Disclaimer: Today’s blog may be a collection of jumbled thoughts and rambled expressions. Have you ever had something to say, but you are quite sure how to say it? That is how I feel today and have felt for about the last six days leading up to this blog.
As always, I am writing from personal life experiences. I pray I don’t hurt anyone. Please be gentle with my vulnerability. Oh, this may be a little lengthy.
Disclaimer Number Two: I just deleted about two and a half paragraphs of fluff. When I’m nervous about being vulnerable, I type fluff — stuff that doesn’t really matter. It is my cushion to soften blows and my way of beating around the bush. Just share your truth, Chris. Just share you truth.
Turning 30 changed my life. 30 gave me peace and freedom, but it also lowered my tolerance. All of a sudden stuff that I would put up with for the sake of putting up with it became unacceptable to me, and it would annoy the crap out of me. Over the last two months and one day, I’ve seen even my patience with some of my nearest and dearest dwindle; no one has been exempt. Turning 30 made me hyper aware of some of the shady, draining, selfish, and ill-intended things that were being done to me that I would tolerate from my friends! *Insert scripture.* “It is not an enemy who taunts me–I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me–I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you–my equal, my companion and close friend.” (Psalm 55:12-13; New Living Translation)
Long story very short: no one can hurt you like someone who is close to you.
Over the course of the last three months or so, I began to really closely examine a few friendships of mine. With one in particular, I found my feelings crushed because the up-close reality didn’t not look the same as it did from afar. Let me interject by saying that not everyone is my friend; I do have acquaintances and associates. And as for those who I consider friends, not all are on the same level. Following the biblical standard of the temples, I have an outer court, an inner court, and a holies of holies. My church people and bible readers know what I’m talking about. Here’s another way to explain it. I work in a school where different employees have different levels of access. There are teachers who only have keys to their room doors. There are teachers who also have a master key that can open certain exit doors as well their classroom door. I and many of the custodians have master keys to open every inside and outside door, but we do not have a code for the alarm. Then the administration and head custodians have a key for every inside and outside door as well as an alarm code. These individuals have full access. With this access, they can come and go as they please without requesting permission. Their key and code automatically grants them autonomous permission. Just the same, I have a friend or two who have full access to my life. They have seen me in my purest form, they know what is going on in almost if not all areas of my life, and I don’t have to water down or sugar coat any parts of myself so that they can “handle” me. These individuals are always in my recent call list, and we have active text, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram DM threads. I dare even say that said individuals have keys to my home and are welcome at any time…FULL ACCESS. So imagine an individual having that much space in my life and not treating that space carefully.
I am going to tread very lightly right here. To protect identities, I will refer to my friend as “Vanessa.” (Don’t ask why I chose that name because I don’t know.)
I and one of the [very few] friends with an All Access Pass have recently had a change in the dynamic of our friendship. It was time. We had a quality relationship for years, but within the last few years our friendship seemed to gain a bit more strength because we found common ground. Our struggles seemed to mimic one another, our likes and dislikes seemed to be congruent, and before long, we found safety in one another…even in the areas that were unhealthy and dysfunctional. Imagine a building that has an additional level added on top of the first floor. Our foundation that was established years ago was sure…solid. Over time and as more levels of access were granted, we began adding another level to our friendship. But I noticed that over the course of the last season, we added a level that the first floor couldn’t handle. Maybe the beams needed to be reinforced or something, but it seemed the walls of this particular level of friendship were buckling because the level beneath it couldn’t handle it. This level was built on empty promises, low moments, and truths that we couldn’t share with anyone else because they really didn’t make any sense. Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Our foundation was solid, but this floor was crumbling because the floor below was shaky. For too long I ignored the cracks in the walls and the way the floor of our friendship creaked, and I put up with the subtle sound of the walls shifting. To make me feel better, I just added a coat of paint of over the proverbial cracks in the wall in hopes that no one would notice the deterioration. But the walls kept crumbling and the floor below was buckling too. Finally I resolved that I wasn’t going to wait for the walls to come tumbling down; we needed to knock them down and start over.
I asked my friend if we could go back to the basics, find our foundation again.
In the months that followed, I felt like I lost my friend…one of the few with the All Access Pass. On almost a daily basis I was reminded that it was unfair that we had to start over. I was accused of pulling this mandate for demolition and rebuilding out of the blue. Vanessa was mad at me — I heard this straight from the horse’s mouth. To know me is to know almost nothing is out of the blue for me. I will over time voice my feelings and opinions letting the other party know that I am washing my hands of the situation. This allows space for the other individual to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done before I am done. It takes a while, but when I am done, I am done! So imagine the gut-punching blow it was to have one with full access to me be angry with me because I was changing the dynamic. This person KNOWS me. Vanessa knows my mood swings, my thought processes, my worries and fears, and even when I am at the end of my tolerance rope. So why didn’t she see this coming or at least HEAR ME? That was an added layer of pain: she didn’t hear me because what I was saying didn’t match what she wanted from me and our friendship. So here’s the narrative: I began “moving out” of the level that we are on, and removing my belongs from the first floor. I pulled away from what was so that we could just get back to what we knew was strong, but Vanessa refused to do the same. Whether she consented or not, the walls were crumbling around her… I just desperately wanted to protect her and for us to be on common ground.
