friendship

Exit 167. Goats.

A creek runs bout half a mile from my house. Yesterday morning, I was driving past an open field next to the creek, and I saw a herd of goats grazing. This was actually normal to me. I read an article recently that a number of local cities were using goats to clean up weeds in public areas, and that they were coming to my city shortly. And this was the second time I had seen them nearby recently.

Had this happened a year ago, I would have taken a picture. Then I would have sent it to a certain friend of mine, someone I met online over a decade ago but never met in person. I would have said something like, “Look! Goats!” And she would have replied something like “Omg! So cute! I want one!” Because she loves goats.

But I didn’t. Because we aren’t friends anymore.

Several months ago, I sent her something else goat-related. I noticed that her Facebook seemed to be deactivated, but I thought nothing of it. It’s Facebook, it’s glitchy sometimes.  It still let me send her messages, though. She replied, saying that she had unfriended me recently. She felt like “our friendship had run its course,” and she was tired of me being down and depressed and negative all the time, and supposedly only wanting to talk to her when I’m complaining about something.

Well, then… I guess I have nothing to say to that.  I didn’t try to contact her again.

I feel bad that she thinks I only want to talk to her when I’m complaining.  I don’t see it that way, but I guess that’s not always the kind of thing you can see in yourself.  Or maybe it’s that the last few years have been kind of hard for me, and I’ve had a lot to complain about.  But still, I don’t want to burden my friends.  Sometimes I just need someone to talk to.  And I appreciate the friends who are willing to listen when I need someone to talk to.  I’ve been told before that people don’t want to listen to me when I’m being negative, and I hope I don’t turn too many people away from me because of that.

And I’ve said this before… I have a hard time with the concept that friendships run their course.  There’s the saying about how friends come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, but there is a part of me that wants everyone I meet to be a lifelong friend.  But that’s just not possible.  I can’t realistically be friends with everyone.  Some people I’m just going to grow apart from, and it’s not healthy for me to expend emotional energy trying to hold on to friendships when the other person doesn’t want me around.  So if she doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore, I’m going to have to let her go.

Sometimes I unfollow people on social media if I’ve grown apart from them in real life.  I hate to do it, but I can’t keep up with everyone.  Sometimes clearing away dead underbrush is healthy.

Just like when goats eat dead grass next to a creek bed.

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Exit 153. Good advice from a bad application.

I recently came across a meme, a screen shot of a conversation about malaphors.  A malaphor is the mixing of two or more familiar expressions.  The origin of the word seems to be a mixing of the suffix mal-, from Latin for “bad,” with the word metaphor, ultimately derived from the Greek for “apply,” as in applying a word to something else that it does not mean literally.  So a malaphor is literally a “bad application.”

A commonly cited example of a malaphor is “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.”  The actual saying is “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” meaning not to worry about things that might not even happen.  The burning part comes from the saying “burning bridges,” which means walking away from something and leaving no possibility of turning back, just as literally burning a bridge would leave one permanently on one side of the water with no possibility of crossing back to the other side.

Shortly after I saw this meme, I overheard someone talking about having had a really rough day.  The incident that set her over the edge was not necessarily something all that serious in and of itself, but given a buildup of little things that had previously happened, that incident led to a huge argument.  She referred to it as “the needle that broke the haystack.”  I was amused with that description, because that is another malaphor.  The actual phrase she intended to use is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (or the shorter variation “the last straw”), meaning a minor event that causes a major reaction because of the buildup of other minor events.  A camel can easily carry a straw on its back, but when already laden with hundreds of pounds of straw, or other burdens, one straw may be enough to break the camel.  She got this phrase confused with “finding a needle in a haystack,” referring to an extremely difficult and arduous task.

This morning, I was thinking about recent changes in my life and social circles, and wondering whether it is time to cut off certain potentially toxic individuals entirely.  I hate to cut people out of my life.  If I was once close with someone, or if I once saw something good in someone I didn’t know well, I often wish that things could be the way they once were and we could be close again.  And if I do happen to run across any of these people again, I don’t like the awkward situation of possibly having to explain why I cut them out of my life.  But on the other hand, I need to take care of myself, and it seems dangerous to give people opportunities to do or say hurtful things, especially in cases when I’ve been hurt before.

And then it hit me.  A thought crossed my mind from one of these malaphors.  Good advice from a bad application.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

As I said before, there have been some changes lately, the kind of changes in which I am naturally growing apart from the people who are making me feel conflicted about this.  So it might not really be an issue at all.  I might see these people so infrequently going forward that I won’t have to worry about any toxic interactions.  A lot of this is all in my head.  So maybe the best decision is to just wait and see.  To let former friendships die a natural death.  And if any of these people do cross paths with me again, if things end up being hurtful, then maybe I’ll say something face to face and/or block them from all social media.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

Exit 152. Three years.

