Friendship

This morning Gavin and I had a conversation about God’s purpose for our lives. I explained that God gives us each special gifts and that those gifts are tied to our purpose for our lives. Sometimes we put our gifts to use in a job – like a teacher, or a leader of some sort. And sometimes are gifts are softer skills like encouragement and friendship. He responded with ways he tried to encourage his friends and the children his mother babysits. A very sweet response – I think he gets it.

Over the years, I have been struck by my journey of friendships and recently I’ve been reflecting again. In a way, I think that friendship is my spiritual gift. My youth leader, Mrs D., once told me that we have friends for many different purposes on our lives: some for short periods of time, others for longer, some for significant connections, and others for moments of encouragement or enlightenment, or even for teaching a lesson.

This has been a really important lesson in my life. I am a deep thinker and have often sought friends who are the same. Not only that, but I connect deeply and have sought others who seek likewise. But, as Mrs D advised, not all people are looking for that. Not everyone is capable of or needing such a connection. And that’s okay.

I’ve spent lots of time just appreciating the individuals in my life lately – acquaintances still in the “get-to-know-you” phase, old elementary school connections, the friends of friends I may have met at a party, and the ones who’ve connected on a deeper level over coffee and hours of chatting. And I truly do appreciate them all.

My struggle becomes a matter of priorities. Some people might not understand this, but I am an extraverted introvert. I have a loud voice – an uninhibited way about me – yet my true nature and being at the deepest level is that of an introvert. I HAVE to have alone time…and lots of it. I love people, but I don’t need or want to be surrounded by them all the time. I love my clients, but socializing all day for my job is thoroughly exhausting.

Now, add to my introversion a “catastrophic” level brain injury that significantly decreases energy and overall cognitive functioning levels, and now I’ve got quite the conundrum! So how does this relate to my blog on “friends”? Sadly, many people don’t understand or appreciate mental health challenges or brain injury struggles. It becomes tricky, then, to juggle the intricacies of friendship dynamics, the ongoing work of a romantic relationship and a blended family with Asperger Syndrom, and still manage my own survival. See what I mean yet? I might not be an ideal friend for some people because I have so much “stuff” that I often cocoon simply to survive.

Today a friend with a brain injury reminded me that “we are more loving & compassionate & open than most & that freaks some people out. Pray for her. There’s nothing unlovable about you. ❤️” Also…”I know London is a hard place to be sometimes but you really do give people a lot of hope. Amanda.. that is priceless. ❤️ Keep being you! You are making a huge difference in ways you’ll never know. ❤️”

These words of encouragement from a friend far away, but who “gets it”, were just what I needed today. And I’m reminded of Mrs. D’s adage from years back, that even if a new friend never does “get it”, THAT’S O.K! Friends will come and go. They will fill any number of various spaces in our life for a variety of different times. But in the end, no matter what, I know I can do as ‘Richard from Texas‘ suggests and send people light and love, be grateful for the space their friendship filled during the time that it existed, and then let them go.

Brutal Honesty

Today I hate my life. Sounds dramatic…I know. Emotional, over the top, a bit excessive…yes, yes, and yes. But you know what? It’s the reality of my experience lately. This is depression.

Have you ever been “stuck”? …on a thought, a feeling, or in a place in life? Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with negativity that you are literally immobilized with sadness? Have you ever wondered if people would actually notice if you were gone?

I think about it a lot. I often think about the fact that if it weren’t for my own exhausting efforts to connect with and reach out to others, I would probably never hear from anyone. In fact, I’ve actually put this theory to the test and have found it to be true.

We are such an independent, individualistic society. And while to some degree I find myself relatively confident in my independence because of my introverted personality, I am also very “relational” and find myself needing to connect with others for a sense of community. I love relationships, learning from others, supporting and encouraging those who need it and sharing a laugh at the world’s craziness.

But let me ask you something: How often do you express genuine gratitude to those people around you? How often do you check in on people – friends, family, even acquaintances on Facebook. How often do you freely offer a hug, a genuine smile, or a helping hand? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own world, rushing from one activity to the next, focused on your personal obligations, never considering how you can contribute positively to the world around you.

This is definitely where I’m at today…feeling like an island in a big nasty world. As I went about my day of errands and activities today, thinking about all of the things on my “to do” list, I was suddenly struck by an incredible emotional fatigue. I am tired of life, tired of the rat-race, tired of trying, tired of keeping face. The energy it takes to live life just seems like an overwhelming burden right now. I made it to band this morning, played for two exhausting hours, remembered to stop at the market and grocery store for food, and now I’m at home curled up with a warm blanket and my kitty.

In a world so interconnected with social media and instant communication, life-tracking with “check-in’s” and insta-photos, I think we are so used to people broadcasting their thoughts, feelings, and daily activities that we have lost our empathic ability to inquisitively and actively care about those around us. It makes me think about a really specific example from my concert band practice on Saturdays.

During our coffee break time, I have noticed that there are always a fringe group of members who line the benches or stand quietly against the wall. Then the other 75% mingle freely in the middle, enjoying the snacks and refreshments, debriefing the week between practices. During these times, there is a lovely retired gentleman in the band who regularly makes sure to check in on me. We carry on a genuine exchange of experiences and ideas, thoughts and reflections. It’s really nice. And I see it as a true example of community and well-developed social skills.

This is what I miss. I miss the connections of family and friends who actually give a shit (pardon my French)…people who miss you when you’re gone or when they don’t hear from you…people who actually wonder how you’re doing and what they can do to help you. It’s like people don’t have time to care about others these days because they are so wrapped up in their own stuff.

I rarely hear a genuine “how are you?” anymore – with the intent to listen and not just respond. In much the same way, I have even found myself apologizing for who I am or how I feel simply to appease those around me (knowing that everything I do and say seems to draw an “annoyed” response). My personal feelings don’t matter. But my-oh-my…if I don’t consider the position of someone else at certain moments, do I ever hear about it!!

In a world that supposedly values objectivism, we are losing our innate human ability to sense and respond to emotions. They are not acknowledged or valued or understood. Given this fact, then, I find we are becoming more and more disconnected as a society, and less and less capable of communicating with or relating to those around us.

No wonder I am in such a dark place today.

…this is my life…

I Choose Love

Today I am thankful for the amazing people in my life – friends of all shapes and sizes, ages, and stages of life. I am grateful for the genuine connections I’ve had the pleasure of making and the awesome support I have because of that.

I want to encourage you today to choose to surround yourself with strong, genuine people who encourage both love and laughter. You owe it to yourself to build a life you enjoy, through which you can fulfill your purpose (of just being you!) I was struck today by the realization that each of us has a different story – an account of our unique journey. And our ability to open up and share that with the people around us is such a crucial part of making this journey meaningful.

We were not meant to travel alone, friends. We live our lives in community, in relationships of all kinds. So make the most of every opportunity: Go home and hug your kids today, tell your family you love them, and make sure your friends know they are appreciated.

“We never know how far reaching something we think, say, or do today will affect millions of lives tomorrow.” (B.J.Palmer) And it’s true – in both a negative and positive way. We need to take these words to heart and evaluate our attitudes as well as our behaviours. We can choose to invite and facilitate love and life in each day, or focus on the negatives and perpetuate our problems.

I choose love.

…this is my life…