Where did all my friends go?

The more time passes the smaller and smaller it seems my circle of friends becomes.  I am now realizing the amazing privilege I had to be part of a college and career group that desired to be together.  That had the charisma and draw that seemed to bridge gaps and draw single people together like nothing ANYONE else had ever seen.  The dilemma with this is that life must go on, changes must be made, and people eventually move into different stages of life.  And as they do that their relationships and friendships change. 

Yet for me, I feel I am in the same stage I was back then.  I am single, working, serving, going to church, and living my life.  It doesn’t feel all that drastic from my life 15 years ago.  I know it is because my pay check is larger, I have my own paid off car, I live in a house, and I work in a place that respects my skills (most days).  But my contact list is smaller, my physical personal interactions are fewer, and I can’t seem to gather more than 10 people at a time in my house for free food and fun.  So this leads me to ask the question: Where did all my friends go?

I saw this snippet online and had to take this equivalent to a self-test, and wonder in my old age have I let my friendship skills slack? 

When someone tells me they have no friends and they are no longer in adolescence, I have a difficult time with that statement. Why? Because at some point, you have to offer people something. If all you’re offering is negativity, you will find yourself alone. If all you’re being is needy, you are draining the life from people. Asking the question “What can I do for you?” and being there for someone, you are proving yourself to BE a friend. That is the only way you GET friends. If you truly have ZERO friends, take a look at what you’re offering people. You’re offering people nothin’, so that’s what you got. Being a friend gains you credibility, and begins the process of building relationships. Please note: this takes time! Rome wasn’t built in a day! Don’t suffocate people. Simply BE the friend YOU would like to have, and you will never be lonely.

I have not asked that question lately and to be honest it is not a normal part of my vocabulary. I do look for opportunities to be there for people and offer up what I think I can give after I have decided what they want.  But I do not actually ASK them “what can I do for you?”  Such a simple shift in perspective from what can I get and what do I deserve and what am I missing… To an offering of self to be or do what another needs.  I know this.  I have done this. I believe in this.  I can do this again.  But I have spent so much time feeling the lonely, empty, vacuum of my hurt, rejection, and abandonment; all I have done is work on figuring out how to fix me, rescue me, redeem me; that I have forgotten that extending the gift of give, care, and empathy first is what makes the way for others and God to bring all those things into my life and fill me up naturally. 

Another clever quote I read:

If you wish “acquaintanceship,” BE RICH.  If you wish friends, BE A Friend.”

There is nothing like money to make you attractive and appealing to others. But, of course, the kind of people who are attracted to you only because of what you can do for them are most likely acquaintances, not friends. You may have many acquaintances if you become wealthy, but whatever your station in life may be, you will never have true friends unless you are a friend to others. Be very selective in your choice of friends. Choose to associate with positive people who like you for the person you are, who encourage you to be yourself and to be the best you can be.

I am beginning to understand more and more that it is not the sheer volume of people I have around me to call at any given moment.  Rather it is the quality of those people who will help define me as the person I want to become.  The people I surround myself with are the ones who will either embrace who I am and challenge me to work harder, be stronger, and seek God or they will be the ones who keep me stagnant, slothful, and stale.  I feel that I have been through the stagnant waters and I am done.  Bring on the new, fresh, exciting life ahead and with that I seek the strong old friendships and the positive new friendships; but most importantly focusing on the kind of friend I can be to those around me for their growth, improvement, health, and support.  That I may be the one offering “What can I do for you?” more than asking what can they do for me.

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Just a Woman with a Shovel

I was working on a service project yesterday with the singles group I have recently adopted as my new social circle (to which I am ecstatically happy about).  We were doing landscape work (you know laymen’s pulling weeds, trimming bushes, and digging out unwanted plants).  Yes I am sore and yes it was great refreshing work on an occasionally misting BRIGHT Overcast Oregon Day.  I even shed a couple of layers as the day progressed and I do not have a sniffle from working in the rain, so the weather must have been alright. 

My Tool of Choice on Saturday

As I was digging out the root systems of a plant that I know not the name of, I stumbled across an interestingly little attitude.  I am surrounded by men and women, single and married, young and old.  I am realizing the shovel I am using is not going to get all of the root system out and if I put too much strain on it the shovel might break.  Since it isn’t my shovel I thought I should be more careful OR I’m gonna end up buying someone a shovel. 🙂  So I start to think about how can I get this particular bush dug out since the tool I have isn’t going to cut it. 

