Saturday, 21 April 2012

Thoughts on being 'Real' and friendship

Oops I did it again!!!: I don't seem to be having much luck with my bloggi...: I don't seem to be having much luck with my blogging just recently.  I have something blazing in my heart and mind that I feel I want to wri...
I don't seem to be having much luck with my blogging just recently.  I have something blazing in my heart and mind that I feel I want to write about, but then something happens to dampen the thoughts and ideas which are burning within.    My ideas have been put out like a bonfire that burned brightly and blazed too quickly, and the flames were suddenly drenched and quenched by a thunderous downpour.

Sometimes I have been bursting to express what I am thinking and feeling, and then the idea has wafted away,  like a dandelion seed being blown to nowhere and tossed in the wind.  I have tried to write a new blog at least three times. I have got so far, been quite pleased with what I have written, and then been distracted.  Days later I have gone back to finish off what I have written only to find that I have to re-log in, and then my work has disappeared in a puff of smoke.  Note to self, I must remember to save what I have written before I get distracted, or the flames go out, or the idea wafts away in the wind!

Sometime ago,  I started to write all about 'friendship', only to loose what looked like being a jolly good blog.  More recently I began a blog about 'what lies behind the mask', and lost that one too.  Maybe I could try and pick up the threads of both of these blogs, and somehow knit them together as one.  The trouble is, I have totally forgotten what I was trying to say in both of these blogs!  Hopefully in re-writing them, the inspiration will come as I write.

Here goes!

Friendship is precious.  I have had many friends over the years, childhood friends, school friends, work friends.  Friends I have made through my children and all the schools they have been to, and friends I have had during my 22 year marriage.  Many of these friends span the decades.  We all went through the same things together over more than half a lifetime.  We all dated,  got engaged,  got married,  had kids, and went through the ups and downs of life.  Our kids all grew up together, some couples got divorced and some re-married.  Most, I am pleased to say, have remained happily married throughout the decades, and they are blessed.  I guess that you could say statistically we have gone through all the normal things that normal people of our age go through.

Some friends came into my life for a period of time, and for a season.   They passed through, moved on, and so did I..... almost like chapters of a book.  Many of my friendships have spanned the decades, and I treasure these the most because they are my lifelong friends.  But I don't underestimate the friendships that only lasted for a shorter period of time rather than a lifetime.  Sometimes these intense friendships are as meaningful as the long-lasting friendships.  There is always something to be learnt, loving and loosing is all a part of the rich tapestry of life.  I have gained wisdom and insight from every single person I have met, and who has crossed my path and entered my life story.... at whatever stage.  I will always treasure and remember those friends who came into my life, and then left me for whatever reason.  I know that one day we will meet again.

The hardest thing about becoming single and getting divorced has been that though many of my 'coupley' friends have remained my friends, I simply no longer belong in their world.... I just don't seem to fit the 'mould' anymore.  Their world of happy 'coupledom' is so very different to my life now.  Over the last 6 years, perhaps I have changed, become more independent and self-sufficient.  To begin with, I tried very hard to involve them in my new 'single' status by inviting them over for this and that, but after a few years it seemed like they were loosing interest, and I was fighting a losing battle.  I haven't given up on them, as giving up on friends who I love, and with whom I have been through so much and known for so long is not on my agenda.  I don't believe in giving up on people full-stop.  It is just that sometimes I feel as though I have been side-lined.

Oh, and then there are the 'fair-weather' friends.  People who stick by you and are chummy when all is well and good.  They are quite happy to share the joys, the sunshine, and celebrate the good times, but when the going gets tough, and when the storms of life come along, they are nowhere to be seen.   They seem to disappear in a puff of smoke.  Oh, and believe me, life is full of storms,  the tiny ones and the humungous ones.  It maybe a small 'storm-in-a-tea-cup',  but it can be a major, thunderous and life-changing storm that turns your whole life upside-down.  True friends are the ones who stick by you no matter what, and who are there for you during these storms, and who don't abandon you.  Friendship isn't necessarily about who you have known the longest,  but who came into your life, and never left your side during the good but especially the bad times.

