Did you enjoy the holiday? Or did you get bogged down by the pressure to be happy, to serve delicious meals on sparkling table settings? Did you feel sad and disconnected even though you were surrounded by people? Or were you alone and wished you had a tribe to spend your time with?
The reason I ask is because our lives must be conscious decisions, choices we make and steps we take on purpose. Otherwise, we end up slipping into our most comfortable routines, which can be masquerading as Pinterest-level entertainers, keeping relationships alive that are draining, or even holding people apart from ourselves to the point that we end up with no friends at all.
You might be surprised to learn that even though I give up my inner-most thoughts, doubts and desires on my blog, I can be hard to get to know in real life. I am what I like to call slow-to-warm. Also known as cold. Which is a word that’s been used to describe me on more than one occasion. Earlier this year I looked around at my friends and realized the majority them were people I knew because of my husband. I pretty much made zero effort building my own gang and relied on the built-in spousal friendships of my husband’s coworkers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some amazing friends that way. Friends who have become family.
But I also felt bad. Because I knew part of the reason my friend set was made up of women I’d known for 10+ years or through my husband was because somewhere along the way I stopped trying to make new friends. I got burned a couple times by girls (and I am using the word ‘girls’ here on purpose) and lost faith in the possibility to have healthy female friendships. When I met new women I’d be polite (probably they’d say cold, ha) and then go on about my life. Building new friendships requires vulnerability. Even before honesty (which is what you need for an actual healthy friendship), you need to be vulnerable enough to let someone get to know you, to let them know some of your secrets (fun and painful) and to show them they can be vulnerable too, that you can be trusted with their feelings.
Earlier this year I read Jen Hatmaker’s book Of Mess & Moxie (which I highly recommend, regardless of if you are Christian or religious at all).
In her book she talks about to have a friend, be a friend. I had a revelation. I have a friend who’ve I always felt held me at arms-length, that I never got the chance to really be a true friend. After reading Jen’s book, I wondered if in actuality, she only reflected what I’d demonstrated, I held her at a distance so she would do the same. Unfortunately this isn’t someone I’ve had the chance to explore this with, and I may never. But that’s okay, because the wish for what that friendship could be caused a new wish to bloom: to be a better friend to those I already have, and to be a better friend to the women I haven’t yet met.
I made three new friends this year. Not just casual talk-about-the-weather and what’d-you-on-Saturday friends. Friends with depth, friends who talked to me about their spirituality, their desire (or not) for children, hurts and triumphs. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I can’t tell you if I did any better at being a friend. It’s not for me to say. But I can tell you that on my husband’s 40th birthday, and on the days leading up to Christmas, I looked around and felt so much love. Have you ever been in a room filled with people and felt like the walls were fogging up with the volume of love in the room? I didn’t tell my friends I loved them, I’m not much for the L word. I didn’t grow up saying it or having it said. Love came in the form of food and hugs and good-natured ribbings. But I did hug my friends, and told them Merry Christmas, and how happy I was to have them in my life.
So what does this all have to do with feeling pressured to be Martha Stewart or feeling disconnected or lonely? Because you get to decide what kind of life you want to live. You get to decide what kind of day you want to have. What kind of year you have. You can’t control the bad shit that rolls your way, the bad people who’ll cross your path or the misfortune that might befall you. But you do decide how you’re going to respond to it, how you’re going to let it shape your tomorrow, and all the tomorrows after that.
I would never let a horse throw me and then give up on riding. But for some reason a couple friendships knocked me back and I decided I didn’t need to make new friends. That’s the easy way out. Giving up and turning away is the protected path that ensures no pain. But that’s not the way life is supposed to be lived. Loving people is hard. We do shitty things to each other. We lie and falter and say unkind things when we’re hungry or hurting. But loving people is what makes life full. Loving people is always the harder choice, but it’s the bolder way to live.
Whatever you want to be for 2018, be a good one. (Which is my take on old Abe Lincoln’s quote).
Dream big. Love big. Be prepared to forgive.
I hope you have an amazing 2018