One of the youngins (say 12 – 15 I THINK) had this pick axe type thingy so when I realized that my shovel wasn’t going to cut it, I called him over and asked for his assistance.  I didn’t know his name and I wasn’t even sure if he was ALL that thrilled about being here to help.  You know that typical teenage facial expression they have, when they just seem irritated at everything and everyone-kind of face?  Well I pretend I don’t see it and ask for help.  He graciously does what I ask and we were able to tackle 3 bushes that way.  I dig, he breaks the deep thick roots.  It was working amazingly effortlessly. 

Not to mention that I felt completely comfortable telling him where the root was that needed hacking.  He saw a few himself and I just dug around it, it seemed like quite the partnership.  I wasn’t insecure or worried or concerned about the words I was saying or HOW I was saying them.  It just worked and we got things done. 

Then there was this question… Why do I feel more comfortable asking a youth person for help with something than I do asking a man for help?  Now this wasn’t just some random fleeting thought that was making an appearance with no foundation in reality.  This received a definite head nod from the judges.  IT WAS TRUE!!! Even on that very day when I was working on this project if I would run into a snag or situation where I would need help, my mind would INSTANTLY reject the idea of asking another guy, man, dude in the group for help. 

So why is that?  Where does that come from?  Am I that much of a feminist that asking for a man’s help would result in betraying all womankind’s achievements in independence?  Or is it meerly that I refuse to swallow my pride and ask a man for help? 

When I spent the next dozen hours or so analyzing this newly realized attitude of mine, I came up with a few things I THINK might possibly be the reason:  1) I want to do things a certain way.  Yes there are times I am a control freak, but other times I think that if I ask for help I won’t get to continue along the method and process I am following.  2) I won’t get credit for the work I DID DO.  Not that there is this GIANT score card out there keeping track of what I have accomplished, but there are times where I want to prove my usefulness.  I want to do my part, make a contribution, and having been a valuable ADDITION to the current group of people.  And if a man does it for me than why am I there? 

FINALLY, and this one I think is the one that rings most true.  I DON’T want them to take it over.  I guess in my previous experience a lot of the men in my life have not been good at JUST HELPING.  So when asked for assistance on one particular portion or area, it is interpreted as DO THIS FOR ME instead.  As a result, I lose my ideas, feel ignored, think I am not needed, and can not say with pride and confidence LOOK AT WHAT I DID. 

And yes for this woman I NEED to be listened to, have my ideas validated, feel NEEDED, have pride and CONFIDENCE that I DID SOMETHING-no  matter how small.

Curious side note:  Less than 1 hour later, I was working on another project with a guy and I asked him to cut the area I was working in (since he had the saw) and over the course of 5 minutes proceeded to ignore every suggestion I made.  Not only cut in a completely different area, but didn’t cut the branches that allowed me to pull them out of his way so he could continue cutting.  At one point I do believe I made a mental *throws hands in the air in disgust* and mumbled, “… or not.”  At which point someone asked for his help on some other project.  Ahhh interpersonal relationships, gotta love em.

Trusting People – My Issues

So with all these ideas and postings about trust shouldn’t it be my next logical step to actually explain my own “TRUST ISSHUES”.  I mean I can’t possibly be as special as I imagine in this area can I?  I can’t actually have been hurt so badly and suffered OH SO MUCH as to believe that my inability to trust is unique, Can I? 
 
Don’t we all have trust issues?  I mean who hasn’t trusted a friend to help them move, give them a ride, get them a cup of coffee, keep a confidence, or be honest with them about how they look; only to have them not follow through and do what the say?  Not to mention those times we ALL realized our parents were fallible – they lied about a decision, cheated on their taxes, treated their spouse badly, or stole/borrowed office supplies – I mean the superman or wonder woman uniforms have to be turned in at SOME point.  What about those moments when you were out in the world out there and encountered HORRIBLE people – some one tries to trip you on a bus, a group of girls points with condescending laughter, or a co-worker lies to you about what they did. 

This doesn’t include the manipulative and deceiving dance that is dating/mating/game-playing – man tells ya he’s totally interested but won’t return your phone calls, woman says God doesn’t want her to date right now – but a week later she IS dating someone else, or someone says your amazing, cool, fantastic, hot looking, sweet, gonna make someone extremely happy one day only to drop you like a hot rock when you reciprocate an ounce of those feelings.  Ooopss… Squirrel!!!
 