Having said that, I have some friends who I have known for many many years, but because of distance, busy life-styles, families, commitments etc we don't see each other as regularly as we would like.  When we do eventually see each other, it doesn't matter if it was months since we last saw one another, or even years, we are always able to pick up from where we last left off.  This is a mark of a true and deep friendship, as it seems to defy even time itself, no matter how long has passed.  Ageless, timeless, and forever friends.

I have to say that most of the friendships throughout my life have always been same-sex ones.  I have had very few male friends over the years.  Maybe because I went to an 'all-girl' school, and then 'all-girl' Secretarial college, followed by marriage and children.  Therefore, friends from then on were women with children of a similar age to mine.  My ex-husband always said that he didn't believe it possible for a man and a woman to be 'just friends'..... and that there was no such thing as 'platonic friendship' between a man and a woman.  How wrong he was, and how deceived and blinkered I was too.  I am now blessed with many female friends, but also a few male ones too, and I really cherish them.  It is always good to see and hear things from a 'male' perspective,  I really value their opinions, and thoughts on life.

It is strange that even though I dated my ex-husband for 4 years, and was married to him for 22 years, I hardly knew him.  The 'friendship' element was totally lacking in our relationship, and I guess you could say we lacked 'intimacy'.  I wish with all my heart that it could have been different.  How I yearned for 'closeness', and a connection with him that just was never there.  It was for this reason that sadly after many years of loneliness within my marriage we parted ways.  He is now very happily re-married to someone who is far more suited to him, and I am happy for him.  Well all appears good, happy and rosy anyway.

You can walk down a street and look at all the houses lined neatly along the road and wonder who lives in them, and what goes on?  Some houses look so cosy, warm and homely from the outside, with their pretty front gardens,  welcoming doors and windows.  We always assume that living therein are happy couples, with happy little families.....but do not be deceived.  The reality is, that in these houses are real people, living their own storms of life, whether it be relationship breakdown, illness, bereavement, troublesome teens etc etc.  To everyone on the outside, my house and my life looked like yet another happy, cosy home, but what went on within those four walls was another matter.  What looked like a 'happy ever after' life and marriage, was in reality lonely and cold.  My love for my children was what kept me going, and that is why I stayed.

As the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover, good looks, frontage and veneer can be quite deceiving, and what lies underneath can be a very different story.  A person can put on a wonderful facade of perfection, righteousness, smooth talk and charm..... they may seem to be a fine, up-right model citizen.  But sometimes beneath the mask that everyone sees,  hides someone or something much darker.... unresolved anger, bitterness, resentment, unforgiven grievances, a cold heart, and uncalled for judgement of other people.   You can see a person, a friend even,  appearing all smiles,  and it seems like they have got everything all together in their life and all is in order..... love, happiness, success, self-satisfaction,  but if you dig deep enough, their life is anything but.  Theirs too is a mask that they wear, and they don't want to lift or remove it because the truth and the harsh reality is hard to bare....... deep unhappiness, or dis-satisfaction with life, hurt, rejection, loss, loneliness.  It is easier to hide behind a mask.

What you see is not always what you get.  You think you know someone, but do you?  What happens when the mask comes off?  You think that from the outside of a house, all looks happy and rosy, but is it?  It is all down to  appearances, and how people want to present themselves.  The reality of people's lives, is very often different to what they want you to think or believe.  How does all this relate to friendship?  Well some friends are real, and some are not.  They put on a mask or act out a charade of friendliness, when the truth is, the chords of friendship are not strong,  and they do not run deep. What appears to be real and deep, is actually very shallow.  When troubles come these people who you thought were your friends are nowhere to be seen.  Sadly they are fickle and false.

So let's get real..... take off the masks we are wearing, and take a look beyond the facade of other peoples lives, and how they present themselves.  First of all, let's be true to ourselves,  then we can be true to others.  Then we need to love the people who God put's into our lives, whether or not they are there for a season, or there for a lifetime, they are there for a reason.  Truth, open hearts, honesty, respect, care and love for one another are what count, no matter what our age is, or what stage in our life we are at.   

As a child, I loved the story of the 'Velveteen Rabbit', and there are some great truths, and nuggets of gold that still speak to my heart on being and becoming real.  Here are a few of my favourites:-

“He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn't matter.” 
“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 

So very true eh?  What a wonderful childhood story..... I want to be Real, how about you?