On Happiness and Friendship

11Sep07

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few weeks. I think I wrote it sometime at the end of August but I haven’t posted it because I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure I feel it’s a true post, even though it felt very true when I was writing it.

I’m not sure if I am too hard on myself in this post, or too easy. Or if I come off the way I meant to, which was reflective rather than self-pitying.

But I’ve now been awarded a Nice Matters Award by Tere over at A Mom, A Blog, and the Life In-Between, and it got me thinking that now might be just the time to let this post see the light of day. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of an award for being friendly and nice with my own fears about the kind of friend I might be that makes it seem OK to hit “publish” on something that’s been sitting permanently in “drafts.”

But first:

The Nice Matters Award originated here and is meant to honor “those that are just nice people , good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!”The idea of the award is that once you receive it, you’re supposed to pay it forward. So I’d like to do that here by recognizing some folks who inspire me, reassure me, and make me laugh:

Christina, at A Mommy Story

Stephania, over at CityMama

Julie, at Using My Words (formerly The Ravin’ Picture Maven)

Kyran, at Notes to Self

Toni, at This Simple Life

Amanda, at SouleMama

Gabrielle, at Bub and Pie

So here, ladies, is your Nice Matters Award. And thanks, Tere, for mine.


And now, the post:

I’ve been reading Chronicles of Me and Jen Gray’s and Jen Lemen’s blogs lately and find myself both inspired and also a bit heartsick. These strong, beautiful women are teaching me, through their words, photographs, and paintings, about community, friendship, love, strength, and goodness. Positive energy radiates from my computer as I read these blogs. Contained within their “pages” are stories of self-organized all-girl retreats, guerilla art (read: sticking post-it notes with inspirational sayings in public places for people to discover), communities of women artists who support and encourage one another. It’s wonderful. And the images?! Gorgeous. The people in the photographs on these blogs look fulfilled and confident. Satisfied.

I know as well as anyone that how people look is not a true indicator of how they feel. I also know that how people write is not always the whole story, either. There may be pain, frustration, or anxiety behind the words these women blog. There might be fear or even anger lurking there.

But it doesn’t seem like it.

What it does seem like is that these women have figured out how to be happy with their lives and how to surround themselves with people who encourage rather than stifle that happiness.

Both Boho Girl and Jen Gray have recently written about the power of being able to choose one’s friends. Boho Girl writes, “I love that I have a choice in who I surround myself with and that they too celebrate that choice. It’s empowering to spend your time with people that lift you up, deeply care for your heart, are consistent in who they are and take responsibility for their own happiness.

This is the part that makes me a little bit heartsick. Because while I am beginning to make more friends, I am still very isolated. We all are, the three of us that make up this little family.

I’ve written before about how my own sense of humor is often quite cynical and, sometimes, downright mean. I’ve admitted that I crave attention and that the only way I know how to sustain someone’s attention is via negativity. You know: teasing, mocking.

Maybe the awful truth is that while I am able to take responsibility for my own happiness, I might actually be the person who stifles others’ happiness. God, that hurts to consider. But it might actually be true. I may have figured out how to make myself happy but I may not be the kind of friend who helps others feel good, too. Perhaps this is why I am not surrounded by a community of friends. I’ve been focusing on my own choices, and choosing to be alone rather than to be around friends with whom I don’t feel I can be myself. But maybe I also need to consider how to better be the kind of friend who lets others feel that they can be their own selves.

But maybe it’s not that I am a cruel, mean, awful friend who passes judgment and imposes impossible standards of friendship. Maybe it could be that I’m super shy. Sure, I may come across as confident and outgoing, usually because I can be funny and teasing, but once we get to the end of that façade, I kind of feel like I don’t know how to go further. I don’t know how to be your friend and so I probably don’t let you know how to be mine. I don’t know how to tell you what I want from this friendship so you don’t tell me what you want. I don’t know how to read you and probably am also not very readable.

How do I change these things? How do I keep this from feeling so scary? How do I be the kind of friend who makes you feel good about yourself without always having to be sappy? And, frankly, without letting you walk all over me? And can I still be funny? Cynical? How and when can I complain? Do I have to change in some way in order to open myself up to new friendships? When is it OK for me to be myself without making you think I won’t be a good friend? Who can give me these answers? Can you?

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6 Responses to “On Happiness and Friendship”

  1. 1 Julie Pippert

    This post ROCKS…you rock for sharing it.