Who wouldn’t be a little messed up? eh?  But I do not think I have cornered the market on these experiences.  I know of many people who have shared with me stories about people saying one thing and then doing another.  Someone who pledges their undying love one minute only to recant these same feelings within hours or days of their original FEEELINGS.  There are many with abusive family histories whose children cannot trust authority because their parents were always a source of pain and chaos.  People who put their ever waking moment into serving a church that in their darkest hour disowned them or decided to move on to a younger cooler leader. 
 
So even though I am not the only one with these kinds of disappointments, I find myself entering more and more relationships (friendships, family like relationships, and romantic ones) with this cautious, unsure, disbelieving, ever-doubting, almost cynical approach.  Instead of being excited about the possibilities, which, trust me, my heart and soul immediately want to jump head-first into the deep end of the pool in almost reckless abandon hoping that THIS relationship will be THE ONE.  Not just the DATING one, but the Best Friend who will really care and really say what they mean.  The mentoring woman figure who will really help me and be honest and love and accept me while telling me the truth.  I long to be in relationships that matter, are real, will make me a better person, meet my need to belong, and fill the gap I have in my heart.  But there is always this WAIT, BE CAREFUL, TIME WILL TELL, TEST IT voice that creeps up to the surface to keep me from actually DIVING into a relationship.  
 
In a world where I know I am not unique in my distrust of people, I am continually asking myself do I trust too much or too little?  Where is that line between gullible push over easy prey and cautious callous skeptic?  Just one more example of my all or nothing thinking… but how does one find the middle?

Trusting People – The Chosen Few

I have heard time and again the significance of the fact that Christ only choose 12 disciples.  That he didn’t just pick 12 random guys, but that it would have been TOO difficult to mentor, teach, and be in close intimate relationship with more than 12 people at any given time.  As an extrovert who wants to be surrounded by people and adored by people in MASS quantity ALL THE TIME!!! The idea of only having 12 people as your closest friends does not see to be ENOUGH. So who are my twelve?  Who if I were to list them could I bring out to the surface? 

Heidi the logical stronghold

Brent the challenging realist – debating desenter

Tina the cheerful participant

Amber the loyal listener

Delia the Dedicated Co-worker in crime

Linda the sweet heart of guided encouragement

Barb the talking one who does it all

Sarah the Strive to be all to all people

Ric N Barb the encouragers to the stars

David the in the moment man

Tesha dedicated strong woman

Lisa the learn to live in the real

These are the first 12 to enter my mind… and these do not even begin to include the new/old friendships that have recently reappeared into my life.  The ones who are bringing to light some of my history as well as shining light in areas of my life I have always had to explain to others; but these people KNEW me or should I say KNOW me.   What a great time in my life that I have so many to influence and guide my life.  Where does one even begin to voice appreciation and thankfulness for their presences and support.  The things I could not do without them, the things I have overcome because of them.   As one who loves the words and craves the attention, I do not reciprocate my feelings of thankfulness and appreciation very well.  Maybe that needs to go on my list…

I am also reminded of a dear friend who committed suicide a few years ago with a list of names he titled… the ONLY people who will even notice I am gone.  There were 15 names on that list – he was depressed and in despair because there were ONLY these names in his mind.  I was surprised to find my name at the top of his list and that there were also key people who cared about him not even listed.  Although the logic of a suicidal person can not necessarily be analyzed, there were moments when I would try to think about those times in my life when I couldn’t even count 6 people who were close to me.  I could not put a list together of 6 people who I trusted and could go to for advice, assistance, love, support, or even cab fare out of a scary neighborhood. 

There are times when I find my dial a friend action only results in Voicemails and I can’t talk right now texts.  I remind myself that friendship does not work like a genie in a bottle and that at times when there is no one to talk with, it may JUST be because I am supposed to be quiet.  As an extrovert those are fighting words.  To tell me to wait, be quiet, stop talking, be still, listen are just plain torturous tasks.  I know not REALLY… but I’m allowed to be Dramatic for emphasis right? 

So in the question of trust and friendship is it the one who picks up the phone or the one who lets you talk for hours?  Is it the one who knows all your secrets yet has not abandoned you or the one you don’t have to tell you secrets to?  Is the personality, personal trauma (we withstood together), or providence that make friendships WORK?

Trusting People – Time for New Friends

About 9 months ago, I realized more than normal I was alone.  I had been the singles leader at my church for 2 years and had incorporated a lot of those people into my life as roommates or friends and began to see my life in a whole new way.  I thought I was helping, I thought I was doing ministry, and I thought I was living with friends who were all going in the same direction. 

