Saturday, November 28, 2015

Squad Friends

Like I said in the beginning of the series, I've had a lot of recent transitions in my relationships. As someone who has always valued friendship, I've noticed I've been even more reflective on the connections in my life. As we wrap up Thanksgiving week, my heart is exceedingly thankful for my true friends- my squad friends.
 
You want to know what I love most about my squad? I love that they're consistent. We might not talk daily. But I know what I'll get from them each and every time we connect. They are present when I need them. They love, validate, and support me unconditionally. They aren't yes people who just tell me what I want to hear. They're truth tellers who will challenge me when needed. They just do it with such compassion and grace that I feel inspired to grow, rather than condemned to remain the same.
 
I also love my friends for genuinely liking me. Perhaps it seems a little conceited, but generally we like people who like us. I'm fortunate to have people who have taken time to understand me and how things affect me. So, when I have a crazy boss who's giving me a hard time, a crush who's sending mixed signals, or acquaintances whose opinions are starting to matter more than my own, my true friends come in and do damage control. They mirror my true self and affirm my value. They insist on my awesomeness and assert how their opinion carries more weight than those who don't really know or care to know me. And they're right. It does.
 
My squad friends know those in my life who matter to me. They're protective of me. They listen to me. They pray for me. They stand up for me. They show up and keep showing up for me. They never tire of me. They never make me feel like it's hard to love me. Because of that, my heart rests secure in them.
 
 
That's probably the best thing about finding your people. Your soul finds a home. You don't have to chase them down and beg them for love. You don't have the constant, nagging anxiety of whether you're too much or not enough. You are who you are and that person is enough. Love like that casts out any fears. When it does, something beautiful happens. You heal and grow and become even better. It only comes when you're genuinely accepted. It comes when you find your people, your tribe, your family, your squad friends.
 

Friday, November 27, 2015

When friends breakup

Have you ever gone through a painful process of breaking up with a friend? For unknown reasons, has a friend decided to suddenly put distance and stop all communication. If so, you know it often brings up the same emotional roller coaster and self-questioning that you might expect with a romantic breakup. In some ways it's worse though because friendship endings aren't acknowledged as much and certainly not validated like romantic endings. But, they are just as difficult.

I'm always intrigued when people reference an ex best friend. I always want to know what happened when two friends who were inseparable, now don't even talk anymore. Was there a betrayal? A falling out? Usually if there's a natural drifting apart there's not as much emotion around it. People chalk up their lessened communication to busyness or different priorities, but there's still fondness there. There's also the open door to reconnect if given the opportunity. This isn't the case with cutoffs. Abrupt endings leave at least one of the parties hurt and confused and wondering what happened.

Basically, what I'm learning about emotional cutoffs is that they are a way for people to deal with stress or anxiety in a relationship. Perhaps one person feels that the other is too demanding or emotionally needy. Rather than discuss it with them, they retreat. In other cases, sometimes a person is offended and cannot tolerate the distress of working through the conflict. Instead, they shutdown and push away. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the other person at all. A person can just be going through something and unwilling or unsure how to express their need for space and time. So, they disappear. Are you seeing a theme now? It's a very avoidant way of navigating relationships. It might feel less threatening for the initiator of a cutoff, but it's very damaging for the recipient. It really hurts to be on the receiving end of a breakup of any kind, especially when you don't know why the person was there one day and suddenly gone the next.

People discontinue relationships for all different kinds of reasons. Maybe you don't feel as connected to a person as they feel to you. You're just not that into them. Their personality grates on your nerves. You have different energy levels that just aren't a match. You just don't have the time or interest in maintaining that connection. Those are all valid reasons. You have a right to be selective about who connects to your life. You also have an obligation to treat people with honor and respect.

It's always best to be honest and authentic. Just say what you need to say and let the other person respond however they will. You aren't responsible for them. You are responsible to them. That means you are obligated to own your truth and clearly and directly communicate your needs. That reflects you. How other people respond reflects them. It's just not cool to suddenly pull a disappearing act in someone's life- certainly not after months or even years of time together. While you might think you're avoiding hurting their feelings by not having that difficult conversation, you're actually causing injury and confusion and there are much better ways to handle it.

