I’ve made a decision. I’m going to stop trying so hard to be your friend. I don’t know if it has to do with living in CA for five years now and having to make so many new friends, or having a kid, which has left me with less time for friends, or the years of therapy that have finally built up my resilience, but I’m ready to stop trying to be friends with everyone.
I won’t go into the gory details, but circumstances in my childhood taught me to appease an aggressor at any sign of conflict. I’m very good at being agreeable. On the one hand, I’m an excellent arbitrator. At the first sign of conflict, you can count on me to smooth things over, often with very little attempt to solve the root problem. It’s a talent, thank you very much, but it has left me as an empty shell of a person.
I am an opinionated woman. I could spend days espousing the virtues of various political thought, but I wouldn’t. I would avoid it or hide behind the opinions of someone stronger because you might disagree with me and get angry and the little girl in me, despite all of my adult assurances, thinks you might hurt her. She believes you may disagree with your fist.
Not anymore. I’m done. I’m sick of living in fear. I am ready to discover who loves me and rather, who considers me a friend out of convenience. I want to know. I truly want to know who will drop me like a plate of maggots once they know who I really am. I’m ready to be with friends and be able to relax knowing that each and every one of them will stand by me even when they disagree with me, even if I say something that they find less than palatable.
Truth is, I’ve had the “alone in a crowd” feeling for a long time. I make acquaintances fairly easily, but few of them know me. I’m cramped up inside of myself like a russian nesting doll.
I know, in theory, that conflict leads to understanding and deeper relationships, but it also pushes people away. The only way I’ll know who’s willing to embrace me for myself and who is just hanging around because I’m agreeable is to lay the dolls on the table.
In the interest of being honest about who I am, here are some things you may not know about me that you should:
- I think prostitution should be legalized. No one should be able to tell me what to do with my body.
- I don’t vote Democrat or Republican. In the last election I left every vote for public office empty and only voted the propositions.
- My general political views do not fall along party lines. I believe in helping each other out with basic human needs, but I do not support government intervention unless absolutely necessary. I don’t know if there’s a name for that.
- I support abortion rights, but will try to do what I can to help out someone who chooses another option
- I’m nursing my toddler and I love it. I will nurse him as long as we both are happy with it, even if he is four, five, six…
- I traveled to Palestine 10 years ago because whenever I spoke about what I know people would ask, “have you been there” and I wanted to be able to say “yes”.
- When people equate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism I think it sets a dangerous precedent and I want to remind them that bigotry can also involve stereotyping people in a “positive” way.
- I’m tired of people ignoring the grand jury bullshit my friends are facing. I’m shocked and appalled that people are not shocked and appalled that anti-war activists who have committed no crime are being threatened with prison sentences.
- I have doubts about whether my friends will be there for me if I need them and this is what I think about while I lie awake at night and cry.
- I’m terrified of saying the “wrong thing” (whatever that is) so I often just don’t talk.
- I hate being left out of things, but I pretend like I don’t care because it makes me feel vulnerable and insecure and I hate those feelings.
- Sometimes I’m wrong and sometimes I change my mind and I know now that that is ok.
I could share a lot more, but there’s a start. The next step conceivably is to be honest in person, but I would be lying if I thought that was going to happen over night. It takes practice so bear with me. If my voice shakes, it’s not that I’m afraid of you, it’s the little girl. She just needs some reassurance.
Ideally, I wouldn’t share this. I would just make changes and practice daily, but I need a public proclamation to remind me to keep trying. So I’m going to post this before I think about it too much.
In the comments, please feel free to share what you do to maintain your integrity.
4 thoughts on “Friendship: Quality over Quantity”
Well said, Katie! Putting yourself out there like that takes a lot of courage—good for you. I came to a similar quality-vs-quantity decision a couple years back, and I haven’t regretted it. I still enjoy the good folks I see only occasionally, but I prioritize the investment I make in a few, close friends whose floors I know I could crash on if I had the need. I think it’s a personal thing; other people thrive more on big rooms full of more casual acquaintances. Btw, maybe you’re libertarian (the compassionate, socially engaged sort, not the Unabomber sort).
Your post resonates with me. So very, very much… for so many, many reasons. Feels like I could have written it m’self. I’ve often struggled with “Fairweather Friendships”, and it’s something that bothers me deeply. I’m loyal to a fault, and it’s cost me my sanity a number of times. I refuse to let the bad experiences stop me from stepping up, but like you, there are many times when I wonder, late at night, if anyone cares enough to do the same. Then I remind myself that it doesn’t entirely matter, in the end…
All this said, just know that from this end, you have a soft place to land. We don’t know each other well, or in depth, but these things are inconsequential to me: you’re in that big circle of friends, here, and I know kind souls when I see them. Just say the word, are the “Llamas” are there.
As for “finding the voice”, It’s something I struggle with, daily, still. My professional self is this confident person who busts her way into things head-first… but on the personal side, I’m a walking ball of PTSD, and it’s as old as I am.
All this to say that you’re not alone. I think I understand what you’re saying. I’ll never claim to “understand”-understand (if you know what I mean? Everyone’s circumstances are different…) but I… get it. I do.
Use that voice, and practice. It does become easier, eventually. Or so I keep reminding myself.
I also have very strong feelings about Palestine and Israel, but I have yet to figure out how to articulate them in a way that helps people to understand the situation in Palestine. It seems to me that people often just shut down when confronted with a clear assessment, assuming that I am anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish just because I don’t believe people should have to live under military occupation. So, I often find myself being very guarded about what I can say. I guess I’m still working on this.
I admire you for getting what you think out there in the open.
Your post definitely resonates with me. I had a similar situation in my childhood, but without the threat of physical violence — the abuse was largely verbal. And I’ve had to go through a similar process of becoming reassured that in most cases, if I voice my real opinions, I won’t unleash a torrent of abuse upon myself. I’m still fairly choosy about who I share my deeply held and cherished thoughts and beliefs with, though. Mostly I’m just quiet.
Turning 30 helped tremendously, though. (And I guess the external validation of a post graduate degree helped, too.) I’ve become less and less concerned as I’ve gotten older about what people think of me, and about trying to be congenial at all costs. And to be honest, my mother’s death (while extremely painful) has been freeing, too. She was my role model for so long, even though it became more and more obvious that our paths were going to diverge, and that I wasn’t going to fulfill some of her hopes and dreams for me. And that, combined with the aforementioned family issues, made me really reluctant to open up to her after about my mid-20s, for fear of causing her more pain. Now that she’s gone, I don’t have to worry about that any more.
Anyway, Katie, nothing on your list of beliefs and ideas shocked me, and I thank you for sharing them. I’m sorry I haven’t been better about getting together with you these past two years. And good for you for making this progress.