It was only after months and months of being around these people, who seemed on a WIDE range of broken, dysfunctional, immature, self-righteous, and self-centered that I realized I was living with new eyes the time of my early 20’s.  I see those times of my life as exciting and full of fun and inspiration and life shaping.  But if I were to actually go to the video footage of those times I can only assume it would be way less pretty and glorious as I remember it. Rose colored glasses are GREAT, right?  So as I believed that I could influence, shape, mentor, or mold these new friends into the type of person that God wants them to be OR make them into better people… somewhere that grand bold plan fell apart.  Yet these were not just like my students from years before, they were my friends.  OR at least they were the closest thing I had to friends.  Their choices made no sense to me and I couldn’t relate to their behaviors and dysfunction.  I didn’t want to be judgemental and I didn’t want to be pompous, but there was something in my that just STIRRED so strongly that I couldn’t continue to spend my every day and every prayer in and around a group of people who did not want what I wanted – Mental, spiritual, financial, social, intelligent, and professional HEALTH. 

It was only after some significant moments of hurt and frustration, roommates moving out, my distancing myself from others that I realized with such sad desperation I was alone again.  Alone like Seattle, Alone like college, alone like freshman year in high school.  But in retrospect it was a wise decision.  The season of alone is never fun, the confrontations and disconnection that happened were very painful.  The doubt I experienced because I held to my beliefs and standards caused rejection and discord on some mighty painful levels.  Yet I pulled away from those friendships because it was the right thing to do.  I choose to be alone rather than be swimming in unhealth.  I choose to detach from the things that were giving me permission to be stagnant in order to pursue greater things.  It was difficult wrestling with the constant feeling that I had disowned them or that I was rejecting them out of arrogant self-righteousness.  That some how it was WRONG of me to decide not to be friends any more. 

I even said to a TOTAL stranger at a new church that I needed new friends.  So I started praying for new friends.  It didn’t happen immediately, it actually took about 9 months 🙂 and now I am in a group of diverse personalities (D’s and I’s and S’s and C’s – ALL of them).  People who read the word and pray for reals.  People who go to church for God and what they can get out of the teaching.  People who like crafts and service and sports and laughing and the beach and music and talking and movies and games… They like to DO things with EACH OTHER. 

The time I spent alone taught me to appreciate and value the good when it arrives.  But it also allowed me to grieve the loss and completely disconnect from the unhealth without having to compare or complain about the previous people in my life.  It has put me in a place to value the friends I do have that are close to me and really engage in friendships with these new people who I already respect and want them to actually INFLUENCE ME… that is something that is new… or at least NEW AGAIN.

Trusting People – Whose your brother?

There are levels or depths to the relationships I have in my life.  Often times I will categorize them as friendships, romance, acquaintances, co-workers, and family.  My family of origin has not provided me with any form of emotional or physical support for most of my life, so I have always searched elsewhere.  The most dramatic memories of this happened when I was in Jr High, when the George family seemed to adopt me in every way shape and form.  That was also the first time I experienced a relationship with a guy that was deeper than friendship, but not romantic.  At the time I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t explain it to anyone who asked.  And if any one asked if I like Scott, I would respond with classic 6 year old tone… EWwwww NO WAY!!! As if someone had suggested that my BROTHER was hot… I mean EWwww gross.  In wise aged reflection, I can see that it was one of those family type relationships – I saw him really as my brother.  We did the typical tease, hit, yell, torture, harass each other treatment and if someone had not feared the BOTH of us, they might have actually said we liked each other.  But to me he was my brother through and through… (at least during that season of my life)

In one of my conversations with my friend Brent, I was describing that I had a new relationship in my life… and that I was totally excited about having a little brother again.  He was completely confused because I had described this guy as funny, goofy, outspoken, active, spiritual, serving, and on the cute side (I said somewhere between cute and HOT… but I don’t know what that description is suppose to be), BUT even with those positives working in his favor, I was kicking him to friend zone (that is a LONG explanation for another day)… well and after one trip to the beach I had moved him from friend zone to brother zone.  At which point Brent so eloquently asked: WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES THAT MEAN?  Well, it’s closer than a friend but without any romantic involvement.  Where I promptly received that all too familiar guy response: “Huh?” So I had to ask myself, how do I describe brother zone?  What is it that makes me believe a relationship is CLOSE but not romantic?  Why is the brother relationship so intimate and important to me? 

I have to look back at my time at Sunnyside OH so many years ago, as an adult, when it felt like this church social circle was my family.  And in that family there were men in my life who loved me, cared about me, and I protected me from harm.  I did not date in this group, and I was only ever asked out once; but they were the most important people in my life.  There was something in the way we related, talked, worked together, and looked at each other that was different and special.  I began to look back at the relationships I had then and knew that there were various personalities, skills, giftings, attitudes, ages, and stages of life for the men who I FELT were my brothers.  What did they do?  What did they say?  It was all different and some of it was NEVER spoken at all. 