As of this week, I have now been writing this blog for three years.  What does that mean?  Nothing really.  It hasn’t grown nearly as quickly as some other blogs I’ve followed, but that is mostly because I haven’t actively promoted it all that much, and because it doesn’t have a specific topic tied to it that people can search for.  And it’s not necessarily supposed to.

I have made some new friends through this blog, people who, after randomly finding posts of mine, follow me and I follow them.  I don’t have hundreds of adoring fans, like celebrities or like some of the blogs I follow.  And some of the people who used to follow me don’t anymore.  But that’s okay, because that’s how real life is too.

I’ve said before that part of the reason I feel so lost in the world is because I’ve been looking for ways to live like I’m in my early 20s again, with friends who live nearby and a church group that also doubles as a social circle.  That’s not going to happen.  That’s not how life is, and I can’t change that.  But what I can do is make the most of what I have.  My social circle isn’t going to be huge.  But it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be. And it will change.  People grow apart.  People’s actions reveal who they really are, and it is better to let go than to stay angry and hurt.

I can’t change other people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.  I can stay close to the people who have stayed close to me.  I can try new things, since some of what I’m doing now isn’t working.  Or maybe it’s time for another party at my house, to try to keep my circle intact.  Or maybe some combination of those things.

Exit 148. Not completely isolated yet.

Sometimes I feel like there is nothing left for me here.

I guess that’s an unnecessarily dramatic way of making this point.  What I’m trying to say is that I don’t have a lot of connections left here in the specific suburban community where I currently live.  I didn’t grow up here; I moved here in 2006, at age 29.  So I don’t have anyone in the area whom I’ve known since childhood, as people who grew up here usually do.  At one time, I worked near my house, and I attended church just a couple miles away.  These were the job I left in 2014 and the church I left in 2015, respectively.  At this point in my life, work is a half hour drive in one direction and most of my social life happens a half hour drive in the opposite direction.  The only thing left for me here is my house, and sometimes I wonder if I really belong here anymore.  But I have compelling reasons why moving is not the best idea right now either.

Last night, I went to a certain one-step-up-from-fast-food chain restaurant, prompted by a coupon, good for two days only, which I received from their email list.  Unsurprisingly, when I got there, I noticed that many other people seemed to have the same idea, as the line was much longer than I have ever seen it.  I went in to brave the line anyway, though; I had no other plans the rest of the evening.

About a minute after I got there, I heard someone calling my name.  I turned around and saw one of my favorite people, an old friend from many years ago, with two of her children.  This was someone I met at church a few months after I moved here, when she was still a teenager (so she is in her late 20s now).  She was one of my closer friends for a couple years, but eventually she met her future husband and found another church, right around the same time if I remember right.  We just didn’t cross paths much after that, although we have been connected on social media the whole time.  It had been a couple years since I had run into her in person, though, and it was good to catch up.

I don’t have much of a social life that takes place in my immediate geographical area.  This is true.  But I’m not completely isolated yet.  I still know people nearby.  And I occasionally run into them around town.  Most of the people I used to know here who are still here have grown up, getting married and raising children.  (I’m not necessarily saying that I haven’t grown up because I don’t have children; the point here is that my local friends from a decade ago have grown up in a different way than I have.)  And for those of you who fit this description, even if most of our contact is through Facebook likes and I only see you once every two years when we happen to be grocery shopping at the same time, thank you for staying in contact with me.  I appreciate it.

Exit 139. You can’t trust other people with your plans.

For a while in my late 20s, when I had time to kill, sometimes I would go to this large used book store.  I would browse their clearance rack, which consisted of paperbacks for 25 and 50 cents, and I would buy things I knew I would want to read someday.  I was reading a lot of Star Wars paperbacks back in those days, and I also bought several books by bestselling authors I was already familiar with.  Over a decade later, there are still a few books I obtained that way on my bookshelf that I never read.  Recently, I was looking through my bookshelf for something to read, and I came across one such book that I couldn’t remember if I had ever read.  Looking through it, the synopsis on the back looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember any details beyond that.  I flipped through the pages and found a bookmark on page 83, less than a quarter of the way through the book, suggesting that I had started it but never finished it.  So I picked it up and started reading… and I finished it today.

Since the rest of this post contains major spoilers, I will only be discussing the plot in vague terms, and I won’t name the title or author here.  If you are curious, let me know and I’ll tell you privately.  This paragraph does not do justice to the actual novel, because I don’t want to make it too obvious from the start in case anyone else out there is reading it.  Most of what I want to say involves the ending, where the main character has a plan to disappear with a large sum of money and start a new life, along with a woman who is both his accomplice and lover.  Everything seems to be going swimmingly, wrapping up for his desired ending, except that the woman disappears with the money, leaving him alone and heartbroken without the fortune he wanted to start his new life.

