At 45 years of age, you'd think I'd have a grasp on a few things by now. You'd think I'd know how to make (and keep) friends, for example, but there is mounting evidence that I am clueless in this department. It's hard to be lighthearted and jokey about it, though, because it hurts. Badly.
In April of 2014, I was the speaker at one of my church's Sunday services that month. I am not a particularly good speaker and I do not have some great wealth of spiritual/religious knowledge to impart, but you'll find me at the pulpit from time to time. I've spoken on topics ranging from non-conformity to animal rescue, typically with a spiritual tie-in of some sort. It's kind of a win-win. My church (which does not have a regular pastor at this time) doesn't have to pay me (I don't cut into the budget, in other words) and I get a little practice speaking in front of an audience. Last April, my topic was friendship. I actually did a fair amount of digging and research. I found lots of readings and poems that fit well with my topic. It all seemed to come together pretty well.
My presentation was well-received, but that particular service was sparsely attended. Several of our members had to attend a meeting at another UU fellowship at the same time. I think there were some other things going on, too. Recently, a couple members of the board have asked me if I would consider repeating that service. They said they liked my presentation and wanted a wider audience to hear it. I mostly pretended I didn't hear the request, though. Why? Well, during that service I spoke about a good friend and um, she doesn't want to be my friend anymore. So, it's a little embarrassing. At the time, if you had asked me about this friendship, I would have taken a blood oath that she would always be my friend. I feel foolish.
Confession: I never read the Anne of Green Gables books but I did love the movies that were on TV in the 80s. Remember how Anne yearned for a "bosom friend" and found it in Diana Barry? I could identify with that sentiment, always wanting a friend I could call any time (and no, texting doesn't really count!). I still wish for that. I feel like I never learned to forge that kind of bond, though - particularly when it comes to female friends. I've been friends with some of the same guys since the dawn of time. For example, I've known my friend Khau since I was 14. I haven't seen him in a year but if I called him right now, I know he would be happy to talk to me. I don't have to worry that I will phrase something the wrong way and piss him off. Same goes for my friend Dave (I actually have two guy friends named Dave). I'm not saying that I can walk all over my male friends or mistreat them, but they are steady and I appreciate that.
My theory is that relationships between women have the potential to be stronger and deeper (than perhaps male/female friendships), but oh-so-much harder to maintain. I think I am just not good at it. I am always worried that if I send an email and expect a response, I'll be deemed "too demanding." (Other friends have told me in the past that I am too demanding, so I'm not just pulling this concept out of thin air.) During my church presentation, I talked about the importance of "putting yourself out there" and taking chances when it comes to widening one's circle of friends. And yet, I cannot take my own advice. I am petrified that if I ask a friend to join me for a movie, I will have put her on the spot and will have made things awkward and weird. And so, I don't ask anyone.
I also keep making the mistake of thinking that practically everyone I know is my friend. I'm like a seventh grader who wants everyone to like her or something. Over and over, I keep learning the same dumb lesson. When I had my foot surgery last year, I was worried (prior to the surgery) that I would need help. I don't have family in the area or anything like that. A bunch of people came forward and told me that they would help me, and I was elated! How many people actually helped? One. The others aren't jerks or anything - maybe I just wasn't clear on what I needed. Maybe I'm just a demanding twat? I don't know. I have also met a lot of people through the rescue for which I volunteer. This has been another grey area for me - trying to understand which ones are my friends and which ones wish I'd just go-away-for-the-love-of-God.
Another theory I have is that Facebook and Instagram and such have made us all connected in a way that is almost too much at times. Did I forget to click "like" on so-and-so's photo? Are they mad at me now? How many birthdays have I missed? So. Much. Anxiety.
Instead of casting a wide net and being confused about who is and is not my friend (and then finding myself feeling hurt by poor treatment), I think my bet is to focus on the ones for which I am sure. I need to step back. I am a deeply flawed person, but I am not a bad person. If someone doesn't like me, I need to acknowledge that and walk away.
One aspect of my life that keeps me from thinking I am the world's worst friend is Rachel. We have been friends since the sixth grade and I adore her. She is endlessly kind to me and never makes me feel like I've let her down. If she has been putting up with me for 34 years, I figure I can't be THAT bad. So, here's to you, old friend. And I do mean old. Ha ha! just kidding. You know I heart you, girrrrl.