friendship + family

What About Your Friends

August 14, 2015

friendship

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…

ANYWAY.

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.

~Gem

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9 Comments

  • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. August 14, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Good post, homie!

    I’ve been here with my team before. I was left wondering why I wasn’t in on or the last to know something. It’s a hard point of self-reflection but you learn some time that it may you and some time it’s them. I value the ***k out of my folks and it’s just one of those odd parts of adulthood.

    Hope you find some resolution with your people, Marge.

    • Reply Gem August 14, 2015 at 9:42 am

      indeed it is one of those odd parts of adulthood. self-reflection and accountability is so crucial.

      thanks for reading homie!!

  • Reply Cheekie August 14, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Wow, this spoke to me on so many levels. I’ve gone through some trials and tribulations over the past year with friendships, especially centering on the duality of me. The initial thing that probably attracts folks to me is my humor. I’m the funny one. But, that’s not all of me. I’m also a convoluted mess of things and I’m working on it. I’ve always had a fear of disclosing that part of me (and only a select few have seen it), because I feared they’d abandon me.

    Those types of friends that only wanna be there for the “fun” parts and retreat when you need them most. Like you said, some friends are faves. And for me, when they can take all of me and love me for me… they are in that column. I don’t even expect all of my friends/associates to be present for all layers of me, but once they cross that threshold (in terms of sharing vulnerability), they’re definitely held to higher expectations. And for valid reason.

    So, yeah, I felt this. Well said.

    • Reply Gem August 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

      “I’m the funny one. But, that’s not all of me. I’m also a convoluted mess of things and I’m working on it. I’ve always had a fear of disclosing that part of me (and only a select few have seen it), because I feared they’d abandon me.”

      i completely understand what you mean! while i dont fear abandonment, i often worry about feeling judged or shamed – and so i dont let many ppl see whats truly sitting on my spirit.

      “I don’t even expect all of my friends/associates to be present for all layers of me, but once they cross that threshold (in terms of sharing vulnerability), they’re definitely held to higher expectations.”

      thats real. and perhaps its necessary to set different expectations for different friends based on previous experience.

      thanks for sharing, T!

  • Reply miss t-lee August 15, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    All I can say Gemmie is I completely understand.
    It’s probably not exactly healthy, but it’s the reason why I have tiers of friends. The ones closest to me have earned that closeness, be it by the length of our friendship, or the actions they’ve shown in the past. Then it goes further out.
    I don’t expect everyone to be the exact type of friend that I’ve been to them, because some folks just ain’t built for it. That’s why they’re on the JV squad, or acquaintance level.
    However, I do know that my closest friends have always been on their job.

    • Reply Gem August 17, 2015 at 10:40 am

      i guess i have tiers of friends too. there are certain ppl i trust with certain personal matters that i dont even address with others. as Tonja mentioned, theres a certain expectation that they will be there when you need them – and it can hurt if they arent there.

      “I don’t expect everyone to be the exact type of friend that I’ve been to them, because some folks just ain’t built for it. That’s why they’re on the JV squad, or acquaintance level.”

      this made me laugh but its so real. i’m learning more and more that its up to ME to manage expectations of others and i can’t always take it personally when ppl don’t meet those expectations. sometimes you just have to readjust w/ no love lost.

  • Reply Ray Jefferies August 18, 2015 at 5:35 am

    There is something unsettling and sobering about having a friendship (or friendships) re-calibrated for you at the moment you thought you knew what it was, how far it extended, and had a need to lean on it.

    I think that moment isn’t even one that is accompanied with anger so much as it is with disappointed resolve; when you see that “Our friendship” was really just “My friendship”. You were their friend, but they weren’t ever really yours. You don’t even necessarily have the closure that “they were just bad people”. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re just not your friends. And that’s all there was to it. Fortunately for me, this has only really been a problem with people who weren’t “Inner Circle” certified… but I have still been unpleasantly surprised by some folks. But you live and you learn right?

    As a result, I tend to be very “deterministic” about my associations, (which as you can imagine doesn’t always work in relationships). People aren’t math equations, they’re fluid, and they change (sometimes for the good, sometimes not). I just don’t feel like I have the time (or the obligation) to sift through all that variability when it comes to being able to depend on you. Either I can or I can’t. If I’m not sure I can, then I can’t.

    So… you do X activities, and show X commitment, you get X relationship. Nothing above it. Upgrades are optional, downgrades are permanent. That’s just how it is. And look, at X level, we can still be cool, still joke, still have a good time. I just know not to count on you for anything… and you should know the same in return. Wrong, right, or indifferent that’s who I am now.

    • Reply Gem August 18, 2015 at 11:56 am

      man, Ray, there are so many gems in this comment!

      first, thank you for reading and sharing.

      “I think that moment isn’t even one that is accompanied with anger so much as it is with disappointed resolve”
      exactly this. the sting of disappointment from sone one you trusted is what makes you twice shy. careful to approach with caution (or not at all).

      “Either I can or I can’t. If I’m not sure I can, then I can’t.”
      yeah. i think this all goes back to expectations. and being OK with whatever the outcome is. doesnt mean a friendship dissolves, you just have different expectations.

      “Upgrades are optional, downgrades are permanent. ”
      man!!!

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