Applying for Friendship

I was sitting in a crowded little theater, waiting for a friend to do his one man show, and I was chatting with another friend. Someone asked us how we met, and my friend said, “She was advertising for friends, so I applied.”

It’s true. During my first storytelling experience, in front of a crowd of 150 people, I explained what brought me to Seattle, and at the end I mentioned that with my weird work schedule, I had yet to make many friends here, so if anyone had room in their heart for me, there I was.

Afterward she came up to me and said, “I’ll be your friend.” And she has been, ever since. A lot of really fun experiences with her would never have happened if I hadn’t spoken up. How lucky am I?

Sometimes, even if you think it should be blatantly obvious, you just have to put your intentions or desires right out there for all the world to see. “I’m looking for friends.” “I want to be in a relationship.” “I vont to be alone.” “I need help.” Whatever it is that you want, need, or plan to do, spread the word.

People cannot read your mind. I sincerely believe that the majority of misunderstandings stem from the fact that we often forget that simple point. We are so used to hearing the thoughts inside our heads that on some level we overlook that no one else can.

So my advice for the day is, SPEAK UP!!!

Don't worry. I couldn't read your mind even BEFORE you put on the tinfoil hat.
Don’t worry. I couldn’t read your mind even BEFORE you put on the tinfoil hat.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Writ Large

I was talking to a friend about my utter lack of success to date on a dating website on which I’ve registered.

“I have to say I’ve never felt worse about myself.”

My wise and wonderful friend responded, “This is going to sound really bizarre, but your current depression is actually a positive development. For the first time in a long time, you have enough confidence in your job stability and other elements of basic survival that you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of thinking about your next-level needs. That hasn’t happened in ages. And yes, when you assess your progress against those next level needs, it sucks. That is hardly surprising given that they have been neglected for so long while you were in basic survival mode. But now you have time to start paying attention to them. Things will improve.”

Isn’t it fantastic when someone says the exact right thing at the exact right time? There’s a reason this guy is so successful at life. In one paragraph, he managed to get me to stop contemplating my navel and consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and its application in my life. And that allowed me to reframe everything. Once again, I have hope. I have perspective. I can be a little more patient.

What a profound conversation. What an amazing friend. Too bad he’s married! Even so, I think I’ll keep him.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Well Known… But Not.

Many years ago I worked the graveyard shift, and I was in a relationship that was making me really unhappy. I felt lonely and isolated. Then I discovered the virtual world of Second Life. Second Life may have saved my first life, or at the very least my sanity. It’s not a game like World of Warcraft. It’s more of a place to interact socially. I would log on when I got to work, and made friends all over the world whom I could hang out with until the wee hours. Many of them are good friends still.

You’d think that in a virtual world you could hide your real self, but I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. Since you aren’t hiding behind your looks or your job or your reputation, you are actually more exposed. All you have, really, is… you. Sure, you can probably fake it for a while, pretend to be someone you’re not, but in the end, just by talking, day in and day out, your true character comes shining through, warts and all.

I have to admit that I am more confident in SL. My avatar is much better looking than I am. I’m more flirty and outgoing than I’d ever be in the real world. But that confidence is still coming from somewhere inside of me, and it’s nice to let it come out and play every once in a while.

The virtual me.
The virtual me.

I don’t go in to SL as often as I used to. Most of my good friends in there keep in touch with me in other ways, either through Facebook or e-mail or on the phone. But I’ve only met two of them face to face so far.

The first one was my friend Martine. I’ve blogged about her before, but the short version is that if I were ever to have a daughter, I’d want her to be just like Martine. I visited her the day before I discovered that my boyfriend had died unexpectedly, changing my life forever. Martine has always been there for me.

The second one I met very recently in Vancouver. I’ve known Sim/Martin for about 7 years. We’ve talked daily, or at the very least weekly, ever since then. He’s a dear friend. We’ve done art collaborations, he created a website for me, he gave me a ton of moral support through a really painful breakup, and he even bought me a laptop when I shattered mine and couldn’t afford to replace it. (Read more about that here.) In turn, I introduced him to his wonderful girlfriend, and they are very happy together, and have been for many years.

But meeting him face to face was something else again. I mean, I knew him, and I was confident that he was a decent human being. But did I know him, really? I was going to stay in a man’s apartment in a foreign country, and this is someone I’d never met. And yet I knew him well. Sort of. It was a strange dichotomy.

Talking to him during the planning of the trip made it quite clear he was nervous, too. He is not someone who entertains guests frequently, and I could just as easily have been some loud, obnoxious, crazy American. Somehow knowing he had reservations too made it easier for me.

Even so, I left all his contact information with my sister and my friend Martine, just in case Sim was a serial killer. And if either of us had felt the least bit uncomfortable when I met him, I would have stayed in a hotel. But we arranged to meet at a coffee shop down the street from his apartment, and all went well.

I had seen one real life, blurry picture of Sim, and I sort of thought of him as the old hippie with the really long beard. But as I entered the coffee shop there were two guys with really long beards sitting there. (In Vancouver they both fit right in.) I looked the first guy in the eye and somehow I just knew that wasn’t Sim. The second guy most definitely was. To this day I couldn’t tell you how I knew that, but I did, and I was right.

