The teenage years, when I’d get to hear every single detail of a friend’s life, seem to have passed by me in the blink of an eye. I think about the silly chats I once had with friends, the important secrets we shared that didn’t turn out to be important at all in a short span of time, and the vows we made to keep in touch before we took on adult responsibilities. Our biggest worries back then were grades and what our peers would think about us.
I wonder if they all went through a period of time when they had no idea at all about why we were put on this planet. I know I sure did. As the years have passed my views on life and my priorities have changed considerably. Instead of seeing my future as being filled with endless possibilities, I now view it as a limited time to fulfill goals I’ve set for myself.
I’ve made serious attempts to be the best friend I can be to all of the people I care about but I know there have been times when I’ve let someone down or had to cancel or postpone a project or planned get-together that I really intended to see through. That always bothers me because I believe we hold our dear friends to a much higher standard than we do anyone else. You see, I know that if I've hurt a close friend, even if unintentionally, it hurts much deeper than the same disappointment from someone they didn't care about. I am familiar with both sides of the coin; "We always hurt the ones we love" and "Because we love them, they hurt us the most."
Maybe I still want my friendships to be like they were when I was younger but the reality of life is that no matter how guilty I feel about not being able to communicate on a regular basis, my friends are pretty busy with their own lives and probably guilty of the same broken vows to keep in touch.
The problem is that when we feel rejected or hurt we tend to hold onto those feelings instead of looking back and remembering the times when the same friend that hurt us was the one making us laugh or comforting us when our heart was shattered.
I’m often guilty of wanting to be a better friend than my life allows at this place in time. I often think about the times a friend has held my hand in a crisis or called me up and listened while I sobbed uncontrollably about an event in my life. I cherish the friends I still have who make themselves available to me when I’m distraught or maybe even ecstatic about a blessing that has fallen to me. I love close, honest and intimate friendships. Lately though, I just don't feel like I am able to give enough of myself to really be a good friend.
For the sake of self-preservation I’ve had to learn how to limit my overwhelming list of demands. I can only tackle so much every day. While I no longer need a perfectly trimmed lawn or a plate of fresh baked cookies sitting on my dining room table at all times there are routine chores and obligations that I cannot put off no matter how much I would like to avoid them. Like most of us, I often need forgiveness and understanding from the people I have reached out to so often throughout my life. I need to be able to interact with others who have walked the path I’m walking now and offer advice, suggestions, and a friendly ear.
I don’t sweat the small things anymore. If I’m stuck in traffic I don’t beat on the steering wheel and growl because I’m going to be a few minutes later getting to my destination. I allow myself more time to make the trip and if I get stuck in traffic I pull out a notepad and write down my thoughts, or make a store list, or write a note to a friend I have been thinking about. Sometimes I just sit there listening to the radio and allowing myself to totally relax. It’s wonderful. You should try it.
In short, I’m the best person I know how to be. I would never hurt anyone intentionally and I will not apologize for the direction my life has taken. I’m not a teenager. I’m a fifty-one year old woman who is a caretaker to two elderly women, a mother who still wants to lead her children by example, and a human being who has spiritual, physical, and mental needs of her own. I made a new vow today. I will make sure I am as healthy as possible both physically and mentally. I will embrace change instead of avoiding it even though I may not always like it. Friends come into our lives for a reason and while not all of them stay around forever, they all contribute to our lives by helping us see things in a new light or guiding us to new spiritual or emotional heights.
I have friends and family who believe in me so if there are one or two people who choose to be upset because I don’t meet their expectations, so be it. It only takes one person having faith in another person to work wonders in a lot of lives. I will allow myself the precious gift of time for myself and not feel as if I’ve created a world catastrophe because I can’t be everywhere, doing everything, for everyone at all times. Lastly, I will work on having more patience for myself and for others. To truly live life we must have roots and wings. We have to stay grounded and still be able to evolve and change as our lives change and take us in different directions.
The teenage years weren’t that great now that I think about it. Every day there was a major drama going on whether it was a pimple that appeared the morning school photos were to be taken or a broken heart because a boy I’d never spoken too asked someone else to a dance. These days there are very few things that truly rattle my cage. I don’t want a Silver Shadow Rolls Royce or tickets for a rock concert anymore. These days I want laughter and friends to share it with because it keeps reminding me that life is beautiful. As I've matured, my friendships have too.
Real friends value us when we don’t see a value in ourselves. They overlook the hurts, the cares, and the disappointments in our lives and try to lift our spirits. A true friend helps to build self-esteem and the courage to share parts of ourselves we might prefer to keep hidden. In order to be a good friend to someone else I have to start with myself. My grandmother once told me, “Wise is the person who fortifies their life with friendships.” I have no idea who made the statement originally but I finally understand exactly what it means! If I've ever spoken a hateful word to any of my friends, or neglected to see a need even if it was unspoken, or failed to carry through on a promise, I am deeply sorry.
For years I taught my children "It's the thought that counts." I was wrong about that. Words don't mean much if there is no action to go along with them. Charles Kendall Adams once said, "No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction." I hope from now on I can give more to my friends than they expect or need.
© Dianna Doles-Petry