I used to be one of those girls in school who belonged to a big group of friends. I remember being prompted in social media that I exceeded the number of people I can tag when I share posts.
That feels like a lifetime ago.
Maybe it’s something that comes with age but I’ve limited my number of friends to a bare minimum.
It’s also odd that I started doing this when I severed my ties to a person with whom I had a hot-and-cold relationship with. After all, aren’t you supposed to run to friends and keep a big number of them around you after a breakup?
It was as if life went all the way to answer my plea of ridding my life of toxic relationships.
You tend to see life in a whole new light when you look back. Well, in hindsight, I remember that some of the people I esteemed as closest of friends never really cared about me when they dished out their so-called advice.
I remember this one friend who I grew up, someone who declared herself to be my best friend, but wasn’t there when I was in my lowest. I remember the same friend who emerged when it was convenient for her. And who vanished just as quickly when it was also convenient. Her indifference made me see that it’s not only romantic relationships that can disillusion us about people. Friends could also give us trust issues, sometimes, even more severely than failed relationships.
I was the type of person who stuck it out, especially for people whom I’ve been friends with for years.
But not anymore.
I thought I’m done chasing after people who aren’t the least bit bothered not being in my life. I thought instead of using my energy and time holding my end of the bridge, I might as well let go and take care of the ones who crossed it for me. And stayed.
I guess that letting go isn’t just for romantic relationships. It’s also for friendships that have gone stale.
Starting over and trusting again isn’t only tricky when you find new love.
I realized that it’s almost equally difficult to let new people into your life, trust them, and be friends with them if you’ve been disenchanted by past friendships.
Maybe that’s why I’m not as welcoming as I was before about new people. Maybe in the back of my head, I don’t really expect them to stay that’s why there isn’t much warmth or depth in the way I relate to them.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m a stoic or anti-social. But we do live in an age where building walls around you is considered wise, poetic even.
Recently, I realized that keeping people at a distance to protect yourself isn’t all that good.
For the past few weeks I kept my distance to some friends. I felt burnt out and surrounding myself with people with different opinion, upbringing, and values was too exhausting for me. I started having unkind thoughts. It was as if a cloud of negativity was hovering above me, following me around wherever I go.
So what does an introvert like me do?
Alternately keeping myself holed in my safe place and burying my nose to work.
And these friends, even with our share of disagreements and differences, kept in touch nonetheless. They kept checking in on me, inviting me over, asking if I’m alright, telling me they miss me being around.
All this while, I was also reminding myself of the good things my friends did for me. I recalled their kindness, their selflessness, their warmth.
I told myself that it’s not fair to judge and punish my new friends for the indifference or betrayal of some people from my past.
So yesterday, after one too many invitations that I’ve declined, I met with my friends for dinner. They were gracious, as I expected. They could’ve taken that as a chance to berate me of all the times I didn’t show up to the plans we made together or the times I ignored their messages, but they didn’t.
Instead they told me they missed me being around. There was not much fuss about the times I wen’t MIA on them – which is more than I could wish for.
We had a nice, quiet Sunday night, just four women who have long turned to one another to be each other’s home away from home.
I have been a dysfunctional home to my friends but last night, I started some fire on my hearth again. I intend to keep it cracking for as long as I could.
I hope that people who have the tendency to pull away and isolate themselves have friends who are as understanding and gracious as mine. I hope that people who tend to burn out and get tired of people, find those who don’t give up checking on them and reminding them that they are valued, especially when they don’t seem to deserve it.
There is something about grace that soothes the soul.