The Sort of Person

I am the sort of person who keeps my friends in my life for as long as I can.  I have a huge capacity for friendship.  It’s why I have friends from almost every part of my life.  Many of my friends have known me since I was really young (like zero).  Much of that is due to my tight knit immigrant community (like our parents were friends and took for granted we would be friends when we were still in the womb).  Much of that is due to my friends being genuinely stellar, solid people (like they tether me to the earth every time I have tried to float away) who are, to a one, remarkably interesting and amazing.

Some small part of that, I hope, is due to my capacity to love.  The larger part is due to theirs.

One reason, however, that I have any friends at all was brought to my attention tonight.  It is my ability and desire for meaningful conversation, and their ability to meet it.  It takes courage and strength to engage with people even when we are scared.  I was born with words.  I don’t know why.  I can’t say that having a bunch of words is always useful.  They don’t make sense much of the time.  They don’t even really seem like they’re from me.  They come at me as if from a distance.  All of a sudden they are coming from me.  That is how I feel about being me.  Constantly surprised.

I will try to the point of exhaustion to be open to what people have to say.  Most of the time I fuck it up.  It is not my usual state, being open.  But I am usually up for trying, again and again.  Sometimes, I will try pointlessly and counter-productively.  I used to do those conversations a lot more.  The not-fun, circular ones.  I’ve learned the importance of timing, of trying to gauge my self, and where I am now.   I’ve learned the difference between me and other people.  I’ve learned not to take other people’s problems so personally.  I’ve learned that I can intellectually want to forgive and move forward, but that my heart is sometimes not ready.  I’ve learned that sometimes people need to walk their own path.  I am (more) patient.

Eventually, on their own time, people get up from the ground and rise.  There are voices traveling through the air that we do not immediately recognize.

While my philosophy has its many downsides, the truth is I have also reaped a huge benefit by never saying no to an honest conversation.  I’ve learned from my mistakes.  It is an under-appreciated skill to know the difference between when you are ready for an honest conversation vs. when somebody else is ready for an honest conversation.  I’ve learned the difference between setting a boundary and allowing a lie.  I am constantly trying to separate where I am and where somebody else is.  My inability to know and recognize these differences have led me into terrible pain.  Empathy is part curse.  I give my attention to others most fully when I am also giving it to myself.  I’ve often sucked it big time at giving attention to myself.  Ergo…yup.  Room for improvement…check.

I can’t give up on the transformative conversation.  That is because I am the beneficiary of my friends.  They have literally saved my life.  Much of this saving has taken place in messy, disastrous conversations where I have said questionable and regrettable things.

There was a time when I cruised around town loaded with violence for my shadow.  I never caught up to us.  Good thing, because that would’ve been a hard way to go.  Now, I am trying to let myself be.  Just be.

I try not to shut my door to any human being.  I try instead to continuously tidy my house so that I can keep my doors open and continue to invite visitors in.  Lately, I feel that my house is in shambles.  I am embarrassed by its state and do not wish to have guests.  They still knock.  I still answer.  I explain that now is not a good time.  Do you still want to be here?  Some, but not all, do.  I show these folks in, and I point to the sign that says take your shoes off.  Some of them do not like the mess.  They exit quickly, and I am grateful after some initial outbursts about rudeness.  Some want to clean it up.  They are frustrated easily and blame me for their failure.  I get them window cleaner so we can see the houses across the street.  Others pretend to like it and engage in polite conversation while eating crumpets and other British inventions.  They don’t believe in real magic and are easily entertained by distraction.  A few sit and keep me company while I try to tidy it up.  They smile at me with their sad eyes and hold me with their presence.  They stay.

That was not hard to say.  This next part is:

It took me all these years to see that I have true friends because I am one.  I stay.  I have stayed for so many people over the years.  I have stayed even when I hated myself so much that I didn’t think I deserved to have these same people stay with me.   I have stayed even when I knew that as soon as they were better, we would no longer be friends.  I am capable of staying.  I’ve only ever run away from people a handful of times.  Each of those times, I turned around and stopped running at some point.  I am so deeply flawed, but I am trying to accept myself.  It is scary for me to say this because I have given more to others than I have asked for myself.  And every time I have done that there was always somebody in my life giving me more than I gave them.

I grew up believing I deserved less than what I was capable of giving to others.  This imbalance and inability to perceive myself for everything that I am led me to a profound aloneness.  The aloneness gave me the courage to let good friends into my life.  Those friends helped me become less lonely.

Three things I read/re-read today that inspired this post.

***

http://www.upworthy.com/loneliness-illustrated-so-beautifully-you-will-need-to-tell-someone

(thank you for this link Courtni)

***

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/how-not-to-be-alone.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(thank you for this article Aimee)

***

“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person…

“When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

“Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

“Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

“LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.”

— Unknown

(thank you for this poem Justin)

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