I think it’s safe to say anyone who knows me (be it IRL or via the innanets – I’m my authentic self in any setting) knows that my female friendships are extremely important to me. My mom often reminded me in my younger years, “Men will come and go but good girlfriends are forever.” While I’ve also seen some “friends” come and go, I by and large hold on to good friends.
My friendships – ever evolving, redefining – enrich me in so many ways, and I thank God often for the people He has placed in my life. From the friends I’ve had since I was a wee little Gem to the friends I’ve met at various educational/career stages to the friends I’ve cultivated through online interactions – each friend has a special place in my heart and I cherish them pretty equally. Ok ok, I’ll be honest, I have faves. But if I had to choose, say, only a handful of bridesmaids, it’d be an impossible task because most of the women I call “friend” are maid-worthy. Not *that* kind of maid but you know what I mean…
I was catching up on BBWLA again the other day when another we-are-HERE moment involving Malaysia. In this episode, Draya introduced her new-to-the-BBWLA-cast friend (Angel) to bat-shit-crazy Jackie, saying that she and Angel were very close and had “deeeeep” conversations. Without going into too much [unnecessary] detail, Jackie instigated the situation to imply that Draya considered this new girl a “real friend” over her cast mates. Malaysia, in particular, was in her feelings about this, upset that Draya would not consider her a real friend. From that moment forward, the women reached Cirque du Soleil level acrobatics with the conclusions they jumped to and I almost turned the TV off – these women are too grown to be arguing over who is whose friend and by what measurement.
Just when I thought all hope was lost, Malaysia confronted Draya about their friendship and revealed that she felt some type of way that Draya didn’t reach out to her when she found out about her divorce, or after her brother was killed. She wanted Draya to be a true friend to her – to show empathy in times of need – as she was to Draya. “When I heard that you and your guy was breaking up I called you and said, ‘Yo, just know that I’m here.’ I’m just asking you to be a friend to me, be what I am to you.”
Once again, I could feel Malaysia’s pain, as I too, had recently confronted (in my head) the absence of friends in my time of need. Though I am often very open and transparent about my thoughts and feeling (as evidenced by this very blog), I keep many things private. But earlier this year, after I had bottled so much inside, ashamed to acknowledge what I was going through, I reached a breaking point. I was going mad. No longer in control. Unable to combat the emotional indignities. Unsure how to quiet the deafening thoughts or restrict the burning tears. I was a f*cking wreck. And when I finally decided to open up about what I had been going through, there were people I considered friends (male and female) who didn’t reach out or acknowledge the information I had shared.
I had chosen to present my bleeding wounds in written words. A friend encouraged me to write, to put black to white about all I was holding on to. Even if only my eyes saw the words, they should no longer be given residence in my head. And in those penned words is where I found some freedom of the madness I’d succombed to. I allowed my vulnerability to be transparent and address the hurt that sucker punched the f*ck out of me. I released myself of the obligation to accept responsibility for other people’s sh*tty actions and unloaded a burden that was never mind to begin with. I shared these words with friends I trusted – those who’d know this was about me, no one else. It was my way of saying I’m going through some sh*t and no I’m not OK but I will be.
Sharing this piece of me was very liberating, and it meant a great deal to me that so many of my friends read my sentiments and wrapped my wounds in their love and encouragement. But admittedly, it was somewhat upsetting to have some friends not acknowledge my words at all. I wasn’t looking for pity, or even praise. I wanted to know the people I was turning to would be present, willing to provide support. Some just weren’t.
I recognize there could be a myriad of reasons that happened, most of which aren’t intentionally lacking empathy or compassion. Like Draya, perhaps these friends were afraid to address it, worried about bringing down the mood by focusing on the ugly. But it still sucks to feel like you’ve been abandoned by your friends when you’re in an unhealthy place.
The more I got in my feelings about it, however, I had to check myself and inquire: [Gem], are you a good friend? Are you always compassionate and empathetic to your friends? Are you always present when your friends need you? While I’d like to think I am, I honestly can’t say with all certainty that the people I call friend would agree.
And by the end of the episode, I was with Draya in resolving that there are some things I need to work on as far as being a good friend before I can demand it of others.