Relationships, good or bad, are beautiful healing gifts.
Some friends I have known for a few months and some for a few years, yet our bonds are just as pure and beautiful. Most people seem to think real friends are the ones we have known forever and have gone through a lot with but I am not sure I agree with that. In my experience, true connection comes from authentic, vulnerable and loving interactions which can happen anytime, at any place with anyone.
Some friends I have been close with for many, many years; yet I wonder if I can really claim to be "close friendships". Because we have known each other for that long, have attended each others' main events, including birthdays, weddings, etc.. does that make us "close friends"? Because we were inseparable at one point, does that mean we have a responsibility to that friendship?
Over the years, I realized that at times I left friend's coffee / lunch date feeling off and sometimes even drained and/or sad; sad that we sat there for an hour or more making conversations without really being ourselves, pretending that everything was somewhat ok. I realized, I didn't even really know if that friend I'd spent time with was even happy, or in pain, or if they even wanted to wake up in the morning. Even though I completed my due diligence of meeting them to catch up, sometimes I left feeling empty and having no clue what was really happening in their lives. Of course, I played a big part in this. I showed up the same way. I chose not to open up either. The more places in my life I was not being myself, the more disconnected I was and the less happy I was. At times, I'd even be physically ill.
Then I asked myself "Why am I not being myself? Why am i not allowing them to get close to me? Why am I having these shallow relationships?" and the answer was fear. Fear again. Fear always got in the way. The fear was a bit different each time but it always came down to the same thing. I was afraid to be judged, to be rejected and to simply not be loved. I kept many friendships going, even those that were no longer healthy, because I was afraid to hurt others and/or be hurt. When I say unhealthy for me, it was never because the person was bad, or not good enough but simply because we had grown to be very different and were on very different paths. That also didn't mean my path was better than theirs. It just meant we no longer had the same interests and priorities.
When I realized I no longer wanted to continue a friendship, I either stayed or completely ghosted. Both these actions had no integrity and had hurtful consequences. I didn't know how else to handle them. So why did I do that? Why did I not walk away from these friendships? Well, in the past it was because I was scared. I was so terrified of what people would think or say and it was costing me my inner peace, my happiness and my physical health. I was not being a good person to these friends and to myself.
I took the time to confront my fears and explore what friendships meant to me, and how I wanted to show up for people I cared for. I wasn't fully aware of all my fears but here is what I knew for sure. I knew that the conversations I appreciate most are the ones where I am able to be myself. Conversations where I can speak my truth, show up exactly the way I need to in that moment, share my deepest fears and hurts and not be scared to be judged. And not worry about hurting, overwhelming, or upsetting the other person. Conversations where its ok for me to say I prefer "blue" even though the other person highly dislikes blue and not worry about upsetting them. Conversations where its ok for me to say I messed up and be received with love. Also, conversations where we can talk about life, the things that are important to us, the things that drive our hearts, the struggles and achievements we are having. I was clear gossiping did not fit into healthy conversations.
Now, me wanting this from others meant, me showing up that way first. I learnt that I cannot expect others to "accept me" yet have a judgement on others. I learnt that I cannot expect others to be vulnerable and authentic, without being willing to talk about my "mistakes" and fears. Often, I hear people say "I want them to do it first" and often I respond saying "There is no such thing, you lead the way, you take that first step". So I got to work. Over the last few years, I've practiced looking at my upsets, where they were coming from and speaking my truth when its safe.
I have had difficult, very uncomfortable, honest conversations with friends. Some, I failed at and some went very well. I had honest conversations with friends I judged and gossiped about. I took responsibility for my action and I apologized. I was so ashamed but I was not ok with gossiping about them behind their back and I wanted to do something about it. I even called up ex partners and cleaned up how I showed up in the past. I will never forget some of the responses. Most were very positive and ended in us having stronger bonds than ever! And some didn't go as well as. Sometimes people aren't at a place to have such conversations and I had to learn to be ok with that. Sometimes people are still hurt from some of my actions and want time and space to heal, and I learnt to respect that too. Some judged me in return and that also I had to learn to be ok with. I built stronger friendships and I lost some. I also learnt to share my hurts with people without pointing the fingers at them. I learnt that by taking 100% responsibility for my reaction to what they said or did made it much easier to have a beautiful, powerful conversation. A conversation that allowed for growth rather than anger, resentment and shut down.
At times, the conversations weren't needed. When I felt "hurt" or "upset", I took a step back and looked at what was going on for me. For example, this one Saturday morning, I received a message from a very close friend of mine saying the night before her and another one of my best friends went out and had the absolute best night in so long! My first reaction was "What? where was my invite?" I wanted to make them wrong immediately and either say something mean or shut down and cut them off for a few days. Then I said to myself "Wow! slow down. Where is this coming from?" I took time to be with my anger and realized I was sad that I wasn't there. I would have loved to be part of it. I realized I made it mean they didn't care about me and thats why they didn't call me, I wasn't important enough. And I also realized, this was an old feeling that had nothing to do with the girls. I knew for sure they loved me and would have loved to have me. I had no idea why they didn't invite me out so then I chose to be honest with my friend and asking instead of making assumptions and taking it personally. I messaged saying I was sad they didn't invite me, I wish I was with them and I asked why I wasn't included. She acknowledged it was last minute, completely unplanned and would have loved to have me. And because I was honest with myself and with her. I got over it within seconds of expressing it. And I was super excited to hear all about their night! That, would have never happened in the past! I would have been stuck for God knows how long and probably holding it against them for a while!
For the friendships I wanted to keep and grow, I learnt to open my heart first and welcome them in. For those I felt complete with, I learnt to either have a conversation, if I felt it was needed, or simply say no to the "hang out" requests and walk away with time. Now, it doesn't mean I didn't love them. In fact, it had nothing to do with love. It just meant that I was choosing to be honest and not pretend anymore. I was choosing to honour what was best and most aligned for me. I was choosing to love them and no longer have a relationship with them.
Through all these experiences, I learnt to heal my wounds. Through continuously challenging myself in relationships, instead of hiding or ghosting, I give myself the gift of being a better human and a better friend. Friendships prepared me for my intimate relationship with my husband. Everything I was working on, was an opportunity to heal and practice how to be fully authentic in the most intimate relationship - which sometimes is the scariest!
I have so much gratitude for all the relationships that I have experienced as they taught me so much about myself and the parts of me that needed the most healing. Relationships are a gift and they remind me each day to continue being the best version of myself.