The Search for Spiritual Friendship (5): Baggage

I was talking to my brother recently about a mutual friend. This friend keeps making bad decisions in his love life and it just seems like he doesn’t know exactly what he wants. He (somewhat) recently got out of a long-term, committed relationship and his behavior has been kind of questionable since then. While discussing this, I made a remark: “that girl must have done a number on him.”

I’ve said it before and I’ve always meant it, but never disparagingly. Our past relationships tend to have a huge effect on our present and future ones. But, until now, I didn’t realize how true that was for me too.

I’ve always known I have baggage. Everyone does. It’s part of life. I don’t think my baggage is any worse than anyone else’s. I think I’m pretty normal for having certain hang-ups and fears as a result of my past. I just haven’t been aware of how it affects my present interactions.

I’m always astonished when people I’ve recently met want to spend more time with me. I’m currently in a place where I don’t have many friends and it sometimes feels like I’m starting from scratch. It’s not a bad feeling, it’s just different for me. It requires me to stretch different muscles. One of those muscles is self-assurance.

The other day, someone I had met at the party of a mutual friend sent me a text (I’ve actually gained many of my recent friends from this friend’s party. Go figure). She didn’t have my number so she contacted our mutual friend and asked her for it. I was shocked. We had hung out once after the party but I figured it was only okay. I figured they would realize that I wasn’t that cool and forget about it. I figured that would be the end of it. And then I got this unexpected text!

One of the pieces of baggage I carry around as a result of past friendships is doubt. I constantly doubt that people are interested in hanging out with me. If I go out with people, I feel like I have to live up to some standard of awesomeness. When I don’t, I feel like no one will want to hang out with me anymore. Basically, I can’t understand what anyone could see in me.

That’s a really sad thing to say. But, like most baggage, it’s been “confirmed” enough times to make it a regular fixture in my life. I’m constantly wondering what people see in me and then trying to recreate and recapture that.

This is something I actually dislike about myself. As self-deprecatory as my humor may sometimes be, I don’t like self-defeatist language and rhetoric from other people. When other people are beating themselves down, I demand they stop because I know what they’re saying isn’t true. I guess it’s just hard for me to do that with myself.

I think one of the most important parts of spiritual friendship is dealing with this issue of baggage. I don’t think baggage needs to go away altogether – that would probably be impossible. But I don’t know if I want to be friends with someone who has to constantly remind me that my doubt is unfounded. I don’t know why though. I’ve had friends who, when they feel particularly deficient in some area or another, call me and basically vent/complain. I don’t mind it. I think it’s human to come to our friends and tell them about our insecurities. I wonder whether me not wanting a friendship like that is a product of shame or independence.

I don’t know. But in the meantime, while I’m Friendless in New York, I’ll keep thinking about my baggage and hoping to match it with someone else’s.

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