There’s been a lot of changes that have taken place in the last few years in regards to who I am, a few of which really get me down and leave me feeling thoroughly disappointed in myself. I hate to admit I’ve become slightly bitter and twisted, with my old jubilent expression now often replaced by a wrinkle inducing scowl or frown. Some traumatic experiences relating to love have tarnished my former fairytale like romanticism….love isn’t like rom coms it’s like those gritty movies your mum didn’t want you to see….or Eastenders. Working in the industries I do and learning that sometimes bad eggs come out on top, I constantly feel frustrated that my hard work and effort doesn’t translate to success. That’s just a couple….
I was never the coolest kid/teenager/young adult, not the funniest, prettiest or most intelligent. However I knew that I always tried to be a nice and kind person. Not that it was always about trying to be something, hopefully all or most of us have inbuilt and nurtured manners, beliefs or morals that lead us to living in a kind and thoughtful way. However there are some instances where being particularly kind or nice involves extra effort or making yourself vulnerable.
I wasn’t in the cool group at school, but I wasn’t in the so called ‘geek’ group either (still awful to think this was even a thing, sadly I still feel it still slightly exists in YouTube world too). I was conscientious, but also liked football, rock music and got on well with boys, so I found myself with the ability to waft between groups and generally get on and be accepted by most groups. I always felt uncomfortable about how certain members of these groups treated those that didn’t fit in with them – whether it be ignoring them like they were irrelevant, teasing or sniggering behind their backs, or humiliating them publically during lessons or break time.
I always tried to make a point of not being baaa-ing away with all the other sheep, who would laugh and rally at all the actions of the group leader, even if their behaviour was cruel and hurt someones feelings. I think even back then I had an awareness of how silly it all was, and that in the big wide world, post school, it wouldn’t matter if you were in the ‘cool’ group or not. If I liked someone or they were nice to me I was nice to them and would be their mate. Even if they weren’t that nice to me I was nice to them actually, which I know some may put under the description of being as doormat, but I just can’t tolerate or understand bullying of any nature, even of the retaliative nature…kill them with kindness I say. I think this approach to friend making has meant I have an extremely varied group of friends, which I love. We are a right motley crue and I love how different we are…the way we look, the things we love, our tastes and qualities.
I feel like my actions and words used to make it abundantely clear how much I treasured these pals, but this is something which I feel I’ve let slide in the last few years.
Although it was very stressful at times when I was a ‘good friend’, I felt honoured to be that person they would call for those lengthy chats in times of need, when they’d had a particularly bad fight with their volitile parent, or when grieving a sad loss. Those late night msn messenger marathons trying convince them that it was his/hers loss that they didn’t wanna go out with them. Those rubs on the back in the school loo at break if something embarrassing had happened in science class. Although my parents worried that I’d fallen into my mother’s pattern of being the person that colllected the waifs, strays and tormented souls, it felt like a natural role and I was happy I could help. My parent’s worries were justified when calls to the house phone from friends needing rescuing from dramas started to occur in the early hours of the morning.
If it was a friend’s birthday I’d spend hours making and drawing my own cards and make sure they got a personal and thoughtful pressie. As I got older my need to be good friend actually meant I was sacrificing my own happiness, something my family (particularly my straight talking Dad) started to point out to me. I’d end up going to and doing things I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to ruffle feathers or do anything that would dethrone me from good friend status. I’d be socialising to the point of burning out because I felt I couldn’t let anyone down.
I started to make changes, standing up to ‘friends’ I’d realised had taken advantage of my laid back attitude or willingness to please, or simply telling my actual good friends if I was too tired to come out. Unfortunately, because I’d been happy to go with their flow for so long, when I decided to oppose their views, not go to something, or stand up for myself, some reacted with shock and distain. What had happened to me? Why had I changed? What was my problem?
I wasn’t being unkind or rude, or saying anything they wouldn’t say, but some weren’t happy with me changing the balance of our friendship or the way I prioritised. People had gotten used to me being the submissive…..
This transition period made me realise just how much pressure I had been putting on myself to be this so called good friend.
Sorry, as per usual I have digressed and spoken about things I didn’t even think were relevant to this post. I think when I write things down I start to understand my behaviours a bit more…..
So back to my ‘friend’ status today. Have I become a bad, or lacklustre friend?