I’ve always had an odd and cynical fascination with story lines of betrayal, particularly when the betraying is done by a woman who the main character thought loved him.  I think this is a reaction to the many times that I have felt betrayed by those close to me, particularly by potential love interests.  It’s a bit comforting to know that central characters also get betrayed by women, and that not every story has a happy lovey-dovey ending.  It’s also comforting that this betrayal is a key part of the story’s dénouement, and not just the back story of a cynical supporting character with a negative view of the opposite sex.  It makes me feel like I’m not alone in everything that has happened to me.

I see a sad but true lesson in this: you can’t trust other people with your plans.  Others cannot be controlled or predicted.  I’m not saying that every plan will end in betrayal.  There are good people out there, and I want to try to be someone whom others can trust as much as possible.  But the world just doesn’t work that way.  With over seven billion people in the world, each having unique back stories, interests, motivations, and weaknesses, some of those plans are bound to conflict with each other, whether intentionally or not.  The only one truly worth trusting is God.

I can’t make my peace depend on the way others treat me.  I can’t make my happiness depend on finding the right woman someday.  I’ve heard stuff like this before, over and over again, particularly the part about finding the right woman.  You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.  If you aren’t content alone, then you aren’t really ready for a healthy relationship.  Some of that I had dismissed as Josh Harris-type mumbo-jumbo, on the grounds that if I were to concentrate on being content with being alone, then if/when the right woman did come along, I’d miss the chance to get to know her, because I’d be so dead set on being alone that I would purposely avoid doing anything that could be construed as dating.  But there is a lot of truth in the idea of learning to be content alone.  As I said earlier, I can’t predict or control others, and I can’t orient my entire life and happiness around waiting for someone else.  Waiting for someone else to make you happy is also the classic setup for being emotionally needy in an unhealthy way.  There has to be some balance, some kind of happy medium where I can learn to be content in a way that is not contingent on others, yet guardedly open to new friendships and relationships that may happen.

I’m not sure what this is going to look like.  Maybe a temporary time of being more isolated socially as I figure life out.  Maybe a lot of time in prayer and meditation.  Maybe cutting out of my life some who bring me down far more than they build me up.  Maybe I’m not quite sure yet.  But at least I know something to work on.

Exit 135. Careful discernment on my part.

A few days ago, I ran into a family that I’ve known for almost 11 years, but who I don’t see too often anymore.  More specifically, I’ve known the parents for almost 11 years; when I met them, a few weeks after I moved here, the wife was very pregnant with the first of the four children they have now.  The dad of this family is one of the pastors of the church I attended from 2006 through 2015, and both the dad and the mom have done worship music at this church.

It was good to catch up.  But the whole time, it felt a little awkward, like the feeling you get when you run into someone after burning your bridges with them.  Don’t get me wrong here; I do not consider anyone in this family to be someone I burned a bridge with.  I really am glad I saw them.  It just felt awkward in my head because I didn’t exactly leave that church on good terms.  It had nothing to do with any members of this family, or even anyone at that church, specifically; the reasons were a combination of feeling like there was no place for me there anymore and not agreeing with the direction that the leadership wanted to take the church.

This awkward feeling is nothing new.  There are many unresolved hurts from my past, and some of the people involved I still cross paths with occasionally.  Every situation is different, but often, with people I was once very close with, I find myself honestly wishing that we could be friends again.  But it’s not always that simple.  Subconsciously, what I really want is for things to be exactly like they were, in my head, before the hurt ever happened.  But that is embracing an unrealistic alternate reality that isn’t true.  Things change, people show their true colors, and I can’t just shake off being hurt and let everyone walk all over me and treat me like crap, or else it’ll keep happening again and again.  It definitely requires careful discernment on my part, on a case-by-case basis, whether to keep those who hurt me at arm’s length or let them back in.

This post is kind of turning into a stream of consciousness… but all this was in my head the other day.  Back to the pastor and his family who I saw the other day… they are definitely not people I want to keep at arm’s length, because, as I said, the reason I left that church was not because of them.  Last year, on one day when I was particularly frustrated at my old church, that pastor messaged me later suggesting that we sit down sometime and talk about why I’m so angry about all of that.  I sincerely meant to get back to him after I had a chance to process why I was so angry, if there was something else at the root of this frustration, but I never did, mostly because I never really took that time for processing.  Also, I was dealing with a lot of things emotionally all right at the same time, and I was always busy with work.  But some of my recent soul-searching revelations have been tied to the roots of this anger, so maybe I’ll have to take him up on that offer soon… or at least get back in touch with him to say what didn’t get said last year.  And maybe there are other people I need to get back in touch with and say things that haven’t been said.  And maybe there are still others who I need to cut out of my life for good, because at this point keeping some people in my life might do more harm than good.

