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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Five Toxic Friends...RUN!!!!!

There comes a time, when we heed a certain call, when we realize that a friendship/relationship is no longer serving its purpose. The story is a familiar one. Despite the fact that it seems you met un utero, people grow apart. Typically, it takes some catastrophic, earth shattering revelation to cataclysmically tear a friendship to pieces, but the beginning of Armageddon isn't required to realize that "maybe you two just aren't that into each other" anymore. Grab some popcorn and make sure to enjoy this because you're about to witness several  anecdotal memories and moments that helped me realize when a friendship may have hit the skids...and why it's okay to move on.

Life goals don't match. My father and "Curtis" (the names have been changed for reasons that will become very clear...). They went through elementary,  junior high and high school together, always lived within a block of each other well into their 30's and that would be the end of the story, except.  My father was dissatisfied with our "ultra urban" (read: ghetto) neighborhood and couldn't envision raising his family in such an impoverished area. On his own since age 14 (with the exception of his lifelong friend Curtis), my father has a strong work ethic and quite a bit of the bulldog in him that says, "If I work hard enough, I can achieve my goals". It's one of my favorite things about him. Curtis, on the other hand, saw no problem with living a life where every loud sound was met with fear induced drops to the floor to avoid unaimed bullets, enjoyed drinking like breathing, rarely if ever saw his children and spent more time blaming "the man" than working. When they were 14, 15, 16...this was sadly, expected. As adults with responsibilities, not so much. So, the conversation that ended a 30 year friendship went something like this:

My Dad: I'm going back to school...I shouldn't have left college. I'm headed out to register in a bit, why don't you come with me.
Curtis: Man, that's some dumb sh*t...for what?

I remember Curtis Dad is a college grad. Point made and end of story.

Nostalgia is the only thing you have left. If every conversation you have starts with a "Remember that time we..." but fails to pick up sometime in the present (or near future), you may have a bit of a problem. This story could be my own as I'm a person who enjoys reminiscing. There's something about recounting past hilarity that makes it even funnier, wittier, perfecter than day to day life. The problem with this is failing to live in the present sets you up for unrealistic expectations. Consider this: the reason the stories about past (mis)adventures seem somehow more entertaining is that they've had the opportunity to be edited for best possible effect. The meals taste better, the jokes were funnier, the outfit fit better and the guy that hit on you looked just like Lance Gross (with more muscles and whiter teeth and...). This is not to say that enjoying a history with your friend should be frowned upon, but when one fails to plan for the future, one's future plans fail. Another dangerous aspect of the "nostalgic friendship" is closely aligned with the lack of common goals. If we have nothing in common, we reach back instead of looking forward. A few entries prior to this one is a detailed outing I enjoyed with a great friend of mine and if I spent the next ten years enjoying that one day, I don't think I could continue to call her my friend. I'm looking forward to the next time sushi sounds her clarion call...In fact, I may just shoot her a text and see if her weekend is free. We probably won't do the same things we did last time. We're headed somewhere new...the future.

Neither of you are ever wrong. I'm stubborn. (Admit it while no one is are you. Go ahead, I'll wait.) When I'm convinced of an idea, I'm seldom wrong ( my head). One of the most significant people in my life is the EXACT same way. It's a thrill ride. (Ooops, did I drop my sarcasm...) The thing that binds us is our ability to wave the red flag and admit we can both be wrong...frequently. Likewise, I've had one sided friendships where I began to think, "You're Wrong" was my middle name. So much so, I began to question myself on unmitigated truths like, the sky is blue and toenails grow after death. And this is the problem with a one sided friendship. At some point, you'll begin to question yourself, your life, your decisions and at some point, your sanity. And who needs that? Trust me, a true friend can toss caution (and ego) to the wind and admit to being wrong and they know that when you're's not an open wound to place a salt lick in. It's gentle correction, not denigration, flagellation or constant agitation.
Forgive me, I seem to have lapsed into a Jesse Jackson moment...

4. You're more competitive than cooperative. Everyone I know is familiar with a "one upper". You know the type of friend I'm talking about. You get a raise, she gets a promotion. You get a new car, she buys a dealership. You vacation in St. Moritz, she is currently vacationing on Venus. Everything is bigger, better, faster more...and it gets old. Mutual goals like love, happiness, financial prosperity are good, but the moment you identify the "I can do it better" friend, it's time for some re~evaluation. Even athletes grow weary of constant competition, and they're being paid for it. Your friend? Not so much. A maxim I live by is, "Anybody can cry with you, but a true friend cheers your good news as loudly as you do". A destructive friend is one who tries to top your accomplishments, not through any inspiration on your part, not through any real desire to for accomplishment, but for the sick and twisted pleasure of saying that they beat you...again...and they won't let you, your family, other friends, random strangers or Wendy Williams forget it.

5. Encouragement is a two way street. When I was younger I had a myriad of friends. There was my "lets go to the movies" friend, my "lets go to the club" friend, my "I can bring them around my parents" friend, my "I've always got your back" friend, and my "apparently you're undiagnosed and clinically depressed" friend. As I've grown, that number has been pared down and merged because I no longer have to run my friends by my parents, I don't go to clubs and movies are EXPENSIVE! The one that I dropped needed my constant reassurance that she was inhaling correctly. That's tiring. Trust me, I love jumping into the cheerleading uniform and waving pom~poms for my buddies that find themselves down from time to time. I can actively listen for at least an entire empathetic hour about your bad day, hurt feelings, frustration and general malaise. But the moment that whiny song and dance enters stanza number boogie shoes are worn out and my feet hurt! Exit the dance floor stage left...and don't come back until last call. That being said, imagine my reaction to one of my former friends whose life apparently, never moved past the dark cloud to reach the silver lining. I started this with an anecdote about my father and his friend Curtis. I'll end with a tale of whoa/woe from my own. (Yes, I meant both).
I had a friend named, Woe. When I asked about her day, I got the following rundown: her alarm didn't go off, the shower was too hot, her outfit was wrinkled, her breakfast was bland, she hit the dog pulling out of the driveway, got stuck in traffic, faced a mountain of paperwork, the boss yelled at her, she forgot her lunch, she left work late, ran into traffic, hit the cat on the way into the driveway, her favorite show got cancelled, cable went out, got a fishbone caught in her throat and fell asleep on a lumpy bed.  EVERYDAY! (She's wanted by PETA to this day...).
Frustrated, I responded,
"Sounds like you had a rough month...did anything go right?"

I remember her blank stare fondly.

1 comment:

  1. you are special...and thats what I love about you cuzzo....but sadly alot of people have to realize that the old friend from back in the day needs to stay with back in the day if back in the day is everyday for them in their life. I do love this post.


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