I’ve been having lunch with J. and R. for at least 15 years. We don’t make lunch every month, but when we do it is always deep, rollicking, thought-provoking conversation that makes me think for days.
One topic we covered last week was the changing nature of friendship. My relationship with both of them is a testament to friendship, as we’ve remained involved for many years. I met J. when I first moved here 23 years ago, and I met R. about 16 or 17 years ago. Both are fine women I’m glad to call my friends. For different reasons, they inspire me and I know I’m a better person for knowing them.
What is the nature of friendship? Most women have groups— cliques, bridge clubs, whatever you call it—that steady them in rough sailing and rock the boat joyfully in calmer waters. I’ve always been blessed with many friends. The greatest compliment my father ever gave me was that I was “friends with everybody” as a child.
That does not remain true today. At a point in life, you realize that you don’t have the time to be “friends with everybody.” You can be “friendly” without being friends.
Beyond superficial relationships, there came in point in my life where I decided to make some decisions about my friends. There is a time, I believe, when you have to let some friends go. (That sounds really arrogant; so let me say that I’m sure there are many people who have “let me go” with glee and a hearty shove.)
Fifty was a seminal birthday for me. It was also a time of consciously choosing who I was going to move forward with. While longevity, loyalty, and history do add to the equation, there is one factor that weighs above all others. In certain cases it may even subtract longevity, loyalty, and history.
That factor was the subject of our lunch, and the reason I throw some friends back into the sea.
It is “joy stealing.” What do I mean by that?
Have you ever been around someone who steals your joy? It can happen in a number of ways. They are always so down that they bring you down. They reject any notion that there is any happiness in the world. They blame everyone else for problems they have caused. They “play old tapes” (a 1970s notion from the book I’m Okay, You’re Okay by Dr. Wayne Dyer) and repeat and repeat old, negative vibes that should be dead and buried.
But here’s the worst sin, and one I can hardly take anymore. They build themselves up at the expense of others. Oh, I know this sin so well, for I am guilty of having done it so many times. Almost every errant statement I’ve said and hurt someone falls in this category. It’s the ultimate weapon in the passive-aggressive’s quiver. That is why I think I’m so sensitive about it. And I’m working on it, every day.
Sometimes people do this jokingly, but don’t realize others may take offense. And some do realize it, and do it anyway.
Let me clarify I’m not talking about snark or sarcasm. I love snark and sarcasm. But when it comes at the expense of someone defenseless, then it becomes a different issue.
Friends can be the great joy of a full life, but it isn’t worth it if they suck the life right out of you. Surround yourself with people who don’t steal your joy.