I was particularly caught by the third paragraph of the article, where it talks about personal and professional relationships that enhance or impede your life. My life in the last couple years has had some major shifts of who has been and not been in my life. Several years ago I got into a women's social group, and shortly after that, started attending a knitting group that met weekly at a local restaurant. I already had a number of friends from other circles in my life, both locally and from when I lived in NY, and my life was very busy and very active. It seemed like I was always doing something or going somewhere.
The social group after a while became more of a chore than a pleasure. I'm grateful to have been part of it because I made a very good friend from it; she is still an important part of my life and we have a great time together. However, outside of that, the women in the group were all older than me, and it became apparent that we had not a great deal in common. Out of nearly 20 women, only about 4 were taking any initiative to plan any outings (isn't that always the way?), and the group leader was, to put it mildly, a passive aggressive fusspot. I finally sent an email to the group politely saying that the group dynamics no longer worked for me, wishing them all the best, and that was that.
I had invited several women from the social group to come to the knitting group I was attending. I also invited a few other women from other areas of my life to come to the knitting group, women that didn't have a lot of other friends and I thought would enjoy the socialization and getting out of the house. That turned out to be a bigger disaster. The woman who started the knitting group (and who I befriended only out of compassion for her life's circumstances) turned out to be a power hungry bully. She kicked me out of the knitting group for no reason other than to be cruel, and the rest of the women (with two exceptions) in the group went right along with her and simply turned away from me, some I am sure because they were afraid if they didn't go along with her they would be kicked out too. One of her friends, who I met through the social group and introduced to her, then proceeded to kick me out of a Sunday lunch and movie group that I had started with another woman. At the time, I was devastated..........I had considered some of these women to truly be friends. I went out of my way to be a good friend, driving people to doctor's appointments, taking some of the older women (who are afraid to drive) shopping, planning days out, and so on. Turns out I had been being used for nearly three years, and I couldn't stop beating myself up at my stupidity. I stopped going to any knitting group because it was just too painful; and the one time I visited one of my old groups one woman got up and walked out. Really. For a while, my interest in knitting (which many of you know about from hearing me talk about it on the blog) waned considerably. My confidence was deeply rattled, the whole incident shook me to the core. Even rereading and editing this post, the story sounds incredulous that I knew people like this, but I did.
It's been a year and a half since then, and to say it has all been a learning experience would be an understatement. Reading the above referenced article made me think about what I had learned from that experience:
- I am deeply blessed to have great people in my life who truly are friends. I wish the same for all of my readers, and I hope you all will do the life work necessary to develop the kinds of friendships worthy of your time and energy.
- There is a big difference between a friend and an acquaintance.
- Compassion and kindness are sometimes a wasted effort, but if they turn out to be, don't beat yourself up for it. You did the best you could at the time, and beating yourself up is even more of a wasted effort.
- I'm all for an active social life, but also take time for yourself. During those few years I was involved with those women, I felt guilty if I planned an outing/day trip and didn't invite other people to go along with me; it felt selfish. In the last year, I have relearned that I am very good company. Just me. Some of my happiest day trips in the last year have been when I take a spur of the moment trip to someplace fun (my current favourite is Black Mountain, NC, great little village full of shops and restaurants, lovely scenery) and I go by myself. I'm worth it!
- When you meet people who don't have any/many friends, be careful. There is likely a reason they don't have any/many friends.
- There are some really awful people in the world. Fortunately, there are a lot more great people in the world!
- Women can be absolute bitches. It's true.
Take some time to "inventory" the people in your life. Are they there because it's convenient, or because they add joy to your life? We all have people in our lives that we may have to interact with, but interaction and truly being in someones life are two different things. The term "life's too short" starts to mean something when we get to this stage of our lives. I spend time now with people I truly like and respect; and while I try to be polite to (almost) everyone, I don't know that I would ever join a social group again after my experiences over the last couple years.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!