Exit 133. Time to go our separate ways.

I’ve known you for many, many years.  I’ve trusted you with some very important secrets.  I’ve defended you to others who don’t like you and keep telling me that I can do better.

And yet you betrayed my trust.  You told lies and engaged in shady unethical behavior for purely selfish reasons.  Although I don’t believe that you put any secrets of mine at risk, I can’t say the same for everyone else who trusted you, and it was probably only a matter of time before you used me as well.

So, after 21 years, it is time to go our separate ways.  I have moved on.  I’m over you.  Time to make a new start with someone else.  It’s done.

For the record, this is about my bank.  The bank that I have used for the last 21 years was caught in a scandal recently, and as of this weekend I have finished moving my money elsewhere and cutting all ties to them.  This post wasn’t about a friend or a significant other, and it isn’t intended to passively-aggressively call anyone out.  But if the shoe fits…

I’ve said this before.  I hate to cut anyone out of my life, because even when I grow apart from someone, I remember what it was like when we were close, and I always want to hold out hope that we may grow close again.  But sometimes holding on to something like this does more harm than good.  Not everyone whom I meet is going to be a close friend forever, or at all, and not everyone whom I choose to make a priority is going to make me a priority in their life in return.  It is exceedingly draining to keep investing my life and my emotional energy in someone who just doesn’t act like they care.  Maybe we were close once, but sometimes people change, and sometimes when I first want to be close to someone, I don’t realize what they are really like.

I’ve always had a hard time with this aspect of friendships and relationships, and it has been coming up again lately in a lot of places, including my experience with the bank.  Unfortunately, this is just part of life and of growing up.  Who to keep in my life and who to cut ties with is going to be a difficult decision…

Exit 99. Sometimes I feel guilty for having friends who care.

I’ve been going through a rough couple weeks, both because of issues with work and things going on with friends.  Times like this really make me appreciate the friends who are there for me, who are willing to listen when I’ve had a rough day, or invite me out for a last-minute karaoke outing at 11pm followed by the kind of crazy late night at Denny’s that have been fewer and farther between the last few years.  (By the way, I know that one of the individuals involved in the things going on with friends used to read Highway Pi, and in case she still does, I should point out that nothing in this post is intended to be passive-aggressive.  At this point, I feel that everything that needs to be said has.  And the nature of these issues is not where I’m going with the rest of this post anyway.)

Even though I greatly appreciate everyone who has been willing to listen and offer comfort the last few weeks, sometimes I feel guilty for having friends who care.

As I’ve said before, I had issues with outbursts as a child, to the point that it sometimes affected my ability to function in a classroom.  I’ve definitely outgrown this to some extent, but not entirely.  In elementary school, no one cared about how I was feeling.  I didn’t really have friends.  When I was upset, the other students would just laugh at me and provoke me to get a reaction, and adults such as teachers and my parents would generally make me feel ashamed for overreacting.  I know they were trying to help, trying to make me realize that my actions had consequences, and that better ways existed to deal with the issues underneath, but this had the unintended side effect of making me feel like I didn’t deserve to have people care about me when I was upset.  I remember about halfway through my first year of college, when I had my first such outburst in front of my new friends, I eventually left the dorm building and sat in my car for a while trying to calm down and decide what to do next, whether to run away and leave it all behind, or sneak back in the building, try to get some sleep, and apologize to everyone in the morning for my behavior.  I chose the second option, but I didn’t even make it to my room, because all my friends who saw me get upset had been in the lobby the whole time praying for me.  When they saw me come back, they didn’t seem upset at all; they were mostly relieved that I was safe.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I was expecting them not to want to talk to me anymore, or at least to be scolded for having that kind of reaction and reminded how inappropriately I was behaving, because that was the way I had been treated most of my life.

There weren’t exactly any outbursts involved recently… well, not quite.  But even when I’m feeling quietly upset, I’ve often been told that no one wants to hear about my problems, and no one really wants an honest answer when they ask me how I’m doing, it’s just an empty greeting.  (I’ve written about this before.)  So when I am upset, and I turn to a friend for a comforting ear, I always feel like I shouldn’t have to do this, and I feel like I need to apologize afterward.  I really don’t want to be seen as the kind of person who whines about everything to the point that no one wants to be around me.  I’ve been accused of that before.  But in my efforts not to be perceived that way, sometimes I am so cautious that I tend to think that the other extreme is preferable, where I feel like the ideal is to put on a fake happy face all the time.  Of course, I don’t put on a fake happy face, but the point is that I feel guilty because I’m not.

It really shouldn’t be this way.  That’s not what friendship is about.  Friends should be able to share everything with each other, the good days and the bad, both giving and receiving that comforting ear that is so often needed.  I don’t want to feel guilty for that.  But I don’t want to take advantage of people either.  There has to be a balance.