If you're facing a friendship breakup or you're still mourning one from the past, please know you are not alone. It's easy to feel upset and stuck because you can't fix it. Ideally, anyone who leaves your life will offer you the gift of proper closure. More often than not though, you'll have to find it without them. I encourage anyone who's been hurt by a cutoff, to resist the urge to emotionally shutdown. As hard as it is, remain openhearted and forgiving. Be compassionate and open to reconciliation when it's appropriate. Be okay with it if it's not. Apologize if you need to make a repair and try to live peacefully with everyone. Just maintain your own dignity and self-respect in the process. This is a hard truth that I'm learning to accept- that you must love yourself enough to let people go if they are determined to walk away.



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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seasonal friends

During my senior year of high school, I remember listening to the radio on the way to school. Sarah McLachlan’s “I will remember you” had just been dedicated to the graduates and when it ended the DJ came back on the air. He suddenly broke the sentimental tone by blurting out, “You’re never going to see any of these people again.” His co-hosts busted out laughing. I remember that bothering me a little. It was like these 30 something radio personalities knew a truth I wasn’t ready to accept. Maybe all the generic messages to “Stay sweet,” “KIT” (keep in touch) and be “BFF” (best friends forever) that we wrote in each other’s yearbooks were na├»ve promises at best. Could it be that not everyone was meant to be in my life forever?

Not long after that I was introduced to the concept of seasonal friendships. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the term, basically it means a friend who comes into your life at a certain time. You could mean a great deal to each other. Maybe you are mere acquaintances. Regardless, you learn from them, impart to them, or both. Once that period of time has expired, you generally part ways. It’s usually not done with malice. There’s just a natural close to the relationship and it’s generally understood.
 

I used to loathe this concept. I didn’t like the idea of throwing people away once they’ve served their usefulness. I realize now that’s not what it’s about at all. In a lot of ways, seasonal friends are just practical. Our lives are so busy and transient. There is no way to have the time or emotional energy to remain connected to everyone you ever knew. All you would be doing is relationship maintenance with little time for anything else. As well intentioned as you might be to “KIT” with everyone, it’s just not feasible. You have to make some choices. 
 
I’ve also learned seasonal friends also come into your life just when you need them. I remember two friends in particular that I worked with a few years ago. Just after my relationship ended and I felt abandoned, these friends stepped in and were great sources of support during a lonely, painful time. They were good friends and confidants during that holiday season away from my family. We have little contact now that we’re at different jobs in different states. But you know what? I still think about them with fondness. I’m sure if our paths crossed again we would pick up where we left off. But the more I mature, the more I’m able to embrace that even if we don’t, that’s okay too. Those friendships had a purpose and that purpose was fulfilled.

Hear me out. Seasonal friends aren’t second rate friends. They are treasures. They are just as valuable and meaningful as lifelong friends. It’s just that their wonderful presence in your life has an expiration date. So, by all means, continue to love them. Check in on them from time to time if you choose. Just recognize their role in your life story. Whether it’s a sentence, a page, or a chapter, accept their contribution with gratitude and be willing to turn the page when it’s time.
 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Make new friends and keep the old

Have you ever felt totally at home with someone? They get your jokes and think you’re funny. They’re also comfortable enough with you to say if you’re not. There’s no stress over trying to impress them. They know the family you grew up in and you know theirs. There’s a sense of familiarity because you have history together. These are the benefits of having old friends in your life.

Because of these reasons, many people choose to just keep the company of people they’ve always known. Maybe they aren’t very trusting or open to new connections and it’s easier to stick with the friends they’ve known awhile. It certainly cuts down on the getting-to-know-you process of learning a new friend’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. It also minimizes risk when you can just stick with who you think has proven their loyalty, rather than test it out with someone new. There is a downside to a “no new friends” attitude. It can limit your ability to grow.
 