    This is an ongoing thing I ponder, deeply. I wrote a post, sorta kinda similar, a while back and if I was super cool I’d find it and link it and stuff. I will if you want.

    Anyway the post was about reading The Pioneer Woman and feeling the way you describe.

    Then Bub&Pie wrote a post about the positive power of negative thinking.

    And I thought some more.

    Then some of my own friendships reached this new stage, or I changed or something altered and all of the sudden I hit my tolerance for Suck It Up and Please People and I sorta blew over the summer (LOL, although…I realize I ought to be ashamed or something and not laughing).

    Magically this one thought entered my head: There is Dark and there is Light and both are needed; it’s easy to like the light, but truly amazing to be able to like the dark, too.

    Or something like that. Not trying to sound like Yoda.

    The trouble is it’s really more a feeling than a thought. And I haven’t fully processed it, but I’ll keep trying.

    So i can’t give you the answers. Somewhere in there is some magical balance between “people need to like me for me” and “being the better me I need to be” without falling over into “to hell with everyone else, it’s me me me” and “bend over backwards to be who and how people want.”

    This concept is also behind my most recent BlogRhet post.

    I’m glad to explore…glad you opened this up.

    I can relate so well to what you articulate so well here.

    Julie
    Using My Words

  2. 2 bubandpie

    I think the friends who make me feel best about myself are the ones who laugh heartily at my jokes, even though they’re only a little bit funny.

  3. 3 Lawyer Mama

    I struggle with this too. But I find that the people who become true friends, as opposed to acquaintances, are those who appreciate my biting sense of humor. I’m less likely to let a zinger fly around someone I don’t know well, but they slip out nonetheless.

    I’m an introvert and I know I’m not like most people and, yes, that can be isolating at times. But I try to accept that about myself and look for the one person in a crowd who’s snickering instead of smiling. I’ll sit by her.

  4. 4 Toni

    Thank you for the award. What a sweet compliment. As for your post, I will have to come back. I am being beckoned outside and these questions deserve more thought than I can produce in the next 30 seconds.

  5. 5 Toni

    A three years ago I invited a friend of Sister’s and his mom over for a playdate. The little boy and Sister had a grand time playing and I felt as if I’d found a kindred spirit. Within the month they moved to Brazil. A year ago I was a partner one of three at a store specializing in natural mama and baby products and services. We three ladies spent A LOT of time together. Between my partners and the store’s clientele, I was swimming in community … at the expense of my family. I left the store and now when I see my old “friends” we just smile and nod. We have nothing in common anymore. Last summer, one of the moms from Sister’s former preschool and I really hit it off. We got together a few times and chatted about nothing and everything. She moved to New Mexico. Then I have one friend that I’ve known for years. She’s moved. I’ve moved. We’ve gone for months without speaking at all. Tomorrow we are going to a BBQ at her house. I know it will be grand fun. I know the topics will range from shallow to deep and everything in between. Because the real secret of friendship and true community has nothing to do with changing yourself and everything to do with time. There is a quote by Georgia O’keefe that used to hang on my fridge. “In a way, nobody sees a flower really. It is so small; we haven’t time. And to see takes time, as to have a friend takes time.” This was a bit of a rambling comment. I apologize for it’s length. I suppose I should have just said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out. In the meantime, enjoy your family.”

  6. Hi!

    I’m new.

    I just have a little thought here, really.

    In terms of being yourself, that can be the most difficult thing to define. I’m just coming to terms with the idea that the self I am most openly with my friends is a part of me that my parents dislike. I’m really lucky to have a circle of good, close girls – some who I’ve known for years, some less time – but this is the first time that I’ve felt part of a cohesive group like this and it frees me up a lot to be as silly and as smart arsed on the outside as anything on the inside. It’s a beautiful feeling, knowing that they won’t ditch me when I’m in a trough and will laugh with me at other times.

    As beautiful as this is, it involves me being a person who my mother neither recognises nor likes. I was unaware of this until relatively recently and it was a huge blow, and begs the question of who I really am.

    Am I deep, cerebral girl who has articulate conversations or am I shallow, silly girl who gets drunk with her friends and laughs at inappropriate things? I feel – in fact I know that my friends know I’m both, but the echo of disappointment from my mother makes me feel that I have been deceitful about my character. I always thought that you can change the ways of presenting yourself without changing your character but now I’m not so sure.

    My point, that’s got lost a bit, really – is that being yourself is mutable and that this is part of being human. There won’t be a magic thing that happens and then you are it.

    xo Rhiannon


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