I’ve written about what being sick can do to friendships before. I’ve written about the pain that it causes when friendships vanish, disappear, or when friends are suddenly rude, thoughtless or callous. I’ve written about how it hurts; but, in contrast, how friends who stay and are thoughtful can lift us up. What I haven’t written about is how it feels to be honest about this situation.
Since I’ve been sick, I made a promise to myself that I would live in a different way. I would only do things that make me happy; and, I don’t have time to be dishonest about just about anything. In that Hallmark, make a meme kind of way, I realized that life is short, and valuable, and there’s really no other way to be.
This means that I spend a lot of time writing, a lot of time drawing, painting and reading. And, I spend a lot of time playing with Collin. Why not? These things make me happy. But, it also means that I don’t have a lot of time for bullshit. This may seem contrary, since it seems like my whole life is nothing but leisure, right?
But, the deal is that I want my life to be nothing but leisure because life should be filled with joy. So, I’ve cut out the rest of the bullshit. I’ve cut out the “let’s be polite,” nonsense. What’s my point, right?
I’ll put it into practice for you. I’ve got a “friend” who I admire very much. When I moved back to the L.A. area I was thrilled because it meant that I was going to be able to spend more time with her. She’s very different from me, in many ways; but, I was looking forward to being around her. I think it’s important to be with people who think differently than us; they help us to examine our deeper selves. Ohm…that sounded like some Zen stuff right there, didn’t it? But, it’s true!
This person is one of the most optimistic, pleasant people I know. She’s deeply kind and thoughtful. Some might call her naïve; but, I call her childlike innocence endearing. Okay, to a point. It can be weird, sometimes. To her closest friends, she is fiercely loyal, and I was very excited to spend time with her.
When we got here, I asked her to get together. She was busy. So busy. She asked if we might reconnect a few weeks, maybe months later. She was busy then. I tried again in a few months. She was busy then. Same story. Well, two years have gone by, and she’s managed to be busy, every afternoon, day, night, and moment, for the entire time. Apparently, she leads a very, very exciting life.
At the halfway point of this charade, I told her that it wasn’t really important to keep up a charade of politeness. If she wasn’t interested in being friends with me, she didn’t have to. I’m not a charity case. I am capable of forming relationships outside of her; but that I actually liked her, and was interested in continuing a relationship with her because I enjoyed her company, for the reasons listed above. However, I’m not really interested in fake-polite; if she can’t be honest with me, then just drop it. People aren’t used to that kind of honesty, so she was happy to be flattered with compliments, and insisted that she was, truly, busy and that she wanted to connect soon.
Fast forward to now: she’s busy. Maybe she’s a spy. Or, she’s the President. Wait, she’s white. So, she got the same message from me, except this time, I let her off the hook, completely. I told her that I’d not bother her anymore about getting together. She doesn’t have to be real friends with me anymore. So, she can drop the excuses about being busy, because I know how stressful it can be to get a day off when you work for…drum roll…your dad at a regular 9-5 job.
Here’s the deal: I don’t think she was doing anything wrong. We’re trained to be polite because we think we are hurting people’s feelings when we tell the truth, especially if we think it might hurt people. Wife says “does this make me look fat?” It does; so, husband says no. How does that help? Tell he that she has other things that make her look better.
Over the course of two years, I asked her maybe 4-5 times to get together, and all it did, when she put me off, was make me question what was wrong with me. Did that help, or hurt? If we train ourselves to come up with softer ways to be honest, we would be doing everyone a greater service.
So, she could’ve said, “Hey, I’ve got so much on my plate, and I’m just not thinking that I have time for more friends right now.” That feels harsh, and might’ve made me feel a little shitty for a bit; but think it through. Did she say anything bad about me? Nope. It just sounds weird because we aren’t used to hearing things like that. We aren’t used to people being HONEST. We are used to dodging.
When I was honest with her, she dodged more by vanishing completely. It makes me feel better to be honest with people because I know that I’m not wasting my time. I know that whoever is left sticking around is paying attention, is listening, and knows what I’m thinking and feeling. Furthermore, I know that I can trust what they are saying to me.
It always hurts when friends disappear, and it hurts more, I think, when you are sick. It makes you do a double take, like “hey, why? Don’t I have enough shit?” But, I think you get this gift, when you are sick, of seeing the world differently. I’m grateful for that gift. This person, or any other person who walks away, oh well.
Honesty is always better.
P.S. I cannot wait to finish writing about this. You didn’t think I wouldn’t have something to say about it, right? Stay tuned. It’s coming…like a flood. Boom!