Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Fickleness of Friendship

My life took a major turn last year and it's only now that I'm beginning to clear my head and see beyond the limits of my front door and my own insecurities. For a while now I have hidden beneath a blanket of doom and misery and despite putting a brave face on with the people I know, I have come to realise exactly who my friends are, who supports me, who has let me down and who will be featured in my life from now on.

A long time ago, many years in fact, I was given some very simple, but life changing advice. I was part of a church youth group and out of all the girls, I was probably the most rebellious. I never got into real trouble, but I was cheeky, too wise for my years and not afraid to stand my ground and question authority. I was never disrespectful, but I liked to have explanations for what was required of me and answers to my questions. I had a spark and a feistiness that somehow endeared me to the leadership team and the older members of the group. Probably because they thought I needed the most guidance!! I had spirit and individuality and this set me apart from my peers.

At times, when my feistiness was heightening I would be invited out 'for a pizza' with a particular person who had a knack of getting beyond my outer layer and understanding me for the person I was, not the person I wanted people to see. It is still a long standing joke with one of my best friends that whenever I got invited out 'for a pizza', I was in for a mentoring session, a few words of advice and a calming influential talk.

During one of these particular pizza sessions I was going through a bad patch with my peer group. A group of girls I was friendly with, and one in particular, was being nasty to me. No real reason, but teenage bitchiness going a bit too far. This friend noticed that I was miserable and took me aside, popped me under his wing and gave me what he thought was good advice. I was 14 at the time and I have NEVER forgotten it. At the time I took it on board like any other mid-teenager listening to an elder - listen intently, nod in the right places and get out of there as quick as possible. But to this day I remember that evening as though it were last night and I thank him so often in my mind for sharing it with me as it has really made me sort the wheat from the chaff in my life. It was simple advice and plain common sense really.

I had held on to 'friendships' for a long time. I don't like letting people down and I don't like to be let down, so I would continue to make efforts in relationships where I was the person doing all the running. I would go for months on end accommodating others and getting nothing in return and looking back now I see it for what it was - being used.

I was advised to look at each friendship I had individually. Not to associate a particular person with a gang or crowd, but to look at them on a one to one basis. What was it I liked about that person? What didn't I like? What had I done for them? What had they done for me? When did they want me around? When did I want them around? And so on. When I had analysed those answers I was then advised to ask myself whether having them around was good for me and enriching the person I was, or whether the association was damaging me and preventing me from moving on to the next stage in my life - whatever that stage was destined to be. I was advised that if I wanted to get on in life then I couldn't allow people to hold me back just because I felt that sentimentality and loyalty to their feelings was worth more than my own development and happiness. True friends would encourage me, support me and move up with me. Friends who were damaging would hold me back and prevent me from moving on, either out of jealousy or immaturity. I was advised to see friendships for what they were and for what they truly stood for.

It may seem harsh advice and some people would argue that friendships survive the test of time and that this person was manipulating my way of thinking, but that couldn't be further from the truth. This advice came from a man who was brought up by devout Christian parents, who had a loving and secure home. They were and still are wonderfully warm, welcoming and loving people and they have passed these traits down to their son - a friend I have not seen for a while now due to him living and working in Hong Kong. I miss my 'out for a pizza' sessions with him. When he's back in England we still go 'out for a pizza' and he still looks out for me and gives me advice - some of it welcome, some of it not so much so.

But he's helped me to realise that sometimes it's not a bad thing to put an end to something that has clearly faded. To sever a tie with somebody who maybe once was good for me, but is now proving to be more damaging to who I truly am. I'm now not afraid to end some 'friendships' that have been lies for years. I'm not afraid to turn my back on people who have talked about me behind my back, lied about me and assumed a piousness they are not in a position to possess. Some of them know how I feel about them and don't seem to care. That's their privilege. Others don't know that I'm severing ties and to be honest I'm not bothering to tell them. They too can let it fade, or if they're curious they're more than welcome to ask me why I've cooled off and I'll happily tell them. Not in any way malicious, but more an explanation of how I feel they have no place in my life now.

And the people who have been true friends know who they are. They have shown loyalty, open mindedness, fairness, support and love through my darkest days these last four months and I love them and treasure them more than they know. If that means reducing my true friends down to just four or five people, then I'm happy to do it.


Michelle said...

I bet your pizza friend didn't realise at the time what a serious impact these sessions would have on later life for you. And i think it is fantastic that he has given you that advice as a child and you are using that advice as an adult.

margaret (the misanthrope) said...

I'll just add this to my wordy comment on your other post: You summed up true friendship perfectly in your final paragraph. Loyalty, openmindedness, fairness etc...that's it. Friendship is supposed to enrich life, not be a drain on it. You are fortunate indeed to have such people in your life, and they are fortunate to have you!

TxGambit said...

Well you know I love you! and I hope some day one of us will get across that pond.

I love this post. I have been stewing on a very similar one myself.