Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Friendship

Friendship - the one area of my life in which I really struggle. In jobs/ career/ work type stuff, I'm almost always successful. I'm smart, hardworking, and pretty good with people. I can get most any job I apply for and do well at most anything I decide to do. I'm a good wife - I have a happy marriage. I'm a good mother. My children know, above all, how much I love them. That's always been the most important thing to me. The rest is details.

But friendships. I haven't done very well at all with friendships. Let's examine the evidence. My earliest and longest friendship was with Heather. She and I became friends in kindergarten and stayed friends until about 5 years ago. Our whole families became friends, particularly our mothers. In fact, our mothers' involvement really clouded our friendship. Due to our mothers' participation, I was dubbed "the bad girl" and Heather was "the good girl". I think really just because I was the more boisterous, louder of the two. Heather was more inclined to sit quietly with a book. However, the label stuck. Throughout my life, Heather felt it was her job to tell me what to do, how to behave, that I was doing things wrong. Left to my own devices, I would stray from "the right path", so Heather and my mother banded together to correct me, guide me, manipulate me even, in order to make me do as they saw fit. My mother constantly compared me unfavorably to Heather. (Yep - I'm an only child and I wasn't my mother's favorite. How sad is that?) Yet, if you asked Heather about our friendship, she would say that I was a spoiled little princess who always had to have my way. She says that I'm stubborn and opinionated and think that I'm perfect. She would tell you about all the times when we were in middle school and I would get mad at her "for no reason" and stop talking to her. She calls this controlling behavior. I had always dismissed the "spoiled little princess" part, because I just couldn't see it. I didn't think I was giving myself a break - god knows my childhood was not sunshine and roses. But I recently read a book that was a real eye-opener. It was a total chick-lit book called Something Borrowed. But as soon as I started reading it, I realized, "Heather would totally think I was just like the Darcy character." Not quite as bad as the Darcy character, given that I never stole a boyfriend from Heather, but I could see some similarities between myself and the selfish, entitled best friend character. I was raised the only child of an older couple who desperately wanted children. Yes, I was a little spoiled. Yes, I was used to being offered the best of things. I can see that now. But at the same time, my mother was constantly tearing me down. Things that I tried to achieve, she would tell me she didn't think I could do it. (Later, she would say that she was using reverse psychology on me.) I eventually learned to hide the things that mattered the most to me. And to hide my feelings. All those times Heather thought I was mad "for no reason"? Nope, I was hurt. But I was too scared to let that show. So I just shut down. Anytime I did bring up my feelings to either one of them, I was dismissed. That wasn't what they meant, they were just kidding, oh who cares? Nothing I said ever made them take me seriously. They never cared if what they said or did hurt my feelings. Eventually, I gave up. I realized that I needed to live my own life, without my mother or Heather telling me how to live.
But the pattern of behavior was set. And I carried it into other friendships. I get my feelings hurt too easily. And I shut down. I have a hard time telling someone that they hurt my feelings. I have a hard time telling a friend that they've made me angry. But I'm trying. Some friendships have survived it, like my friendship with Kelly, my closest friend from college. And I know that friendships end. People grow apart. Another friend really didn't like Rock and didn't like the direction in which my life was going, so we grew apart. I stopped sharing good news with her, because she wasn't happy for me. Eventually, we completely stopped talking. But it feels childish to get mad and stop talking to someone over something petty. So I'm not doing that anymore. Week before last, I reconnected with a friend to whom I had done just that. And I started by apologizing. We met last week for gelato and talked for an hour or so. And I felt like I was holding something precious in my hand, something fragile. Friendship, repaired.

12 comments:

Jess said...

This post is so introspective and self-aware. I think those traits are a big part of being a good friend. I think you're a better friend than you give yourself credit for.

Shelly Overlook said...

I agree with Jess absolutely.

Also, two Shellys who are both only children? Yea us!

Shelly said...

Thanks Jess - I try to see my flaws and not just give myself a pass. That book was a total kick in the gut, though. It was weird. I'm so glad I read it. Thank you for your kind words.

Shelly said...

Thanks Shelly - you and I were obviously separated at birth! : )

Alice said...

what a timely post... i've been thinking a LOT about myself as a friend recently, because i keep finding myself with tons of friends, but no REALLY GOOD friends. it sucks.

Fiona Picklebottom said...

Interesting. I was always one who had only one or two really close friends at a time, though I was generally well-liked and hung out with lots of people I considered friends but not CLOSE friends. Right now, with the insanity that comes with several children and their hectic lives, it would probably be true to say that I currently have NO friends. BUT, I don't feel lonely and I do have a couple sisters-in-law to whom I am close.

I imagine I might one day have friends again, when the kids are older.

Shelly said...

Alice - me too! I have lots of people I know, but no really good friends.

Shelly said...

fiona - I'm the same way! And I keep trying to make friends with other mothers, but it just doesn't stick. Maybe later, though.

Pickles and Dimes said...

This is really interesting to me, because I have 3-4 good friends, but zero super close friends. And I'm OK with that, because when people start wanting to hang out too often for my taste, I always pull away. I'm happiest hanging out by myself, but sometimes I feel like I should have a better support system.

I need to ponder this further.

Shelly said...

Shauna - It's interesting to think about, isn't it? I think I have the fewest friends now that I've ever had, and I don't really know why. Just being married and having kids, I guess. I'm at that stage where everyone is preoccupied with their own lives and doesn't have much free time for friends. Like Fiona said, maybe later.

The Hotfessional said...

Having good girlfriends is so difficult...

Shelly said...

Hot - I agree.