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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Conflict in Friendship

While having coffee with a friend whom I hadn’t seen much of in the past year, I decided to be real. Not that it’s anything new for me to share the real me with my friends, but this situation was different. 

I have this friend that has struggled with a certain aspect of her life the past handful of years. As a matter of fact we met due to a similar crisis in our lives, happening at the same time. So, it was almost as if our friendship was bonded in crisis. 

While at a very low time in my life, a girlfriend who knew us both introduced us. We immediately clicked and set a follow up time to meet for coffee. She was so easy to talk to, she truly understood what I was going through and she helped me to feel that I was not alone. Every time we met for coffee or for a walk, I felt heard, understood and energized. 

As we spent time together, we both really opened up and began to trust the other. We talked, we cried, we laughed and we bonded, as girlfriends do. We became a part of each other’s inner circle.  
As the years passed, our lives changed, as life does. I can say that I needed less support than I had when we met about our similar situation.  We began getting together less frequently, and for a while barely spoke much at all. 

I would continue to invite her to things; birthdays, grad parties or to coffee and most of the time she would say yes, but when the time came something always seemed to come up and so she was unable to make it. 

I knew that this friend was still dealing with some serious issues, and I also knew that she has some struggles with anxiety and depression. I would still reach out, but when it seemed no longer reciprocated, I eventually quit inviting.  Occasionally, I would run into her at a mutual friend’s function, which then validated my thoughts that it was just me. It seemed that if another friend invited her, she would show, but when I did, she wouldn’t. 

Looking back now, I realize that I was being fairly selfish. I was so focused on my own hurt feelings, I didn’t bother to find out what was going on with her that was causing this.

About a year ago, there was a fairly big event that was happening in my life, our daughter was getting married. There was the shower, bachelorette party and of course, the wedding. Since this friend has been a part of my inner circle for years, I invited her to all I could. Yet, I “assumed” I knew what she would and would not show up to. 

One of the wedding events, the bridal shower, we had limited space and could only invite a certain number of guests. So, with her not being super close with my daughter, we didn’t invite her. The day of the shower she contacted me and mentioned the shower. I explained that we had limited space and that I hope she understood. Honestly, I didn’t think she would attend either way. What I realize now, is that even if you’re not in a place where you feel you can mentally, physically or emotionally handle a situation, you still want to be invited. 

Well, the kicker was the wedding. My friend RSVP’d months in advance, but on the day of the wedding, with only a few hours to go, I received a message. The message said, enjoy your day today, and was very vague. I asked if we would tbe seeing her and she just said no. I don't recall there being a valid reason, or excuse. I responded with a snarky yet cordial comment. 

I was hurt, angry and yet felt validated. At that moment I came to the conclusion that she just must not have an interest in being my friend. I wasn’t thinking of her feelings, her anxieties, her… really at all. I was just focused on me. 

I shared with the mutual friend that introduced us years earlier how I was feeling. She helped me to look at it from another perspective. I wasn’t ready to do that yet and angrily felt and stated that I was just done. 

A few months later I received a text from my friend. She stated that she missed me and would like to get together.  She stated that she wanted to make her friendships a priority.
I agreed to meet but in the back of my mind, I figured she’d back out at the last minute.

She didn’t. We met for coffee and talked at length. It was very nice. 

She shared with me that she’d been struggling with some things in her life for so long, and that she hadn’t been dealing with it in a healthy way. Stress had attacked her body and mind and she’d been feeling physically sick for a long time. She also said she was ready to start taking care of herself, she was making time for herself, as well as other relationships that were important to her. I listened, took it all in, and tried to do so without judgement. 

After she shared with me, I got real… I said “I have been mad at you for a while” She smiled and said “nice… thank you for telling me that” I continued by explaining to her that I have felt unimportant to her, and I gave her some examples of situations that upset me. She smiled and simply said “Thank you for being honest with me. “ Wow… that was easy.