I ended up in an estranged friendship with a person who still had full access to my life.
Her unwillingness to accept all that was happening seemingly became her refusal to get back to what was most important of our friendship. Naturally, I began placing restrictions on Vanessa’s access. It became draining to be reminded daily that things weren’t what they once were and that it was my fault. On top of that, she would become jealous if I spent quality time with any of my other friends or made any new friends. Another drain = more restrictions on the access. I had to do it! If she couldn’t handle me telling her about me hanging with someone else without moping because we weren’t hanging like we used to, then I just wouldn’t tell her. Before long, I noticed that I would become anxious when her number would pop up on my phone because I never knew what version of her I would get. Would we laugh and joke today, or would today be one of “those days” where I would end up being low and depleted by the time we ended the call? To avoid the back and forth of it all, my response time to text messages became delayed, and I became apt to miss her call and just return the call later. We went from talking several times a day and messaging all day to me purposely being unavailable. At least twice each week she’d do the reverse psychology thing where she’d say something like, “I don’t know what I am to you anymore. I’ll understand if you don’t want to be my friend anymore. I get it if you just don’t want to deal with me. If you want, I’ll just give you your house key back.” These statements were always followed by apologies that didn’t lead to changed behavior. I didn’t take back my key or the friendship title that I had given her, but her access had changed. My mentality became, “You’re in here now, but if you leave out, you can’t come back.” If she walked away from my holies of holies, I couldn’t guarantee that she’d have access to that space again. Her sheer refusal to rebuild from our solid foundation proved to me that she was selfish and maybe didn’t need to have that much access right now.
There are parts of the story that I cannot share that would possibly allow this narrative and my resolve to make more sense. I apologize for the gaps.
As I restricted Vanessa’s access in one area of my life, I found that I had space for other things. Not having to devote so much time, energy, and emotion into a friendship that had in some ways become dysfunctional created space for self care. I allowed myself to breathe, but most importantly I gave myself permission to live (have fun, explore, enjoy life) even if Vanessa wasn’t right by my side doing it with me. I didn’t shut her out or destroy her space in my life, she just didn’t fill as much of the room as she used to. I found that she wasn’t the only friend that could send me funny memes that make me laugh nor was she the only one who I could talk to about what was on my mind. I learned a few lessons in the extra room that was made:
The biggest lesson that I have learned: I don’t have to maintain a level of friendship if it is no longer meeting my current needs.
Vanessa and I recently had a conversation that allowed a hard reset for us. She acknowledged that many of her past apologies did not lead to changed behavior, and she felt convicted about that. She acknowledged that she had not been a good friend to me as a result of trying to hold on the level of friendship we once had. I wholeheartedly accepted this because it has been my desire all along to just get back to the foundation. But what do I do now with this extra room/space, and what about those restricted areas?
It has been a hard pill to swallow, but I realize Vanessa’s full access wasn’t reinstated just because we now see eye-to-eye. I haven’t stopped her from being a part of my life, but she can’t be my whole life. Through this experience of changed dynamics, I have discovered just how much an all access pass gave access too. There wasn’t a reason for me to report my every move, give a summary of every conversation, give up time for me to create time for us, or restrict other friendships to leave room for ours. I would over-give and over-share then be disappointed when the same wasn’t returned to me. This tolerance decrease that came as a result of turning 30 has forced me to redefine what is expected and invested into my friendships…and that’s okay.
*Heavy sigh. This is the part where I don’t know how to move on…*
“If you want to know how strong your friendships are, change the dynamics of the relationship and watch the responses.”
Forgive me that there is no scripture reference right here. You are welcome to scroll up and re-read the scripture I already typed.
I believe me and “Vanessa” have the potential to rebuild one of the greatest friendships that I have ever had. Our foundation has withstood the test of time and quite a few hardships, we just had to get around the parts that were dysfunctional and poorly constructed.
I changed the dynamics of our friendship and had to endure a brief season of pain from the response, but that pain made me learn more about myself: what I will and won’t accept, what I want, and in what ways I can be a better friend. I have no regrets about what happened. I have no woes concerning what might happen.
In a recent session with a therapist, she challenged us to put those who are closest to and have the most access to us in a category. In the center of a page was a purple circle – that space was reserved for me and God. Surrounding that circle was a blue circle/ring – that space was reserved for friendships with some balanced exchange. Surrounding that was a grey circle for those who are around but not very impactful to you…not close enough to pour into or drain from you. Lasty, the grey circle was surrounded by a red circle — an area of conflict or drama. That day I fully acknowledged that my friend was both in the blue and the red; as close as “Vanessa” was, I often found her in the red. Because of this unstable nature, I was prepared to dismiss my friend from the page.
“What you allow will continue.” Today I shared the reality of a close friendship of mine, and it was hard…very hard. I only hope that this challenges you to take a close look at the relationships that you have where the individuals are close enough to affect you. Maybe you are merely painting a wall that needs to be torn down, turning a blind eye to something that you need to see, or tuning out what needs to be heard.
Lessons of this transition:
This was so broken. I’m sorry. I hope you got my point. Now I need to go pull my whole life back together after being so open.
*It took me all day to type this.*
I hope this helps.