KIT Friendz

I’ve been blessed to have friends. When I left DC, the Bay Area, LA, I tried different things, but I’ll be honest that it was my friends who excelled at keeping in touch that have kept in touch with me best.
A friend once accused me of having an inner circle and an outer circle. It took me a long time to realize that he was afraid of what this meant for himself. He was someone who had a really hard time allowing people to be close to him. I’m one of those people that once I feel close to you, you’re in — it’s always the same – even if years have passed. Many of my friendships have stood the test of time, and some of them have not. Most of that, to be fair, isn’t determined by keeping in touch, or not.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned about keeping in touch:

1. 1-1’s (video or phone)

Scheduling 1-1’s are necessary but not the most important thing, contrary to my instincts. If my friend or I tries to schedule a 1-1, there needs to be follow-through. Very few things feel worse than dropping the ball on the 1-1, but by the same token, I find that the ball gets dropped on scheduling 1-1’s quite a bit.
I think this is because at some point in any LDR — long catch-up conversations can cause people anxiety. Usually this is after a few months of being apart. The trick is in recognizing when it’s important to make time for a 1-1 because one friend or the other or both needs/wants that support.
By that same token, it’s hard to relive difficult and even happy moments with several friends, and if a catch-up is delayed for a longer period of time — that can often require a lot of emotional intensity. If a person goes through a rough patch, or any period where they’ve had a hard time catching up with many people — it leads to actual stress to try and schedule 1-1’s with several people. Be wise about when you schedule a 1-1, but do schedule them whenever you can as nothing quite replaces a 1-1 over video or phone.
(Many people hate phone or hate video – it’s important to understand your needs and your friends needs in this department)

2. Frequent texts and snapchats and messages about little things tend to help (a link about an article, a meme, a funny picture — anything of interest to you or your friend — or any small thing that says I’m thinking of you) Thanks to my millennial mentors on this one! I often feel intrusive reaching out, so this is a good one for both parties, even if it’s small, it tends to open the door to connection. That’s a two way street that leaves the option open for less awkwardness when you do see each other or have that 1-1.

3. Visits are the best thing — I wasn’t able to visit LA frequently which affected things when I left. Hit Me Up if you’re coming to the Bay. Not everybody can travel though, so this worked better with very mobile friends. Many people have started getting less and less mobile though as they’ve aged — especially those who’ve had kids, which is interesting to observe in the queer community where many of my friends have chosen to not have children, and many have. I would say more of my straight friends have had kids, however, then those in my queer community, though this is starting to change slightly.

4. Build community – Friends of Friends connections (already existing or new) really help. This one surprised me. It’s easier to KIT by grouping your friends (or if your friends are friends with each other) and to stay in touch with a group where there’s several energies all trying to keep the entropy from winning. Also, ppl also feel empowered to reach out when they’ve had contact with you as part of a community or group.

5. Cards & Letters / Physical mail is probably as good, if not better, than 1-1’s — though admittedly this is not my personal strong suit, but I

6. Common External Interests — Organized activities & interests & even common identities are particularly as a launching point. Like if we share an affiliation — for example fasting for Ramadan/Islam or are both writing buddies/groups/like certain types of music or we have a book clubs — finding a way to regularly keep in touch about these things can take a lot of the heavy lifting away from keeping in touch

AND

7. Has anyone done regular friend hours where they set aside times that they’re around, and anybody who wants to talk to me comes online?

This feels weird to me, but maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it. An ex of mine used to send monthly newsletters about how they were doing, and this isn’t really my bag in terms of generating my own (though I do personally enjoy reading them), but people should keep it on their lists as an option.

8. What is loyalty?

I only wish I had the answer, but here’s some cents.

For me, loyalty is about learning to let relationships change, and this includes quantity and type of interaction, without letting the truth and strength of that bond change. How do I stay committed to a friend even when they’ve disappointed me? Understanding that much of disappointment is about internalizing things that are usually about somebody else. This comes with the maturity it takes to understand where other people end and you begin. This comes with undertaking a spiritual journey which means constantly having to work hard on knowing yourself and your own emotional energy. I’m lucky that I’ve had friends teach me how to be loyal by doing this hard work for themselves.

As a result of these lessons, I take things way less personally if people can’t or don’t want to stay in touch. Of course I fail. Of course. And I fail my friends too. All. the time. But, I’ve improved, and I hope dear ones — that will give you hope on your own spiritual journey.

 

A dear friend once told me that Loyalty isn’t about taking sides, it’s about continuing to hold space for a person even and despite difficulty. Loyalty is fucking hard.

 

So my loyalty lesson has been to go toward the love, to resist my desire during hard times to stop and take stock of who’s not there for me. Because when I start thinking about who’s not staying in touch or thinking about the bad stuff, I start rejecting all the good people and good things that ARE there for me. I’m actually hurting myself and making myself mad by either actively or passively rejecting all the doors that are opening in my life.

 

If a person is currently showing me love — I spend as much time as I can with that love because it’s a gift. If a person shows me no love – I try not to spend too much time obsessing about this. They usually need that love  for other things going on and other people. People’s batteries get drained. I can give them that love of taking care of my self and protecting myself from what is ailing them.

As a side note, friendships start when people have made a love or support connection with you at some point. If somebody never gives you love, or only takes from you, then they’re maybe don’t spend your energy on whether or not they’re your friend. Or, maybe your friend is going through a hard time and needs your love and understanding about why they can’t be there for you during this part of their journey, or even this part of your journey. Does it really matter? Understanding the differences between a friend who is actually never your friend vs. a friend who is going through something will actually twist your brain. Maybe only time will tell, and the thing that you need to focus on is whether or not you can or want to give — maybe you should be taking care of yourself and figuring out what you have to give to somebody else. In fact, if you think I’m making an argument for spending your energy on yourself and your boundaries as the pivotal definition of friendship, you’re right. That’s far more important often than focusing on what your friend gives or doesn’t give you.

 

One aspect of loyalty is not holding grudges toward people who genuinely care about you because grudges don’t allow your relationships or your friends to change. So if a friend shows love after a period of being absent or after you’ve put each other on ice (whatever the reason – thanks T) — I can’t think of any instance where I don’t accept it or work to accept it when thaw time is here. Holding a grudge isn’t my thing. Being ready to thaw is. But it takes hard work to un-grudge, to forgive disappointment that often isn’t personal. I believe in giving myself space when people hurt me, but I also believe in returns when that space has served its purpose. Being petty is usually because nobody has taught you how to let go. It’s much easier to hold on to a grudge than the work it takes to keep that love connection to a friend. If I ever told you I love you, then I meant it, and I’m gonna be loyal to you.

 

Loyalty is a Tough one for us all. The deepest loyalty, the kind I feel I can offer, comes from loyalty to my self. The care and attention I put into transition or change internally when a friendship starts to trouble me or disappoint me or even simply become hard to maintain is essential the same care and attention I put into how I want to be as a person. Change is so hard for me, so my intention here is simply to pay attention to myself, to what it is that I want or need, and then to set about acting true to my intention. But none of that can happen if I don’t really give myself tons of love and loyalty first.

This is how I prioritize (but that’s another post altogether). lolz.

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