Monday, May 9, 2016

How to Be a Good Friend

Yeah, I have no idea.

There are people who think I'm an awesome friend.  There are people who think I'm a horrible friend.  And there are people who've thought both at different times in our relationship.

I've thought both about myself, too.

Being a good friend is such a subjective thing.  Everyone has a different idea about what makes a good friend.  About what makes a close friend or a best friend.  Even about the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.

I've probably put way more thought into this than most, because I feel it's something I struggle with.  And it's something I think I should want to change.  I tried to want to change.  I even tried to change.  But I think I'm done.

I'm at a point in my life right now where I'm just gonna be me.

I'm not going to be what others want me to be just to avoid guilt or to feel like I'm measuring up to some mysterious golden friendship crown.

Because, to be honest, I just don't have the energy.  If you need a lot of output from your friends, if you need attention (really, any attention) to believe I care and we're friends, you shouldn't choose me as a friend.

I can do great short term.  Maybe we meet when we both have a mutual need.  Or one of us has a need when the other of us has a surplus, and we connect.  We're good for each other and good with each other.

I can drop everything to help you with your crisis.  For a while.

But then, for whatever reason, I just don't have anything else to give.  Maybe it's because my life has so many recurring and ongoing crises.  Maybe it's because of my chronic fatigue or my bipolar disorder.  Maybe it's because I'm just a crappy friend.

And then I will disappear.

Not on purpose.  Not because I'm trying to be mean.  Not because I'm consciously deciding I don't want to be your friend.  But because I have to take care of myself.  And taking care of myself often means neglecting everything and everyone but my family.  Sometimes everyone other than myself.

I will retreat.  For who knows how long.  You might reach out.  You might not.  When I'm gone like this, I probably won't reach back.  I might not even acknowledge you've tried to contact me.

I see you reaching.  I sense your need.  But I can't fill it.  And you can't fill mine.  Because I need to be alone and lick my wounds or find my way.  Or whatever.

I know I've wounded people with this behavior.  I see it.  But I'm doing triage, and I just can't see your need to be with me as a life or death thing.  Or if I do, I pray someone else will treat it, because my hands are tied behind my back.

Sometimes my behavior causes others to pull back, hoping I'll notice they've left and their absence will cause me to reach out.  But that doesn't work.  Because if I notice, which is a big if, it's entirely possible I will just be grateful to not have to fix it.  To not have to figure out the steps to the dance we were engaged in, where I was stepping on your toes.  I'll just be glad the dance is over and head to the punch.

I just truly don't know how to do the dance and am no longer interested in learning.

This is the kind of friend I can be now.  I can be happy when good things happen in your life.  I can be glad to see you when we run into each other.  I can occasionally muster the energy, physically and emotionally, to do something together.  I will think kindly of you when something reminds me of you.  And no matter how much time has passed, I will still consider you my friend.

It doesn't take much for me to consider someone my friend.  Do I know you?  Have we had positive interactions?  Yeah, that's about it.  That's all it takes.

If we're not friends, and you want me to feel that way too, you'll probably have to tell me.  Even then, I'm not sure I wouldn't still introduce you as my friend should the need arise for me to introduce you.

And if you choose to move on, if you decide (for whatever reason) that you're better off without me, I'll most likely wish you well and let you go.  I won't argue.  I won't ask you to stay.  It's just not in my nature.  I'll support your growth in whatever way you seek it.

I know a lot of this will sound harsh to many people.  That's okay.  We're all just finding our way.  And this is just one little trip on the journey of my psyche.  It's a crazy, winding path that's sometimes light and sometimes dark, but always mine.


Unknown said...

This sounds familiar... and it's comforting to hear.

Anonymous said...

thanks for writing this, it felt like I was reading something I forgot I had written. I didn't know or think anyone knew what it was like to feel this way about friendships. wow, I'm still kind of shocked because rereading it, every word rings true.