It begins in my gut, then oozes into my mind, worms its way into my heart, comforts my mind and sets my spirit free when I am around them.  Sometimes it’s just the mere gift of a hug from someone who is not afraid to touch me (yes some/most men are uncomfortable touching me) or it could be listening to my stories or how crappy my day has been.  It may be that they defended me verbally in some way, or just showed some sign of respecting my opinion (even though I’m a woman).  Either way it is something I FEEEEEL and trust; yes there are moments of testing these FEEEELings to see if they are valid. HOwever, it is not planned nor do I think about how I’m gonna TEST them today. 🙂  So monday I had the privilege of FEELING that feeling again… some one had entered my life who  I could trust and be at peace around and feel safe being myself with.  Ahhhh to have a brother again… Oh how I missed it… and oh how I have needed that. 

As much as I would like to be dating and be special and be thinking about marrying someone… having a brother to make my life full of life and excitement and love and TRUST is an incredible FEEELING!!! What a gift… one I will not take for granted AGAIN… EVER!!!

PS I still miss my brothers from the past and will never forget how they have shaped me into the woman I am now… and for that I beyond grateful.  Miles, Hunker, Nate, Joe, Brian, Kelly, Perry, and Leo… just to name the ones that are RIGHT THERE at the top.

Trusting People – Impossibility?

Why is it the ones we trust…are not trustworthy? 
 
Somewhere on the road of life, between people flaking out thus letting me down and discovering that I trust people who are manipulators there is the reality of life…or the true answer to the above question.  In the evaluation of my hurt, I am truly wondering how much this hurt should I just expect to experience the rest of my life?  

It takes me back to a question a friend posed to me over a decade ago – “So why are WE friends?”  I don’t know for certain the heart of her question or what motivated her to ask it of ME.  I suspected that she was dissatisfied with the people who were her closest friends (including me) and was trying to figure out how did this happen that she ended up with these unhealthy, dysfunctional, needy, broken people as her friends.  Now, I took no offense at this at the time because I thought I was pretty messed up and wouldn’t have wanted to be friends with myself given the choice.  Especially, since it wasn’t meant as an attack, but merely the inquiring of a confused person.  Yet having someone else say that to me left a mark. 

I never saw myself as one of the popular people nor the type of person who was so pretty and dynamic and SPECIAL that I would draw people from far and wide.  It was my belief that I was not the person people were drawn to spend time with.  But I considered myself a good person, who was a good friend, and worth the kind of investment that comes with real friendships; but there it was.  Why was I one of her friends? Why was she friends with me versus someone else? I could only chalk it up to the fact that I drove her home after college age group 1-2 times a month so that’s 30 minutes of together at a time.  We some how started talking one night and felt safe or connected or SOMETHING.  We socialized with the same people at church, at retreats, and parties, and so spent time with each other more often than not.  At some point there was the exchange of phone numbers, and as I like to do now when I’m bored and alone I make a phone call.  So I am certain we spent a fair amount of time doing the GIRL thing of talking on the phone about life, love, boys, God, school, career, etc etc. I didn’t have any great grand explanation for her.  I WISH I did. 
 
But recently (more accurately about 6 months ago) that question has returned to my brain in connection with the people in my life.  Those people who are my friends RIGHT NOW, at this moment… WHY?  I mean I have had a few more DRAMATIC experiences in my life these last few weeks where I have been let down, disappointed, and frustrated.  Now I KNOW that peoples is peoples (insert funny accent here from Muppets take Manhattan), and that no one is perfect and that LIFE things HAPPEN… There are expectations that EVERYONE has built into our brains about what OTHER people SHOULD or SHOULDn’t do in a given situation. BUT lately I have felt like all the people I have surrounded myself with have flaked out, not shown up, been late, not followed through, made a stupid decision, acted selfish, or just plain hurt me without care or concern. 

At some point I even remember thinking: Do I need new friends? 

I mean where does a person draw the distinction between what our parents use to say “they’re a bad influence on you” (and therefore, you are FORBIDDEN from seeing them EVER EVER AGAIN) and the normal part of dealing with human fallacy? That people are GOING to let you down because they are people.  I mean how does a person make the distinction between a disappointed feeling and REALLY needed NEW, positive, consistent, reliable influences?