me die a peaceful death. She’s just misguided, and the flaw is not worth the time invested in mental anguish.
The other piece I don’t know who to give credit to, but I feel like I have known it since the beginning of my time here on Earth.
REASON, SEASON OR LIFETIME FRIENDS
When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. S/he has come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
S/he is there to meet a need. Without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, s/he will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes s/he dies. Sometimes s/he walks away. Sometimes s/he acts up or out and forces you to take a stand. What we must realize is that the need has been met.
When a person comes into your life for a season, it is because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. S/he may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. S/he may teach you something you have never done. S/he usually gives you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons. Those things you must build upon in order to have solid emotional foundation. You must accept the lesson, love the person/people anyway, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
This has always resonated with me and only this past year have I been able to put it all together.
One of the very first things a child is stripped of when they are violated sexually or emotionally is their ability to be intimate. Each act after the first tears a bit more out of their soul. They are left with an overwhelming sense of self preservation – for me this started when I was 5 years old. As a child, you have no idea what has just been taken from you. You are either a survivor or you’re not. You don’t understand why you withdraw from normal group and playtime activities – you don’t understand why you never feel like you belong somewhere – you don’t understand why you gravitate to one person and are more comfortable having one friend rather than many. I became more introverted and withdrawn, I did not do well in group sports or team activities and when my weirdness was picked on or pointed out I was defiant and fractious, usually ending in a playground or classroom brawl . I still have a piece of pencil lead in my palm from when a girl picked on me in line and I went to slap her in the face and she stabbed my palm with her pencil. An ugly little reminder that I am an Outsider.
I unconsciously and historically have chosen my friends very deliberately – they fall into two sub categories : The Weak and The Wild . Both are worthy of RESCUE, the main category . The weaker and meeker friends, I was the great protector and it felt unreasonably good to make their lives easier. These were the friends that I could smell the anxiety and trauma on. Some of them were mentally ill, some of them were addicts, some were bullied. Some were just such soft creatures, like a baby deer or rabbit. How could you not reach out to them and envelop them?
The Wild ones, the ones with a death wish , a lot of them were Narcissists or Sociopaths. They were fun and we did stupid stuff and everyone wanted to be around them because the crazy was infectious. With these types I was the one that had enough hold over them to get them to stop just short of driving off a cliff and that kind of power felt really fucking good.
None of this shit is healthy. Those relationships were fucked up – I chose lovers based on the same criteria with the added layer of they all needed to have some characteristic of my original predator.
I have a handful of friends that are Lifetime – 4 to be exact. These are relationships that I have worked on over the years and there have been times where up to 15 years has passed without contact. All of us are broken people. One of us is a Sociopath. All of us have necessary Narcissistic qualities that I think were developed out of trauma and are not genetic. Ours was born out of necessity. The trick is to deflate that and get on with healthy relationships.
I have been taking a stand lately, due in large part to my therapy, and this is why I am writing this. I had some friends that I made in recent years . I was the one that wanted to develop the friendship. There was something so comfortable to me about this couple. My husband on the other hand, was skeptical and resistant. He really did not see the point in the beginning. But I really, desperately wanted friends in our neighborhood and I met these people via a common goal. They live extremely close by and they were fun loving people with what appeared to be a strong sense of community and family spirit. They also would be a couple that would be a new friendship for both my husband and I. No past attachments – they would belong to US – not just Me or Him. I’m really big on “Tribes”. Another thing that comes from being an Outsider. I fall prey to that lulling sense of safety it brings on and the Honeymoon phase for me in this type of situation causes me to completely ignore the warning flags.
Looking back I can see the signs and what caused my husband to balk at first. Everyone I met with the exception of this couple was a dick – men and women – but I went back for more . Now I can see that I was there to prove my value to these people. I explained why it was important and my husband just said that I should think it through and he did not see this group being a good match for us or for me. He did agree that this couple was nice however, and for my happiness he did show up eventually and he was my ticket in. We are doers – so with him and I together, they were able to see value. My Husband has never met a stranger, so he helps create an approachability in me that does not exist otherwise. And back then, he just wanted me to be happy – putting me ahead of himself and his instincts. Through therapy, I recognize this behavior manipulation in myself, so I tend to not put him in this type of situation anymore.
