I’d like to talk about friendship.
The best place to start, I think, would be to openly and publicly acknowledge how fortunate I feel daily, considering what a huge pain in the ass I can be, to have the friends I do. We are surrounded by a multitude of absolutely amazing, supportive, honest, kind, interesting, entertaining, diverse, intelligent and loyal people.
It is a really big deal to be able to say that as an adult, because I was a desperately lonely and undeniably awkward child. Outside of family, I have only one true friend I have known since childhood. We were 5 years old when we met. Neither of us has ever been accused of being normal or conventional. We both march to the beat of our own drum, and neither of us would be considered mainstream or predictable. It is an honour to know her.
I hit my first social stride of having more than just one or two good friends at any given time in University. I managed to find some like-minded individuals who have popped on and off the radar for nearly two decades now. Another wave of socially secure relationships blossomed as I entered the workforce and met a gaggle of geeks that I absolutely adore to this day. Another wave when I started dating my husband and met some of his friends.
The most obvious and seemingly secure influx of social bonds has happened since becoming a parent. You join a club when you become a breeder. You have something in common with people whose paths you may never have crossed otherwise. As your children grow, you come across other parents, and have an amazing icebreaker and common bond that plants a seed of friendship in a way that I never would have thought possible before having children. Some of the people we’ve met through school and kids activities have become an absolutely integral part of our lives. I am of the opinion that many of these people would have had cause to run away screaming from my rather larger than life personality, were it not for the impetus to get to know me because our kids were friends.
The flip side of the formula that has lead me to the social comfort of the friendships I relish (as there is always a flip side) is that I’ve also earned a few fairly harsh critics and even some genuine haters. You know you’re doing something right when you have actually earned some haters I think. In most cases this is worn as a badge of honour, as in most cases, it says a lot more about them than it does me. Douche-bag and Dee do not mix. Never have. Never will. People who have a nice shiny veneer and very little depth or substance, or those who go through life deeply cognitively dissonant are allergic to me as I am to them. And that’s perfectly cool.
There are other occasions, when I really like, admire, and/or respect somebody, but we’re simply not compatible for one reason or another. And that’s okay too. Frequently when this happens, a relationship at arms length of each other is a very acceptable compromise. This is also okay. Other times, there is no compromise and the only reasonable option is avoidance. I’m really very good at that too. Perhaps a little too good. Walking away is something I have grown quite a reputation for. I’ll unpack that one another day in another post.
One of the wonderful things about having little to no filter as both myself and my husband do, is the early and ongoing separation of people who are compatible, and those who are not. I jump in with both feet and my whole heart when I find someone new and fantastic. Most people admit to being quite terrified of that level of enthusiasm at first.
One dear friend, who I have seen or spoken to nearly every day for the past few months openly admits to being more than a little stunned (but not put off) when first made aware of my existence.
“I thought you were an absolute lunatic. Smart, but a lunatic.” She recounted to me one afternoon as we chatted about the old days.
Despite being a “complete lunatic” most of our friends openly and frequently convey a fondness for us. Grumpy and I often get praised for our honesty, generosity, humour, acceptance and huge capacity to take people exactly as they are. It seems strange being venerated for these qualities, as it is always by people who quite effectively mirror them back at us.
So what am I trying to say today?
I guess I can sum it up like this:
Life is short. Time is precious. We’re all very busy. Healthy human relationships that last for moments or lifetimes are an absolute necessity for getting through this life.
Take the time to find people who fill you up and make you want to be a better, kinder, more effective person and openly appreciate them when you get the chance. Opening yourself up makes you vulnerable of course, but the rewards are immeasurable.
You will sometimes be surprised where you find them.
Be generous and genuine with your appreciation of people. We all feel under-appreciated at times, and saying thank you to someone can be the difference between a disastrous and delightful day.
A series of bombshells and bad news has culminated this week. Some of it has to do with me directly, some of it is more peripheral. But I received a message – both through Facebook DM and text that completely buoyed me. The woman that sent it is a pathological over-achiever, a gorgeous human being, an amazing and dedicated mother, a huge influence in mine and many other people’s lives, and is working her way to being a national and international expert on a very real and controversial social issue. The message read:
“Hi Dee, just want you to know that you are an angel to so many people. You are one of life’s shining lights xxxxxxxxxx”
Yeah, I cried a little when I read it. Especially because we’ve had to make some really hard decisions and face some really tough realities after getting kicked quite squarely in the guts after trying tirelessly to do the right thing.
Now, the truth is, I get persecuted for openly and frequently sharing gratitude and compliments on social media and in life. Some people will accuse you, as they have me, of being disingenuous, gushy. Be assured, every time I offer a kind word or compliment it is absolutely in earnest.
Opening yourself up to people is hard. Trusting people totally leaves you vulnerable. Knowing when to hang onto friendships and when to say enough is enough is a difficult an inexact art. But the relationships we forge add substance to life, give us context, and, provided they are real and true friendships, help us to look at the bits of ourselves that are difficult to accept. Healthy and supportive friendships make the good times better, and the dark times bearable.
So if you are reading this, and you are my friend IRL or more frequently online than in the real world, THANK YOU!
Have a great weekend.