Monday, January 9, 2012

Friends with Benefits

Now hold on! Before your mind goes any deeper in the gutter, take a deep breath, cause this won't be THAT kind of a post. Disappointed? Sorry, I'll consider writing one of those posts when my blogger legs are a little less wobbly. In the meantime, this post is about the important roles that friends play in our lives, and how sad life would be without the benefit of having close and amazing friends.

You see, I'm feeling a little bit sheepish because I'm realizing that I am not a good friend, in the sense that I have never really been good at nurturing my friendships. In a word, I've taken my friends for granted many a times, and I am determined to work harder at treasuring and maintaining my close friendships. So this is a love letter to my besties because without you, my life would be lonely and missing a lot of depth.

The thing I absolutely love about my friends is that they are so versatile, unique and all have a special place in my heart. There isn't one I love more than the other. I love each of them for the special and amazing person that they are. I remember as a younger self, trying to rank my friends in some random and arbitrary level of importance and feeling that the title of "BFF" was one of honour and reserved for one special person. I don't think that's true anymore. I consider all my close friends to be my BFFs because my life is made better by their presence in it and the fact that they each have taught me something that make ME a better person through inspiration, courage, laughter and the love that they have shown me.

I was bullied a lot as a kid and didn't have meaningful friendships for a long time. Instead, whatever person seemed to like me became my instant BFF. I would do whatever was needed for my BFF to like me back because I was worried if I did anything wrong, my BFF would ditch me like an old towel and I'd be alone. Sounds pathetic doesn't it? It does and it was. But when you get called nasty names, have false rumours spread about you that make the whole school treat you like a pariah, and are mocked for how you look, it's hard not to grab onto the first person that makes you feel like you matter. Anyway, along the way as I grew into an awkward teenager, I was fortunate to be part of a group of friends that accepted me for who I was. I learned so much from some of these friends and when I left France to move to Canada, it was really hard to leave them behind.

It was even harder to arrive in a country in which I knew noone, and land in the world of university residence where I was clearly the odd-man out. I struggled to make friends, and struggled even more when so-called friends turned superficial, catty, and started mocking openly and bad-mouthing behind my back. One of the friend I had made at one point told me she didn't want to be bothered by my "concerns"....that was the end of that friendship. Two of my room mates, who were sorority sisters, professed that the special bonds they shared with their sorority sisters made them the best of friends for life. Yet, they took any opportunity possible to stab their "sisters" in the back. I quickly realized that I'd rather be alone in life than have "friends" like them. Thankfully, I had the friendship of an older and much wiser woman who took care of me, making sure I was adapting well and inviting me on week-ends to her house to make sure I wasn't feeling alone and homesick. She had a huge impact in my life, I love her very much and I will forever be grateful to this amazing friend. In my second year of University, I made friends with a couple of women in my program, and one of them introduced me to my husband.

It's fair to say that for after being hurt by superficial friendships, I was very hesitant and unsure about what friendships meant. I had a few close friends, but I guess I still felt at the time that the more friends I had, the more it meant I was likeable. I equated my worth as a person to how many friends liked and appreciated me, not realizing at the time that if people didn't appreciate me for who I was, they weren't worthy of being my friends. When I started working I thought I was entering the world of mature grown-ups, but I quickly realized that in an office made 90% of women, office politics, gossip and superficiality still reigned supreme. Thankfully, a few of the women I worked with became mentors and friends that I truly appreciated. And when I started working as a Doula, I was lucky to meet inspiring, loving and supportive women, a few of which I am lucky to now have as close friends.

Once we moved to Ottawa, with an 8 month-old baby in the middle of winter, we knew noone there either. It took a long time to build friendships, but then with the birth of Jaime came the opportunity to welcome new, enduring friends. My Doula at the time (now a wonderful friend) invited me to a playgroup at her sister's house which became my lifeline in those years. Even though I was initially nervous about being in the company of these women I had just met, through these women, I experienced the first meaningful, trustworthy friendships I had in a very long time. We were by no means as glamourous as Carrie Bradshaw and her friends, but the bond we developped over the next few years, meeting every Tuesday so the kids could "play", was definitely the close bonds that is often idealized on TVshows. I felt nurtured, supported, loved and appreciated in ways I hadn't experienced in a long time. Joy and love are the words that come to mind whenever I think of playgroup days.

Life took us our separate ways when the children started school, and more friendships developped through doula work and school. One of my closest friendship budded, flourished and ended in the saddest way. I had never "broken-up" with a friend before, but with this friend I did. I realized that although this friend meant the world to me, she was dragging me down a very dark road of self-despair, pessimism and negativity. Our families were really, really close and the "break-up" was hard for more than just me. When I realized how negative and sour I had become as a result of that friendship (a discovery I made in the presence of my oldest friend, my cousin, whose laughter and love of life tugged me back to my self), I decided I had to step away from the friendship. It was the hardest, and most courageous thing I had done in a long time. It was also the most liberating, in that I was reclaiming myself and standing up for Me.

I have since made new friends and feel very blessed by the friends I have chosen to have in my life. Because it is a choice to decide who you want to have in your life. To cherish the friends that will bring you joy, make you laugh hard, be there for you when you need it the most, and also forgive you when you screw up and do something you wish you didn't do or when you don't call often, even though you mean to. It's also hard to make the decision to end a friendship and realize that the relationship is done. But it must be done so that your Me can flourish and grow. 

I am who I am today in part because of the friendships I have had and what they have given me. These friendships have taught me much about who I am and what I stand for. My confidence has soared thanks to these friendships. And I share bonds with many women that I hope I will have for the rest of my life. I couldn't imagine my life without the special women I call friends and I want them to know how grateful I am that they are in my life. I may not call often (it's not that I don't want to, sometimes I'm worried I'll bother you), we may not see each other as much as we want to, but please know that you hold a special place in my heart and I love you very much. By the way, I have a few guy friends (just a few) that are very special to me too, and one in particular that, though I haven't been great at maintaining my relationship with him, made a particular year in my life so much fun and so wonderful that I will always be grateful to him and feel lucky that he came into my life. Can't wait to see you in Toronto in May...:)))

I had been planning this post for a few days, when I received a message yesterday from my former playgroup friends asking if we wanted to rekindle the tradition and start seeing each other once a month like in the olden days....but sans kids. I felt the surge of excitement as soon as I got the email, because YES! for sure I'll be there and I can't wait to renew the tradition with some wonderful women that make my life so much more colourful.

I'll be trying to work harder at maintaining my friendships from now on, because I realize that it's easy to let life go by and ignore the meaningful relationships in my life. To all my friends: I love you and I'll be talking with you really, really soon!

1 comment:

  1. Just so that you know, you're worth waiting for ; ) Sending love to you my lovely friend.