She asked me if I had shared my feelings with anyone else, and I admitted that I had talked with our mutual friend about my feelings. She mentioned that she wished I would have spoken with her sooner, instead of talking with anyone else. She shared more as did I. It was a real moment between friends. I was able to see her perspective much clearer and realize that I had been so focused on my own needs that I hadn’t attempted to find out what was truly going on with my friend. 

It was a very eye opening experience that helped me to realize that when there is conflict in friendships, there are things that do help and things that don’t. And things certainly aren't always as they seem. 

What does NOT help is:
*Gossiping to others about your friend
*Assuming you know what is going on in their head, their heart, and their world, without asking them personally
*Ignoring the person or cutting them out of your life without discussion
*Focusing ONLY on your emotions, hurt feelings, without regard to theirs.

What does help is:
*Asking your friend how you can help them
*Listening to them and truly hearing them out.
*Being honest with them and if you’re mad, admit you’re mad (with kind words)
*Put yourself in their shoes, without judgement.
*Remember we are all human, we are imperfect, and we are self-centered people. This may not be natural for you and may be stepping outside your comfort zone, but if the relationship is important to you, you will find a way to learn how to communicate better, and in doing so, be a better friend.

I am so thankful for this special friend in my life. I am thankful for her empathy, her understanding and her amazing listening skills. She has helped me so much while I was dealing with some major life challenges and I feel blessed to have her in my life and in my inner circle.  I look forward to the future, our lives settling down and creating new memories.

Until next time ~ Be blessed, Geli

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Grieving the loss of a friendship

<b>Grief</b> Changes Us | The <b>Grief</b> Toolbox 
Grief is something that so many people are uncomfortable dealing with. Many of us struggle with how to support someone who is grieving; we may push the grieving person in our life to get through it and get over it. It's hard to see those we love sad, depressed, hopeless and miserable. We want them to move through it, so they can be the person we know and love. Yet, the truth is, if we are human, we WILL experience grief at some point in our lives, and there are no guidelines or rules to how long that process may last. 

Grief - deep or intense sorrow or distress, could be due to any major loss, from our health, career, a body part or a person in our life. We are most likely to associate grief with the loss of a loved one, in relation to death, yet that is only one type of relational loss.

We know that our country is filled with people who have been through a divorce, or two. There are couples who claim to have just “fallen out of love”, which I have my own views about. There are also many who have been victims of affairs, addiction, mental health issues, or abuse.  There are divorce care groups in every major city in the US.  Yet, many people don't have compassion as they should when dealing with a friend, family member or coworker grieving this type of loss.  The loss of a long term relationship, with an individual who was once your life partner, lover, co-parent and best friend... the grief from this loss is real. 

We must also recognize grief stemming from the loss of a long term friendship. When you spend years with someone in your life, creating memories, experiencing good times and bad times, getting to know their families and then they are gone from your life, it’s hard. The good memories no longer are happy because they remind you of the person missing from your life. Seeing them or even their family or mutual friends becomes uncomfortable because it reminds you of what no longer is. 

Now, I have had many friendships in my life that have slowly petered out. I have had friends from high school that I was close with at one point, then our lives began heading in different directions, so we quit spending as much time together. Now when I run into them or connect with them on social media, we’re still cordial. We have fond memories but not much else in common.  Because it was a slow process, it was not a huge loss. 

When people become friends based on a similar interests, like soccer moms spending time together at games or practices, the friendship may fizzle upon the end of the season, or with coworkers who work near each other and take lunch breaks together, their friendship may fizzle upon one getting new employment. Neither example did the friendship become so strong that it was a priority for both parties to continue. In turn, the loss of the friendship is not severe so it doesn’t lead to grieving. 

What about the friendship that started in junior high, and remained strong throughout two decades until one person became a drug addict and was no longer capable of being a friend, or the friendship that ended after many years due to a controlling spouse not “allowing” them to spend time with their friend, out of pure insecurity. The people in those situations may experience such loss that they will grieve the loss of the friendship. 

