Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm here if you need me AKA Friendship is two-way street

To my friend S, who asked me if I was okay this weekend and called me a liar when I said I was fine.

I think I’m a good friend. Most of the time. I’m willing to do anything for a friend. To listen, pick up a child, hide the body, pour a glass or put the straw right in the bottle. I dole out advice and since they often come back for more, assume they like what I offered enough to trust me again.  I am reliable, trustworthy and loyal. What I truly suck at, is sharing.

I’m talking about sharing myself – of what may be bothering me or what I’m working through.  What may be hurting me or keeping me up at night.  All those things that friends so generously share with me to ease their burden – things I willingly take on in the name of friendship and because I love my friends are things I simply don’t share with anyone. It’s not personal. It’s just not for me.  Poor T has learned that the hard way.  “I’m here if you need me…..” is a phrase I’ve heard from her more than once.

That is not to say that I don’t ultimately talk to my friends.  I do – constantly. Just ask T, who listened to me lament this weekend about assorted frustrations  and decisions I’m currently facing.  Or ask M, who heard the same story but often offers a very different response than T therefore giving me a really great range of perspectives.  I call my friends in the throes of anger or frustration. The words, “I need to vent” out of my mouth before they’ve finished the word hello.

I’m talking about the stuff in my head I’m mulling over or simply overwhelmed by.  I’m  the queen of “I’m just tired,” and “Everything’s fine.”  I’ve even blamed my daughter, “Oh, she’s going through a phase and it’s just overwhelming.”  And, while all those things may be accurate much of the time, the truth is that sometimes they are only partially true, easy responses and knee jerk reactions to “You okay?” or “You don’t seem yourself, what’s up?”   They may indeed be contributing to whatever mental malaise I’m harboring but I know they are not completely honest. 

I’m not rude when I’m working through something or hurting so deeply. I’m just quiet. I may not answer the phone because I know that “I’m good” and “Everything is okay” are just empty phrases.  It’s not that I don’t want to their love or support. I know I have that and it means the world. It’s just that I don’t want to talk about it. It’s not personal though I know it’s hurtful. I hope by now my friends trust me and know that I’ll talk about it when I’m ready and I always reach that point.

I also suck at asking for help. I’m not talking about financial help or assistance with things that require professional assistance. I found my dentist, doctor, movers and home fix it guy by asking friends for advice.  But, help for moving a piece of furniture? Nah, who needs that?  I’ll lift one end onto a throw rug and drag that marble top table across the room.  Help with childcare? No, thanks – I’ll juggle my daughter, a conference call, a doctor’s appointment and errands all at once.  

I’d like to think I’ve gotten better over the years.  That I’m more willing to let that needy side of myself show. To ask for help.  At least a little bit.  I call K&D to help me around the house, though I always feel guilty. I told other classroom parents that they had to help or the parties wouldn’t happen because I couldn’t’ do it myself (sigh, of course I wouldn’t let that really happen.) I’ve imposed on S&J to watch my daughter so I could so things that needed to be done.  I’ve told T that “yes, I need you here” and what would have been a cheer-me-up visit turned into a celebration.  M was there, giving me what was needed – until I had what was required.

Maybe I don’t want to appear needy.  Maybe the path I’ve chosen is one of such independence that to express need is to admit defeat.  Maybe I simply don’t want to impose on others.  Or as the old saying goes, “Better to thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.”

Maybe, in order to be a better friend, I just need to be willing to be a bit more foolish.

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