“Wow, I had No idea!”

I spent a lovely evening with a couple of friends who I see, maybe, once every 5 or 6 months. The last time the three of us got together was the beginning of August. Our lives are very different, our day-to-day support system is separate, and we don’t stay in touch unless one of us sends out an email suggesting we gather for dinner and a chat.

Because we hadn’t seen each other for so long we spent the first two hours just catching up on what’s been happening. There has been illness, surgery’s, births, deaths, sold homes, new homes, and some other big life events to catch up on. Even though we are all probably FB friends, none of us really use social media for anything except to post occasional pictures of our families.

As we were catching up, there was a lot of exclamations of:

Wow, I had No idea!

I have written about friendship in the past. It’s a very interesting topic to me. The past few days, as I’ve been reflecting on the tumultuous year I’ve had, and the year of transition and change for many people I know, I found myself again re-visiting the topic.

When I think of friendships, I ponder four questions: What is friendship? How do friendships endure? What’s the difference between an acquaintance and a friend? And how much do we need to protect our hearts from the risks of true friendship?

The last ten years as I have been healing, growing, and changing, I have had to ponder the question of friendship more than once. Sometimes, I was trying to discern who was no longer healthy for me. I can be attracted to people who feed my tendency to be taken advantage of, or who belittle me. I know how to deal with that because of the way I grew up, so I’ve had to learn to catch myself when falling into that kind of relationship.  Other times, I was un-friended by those couldn’t deal with the fact that I was suffering from PTSD. They just couldn’t handle it.

When those relationships ended I felt a sense of loss, but I also knew the decision was a healthy one. I don’t do a lot of blaming on either side, because I understand that these things sometimes happen.

When I really love someone as a friend and we become part of each other’s inner-circle, I do not protect my heart. I believe if  I feel I have to protect my heart, that means I’m not giving freely of myself. When I commit to a friendship, I share my thoughts, hopes, desires, and (most) secrets without reservation. My friendships are based on honesty. My friends and I know the difference between telling each other what we need to hear rather than saying what we want to hear.

I also believe that a healthy friendship is symmetrical. In other words, both parties are equally committed to the relationship. I’m committed to supporting and encouraging my friends and being there as they grow and change. I’m committed to seeing them through the minutiae of life. And hopefully, I can do that without judgment. The symmetry is, I know my friends will do the same for me. That doesn’t mean that there are times when people need time, and space because of life circumstances, ill health, or whatever life happens to bring, but the underlying commitment is never wavering, no matter how much time or distance passes between us.

My circle of friends is small, which I love. I thrive on more intimate relationships with a deep emotional connection.  I may not see one friend for years, some I see once a month, some weekly, some I communicate via text several times a week. It doesn’t matter how often we see each other, as we have unbreakable loyalty and complete trust in each other.

There are some people in my lives who are more like acquaintances rather than friends. These are people that I sometimes meet for a meal or activities. They may be a constant person in my life, but I keep them at arm’s length. My conversation may be little more than scratching the surface, the idea of sharing something intensely personal causes me some anxiety, and I typically never bring up the fact that I struggle with PTSD.

Even though I know these people are going to be in and out of my life, they are still just as precious to me. Besides just hanging out and having fun, they have taught me quite a few lessons along the way. My acquaintances tend to look and react to the world through a different lens. I like that, it’s interesting.

As I pondered the way I interacted with people in the past, I would say, I behaved more like an acquaintance than a friend. I shut myself off from showing any feeling and wouldn’t let anyone get close to me. I was always the smiling, tell me anything, kind of friend who had no needs, just let me be there for You.  I have learned to show my vulnerability, and have learned to set healthy boundaries most of the time.

I’m going to gather with another group of acquaintances this evening. Some of these people I haven’t seen or talked to in over a year. That’s okay, it will be a pleasant evening with engaging conversation, and most probably a lot of exclaiming, “Wow, I had no idea!”

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

26 thoughts on ““Wow, I had No idea!”

  1. Yes, I think as we heal we become acutely aware the importance of staying true to ourselves. We work so hard for that don’t we?! So when there is some dissonance we realize it pretty quickly. Have a wonderful day and holiday! ❤️❤️❤️

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  2. I think it’s same for everyone, as you grow you realize that you can’t be close with everyone, I also meet with my best friends once a year only as they live in different cities 🙂 but when we meet or when we talk over phone, it seems like yesterday 🙂 thats the beauty of real friendship 🙂

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  3. Life can be very stark with its truth at times. Sometimes its just not possible to connect but its most important we keep the connection with our truest selves. That’s the hard lesson I have learned over past years. I used to try so hard to force it sometimes and it didn’t really ever work. Hugs and love ❤

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  4. Thank you! Its funny because I wrote this post in the morning before I went out with the group of women in the evening. My experience that I wrote about catching up that I had with a few evenings prior, did not happen with this group. I pretty much sat there mute, and disengaged because I was the only one who would be considered an acquaintance sitting with 4 women who were friends. It was so uncomfortable and I kept saying to myself, why am I doing this? Lessons all over the place sometimes.
    I agree with you to be accepted and loved is the greatest gift. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me. ❤️

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  5. I love what you have written here. With a true friend you feel safe to expose all of yourself. I must say I have genuinely had few of those kind of friends in my life. Fear of judgement can be based on the fact we never knew unconditional love in our lives. One of the things that appealed to me when I first got into recovery in AA was that people could expose things they thought were a source of shame and be accepted and loved. That is the single greatest gift we can give another human being. ❤

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  6. Everyone comes into our life for a reason don’t they? I only have a handful of very close friends and in fact I’m meeting up with one of them, perhaps my closest friend, in a few days. There’s no protecting my heart with her. We’re as honest with each other as day and I love it. But I can’t say that about many other people I know. Thanks for a lovely post, it really made me think. xx

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I’m glad you got to have a lovely time catching up, and I hope you have a lovely evening tonight, too! I think friendships can be complicated and over time you grow and change and see things in a different light, and some things (like reciprocation, trust) may become more important, too. xx

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  8. One of my best friend told me exactly this: Wow I had no idea! She actually felt guilty that she did not realize how devastated I had been after being subjected to narcissistic abuse. It is always hard to divulge the extent of our brokenness. Some people can handle it, some people can’t. Some people would rather ignore our experience because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

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