Lesson 15: Be your own best friend

For days now I have been trying to take the intense pain and sadness that I’ve been feeling, and find the lesson I’m meant to learn from it. Not just so I can write about it, but also so that I can see the bigger picture and meaning – which always lessens the pain.

So far, no such luck.

About a month ago, my life as I knew it got turned completely upside down. My sweet baby Praline was hospitalized twice and needed a blood transfusion. I had to find, sign a new lease and move to a new apartment. The stress exacerbated an old shoulder injury, causing excruciating pain and numbness in my shoulder and arm 24/7.  I barely ate or slept for 3 weeks. The cost of all these vet, doctor, and moving bills is at $10K (seriously!). At the same time, my frustrated boss threatened to make me take a leave of absence. And, I had to let go of my soulmate and the hope I had for reconciliation in the near future.

I’m just now coming up for air.

They say that a crisis will show you who your true friends are. Which I have found time and time again to be true. I couldn’t have made it through the worst of this month without 4 key people. But now, for whatever reason, each of them have “disappeared” – leaving me feeling alone and abandoned in a new home and neighborhood.

No matter how I have tried to reach out to them and connect, they’re just not there. I don’t know when I’ve felt more alone.

As a single, professional woman over 35, my friends are my family. They hold more importance than they probably should, or would if I had the husband and family I hope to have in my life soon. My friends keep me grounded, help me feel that I belong somewhere, that I matter. I rely on them to keep me honest and keep me from being too hard on my perfectionist self. But that’s not necessarily how they see me.

Jenni Russell writes about the fragility of friendship in The Guardian:

“Friendship has been given a special status in our society. It is contrasted with all those relationships over which we have so little control; the families we can’t change, the neighbours who irritate us, the colleagues we have to put up with. Friends are thought of as the joyous, freely chosen part of our lives, and it’s assumed that those relationships are always pleasurable.

On one level, friendships are very simple. They are the bonds between people who enjoy one another’s company. But probe deeper and it’s evident that there is no consensus about what it means… Friendship is one of those areas full of hidden assumptions and unspoken rules. We only discover that our friendship doesn’t mean what we think it does when those assumptions clash.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2005/jan/24/features11.g2

My assumptions of friendship have clearly clashed with those of my absent friends.

As a student of Kabbalah, I have to take responsibility for everything in my life. Now, I often confuse this with BLAME. So it’s easy for me to hear a voice saying “you must have done something to push them away. If you were truly a good friend, they’d be here for you…”  I know I can always do better, and I’m trying daily. But responsibility, I remind myself, isn’t blame. It means looking at why this is in your “movie.”

If I attracted this to me, it must be for a good reason. What is there to gain?  To learn?

Is it space for new, healthier people to come in to my life? An openness to try new things? Or is it simply time to myself. I must admit that the time and quiet of no phone calls, texts, or my roommate’s TV in the next room does afford me one luxury I haven’t wanted to acknowledge. More time to think and write. And to listen to myself.

People are disappointing – it’s probably the thing I like least about human beings. We’re selfish, reactive and way more self-protective than we need to be. As a result I find we hurt each other far too often. In the end, I guess you need to be your own best friend.

I learned a long time ago, when I first moved to Chicago after college, to enjoy my own company. I had to – I knew no one and was starting from scratch. It’s odd but this move feels very reminiscent.  With one exception: I know, and like, myself better than back then. And I have a bigger paycheck.

Which at the very least, makes taking myself out on a date a little easier.

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