Edit: I also want to give a lot of credit to my sister-in-law, who not only introduced me to the concept of roots of a tree, but also has coached me on casual vs. real friendships. She is typically right, and at the very least a lot savvier about investing heavily into people and bringing them into your sanctuary, your inner circle. Everyone deserves your kindness; not everyone deserves a seat at your table. (She didn’t say that, someone else did, but that’s pretty much how she handles things and it’s smart.)
I want to talk about friendships tonight. Because I’ve had some experiences now.
But first, I need to talk about fidget spinners and tribe. C bought Miss M one because she got good grades this year in 2nd grade. Pretty much all As, straight across the year, except for a B here and there.
So fidget spinners…they are all the rage now. 2017’s version of the Rubic’s cube, but without the thinking. You hold the thing between your thumb and forefinger and you spin it. You can do tricks with it, like hold it on your thumb while it spins. Or spin it on your forehead. Or your nose.
They are awesome and ridiculous all at once.
Tonight we ran into the supermarket for a couple of things and as we were walking through Produce, I saw a little girl spinning her fidget spinner. As I passed, I knew – KNEW – my kid would immediately connect, and sure enough…I turned and saw M stop, make eye contact, hold up her fidget spinner, and these two little girls, these two strangers, smiled big and connected…they were suddenly part of a tribe. A tribe of kids who drive their parents and teachers crazy with small, spinning, metal thingies made in China. They instantly knew each other in a way people raised in the same culture just “get” one another in ways outsiders never will, no matter how much time they spend there. Crazy kids. It’s so simple for them, they don’t even know.
So I was thinking: that’s kind of what friendship is, isn’t. It’s finding your tribe. People who just really get you. They may not have grown up eating the same foods or doing the same things, but you meet each other and your souls just…recognize. Oh, hey you. Long time no see. I read recently that if you’ve known someone for at least 7 years, you will know that person your whole life. That’s pretty powerful.
But there’s a dark side to friendships, and I really think it just depends on the personalities involved.
Miss M is a gorgeous combination of both me and C. In good ways – she inherited his gregariousness, his innate need to argue and negotiate (which, when you’re dealing with it, it’s a total annoying negative…but trust – knowing how to negotiate and argue gets you stuff, and I admire it as I was not born with this gene and so I’m constantly getting the short end of sticks). She got smarts and adorableness from both of us I say. His eyes, my smile. We’re both tall, so she will be too. From me, she got an imagination and a love of music and other forms of art.
But she also inherited my extreme emotional nature. And my ability to quickly attach to people.
What this does to me is create situations in which I meet a person, immediately see the similarities and go: Oh, hey you. Long time no see.
Except it’s not my soul talking, it’s my ego. Maybe my ego is lonely. Or it hasn’t been touched in a really, really long time. Or it just sees the ultimate potential in someone and forgets that not everyone can or is willing to achieve their ultimate potential. Whatever. My soul always wants to take people where they’re at, as is. My ego wants to love them and have them love me back exactly the same.
And so there’s this yin yang pull I go through with some friendships – friendships that I try to make into something they aren’t. And what happens is I go from 0 to 60 and then right as we’re sailing along, something will happen…someone will say or do something, I’ll remove my rose-colored glasses for a minute to clean them and see the WHOLE person as they truly are not as my ego has been painting them to fit my needs, or just I’ll hit the brakes for a minute to catch my breath. Or someone from the side of the highway will flag me down and go, “You know you’re breaking the speed limit, right? Better slow down before you get in big trouble.”
And the friendship falls apart.
Sometimes quietly, sometimes in a blaze of glory. But it falls apart. And I am left being mad at and resentful towards this other person (who was just doing as they were going to do all along), hating myself for being so naive/trusting/stupid yet AGAIN, and sometimes I’ve gotten stalked and harassed also as a result of it because there are very, very, very, very, very damaged human beings in this world who are SO broken they can’t find their way even close to the Light at this point.
I don’t want this to happen to my child. But I see that it might.
Because she’s made a new little friend…and at this age, little friends mean play dates. And play dates mean parents need to kind of become friends too. Or at least friendLY. And while two children may click, the adults who are raising them may not. At I’m finding this hard. Because children are kind of at the mercy of their adults, and so if one of their adults runs hot and cold on friendships because introversion or depression or social anxiety or they’re struggling with whatever, then play dates are kind of impossible to set up and keep. No? (Yes. These are impossible to set up and keep.)
So I’ve had to have some friendship talks with my little girl about what makes someone a casual friend vs a REAL friend. And this has been an enlightening exercise for me as well as a cringe-worthy one. Because I’ve ended a handful of friendships over the last few years. Some were good calls. Some I’m still grieving.
At any rate:
Casual friends. Casual friends you hang out with, well, casually. You see them at church or school or the neighborhood pool or the local park. It’s a joy to see them. (Your souls say: “Yay! It’s YOU!” but they know you guys aren’t ever going to be having PJ parties and stuff.) And you have a great time. You go your separate ways and live your lives and that’s just awesome.