I had always known Sim as a good, kind, generous person, but what struck me upon actually meeting him was what a gentile spirit he has. Even though he’s fiercely loyal to his friends, he couldn’t hurt a flea. I was charmed.

And seeing him was like coming home to an old friend, and picking up right where we left off. He was a perfect gentleman and a generous host, and a pure delight to be around. And there wasn’t a single body part in his freezer. We had fun in Vancouver. (You can read about that in the previous two posts.)

One thing Sim and I seem to have in common is that we lead pretty isolated lives. So it was quite a change for both of us to be able to walk down the street arm in arm and talk, and hang out in his apartment like two people having a slumber party, gossiping about mutual friends and past experiences. It was nice to wake up in the middle of the night knowing that I wasn’t all alone for a change. Sim was on the far side of the room, and that made me feel safe, which is a feeling I don’t have very frequently.

He also shared his real life art with me, and why some of this stuff isn’t hanging in a gallery I will never know. When I left, he gave me three pieces which I intend to have framed and will cherish always.

This is a man who walks down the streets of Vancouver every day, and is passed by people who have absolutely no idea how special he is. That really makes you wonder about the people you walk by, doesn’t it? What are you missing?

All I know is that I have a dear friend. It’s a friendship that’s kind and supportive and completely devoid of pressure. It’s the kind of friendship that’s better than a romance, because you know it will be there for life. How lucky am I?

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Keep Reaching Out

So says a dear friend that I’ve known for 25 years. He’s now a continent away, and knows I’m struggling with loneliness in this new city of mine. He always gives wise, yet understated, advice.

Yes. Keep reaching out. Even when you’ve caught your hand in a bear trap of rejection in the past. Even when it seems easier to leave your arms at your sides.

Keep reaching out or you’ll never grasp hold of anything new. Expecting others to make the first move is akin to expecting them to read your mind. How can someone else know what you want or need?

Keep reaching out, or you will bump into things as you move forward. Explore. Investigate. Search. Discover. Bring newness into your life.

Most of all, don’t give up.

[Image credit: wallpaperz.co]
[Image credit: wallpaperz.co]

Human Contact

The other night I had sort of a girls’ night out with a new friend. We had dinner, and then went to a storytelling/music event. I had a wonderful time. It was nice to talk to someone face to face who wasn’t a coworker. It’s been a long time. I’ve been entirely too isolated.

It was a beautiful evening, and we ate at a sidewalk café, and then went to a broiling hot venue to hear really good stories and really horrible music. The heat was so oppressive that I nearly passed out, but you know what? It was worth it.

There’s a lot to be said for human contact. It’s nice to have a touch stone, someone with whom to share your opinions, get feedback, and hear new perspectives. It’s also great to get out of your head for a while, and hear someone else’s stories and experiences. You can learn a lot that way.

It’s very easy, in this cyber world, to go for long stretches of time talking to people only via e-mail or Facebook or whatever. It’s contact, yes, but it’s an illusion. It can’t replace looking someone in the eye, or hearing someone’s voice, or sharing a plate of fried broccoli as you watch people walk by.

It’s easy to take the internet shortcut. We are all so busy and the world is so fast-paced. It takes a lot less effort to reach out in a virtual way. I’m not saying that you should stop your on-line activities, but if you take the time to have real contact, you reap many rewards. So maybe it’s time to turn off your computer and pick up the phone and invite someone for coffee. Just a thought.

by Carole Spandau at fineartamerica.com
by Carole Spandau at fineartamerica.com

Layers

The other day I made the mistake of Googling the name of someone I intensely dislike. I wish I hadn’t. She has always been hostile toward me, and extremely territorial. To cope with her I kind of imagine her as an evil Martian with neither heart nor soul. That way her behavior somehow seems understandable and therefore a lot less hurtful.

But this Google search turned her back into a human being in my mind. Her wide open Facebook page showed me that she has friends. Not many, but some. And she enjoys the outdoors just like I do. Another Google hit lead me to believe that she also enjoys international travel, just like I do. In addition, I discovered that she owns her own home, and thanks to Google earth I see that it’s in a quiet, quaint neighborhood, and she takes pride in a well-kept lawn.

We actually have a great deal in common, and I hate knowing this about her because it makes her hostility even more incomprehensible, and it causes me to have regrets. She could be a friend. I sure could use one. Instead, what I get is an angry troll whose presence in my life is something I’m forced to tolerate.

It just goes to show that people have layers. You may think you know someone, but there is almost always much more to them. It’s never a good idea to rely on simply the surface stuff. Take the time to delve deeper. You may just be intrigued.

Check out Layers

This is one of my fractals, “Layers”. You can buy it in the form of a greeting card, mug, print, puzzle or business card, along with nearly 600 of my other fractal products, here.

What I Did for Like

On this particular day of the week I usually don’t rise until noon because I don’t go to work until 3 pm. So when the alarm went off at 7 am, I experienced some less than charitable thoughts. Especially since my dog Devo had been snoring most of the night. When he does that he sounds like a little old man muttering incomprehensively to himself. It makes me giggle, but it’s not conducive to deep sleep.

