We love our friends. We really do. But even as I practice channeling acceptance, meditating, Zen breathing, and openness to the universe, I get irritated. It’s not about accepting them. I do. It’s not about judgement. I don’t judge. I think it’s about their crazy banging into mine.
A meme swirling around social media says it well: “When your friend’s mental illness matches your own, priceless.” So true. Yet, living through it can be much more challenging. How can we honor ourselves, our friends, and our intentions when a moment of irritation sets in?
“It is just a moment” can also be aptly named “this too shall pass.” To get past the moments, the trick is to string together more times that you like who you are with them. Pay close attention to the choices you make in the moment. And then rewrite the history of how you see yourself.
One reaction is just that. Just one time. It is the pattern that emerges over time, and time, and more time that we need to notice and keep on course. Small detours and course corrections to our own choices are the tending to keeping that train on its tracks.
Everyone advises to not take things personally, but it is hard to do sometimes. But do it you must.
Start by reminding yourself it may not be you, even if it sure does feel that way. It is your friend’s stuff (behaviors, actions, choices), and you just have to breathe through it. Repeat to yourself, “I am just here, and it would happen to whoever was in this spot at this time. It’s not about me.”
Why is it always more obvious when someone else displays the behavior? It’s so easy to point at them and carry on. The adage wisely says, “When you point a finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you.”
Seeing your crazy in someone else is hard to take. You must be brave to see yourself in their actions. You have to get past the annoyance, irritation, and anger. And then you start the hard work of choosing to let go or change.
Now let me illustrate with an example from some time ago.
I was picking up a friend at the airport. I was five minutes away from the rendezvous point when she called and said, “We just landed, it will be another half-hour until I get off and pick up my luggage. And, by the way, my phone is at 1% so you can’t reach me.”
I was about to explode. I could have run another errand instead of waiting. I could have slept late if she’d only considered that there is free texting on most flights these days and jacks to charge your phone.
Why was she devaluing my time? There are so many other things I could have done other than wait for her at the airport for 30 minutes.
I took my own advice and considered what might be the reason she did not text earlier or have her phone charged.
Was she afraid I’d leave her waiting at the airport? Or that I’d be late, despite my track record, so she told me an earlier time? Might I have done the same thing in her situation? This took me back to years past when we had to meet people without cell phones to communicate.
And I remembered it was just a moment and let it go. I just waited in the cell lot, made a few calls, because I was not at 1% on my phone, and when I saw her – gave a huge hello, held no grudge, no resentment, and no hostility.
I knew it was about her and not me. I accepted our friendship and quirks for what they are. Her need to be waited on and my need to squeeze activity into every second of the day. However, although it was just a moment, I have since declined to pick her up from anywhere.
Sometimes it may not be your crazy. Friends you love and respect can become aggressive. It is hardest when they do not recognize it. In these situations, it is best to detach. Remember, you can disengage and still love the other.
In most conversations, adding personal experience deepens the understanding. Not with my friend… she sees it as competition. I can see that about her now. What I cannot see is why I continue to accept my friend’s continuous hostility toward me.
Over several conversations she has said, “end of topic,” and then turned around and walked away from the sandbox. Is this what being kind embodies in a 60-year-old? She digs her heels in, says I am not listening, and believes she has the higher-level bit. I wish I could have videotaped that.
I try to relate with my experience, but she discounts my efforts and says, “I’m competitive.” She is the competitive one – thinking the situation is so different or special. She digs in – and that is her crazy. I take the bait and dig back – my crazy.
Either way, telling me how competitive she is and then not allowing for discussion is her controlling and uncomfortableness, not mine. And repeatedly doing it crosses a line.
This is a 42-year friendship I had to think long and hard about staying involved with. I have come to decide that the way she speaks to me and deals with conflict is unacceptable in my life today.
Do you find yourself mentally preparing to spend time with this friend? If you feel that you are the one who is always compromising, taking the blame, and accepting her shortcomings while she continues to refuse yours, it’s time for real honesty.
Do not confuse meditation with medication. Finding your Zen and being present in each relationship through meditation is a healthy approach. If you find yourself medicating to be with your friends, this is a good sign it’s time to let go of whatever you are holding onto for your own sanity.
Look at the relationship as an observer. Look in and see if you are being the type of friend you want to be and expect from others. Decide if you are being treated with the kindness and respect you want from others.
Be gentle with yourself and your friend. We all want to be happy and loved. Cultivate relationships where the feeling is mutual and comes naturally.
Do you keep one or more friendships from decades ago? What are these friendships like today? Do you have friends who have come to act more like enemies as the years went by? Have you let friends go? Why? Please share your thoughts with the community!