It was like being accepted by the jocks and cheerleaders. I was giddy. This was going to be so cool – we were going to be a real part of this community. My first outing with them showed me why I was so comfortable with them. The husband is the party guy with mood swings and she is the one who manages his moods. Just like my previous marriage. This time, I was the observer and not the entertainment. If I’m honest, I am pretty sure that I recognized that within the first 20 minutes of being alone in a car with them. By the time we had reached our destination I was so anxious that I had diarrhea and could barely breathe. I chalked it up to nerves over the function we were attending. I’m so good at corking that shit. I called my husband in a panic -he talked me off the ledge and all in all it was a good day. It was weird to see this man talk to his wife in a disrespectful way that was erring on the side of humor and just watching her manage it. I immediately started giving him shit – in a “fun loving” way – in a way I never would have done to my ex husband because I was afraid of the repercussions – and it felt really good. I was stopping the “wild” one and protecting the “weak” one – protecting the wife I had been not that very long ago. I was hooked on that friendship at that point. Ignoring the second big flag.
The third flag was when the wife informed me that she thought I was going to be “trouble” and had not wanted her husband to include me in anything. But that she had amended her opinion and really could not put her finger on why she had felt that way initially. I was crushed. I started to inwardly take inventory on my personality, my facial expressions, my body language, etc. Racking my brain for the one thing I must have done to inspire that – I could not come up with one thing. Above all, I immediately took responsibility for inspiring that in her, not once thinking that any of it could be her shit. Outwardly, I overshared about my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my Panic Disorder and that I had some past events – which I also shared – that affected my personality when I was feeling uncomfortable and that maybe that was what made her uncomfortable. Like an eager child who wants to be liked so much that awkward sharing is the go to in a stressful situation. If you have PTSD then you know that when she said that to me, my adrenaline spiked and I went on a friendly rant to expel the energy. Its a wretched side effect.
The fourth flag was when she chose to share a deeply humilating and personal story about her husbands infidelity with me within a short time of us becoming friendly – with the added statement ” I don’t want this to change how you feel about him. He has such a hard time making friends.” It’s what I did every time a new person came into my life when I was previously married. My ex husband did the same. We were collecting people and forcing them to take sides almost immediately. I should have walked away then. But I didn’t. She and I became extremely close at that point. I pitied her and I took him on in a way that most people did not. We went to their home for parties, family dinners, Holidays. We became instafamily.
Over time the relationship has soured for many many reasons. A few weeks ago I realized why I had been hanging on to any thread possible – I had chosen the wife and children as my pound puppies. I was going to be the rock for them, I was going to be the rescuer and I would suffer anything to be part of their lives. Trauma Triangle. Always perpetuating the cycle. In this one I am the rescuer, the victim and the perpetrator. The good news is I am not pacing about, wringing my hands and wondering why they don’t like me or why I’m no good at friendships, generally beating myself up . I am able to recognize what I did here, how I manipulated things. I am honoring myself and knowing that any relationship that consistently causes you to feel bad about yourself is not a good one to stay in. These people were Reason and Season for me. I had a lot of fun and laughs and I learned such a valuable lesson. The hurt I feel over the recent events that are not reconcilable for me will fade and I will always remember fondly the events that made my life richer. I do not feel bad for standing up for myself and being clear about the boundaries that were crossed. For them, it’s how they do things. I was a bystander as they did the same things to other people who were a part of their inner circle. I can assume that it will never occur to them that they have behaved in a less than friendly way towards my family. For a change, I won’t be holding a grudge over it and If I run into any of them I will be able to be courteous and compassionate.
This step is like landing on the Moon for me. I have never made it this far. I am full of gratitude instead of anger.