There are many things that I am quite clear I do not know and have not yet learned about after being given the gift of 42 seasons on the planet. However, I am grateful at what it is I have learned about friendship.
“I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was recently invited out for coffee with a friend whom I have known for a number of years. It had been a while since our last connect as I had been feeling a restlessness in my heart about all of my acquaintances and our places in each others lives. I felt compelled to begin to move toward some other horizons that have been calling to me from that quiet place in my soul.
As people often do, I felt a certain sadness and uncertainty at making these changes and like most human beings didn’t want my former companions to think badly of me. But soon the whispers in my soul became a roar and I answered the call. My sister, a wonderful and wise woman, has been sharing some of the writings of the incomparable Dr. Grace Cornish with me. I told her about my misgivings and wondered if perhaps I was being mean or hasty in my decision to pull back from some of my former friendships. She read an excerpt from one of Dr. Cornish’s books that articulated my feelings about the matter perfectly. My sister said that in the book, Dr Cornish suggested offering your friends a chance to “fly with you” before letting go and moving on.
Once I got the call from this particular friend, and the invite for coffee, I begin to make plans on how best to deliver an invitation to fly. As we sat together in the intimate confines of the coffee shop, we passed the usual banter and pleasantries. “How are you?” “What’s going on with you?” My girlfriend immediately launched into conversation about her latest breakup. The drama of it all, in painstaking detail, was laid out like the coffeecake in front of me. I listened attentively for a long while when it dawned on me that I had heard this same conversation a number of times before. Different breakup, same old drama. In fact she used the same words to describe how she had been used, victimized,abused and mistreated in this relationship as she had used on at least three other occasions.
How could I not have heard this before? Taking a breath, I readied my invitation inside my head and said something like, “Well don’t be so hard on yourself. This is an opportunity for you to grow…” In response she snapped, “I don’t want to hear that positive shit! Can’t you just listen to me and let me vent?” Inside my head I put away the invitation. I felt disappointed, but not surprised. In that moment, I also became aware that she had responded that way to my gentle attempts at offering a more empowering perspective many times before.
We spent at least three hours together with me honoring her request to let her vent. A.K.A, bitch and complain. Afterwards, I just felt dumped on while she breathed a sigh of relief. Again, an all too familiar scenario.
What she had been saying to me all these years is, just allow me to stay that wounded, hurt little girl and continue to pacify me. She wanted a pacifier when I wanted to be a pillar in her life. She wanted me to placate her as the invited guest at her pity party. I wanted to be a true friend and support her in creating space for transforming patterns that no longer served her best interest. I wanted to offer her an invitation to fly. I am no longer interested in friendships in which anyone has to play the role of a pacifier. Give me a pillar any day!
A true friend is one who you can share truth with even if you don’t like the feel or fit of it in the moment. Pillars are strength that “stands under” another meaning for the word “understand”. Eventually, children must be weaned off of pacifiers or they will cause more problems than they actually solve.
What I get is that there are people who don’t want true friends. They want people who will placate them and allow them to stay stuck holding onto their security blanket marked “victim”. Those friendships as Mr. Emerson’s quote says, are “glass threads and frost works”, doomed to fall apart when anything solid shows up.