Recently, my sixteen year old daughter received a text from her best friend saying that she needed a break from her. Her BFF of four years told her that she didn’t feel that their friendship was equal. She felt that their priorities weren’t in alignment. My daughter was shocked and sad. They had spent holidays together, and three years in dance together. They traveled together, they knew the others extended families and called the others parents mom and dad.  The girls were inseparable, for years. They talked daily, they went to prom together with their boyfriends, and they shopped for each other because they knew what the other loved. When they would go a few days without seeing each other, they would run and hug like it had been a year since they last saw each other. They shared everything, from food to clothes to a bed during their many sleepovers.  With teenage girls, so much of life revolves around their strong friendships.  So much of their identity is associated with who their friends are. 

My daughter was upset, hurt and confused when she received the messages. It didn’t make sense to her. While processing this news, she did realize that over the years they had omitted some of the other girls from their inner circle and began spending much of their time together, one on one.  She didn’t feel that this was just her choosing, but tried to understand her friend’s perspective. She agreed to take a break and give her friend some space. A week or so later she asked her BFF to meet up to talk. She wanted to get everything straight and be able to move forward with their friendship and work the issues out. She was willing to make the changes needed so they could continue their friendship. 

Unfortunately, for reasons we will probably never know, it didn’t matter. When the girls met face to face, things seemed a bit better, and my daughter felt that there was hope. Yet, the next time they saw each other, her friend acted as if they never had a connection. Shortly after their meeting, her friend hosted a party and my daughter found out through social media and mutual friends after the fact.  Most recently she ran into the family and none of them acknowledged her at all. The reality of the end of the friendship hit her hard. She became grief stricken, all at once everything that they had been and everything she had lost overwhelmed her. She felt the waves of emotions. She was hit with shock, anger, sadness, rejection and loneliness. 

As a mother, it is hard for me to watch my daughter hurting. I wish there was something I could’ve done to prevent this from happening. Another part of me strongly believes that every friendship we experience is for a reason, that there is a lesson for us to learn whether the friendship lasts a lifetime, or ends sooner than we wish it would. 

If I could have known that this was going to happen, would I have still encouraged the friendship in the first place? Yes!! Absolutely! My hope is that she is able to hold on to the fond memories and realize what made this friendship so strong at its best and also what ended it. I also wish for her that this doesn’t harden her heart and she stays open to new friendships that may be stronger than this one ever was. I hope she allows herself to be aware and a bit vulnerable so she is able to truly connect with other girls that cross her path. We never know when we will find our next soul sister.

As Garth Brooks quoted in his song Standing Outside the Fire “Life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire” I am encouraging my daughter, as well as myself and those of you reading; don't allow the hurt and the scars on your heart from preventing you the possibility of meeting your next BFF. Jump in with both feet and allow yourself to build deep lasting friendships. Over time, the hurt from the loss of this one will diminish, and you will be left with memories. It's okay to smile when those memories pop in your head, and be grateful that they are a part of who you are today. 

Until next time, be blessed. Geli

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Becoming Friends with Yourself

As I was having coffee with a fairly new soul sister, (client turned friend) she said “I have an idea for your blog.” I love that!  I have a hard enough time thinking of what to make for dinner, then I sit and stew about what readers want to hear about. Something new, something funny yet with something to learn, a moral I guess.

She then stated “How about being your own soul sister, how to be a friend to yourself.” 
Now for those of us who are extroverts and get our energy from others, we sometimes forget the importance of being a friend to ourselves. Yes, we may stay home occasionally and read, or watch a movie, or do busy work like cleaning out the junk drawer, but when was the last time you just sat quietly with your own thoughts…?

We have all heard about meditation and how good it is to do, to really get in touch with your inner self. Some say meditation is the opposite of praying, it’s sitting quietly and listening for god.
My friend talked to me about going for a walk alone, or traveling alone or even playing cards alone. (It’s called solitaire) 

Adapting ‘Eat, Pray, Love’: Erasing the Moral Complexity of ...I then remembered the movie,”Eat, Pray, Love” where Julia Robert’s character goes on an adventure to find herself and to regain balance in her life. When in actuality, she finds love, but it’s okay, because that wasn’t the reason for the trip I guess… and well, honestly, many women would not watch the movie if there wasn’t some kind of love interest in there, right?

