Sunday, May 20, 2012

Is it better to have sucky friends, or no friends at all?

Right now I have a "chat" open on Facebook with a "friend" I have known for years, but never been all that close with.  I think I figured out why today.  It started with a feeling that I was asking-asking-asking too many questions; how's this?  How's that?  I just read through our entire interaction, which consists of me asking or commenting about something in her life.  At no point can I draw the conclusion that she is interested in anything going on in my life.  Not that there's much, but that's not the point! 
I find this pattern often in my life, and it irritates me.  Part of me wants to personalize it and assume, damn, I am the boring-est person on the planet; no one ever asks me how I'M doing!  However, I've spent my life as an observer, and concluded that - for MOST people - that stupid Toby Keith song is overly on-target: "Wanna talk about ME wanna talk about -I- wanna talk about NUMBER ONE..." 
And, really:  If I weren't so concerned about myself, I wouldn't feel so slighted...right? 
I'm USED to my life being about other people.  I grew up being the family toilet, on which everyone else dumps their proverbial crap.  I know all too well the feeling of people taking all you have to give, and handing nothing back.  And I think I've written a time or two about how fed up I am with that role.  It's so entrenched in my personality (and my gender?) that I don't know how *not* to focus on what others need and want...and yet that little voice that asks, "What about me?" is not completely suffocated.  Yet. 
So is it possible to be a giver and not attract takers?  Do takers ever stop sucking the life force out of you, and realize all you've done for them, suddenly overtaken with appreciation and a desire to return in kind?  Ummm....doubtful.  So how does the person who continually sets up this pattern change the dynamic of their relationships without changing their nature?  (That is, for those of us who aren't Mother Theresa, and don't give 100% selflessly.)
I have to recognize how I'm setting it up this way.  The fact that I hate talking about myself means I inherently choose to focus on others to deflect being the center of attention.  There are also a great many topics I'd rather not disclose on, so people probably learn quickly not to ask.  It's also difficult for people when you're not in a relationship - or seeking one - to withhold asking about your love life.  Everyone wants to know who you're dating, for how long, if you're getting married, then when, how many kids you'll have once you do, and so on till Kingdom Come.  So if that's not a focus in your life, they may feel at a loss as to what to talk to you about.  I get it.  Sometimes I wonder what I would ask myself about if I were anybody else. I could see how it might be difficult.  But there are also a thousand neutral subjects you can talk to any stranger about....if you choose to make an effort. 
And so, because she is doing what the rest of humankind does every hour of every day, I will try not to fault my friend for her egotism.  If I start to think about all the ways in which (the few friends I have left) fail to give a sh*t about me, I'll get into the mentality I was in a few years ago.  I moved across the friggin' country because no one in my life seemed to give a crap that I existed.  I stopped speaking to people who never seemed to have the time of day for me, like they did for their married friends or their rich friends or their cool friends...or whatever magical quality I imagined those people possessing which made them a more appealing companion than me. 
Because I can't *get* more from others, I try to *need* less.  And because it's really kind of impossible to need less than any other human being does, I settle for expecting less and squashing my own needs.  Or covering them up.  Or substituting things that really don't fill the void of what we're supposed to be getting from other people. 
"I expect more, but I get less."  (Says my grandpa the other day, in the nursing home)
"Well, maybe you should try expecting less, and you'll get more!"  (Responds my dad)

Therein lies the answer to all life's problems, methinks.


  1. I think I vote for having sucky friends. Because maybe they won't always be sucky, maybe it's just sucky timing. Facebook chats are just terrible for real dialogue, and people tend to be doing something else while they're chatting.

    That said, if they're truly all about taking and you feel drained around them, I'd vote for having no friends. Or different ones. Ones who like talking about feelings and thoughts and ideas rather than what you've done and are doing and plan to do(non-conversation).

  2. What I like about you (among many things ;-) is your ability for careful observation and reflection and to see things from multiple angles and perspectives.

    Also, your ability to ask questions:

    "If I weren't so concerned about myself, I wouldn't feel so slighted...right?"

    "So is it possible to be a giver and not attract takers?"

    Most people in this situation would deflect outward and say something like, "This girl is a b*tch who only cares about herself!" End of story.

    Or they'd deflect inward and say, "I must not be good enough." End of story.

    You, on the other hand, observe the other person, the situation, AND yourself, from several perspectives, with an open curiosity, completely cognizant that you don't really know the answer (or at least, that there are multiple pieces to "the answer" that might all be valid.)

    You also observe and ask questions about your own feelings and reaction.

    I'm pretty sure I've told you before, but this ability is a gift! (although it often feels like a curse, haha.)

    That said (LONGEST COMMENT EVER!), I think that what we all want and need and *deeply deserve* is an unconditional love, an unconditional delight, being unconditionally "known" by another just as we are.

    "You are, and I see you. You are, and I know you..."

    What would this feel like to know?

    As humans, I believe this is our deepest need, and also our birthright.

    No wonder we have this pain... we have never known the feeling of this love that we so deeply crave-- no, require. It is something that we've been missing our whole lives, and it's also the thing we really need.

    Anywho... I wrote a post a long time ago about giving and taking. It's not quite along the same wavelength as yours, but might still have some parallels? (then again, maybe not.)

  3. @Colleen Chen...
    Do you ever wonder if Facebook will lead to the demise of real friendship, and real conversation? I think you're right that we have to evaluate whether our life is better or worse with that friend in it, because we all have our moments of suckiness.

    I love that neurotic over-analysis can be conceived of as a gift;) I kid. It does usually feel like mostly a curse.

    I have read that post before, but I think I need to read it a hundred more times for it to sink in. Especially the part about replacing "I love you" with "I need you." My very first relationship taught me that others will withhold what I need, and that I could in turn withhold my love (making it conditional). I'd like to say I've been screwed up ever since, but more than likely I chose a person that made me feel the way I did growing up.

    And I think your post gets at the deeper reasons our frienships - or any relationships - can feel ultimately unfullfilling.

    "No wonder we have this pain." No wonder.

  4. Thank you for this. I use to feel like crap for cutting out "friends" who I would give my time of day but get nothing in return. I know true friendship is give and take. Thank you thank you thank you

    1. I still feel guilty sometimes,, how petty of me, blah blah. Then I remember all the times I really needed a friend, and they were nowhere to be found. I can't say mine is a healthy approach, but I do know that I feel better not having to constantly wonder why I don't seem to matter to them.