Real friends. Real friends are what casual friends who prove themselves worthy can become. Just make sure everyone’s on the same page and nobody’s using anybody else for egoic needs. Because real friends are going to be your rocks, and sometimes your rocks can turn into your roots, and quite frankly I simply don’t know how anyone makes it through a life on this crazy planet without some roots.
(The concept of roots is a Tyler Perry/Medea concept. Go watch THIS if you want to be enlightened further.)
One big problem for me is sometimes I become friends with people who are also eager for Real Friends, but for all the wrong reasons. At times, we both have all the wrong reasons for forcing a Real Friends friendship. So I let them into my Real Friends world, and maybe they even let me in theirs. I share all of my secrets with them, I take in all of theirs. And then I take off my rose-colored glasses (or someone whips them off for me) and I realize: oooh…this person has problems I can’t handle. Or wants things I can’t give. Or is selfishly using me to fill voids with no intentions of ever filling mine. This is someone who needed to stay a Casual Friend.
Once you let someone into your Real Friend circle, it’s really hard to take them out – I’ve spent hours and hours weeping over the last 2 years trying to let go. The easiest ones to let go of are usually deeply troubled…wow. By going, you’re taking their feed supply, and they don’t like it. They become hateful and abusive. I’ve dived down into this abyss a bit myself, and trust me when I say these people live lives of Hell on Earth. They are deeply unhappy. Terribly damaged. Incredibly unforgiving. And they will hurt because you hurt them. It can be scary. It can make you really mad. It can make you behave, well…a bit like them. I recently had to make a choice in some email exchanges with one of these people and I chose not to get into it. The abuse was staggering…there are some people in the world nursing some very deep wounds. Don’t even get me started on what sociopaths will try to do to you if you let them in (and I almost did, and am STILL paying a price for that).
But the biggest issue for me (and potentially my sweet girl) is that we are eager little puppies to quickly make casual friends our real friends. And as soon as we make them our real friends, we want them to be our rocks and then our roots. In order to do this, we give ALL of ourselves to these human beings who haven’t done very much to prove they deserve out of the Casual Friends category. They accept presents – both physical and spiritual – from us and then don’t come through on the most basic things. They tell us they can’t wait to have a play date with us, and they plan them but then forget and don’t show up. You go to these people and say (for example): “When you tell me you want to have a play date with me but then you cancel or forget to make it happen, it hurts.” If those are Real Friends, potential Roots, they fix the problem. Casual Friends shrug their shoulders and do it again, then tell you you’re the problem. That’s certainly not a Root (actually, that’s a potential Wolf, but that’s another blog entry for another day…I’m little Red Riding Hood who desperately wants the wolf to be a golden retriever and I must teach my daughter to try to not do this).
Thus, Miss M and I spend a lot of time being completely let down by Casual Friends we tried to make Real Friends, or Roots, far too quickly. Casual Friends don’t always want to be roots…they’re too damaged, or too busy, or too anxious, or too attached to other people or pieces of life.
So. I found myself comforting my emotional, dramatic little girl who was brokenhearted this morning about a last minute cancellation for a play date from a casual friend who – in her heart – is her best friend forever. I had to explain the difference between casual and real friends, that little J is probably more of a real friend than this little P. Even though Miss M and J have tons of arguments, they’ve known each other for a long time, and J always comes through for her. She goes to J’s parties, J always comes to her special things. They get mad at each other, but they always make up and keep hanging out together. This little P she just sees at this one place once a week, and we can’t call every week because P’s mother seems to get annoyed. And so maybe P’s mother will invite us for a play date again another week, but let’s not get our expectations up for people who say they want to do one thing but then do another. Focus your love and care on the people who say they want to do something then, you know, actually DO it.
This is a very difficult abstract concept to communicate to an 8 year old concrete thinking brain, by the way.
But we’ll keep talking and I’ll keep teaching her not to develop expectations for other people. Friends are like The Velveteen Rabbit: it takes years for the Real to happen. I’ll keep talking to her about not letting casual friends become real friends until they’ve consistently, over a long period of time, proven themselves worthy of Real Friend status. And that it takes years, decades really, for someone to become a Root Friend. Because once someone has reached that level? Those actually aren’t just your friends anymore; those are your family. Those are the tribe members you can pull your heart out and hand over to, because you know they’ll guard it with their life and treat it like it’s their own heart. Roots are people you can slice off pieces of your heart and give them as presents, because you haven’t just found a tribe member – you found a soul who’s known your soul for eternities beyond eternities, just as you’ve known theirs.
Later, when she’s older, we’ll talk about how some people are only built to be casual friends…even to the people they marry and build families with. And some people are built to be Root Friends…even to people they marry, build families with, and then divorce. Know your casuals, know your reals, and know your roots. And don’t get them mixed up.