So, I decided I would spend the day with myself, alone, to see if I could stand being my own friend. Here’s what I found. 

~I can do whatever I want, and don’t have to compromise… Yes!
~I can watch whatever movie I want without having to choose between the one I hate the least that my husband picked.
~I can listen to whatever radio station I like, and I can change what I like mid-song and no one will whine about it.
~I can make whatever food I like, even if it doesn’t consist of a meat, carb and veggie. I can have cereal for dinner and pizza for breakfast with a Latte.
~I don’t have to make the bed.
~I don’t care if my breath smells. I am not kissing me, ha!
~I don’t have to impress me. I realized that even though it feels good to get dressed up and go out, it’s all about my confidence around others. I am confident around myself even while wearing my crazy print pants and a flannel with no makeup and messy bun hair.
~I don’t judge me. I just judge myself based on how I perceive others will judge me. Ugh. Crazy stupid, huh?
  ~When I walk alone, I’m in competition with no one. I’m not in a hurry, I trip less and am focused more.
~I view my surroundings more and am aware of beauty more. I smell the flowers. 

The next time you have the opportunity to be alone, take some time before picking up that book or turning on that movie. Snuggle up in your favorite comfy outfit with a cup of hot cocoa, or glass of wine and watch the sunset, listen to the birds, pet your dog or cat…enjoy just being. Then you can decide if you’re the kind of friend you’d like to have. Then, feel free to numb the mind a little. Read a good book, watch a good movie and appreciate you. You completely, that’s what you are… complete.

Once we are complete, and begin to really love ourselves, we become more attractive to others.  We develop a greater confidence and are able to handle real, deep and sincere friendships. 

Until next time, be blessed. ~Geli

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Girlfriends and Giggle Therapy

best friends are the people in your life that make you laugh louder, smile brighter and live better #quoteAs I sit quietly in “my room” at my dad’s cabin a few minutes before midnight, I don’t have to strain my ears to hear the (attempting to be quiet) muffled giggles and chatter from the room adjacent mine, where my sixteen year old daughter and her BFF are staying.  I have once already asked them to try and at least giggle quieter so as to not wake up the grandparents trying to sleep upstairs.  

What is it about girls that allows them to talk and giggle for hours, without becoming bored?

Boys are so different. They will play video games for hours next to each other without much talk at all.  They will work, play sports, or even sit in a boat and fish without getting into any deep discussions. They may converse about what they are doing at the time, or what part of the lake they should go to next, but not much else. The difference truly amazes me. 

Things don’t seem to change much with age. I will still sit for hours and chat with my girlfriends, now about different things than in our youth. Whereas then, we may have talked about boys we liked, our favorite bands or our futures… now, it’s usually about our kids, our husbands, jobs, bills and family.  Yet, still… we have giggling fits, hysterical bouts of laughter, hearty belly laughs, tears streaming down our faces, all the while creating memories and loving the moment.  

We, as women are naturally more emotionally driven, with an innate need to connect on more of an intimate level with our girlfriends. We tend to sit closer, unafraid of human contact (unlike our male counterpart) when it comes to our friends.
We need to feel heard, understood and validated, which is why we need our soul sisters. Sometimes the pressure of life is just so much that an hour or two away talking over coffee, a drink, or while on a walk with a friend is worth more than an hour with a well versed therapist. 

I must admit, I do enjoy going out with a group of friends every now and then to go dancing or to a show; that is always enjoyable.  I feel though that I reap a greater benefit spending time with one or two friends, hanging out; eating, relaxing, talking and of course, giggling.

Girlfriends know that the best therapy is giggle therapy. 

Thank you, and be blessed~ Geli