Energy and Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about time and friendship lately. Maybe it’s because my recent energy crash brought to light that somehow i was burning myself out (again). Yes, it was partly hypothyroidism and there were other contributing factors, like not checking in with myself to find out what i really wanted to do. Which is a theme for me. I get so excited that people want to spend time with me that i forget to ask myself whether i want to spend time with them. That realization led me to wonder about what makes a friendship – or anything i spend time on, really – energizing and what makes it draining. The first thing, of course, is whether i want to be there. I’ve been acting a lot out of obligation again. Although i’ve tried to eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary, including my thoughts, it seems to be still showing up just not as obviously…

It seems to me that the friendships i find most energizing are those that are well rounded and mutual – more like a dance, actually. They contain some kernel, of course, that brought us together originally, like a particular tool or even a job. They have grown far beyond this, though, conversations are stimulating because we share many interests and we like to dig into things, questioning stuff, and then sharing what we’re learning. There’s also a lot of mutual trust: We can say pretty much everything, show up fully authentically, and still be accepted. I try to show up authentically wherever i can. Maybe that’s why i sense when others don’t. Or maybe i distrust when i think others don’t…

And, yet, there are a couple of things i still struggle with, i still question, well, okay, judge myself for: Is it arrogant to say that i enjoy spending time with one person and would rather not with another? Somehow it seems that way. Yet, we do this all the time. There are several people in my life who have drifted away. And then as i am starting to let go of connections, there’s also fear: What if i let go of the wrong person? I often don’t quite understand why i am drawn to one person and not another. And also: what if nobody will ever want to spend time with me again? If i reject everybody, wouldn’t everybody reject me?

Well, first, it’s not everybody. I feel deep gratitude for several people in my life with whom i have the kinds of connection i am enjoying, which also makes it easier to let go of the others. More importantly, though, it’s not rejection. In this culture, we’re learning to take things personally. If it’s my fault, i can change it, i am in control. So if someone doesn’t want to spend time with me, there must be something wrong with me. If i work hard enough on myself, then, everybody will love me. And that’s a set of beliefs i’d rather not trigger in others… So, another thing i am learning to let go of is the idea that i can control how others react! In reality, what brings people together is more like chemistry: The connection between us is simply strong enough – or it is not. This doesn’t mean that a person is stuck without connections, they might not with me and they might connect strongly with someone else. I don’t like every ice cream flavor either and that does not mean i don’t like ice cream.

I find it difficult to think about things this way. It’s so ingrained in me that being friendly means that you don’t say what you really want or need. And to tell someone that i don’t want to spend time with them seems to be worse than to spend time with someone while resenting them (which is what would happen if i’d spend time with them against my deeper wishes). It seems backward. And yet, that belief is ingrained in me so deeply it’s hard for me to let it go. I am learning to do so, though. Slowly. Watching myself back-peddle when i get scared. Watching others react with hurt, with busyness – our culturally approved drug. It’s tough work this letting go…






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Energy and Friendship — 3 Comments

  1. i like the attention you give this evasive, ruthless topic………..it seems to me one of the well-disguised ills of modern society…….like you say, so so hard to let go of…………and without enough focus on it, there’s no real chance we’ll get any closer to the authenticity we long for……the truth we ache for all our lives.

    you name friendship, but what about FAMILY relationships…………?! ……………same problem, if not even worse!…..how unacceptible it is to be really honest to almost ANY of our family relations………………….and, if and when we finally admit something difficult………………..well, the ‘usual’ usually occurs: conflict, resentment, distancing………..we usually refrain, then, from all contact for periods of time that are painful and harmful…..and so tragically destructive to the family structure…….

    ….it feels like we are engaged in a long-term battle against pretense………..or against our own culture……..not to eliminate it or necessarily to replace it with another………………….but to protect the good in it from contamination from falsehoods…………to keep it relevant and healthy by change and evolution……to prevent calcification from the giant institutions that now rule and contaminate our world with falsehoods, lies and illusions they sell us in return for our core humanity.

    ……………we’re in a serious struggle for our humanity, and it’s important to face up to it and talk about it in earnest this way………………..

    thanks for bringing it to the table.

  2. Dear Rachel: I am going through the same thing. How can we be totally honest and transparent in our lives and still not cause pain to others? As we change and grow, we are attracted to spend time with others with whom we have shared values and shared reality. We end up spending less time with people who are growing and changing along different paths. I have an acquaintance here in Portland who wants to spend much more time with me than I do with him. So I choose what events, parties, etc I am going to that it would be fun to have him along. And I invite him. He invites me to things, and when I decline, I share what I am saying ‘yes’ to instead. Sometimes this may be time connecting with my inner child. Sometimes I prefer to connect with my friends overseas on that day, or I am doing volunteer work, but I am always saying ‘yes’ to something, when I say ‘no’ to being with someone else. Last month I sent as a preview to my e-mail announcement a quote that I expect will cause quite a few people on my list discomfort. Here it is:

    The less we participate in this abusive economy, the better. 10% unemployment is deplorable. We need 90% unemployment. If we really resent this system, let’s earn less, buy less, and own less. Let’s invest our time, energy, and resources in things that can’t be taxed or parasitized by corporations. Let’s deal not in dollars, but in energy, nutrients, materials, local currencies, and relationships. Let’s not expand, let’s stabilize. Let’s enjoy art, culture, and leisure. Perhaps we can topple the pyramid by shrinking the bottom. ~ Kyle Chamberlain

    I love this idea. It would scare the heck out of many of my friends and family to realize that I am such a radical. As I continue down the path of Occupy, I am distancing myself from the corporate world, and the domination culture outlook on life. So be it. I am opening to hope, beauty, delight, a new community, inspiration, and abundant life and joy. And I am ready to reveal my heart completely, and deal compassionately with anyone who wishes to take issue with it. No one did, by the way. The few e-mails I got back were from my new friends who loved the quote as much as I did.

    There are new friends out there waiting for you. But if you spend your time and energy with people out of a sense of obligation, you will never find them, and it will completely drain your energy.

    I have taken Marshall Rosenberg’s words to heart, and now do my very best to only take on activities and social get-togethers which bring me joy. I check inside, and if there is no joy, no excitement about the prospect, I decline. This gives me time to connect more deeply with you, my dear Rachel.

    • Thank you for your beautiful & inspiring words, dear Diane! I want to pick out one thread that i have particularly been pondering today: The lack of response you received on sharing the quote. This morning, i thought i’d rewrite a paper i wrote about cultural trauma – something i’ve been blogging about on my livelihood blog.

      When i reread the paper i wrote a few months ago i noticed two things:

      • was in a lot of pain when i wrote it – pain about discovering the implications of growing up in an intellectual household and some pain (and anger) about writing yet another paper for which i’d be measured.
      • Second, the comments of the teacher helped me realize how difficult it seems to be for people to accept that mainstream culture is traumatic!

      The connections that Kyle, you, i, and others are making, are hard to accept, maybe even difficult to follow, when we think the system is working. Well, this reminds me of a button i used to have: “If you think the system is working, ask someone who isn’t.” That has a whole new layer of meaning now, too, thanks to the quote! Hopefully, if we keep spreading the message – in the many forms that we do – we’ll be able to attain 90% unemployment and live happier ever after! :-)

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