Friday, March 12, 2010

On Connection and Friendship

Subtitle: An Awkward Post About Being Awkward

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and to be perfectly honest—I have struggled to stay positive.

I’ve been looking at the mirrors pointing within, and at the moment I find it hard to completely like what I see.

Normally, I’m a happy-go-lucky, laid-back, easily pleased and easily amused woman. I’m caring, and I have a genuine interest in people.

But I long for deep, intimate connection.

I have a deep connection with my husband. I thought about this yesterday, actually—he knows me so well, so thoroughly, that we can literally exchange one look and have a whole conversation. We can talk about hard things and push through difficult issues and come out on the other side of it feeling closer and happier.

My closest friend is another I am strongly connected to. She often articulates what I feel before I can, and we can honestly share anything with each other.

Another close friend is someone I haven't seen in almost two years, but in spite of that, we maintain a close, loving friendship. 

(In fact, I have lots of good out-of-state friends. When we get together, it's as if we were never apart. But it's difficult to maintain that level of intimacy when you see each other once every year or three.)

Those are the only people on the planet who truly get me… the whole me, not just the online side, the Pathways side, the professional side, the everyday side... 

And while I feel truly lucky to have the friends I have, I'd really like to expand that circle of face-to-face friends. I’m searching for deep, ongoing connection with one or two (female) friends. I’ve had it before, with several people, and when we share a moment—it’s truly amazing. The caveat is, I’m a face-to-face type of woman. Connecting face-to-face is exponentially more powerful and meaningful to me than connecting over the phone, through email, or through any other route.

And I’m pretty good at it, too. It’s easy to do whatever’s right in front of my face.

The problem is layered. First...

Follow through.

I get busy. I forget. I think about calling at 11pm, when it’s just not nice to call. And then more time passes, and I feel like an idiot for responding to something or someone a month after the fact.

And I feel horrible about it.

And, while we’re at it—let’s add a few other layers to the puzzle. Because quite frankly, if follow through was the worst of my problems, I think this friend thing would be a lot easier.

I’m awkward when I’m first getting to know someone. Perhaps we’ve had a connection, or perhaps we’ve shared a moment and I think there’s a potential there for us to be good friends.

I am also not a small-talker. I have a hard time having short or less-than-deep conversations with people—especially when we’ve shared an intimate connection at some point.

(That’s not to say I’m all serious. I’m not. In fact, if you see my silly and funny side, that means I trust you.)

When I’ve shared intimacy and depth with someone, I don’t know what to talk about that isn’t intimate and deep. So, I feel awkward, and I act awkward.

And I have a pretty strong feeling that that’s off-putting. It makes the other person feel awkward, and then if we don’t talk about how awkward it is, it’s difficult to push through.

I also tend to act awkward because I struggle with trust—trusting that this person I’m trying to get to know better won’t leave me in the dust. It’s happened before, many times… the worst being my “best friend” from junior high all the way through college up and telling me one day that she never wanted to speak to me again. There were many issues in our relationship, and we had been growing apart over time, but still—it hurt.



And for many years after it happened, I wasn’t able to trust any new friend. When she told me off that day, it felt like a divorce. We were fiercely close friends for over 10 years, and the sense of loss was overwhelming.

I don’t ever want to go through it again.

And, let’s add another layer, shall we?

If I have an interaction that doesn’t feel quite right, or if something happens where I end up feeling rejected, I create a lot of judgments about it. Maybe I don’t have to explain this, now that you know about the friend who dumped me, but I tread so carefully—walking on eggshells—because I don’t want to screw up. I don’t want to drive the other person away. I don’t want to demand too much. I don’t want to lose the potential gift of an intimate friendship.

Let me give you a situational example to illustrate...

I call or email Potential Friend A (PFA), leaving some sort of indication that I’d like to get together with her.

I know there’s been some interest in becoming closer friends in the past, so I’m confused when PFA doesn’t return the call or email (or both).

Out of defensiveness, and out of the semi-automatic leap my brain makes to she’s rejected you!, I start to form some pretty harsh judgments, like:

  • She doesn’t want to be my friend.
  • She doesn’t care.
  • She doesn’t like me after all.

And then I turn the judgments on myself:

  • I’m not good enough to be her friend.
  • I don’t matter to her.
  • I’ve been rejected again.

Ridiculous, right? Instead of just following up, and asking a simple question, and keeping the situation simple… I make it infinitely more complicated, so that by the time I actually talk to PFA again, I’m coming from such a place of insecurity that I’m even more awkward than before.

The real irony of all my behavior and the underlying feelings and fears driving my behavior is that they are denying me of the things I really want. And boy, does that suck to realize…

Of course now that I know it, I can work to change it. 

That's the beauty of life, and of working through something hard. 

It's a choice. 

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