Think about it this way. New people breathe a breath of fresh air in your life. They come with new energy, new experiences, and a clean slate view of who you are. They can awaken parts of you that you didn’t know were there. Whereas old friends may tend to see you as you used to be, new friends see you for who you are today and perhaps, who you’re becoming.

In my view, it’s not really an either/or sort of thing. It’s like that old song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.” Value the friendships that have stood the test of time- the friends that have shown up in your life and keep showing up. Also, make room in your heart for new friends because you never know if perhaps, they’ll have staying power too. Next up, I’ll discuss seasonal friends.

 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Departing friends

What if love meant never having to say goodbye? Wouldn’t that be great? I wish there were true, but it's totally not. Love and life guarantee that you’ll have to say goodbye and do so repeatedly. It’s been well established that I hate change and loss of any kind. Yet, here I am, reflecting on my friendships once again as a dear friend prepares to relocate to Florida with her family.



In many ways, she’s been one of the most consistent friendships I’ve had since moving back to Virginia. Even though she’s been busy with marriage, motherhood, and ministry, she has remained in touch and intentionally been a regular part of my life. She was there right after an awful break up. I was there for her wedding. She was there for my first race. I was there just after she gave birth to her daughter. She was there to let me vent about work. I was there to encourage her through her PhD program. She was there for countless emotionally purges as she held the bucket and I did the same for her. It’s a rare gift to find someone you can be transparent with and not fear judgment. I found that quality in her and I’ll miss it greatly.

When I reflect on the last couple of months and how I’ve been intermittently sad, I know her departure is a big part of it. Obviously, we’ll remain good friends. People like that don’t come along every day, so I plan to maintain the connection. It will be different though and will require me to do the hardest thing for me- let go and trust.  Trust in what exactly? Trust that all who are meant to be in my life will be.

So, once again, it’s time for a series. This time it’s on…you guessed it. Friendships. I’ve written on friendships many times before. This time I will explore a bit more on the types of friendships we have, the purpose they serve, and how to appreciate the unique role they play. Next up, I’ll talk about old and new friends. I hope as I process who is in my life and why, that you'll be able to do the same.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

You’re busy. I’m busy. Pick up the phone.

Oh my gosh, I’ve been swamped. It’s been really hectic. I’m crazy busy. Things have been nuts. I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off. These are all excuses we offer people when we’ve been uncommunicative and I am 100% guilty. It’s almost become the norm to use busyness as an excuse to be completely self-absorbed and preoccupied. Again, I’m guilty. As completely overwhelmed as I felt today, I made it a point to push through and reach out to the people I care about.

Thirty minutes. Thirteen minutes. Fifty one minutes. Twenty two seconds. I looked back at my phone log today and those were the lengths of my conversations. These aren't people I talk to everyday necessarily. But when I do, it’s rich and meaningful. One friend I leaned on for support. One I congratulated on his new job. One I finally caught up with to chat about her transition to a new location. And the twenty two second conversation…that was with my mom. I missed her earlier call and called her on my drive home from work. She didn’t really have anything to say other than she was checking in. We said, “I love you,” and hung up. On average, we usually only talk about five to ten minutes every couple of days. But again, it’s significant to me and I’m grateful for the time.

Then there are the friends I connect with primarily through text. With several good friends, I just have an ongoing text thread and we check in on a daily or every few days basis. I can ask quick questions and we exchange information. I can ask deep philosophical questions about love and life, or just vent about the day. I can send funny messages or videos or words of encouragement. I can give and receive prayer requests and I know instantly that we have each other’s back. It’s a connection that might seem limited through that sort of medium, but it’s deep and it’s real.

My point is this. It doesn’t take much to reach out. Text messages take only a matter of seconds. Phone calls might only be a few minutes. Slowing down enough to look a co-worker in the eye and genuinely ask about their day only takes a few moments as well. But these are the small gestures that remind people they matter. It also helps you feel more connected and in tune with what really matters. Sure, stress is valid. There are busier periods of time than others. Some seasons require you to go off grid for a little while. Just re-emerge as quickly as you can, reach out to the world around you, and foster the connections you say you value. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. Pick up the phone.”