So I sat up in bed, rubbed my eyes, and thought, “Who does this? Have I completely lost my marbles?” I had agreed to meet a friend for breakfast. Waaaaaaaay on the other side of town. As in 25 miles through downtown Seattle rush-hour traffic. For eggs.

I thought of coming up with a lame excuse and going back to bed. But this is a friend who happens to be an airline pilot (my bff calls him my “flyboy”) and he rarely passes through Seattle. When he does it’s a high speed chase to catch up with him before he flies out again.

So I stumbled into the shower, then got dressed and hit the road. While sitting in stop and go traffic, I thought back to a time when I wouldn’t have considered driving 25 miles for anyone unless there was a good chance of a marriage proposal or at the very least a free car involved. And yet here I was. Stopping and going. What had changed?

It’s simple, really. I value true friends much more than I used to. Relocating 3000 miles from home to a place where no one knows you will do that to you. Suddenly friendship, the thing you always had been surrounded by, the thing that defined you, is no longer something you can take for granted.

For me these days, sitting across the table from someone who is genuinely interested in what’s going on with my life, and wanting to hear that person’s news as well, is a rare and precious opportunity. It’s worth more than sleep. It’s worth more than gold. It’s something to cherish. If I learned nothing else from this massive life change of mine, that lesson made it all worthwhile.

Breakfast with a friend is priceless. I might even have been persuaded to drive more than 25 miles for it. Maybe even 26. And the eggs were all the more delicious for the company.

Breakfast

[Image credit: articles.bplans.com]

A Real Stand-Up Guy

I know this guy with severe ADHD who is extremely socially awkward. In fact, most people consider him rather weird. He doesn’t pick up on social cues. He doesn’t get when he takes a joke too far. He doesn’t see when he’s making people uncomfortable. And he can’t tell when people are embarrassed for him.

He has this really strange view of women. I think in his mind we all wear gloves and pillbox hats and are so fragile that we must be wrapped in gauze padding in order to function. He means well, but it puts people off.

Because of this, people stand him up all the time. A bunch of people even stood him up at his own wedding. How rude is that? (Fortunately the bride showed up.)

I could go on and on about how heartless and cruel people can be, and how it’s a horrible thing when you take advantage of someone who is socially weaker than you are. But the fact is that he’s an adult and needs to take responsibility for his own life. So my advice to him (which he won’t take) is to stop considering people his friends when they treat him like crap. Even he can see when that happens. He just doesn’t think he deserves better. What a shame. What a waste.

The bottom line is that water rises to its own level. In other words, if you allow people to treat you like shit, a lot of them will do so. Set boundaries. Certain behavior should be a deal-breaker when it comes to friendships. Go for quality, not quantity. You’ll be much happier.

boundaries

Oh, I Get It. You Don’t Care.

I have a friend that I enjoy talking to, but I’ve long since discovered that she is not someone to seek out if I want to vent or feel the need for compassion or commiseration. She just doesn’t want to hear it. She’s a classic See-No-Evil type of person.

Oh, she’ll be quite happy to talk about herself, or about things that we do together, She enjoys making plans with me. She likes to get advice from me. She loves to discuss current events or movies or politics. We can go off and do fun things and she makes me laugh.

But if, for example, I say something like, “I think I might be fired from my job,” any typical friend would say, “My God, why?” Not her. Never her. Probing questions are not in her nature. A statement such as that would be met with stony silence.

It actually used to bug me a lot. And yes, her behavior can and should be construed as a little bit selfish. But I’m no longer a young girl who thinks that all friends can be all things for you. People have different strengths and talents. Listening to my drama and being supportive thereof is just not one of hers.

The older I get, the more I realize that crop rotation allows for more fertile fields in the realm of friendships as well as in the realm of vegetables. Variety is the spice of life!

veggie pic

[Image credit: pinterest.com]

Work Friendships

At every job I’ve held for any length of time, I’ve made some pretty intense friendships. I suppose when you find yourself hunkered down in the same foxhole you tend to develop a bond of sorts. Comrades in arms. At least that has always been my experience.

Whenever I’ve left a job, I’ve attempted to keep in touch with these friends, and 99 times out of 100, it doesn’t happen. I will try to make an effort but it goes unreciprocated. Does that mean the friendship never existed in the first place? I don’t believe that for a second. But work friends are a different breed. They can be strong and intense, but they lack depth. Without deep roots, they cannot thrive.

Maybe now, in the Facebook era, that will change. It’s easier to keep in touch, and more and more friendships seem to lack depth and yet thrive in cyberspace. All I know is that when I walked away from my Jacksonville job for the last time the other day, I felt profoundly sad because of all the dear people that I will most likely lose. I left them my e-mail address. Will I hear from any of them?

There’s no way to force people to keep in touch. Maybe our common thread was that foxhole, and I just climbed out of it and left them there to soldier on. But I am quite certain I will feel the lack of these friends for years to come.

foxhole