Get ready, friends: you are going to enjoy today’s post. Its author, Erin, is one of those people who naturally makes all whom she meets feel like a million bucks; but as easy as it is to paint a perfect picture of one’s self, today she gets real, with the messy parts, too. And I think any of us who were ever an adolescent (ahem) can then relate. Erin is wife to Brett, mama to Emmie and Owen and friend to many; she posts over at Avoiding the Inevitable and shares a joint blog with her bestie, JR, at A Tale of Two Thirty-Somethings. Follow her today!
“Maybe it’s like you said before, all of us being cracked open. Like each of us starts out as a watertight vessel. … And the vessel starts to crack in places. And I mean, yeah once the vessel cracks open, the end becomes inevitable. … But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And its only in that time that we see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face to face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade, but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” ― John Green, Paper Towns
I try hard to be a good friend. I mostly succeed. See, I’m a stellar gift giver and open sharer. My friends seem to like the gifts and I put people at ease with the openness. I also tend to interrupt people mid-sentence and show emotions slowly/rarely; I was sixteen before I cried in front of a non-familial person – not even a bestie, an ex-boyfriend, I was losing him and loss makes me cry. Being a sharer that doesn’t share emotion makes me tricky, more Slytherin than Hufflepuff for sure. Case in point, the four facts and personal anecdote I just told you. I presented a person who is exposed and therefore vulnerable. But, I am not being vulnerable, for I feel no fear in sharing anything above this line.
So, I want to try being a braver person. I want to give out a piece of me I’d rather not share. Something that forces open the confident front. I have determined that to be a real friend it is imperative to share broken parts in the truest way I know – a humorous hopeful narrative that doesn’t minimize my general awfulness.
I like to say that if a girl can escape middle school with a sliver of dignity and never having bled through a pair of white jean shorts she’s done okay. Thankfully, my mom never let me purchase white shorts. Unfortunately, you never really escape middle school.
My friend Peggy* and I were friends since kindergarten – mostly circumstantially, sharing teachers and a girl scout troop, but also tied in that magical bosom Anne Shirley & Diana way that I would only later understood as irreplaceable. Once we moved to middle school I assumed she liked other friends more, and I was an obligation. I felt less than, and the winner for worst-feeling-ever goes to less than. In addition, I found out that being insecure causes Erin to be a backstabbing bitch.
Now, the sacred girl kingdom of friendship has a few laws, the first and foremost being that crushes are secret. Since we were girls who did not get “asked out” we always picked unattainable out-of-our-league boys. So, when Peggy had a crush on one of our friends I was floored. I could claim I didn’t know how girl code worked in this new world of boys as friends. I could confess that I shared a pretty major crush on this same boy that would last through high school, with me mostly unawares (oh, adolescence, you fickle beast). I could say I wasn’t thinking straight, that I was pre-pubescent and as hormonal as the day is long. I could, but mood swings, ignorance, and wayward adolescent emotion does not excuse a thing.
Next, I did the unthinkable. I told her secret, to her crush no less. In class, straight faced, with no segue and a pretty sizable audience, “hey You Boy, thought you should know that Peggy likes you, like, likes likes you, a lot.” The memory goes black after that. I don’t think they dated or if he responded at all, or how she found out I told. I knew immediately that it was not cool at all, insanely uncool actually. Even thinking about it today makes me quite queasy.
I realize that some of you may not think this was a big deal. It may not be, I don’t even know if she remembers. It wasn’t, like, I hit her in the face or slept with her brother – both worse, maybe. Rather, I broke her trust. And, you can’t come back from that kind of betrayal. I was, thereafter, a friend without loyalty and irrevocably untrustworthy (good thing I became a therapist).
This type of friendship sabotage lasted for years, proving over and over that someone else was loved more and better than me. This was the pattern: my most kindred friend liked a boy, so I, in return, dated him. Horrible, I know. And, it sounds all kinds of manipulative, and it was, but I swear it was not conscious. I really liked these boys, like really really. And, in retrospect I do not think I could have made different choices. Because, at the root of this abominable behavior was fear. And the voidish darkness of fear made me blind.
Through more acts of heart breaking insecurity I landed at the end of my senior year with this revelation: unless something about me changes I will never have a friend that truly knows and loves me. So, I spent a summer praying for change. And the strangest thing happened – I stayed the same. I didn’t get nicer and I kept having the impulse to be manipulative and destructive. However, I did start to recognize these impulses, and that gave me more power to control them. Consciousness is my absolute favorite.
I keep trying to be a better friend and I’ve spent the last fifteen years telling myself that people, women in particular, really want to be with me for me. I practice being courageous, putting myself out there and pursuing people that make my heart happy. I’ve been lucky in reaping a husband that I stole from absolutely no one and, not just one, but six best bosom friends. I am trying to show my darkness to them, and now to you. Here’s to hoping I can get some light out, get some light in.
*name changed to protect her, to whom I was horrid
Thank you, Erin, and DO leave a comment for our friend below! Would you like to write a post about how your community has made the difference in your life? Message Cara today! Otherwise, help Cara’s writing continue to grow by becoming a fan of Be, Mama. Be on Facebook, or by heading the Home page, and clicking on FOLLOW button in the left-hand column.0