I have many acquaintances, but too few that are true friends.
It’s not that I’m not likeable. On the contrary, I have been told I am very easy to like (and love) and I have a knack for putting people at ease and for having a high degree of empathy and I can pick up on subtle clues that give a certain subtext to people’s words who say one thing but mean another (and which many of us, including myself, falls prey to – sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally). These can be good qualities to have, and it draws people to me. But I have come realize thee things:
- This alone is not enough to make people (in real life) stick around to form a mutually gratifying, long-term friendship with me.
- Not everyone presents themselves with subtext. What they say is exactly what they mean and there are no double meanings, hidden agendas, or intentions to confuse or hurt me.
- In communication, semantics isn’t a small thing, it’s everything.
This is a huge epiphany. The first has the potential to frustrate me, the second has the potential to frustrate others who express the truth with no subtext (and it only took me six months to fully understand and accept this concept), and the third, accurately using language, prevents misunderstandings.
As my daughters grow up, and I get to know other parents through school events and play dates, I see the first scenario played out time and time again. They converse with me during the duration of the event, and when it’s over, there might be promises made to go out for coffee, or breakfast, or beer, or whatever. “Yes, we should do that”, they tell me. But they never do. I am left wondering why this phenomenon happens. I realize, for the vast majority of people, friendship is hardly more than a time-filler or a boredom buster. They do not want to invest time and energy in beginning and maintaining a deep understanding of someone else. They don’t realize what they can learn about another or what they can learn about themselves when they do seek that kind of relating.
And I didn’t know why this has been so frustrating for me to accept. Until recently.
I’m not wired to have shallow, single-serving friendships.
I need more depth in my relating to others, as I’ve always needed more depth when it comes to anything.
And I need complexity.
And I need the type of friend(s) that challenge me and my perceptions.
And I need the type of friend(s) who wants me to grow as an individual.
And I need the type of friend(s) who call me to speak (and write) exactly what I mean.
And I need the type of friend(s) who is patient with me when I occasionally miss the mark, or feel distressed (even if I am not sure what is the source of that distress) and withdraws, shuts down, or pushes away.
I have loads of insecurity, from a childhood where I was labeled (crazy, bi-polar, obsessive, depressive, absent-minded, selfish, lazy, defensive, too sensitive, too smart for my own good, too emotional, too hyper-focused, too scatterbrained, too spazzy).
I have loads of insecurity from being rejected (go away, go read a book, go do something else anywhere else but here)
And marginalized (we don’t need your input)
And invisible (was I talking to you?)
And abused (physically and emotionally by my oldest sister, and emotionally and sometimes physically by my mother and emotionally by another sister)
And kept paralyzed (by doubt, fear, terror, shame, guilt).
Many people who know me don’t KNOW me. They don’t know what I’ve been through. They don’t know how intelligent, and complex, and intense, and driven I am. They don’t know how much I sense, how much I perceive things. They don’t want to know, don’t care to know, don’t know how. No time, no energy, no interest to try.
I sometimes don’t blame them. I kind of demand a lot from people.
I demand honesty, and integrity, and intelligent conversation, and complexity, and intensity, and depth, and frequency of interactions.
Of all those, I’m learning to lighten up on the last one. That’s not a good one to keep.
Even my own husband, who knows me the best, is only beginning to truly KNOW me. It’s only taken him about 14 years to get to a level of understanding he’s at right now.
I think, there is only a very select few friends who get it. Who get me. Who knows what it’s like to come from a family who fears, rejects, and abuses what they don’t understand.
I keep hanging on even in the face of my fears, and anxieties, and shame about who I am.
Wanting that deep acceptance with a friend who is willing to go down deep and develop with me.
It’s been a long time since I had that.
But I think I have found it again.