Due to my CFS I often opt out of birthday celebrations. If it requires commuting to London, or going to a bar where I don’t know if there will be seating, I will politely decline. Although I do the odd artwork commission, I no longer find the time to make custom and thoughtful birthday cards. If my friends are having a bad day I’m not always able to go and see them and try and cheer them up – work volume, my life stress or lack of energy getting in the way. If one of my close friends is getting married I am rarely at the helm of organising the group gifts or hen do activities. I rarely remember to find time to send Happy Moving In, Congrats Your Engaged, Sorry For Your Loss cards. I wasn’t able to buy some of my besties presents for their children on their birthdays due to lack of funds/time. All these things and more make me feel like an awful friend….
Even though my schedule means I don’t get to see my long standing besties very often (there’s 9 of us who have been mates for yonkers, some even 25 years) we have a Whatsapp group where we stay in touch. This too makes me feel like a crap friend though. The majority of the group are chit chatting away through out the whole day (every day), sometimes about hilarious or gross things or sharing of memes, other times they unloading about the hard or stressful events that are going on – looking for reassurance and comfort. I don’t have kids like some of them do, nor do I work in an office, but I can’t find time to be on there and contribute as much as them, and I feel bad for that. I hate that I can’t be online to type a message of help or advice when one of them is dealing with a diffcult work, health or home event. Sometimes I turn to my phone and it says I am behind by 200 or more messages…I just can’t keep up. But it’s not that I don’t care….I just hope they know that.
There’s a few reasons I covered as to why I am a less attentive friend these days (CFS/WORK) but I think a few more things come into play.
As part of my work I have to be updating on various socials media outlets (something which they don’t do) and although to them that may look like I am choosing to find time to communicate with others rather than joining in on the Whatsapp group, it is actually part of my job. It’s actually very time consuming and unrelenting to ensure you are present on all the social media platforms.
I am also at the supposed ‘settling down’ stage of my life, so the small amount of spare time I get I am investing it into my relationship with my partner. Don’t worry I’m not one of those girls that ditches their mates for their boyfriend, never have been, in fact in the past I’ve been too much the opposite to the annoyance of the males. However as I see many of my friends get married, have kids, and set up home, I have made a slight shift, and at times choose to spend quality time with my boyf, who spends a large chunk of the year away on tour over some other options.
I’m not sure that I’m even prioritising my fella over my friends, I just think in the past the balance was tipped so far in favour of friends > man, that in comparison it just feels a bit that way. If I know me and Si haven’t been able to squeeze quality time in for a while and that it is needed to maintain and cultivate what we have, I may, on occasion, decline a night with friends in favour of dinner and movie with him. Does that make me a bad friend, or do I need to stop giving myself a bad time?
Having a friend like Kelly, makes me feel better about all these questions and worries. She never makes me feel guilty if a lengthy amount of time passes since our last meeting. She’ll send me random messages on Whatsapp to say she misses me or that she loves me, without a subtle or not so subtle dig about the lack of contact. Whenever we do find time when our schedules behave with one another’s, we will meet for dinner, and it’s like nothing has changed. We catch up the various failures and successes since our last meet and enjoy every moment of getting up to date on eachother’s lives.
She knows I’d be there if she needed, and vice versa.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends get angry or upset about people that don’t ‘make enough effort anymore’. I personally just think that drifiting from people is a part of life. Sometime we change in ways that make us less compatible and sometimes our different lifestyles make it harder to maintain the friendship habits we’ve known in the past. I think we can keep hold more of friendships if we are accepting of these adaptations and become less rigid about what a friendship is. I also think it’s important to let some friendships go…with no hard feelings.
Even if the time we spend together is more sporadic or limited, that’s fine by me, as long as there’s still something for both of us in this relationship. If we still laugh, support, inspire, or comfort, then that’s enough. Even if we only get together once in a blue moon. I’d never want anyone to spend time with me due to guilt or feeling like they should as a ‘good friend’ – so I must remember that when I pull my hair out about the fact I’ve been unable to do what I believe are good friend duties.
I know not everyone will be able to accept the fact that sometimes my work, health issues or partner is eating into my capabilities to be the friend I once was (or feel I should be), but I hope most of you know that you’re always in my heart. Even if I can’t do all that I want to, I hope that knowledge that I wish I could means something to you…..