Category Archives: Spiritual Friendship

The Moment I Realized You Were Too Familiar

It wasn’t when we first met.

No, when we first met, I was excited. It was at large group and you motioned me over to sit next to you. I was confused (have we met?) but I quickly realized you were just nice and you thought I had a welcoming face. We were reading about David and Jonathan and you shared your desire for a friendship like that. I was more jaded, less enthusiastic, having just endured the highs and lows of that kind of friendship. But I was also impressed that you would so willingly share that with the group upon our first meeting.

It was when we first got coffee. We went to this chill spot in Harlem and talked about life (because, you know, making new friends is like dating). You told me about your time in TFA and I listened intently. You told me about your 80-100 hour work weeks, the sleepovers you threw for your students, the relationships you built with them. And then all the alarm bells started ringing. Your story was so familiar and so was your reasoning. And that scared me a lot.

Since then, we’ve gone for a few coffees, or dinners, or movies. But the time between each meeting grows. It’s not on purpose, but I’m not unaware of it either. Because after every hang out, I wonder to myself whether or not I should do it again. Because I know your type too well and I know that our types don’t work well together.

I would say it’s not you, but it is. It is you who focuses your energy on your work – your good work – at the detriment of your friendships and familial relationships. It is you who seeks authenticity and intentionality in romance but settles for far less than that. It is you who texts but doesn’t follow through.

But it’s me too. I’m the one who resists initiating so that I can resist rejection. I’m the one who keeps you at arms length so that I don’t make the same mistakes. I’m the one who stepped back from the game before it even started in earnest.

So yeah, you looked really familiar to me from the very beginning of our friendship. And that worries me a lot. But it’s also true that familiarity doesn’t imply a carbon copy. If I’m honest, I don’t know what to do about it.

But I think I should do something so as not to stumble into too familiar territory.

 

Advertisements

The Moment I Realized We Weren’t A Perfect Match

Or rather, the moment I realized we weren’t who we wanted each other to be.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot recently. This is something I’d previously be ashamed about because I know you don’t like knowing that I think about you.  But I’m not (too) ashamed. I do think about you sometimes.

I think I’ve been thinking about you recently because “breakups” are never really a clean break. The thoughts aren’t nostalgic, as they once were. They’re more like ambivalent memories. Stephanie leaves soon and I find myself wishing for more black friends so maybe the friendship thing just brings you to my mind. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just remembering things because remembering is a part of life. I’m allowed to feel.

I’m remembering why things didn’t quite work out. Mostly from my perspective, because that’s the only one I have. I’m remembering wanting (maybe expecting?) more from you and being confused and disappointed when you couldn’t (wouldn’t?) give me that. I’m remembering time spent trying to understand the disconnect – talking and writing and talking again. I’m remembering the moments I gave up, deciding not to try anymore then switching to passive aggression then giving up on that then getting upset when the same dissatisfaction ensued. I’m remembering the trivia.

You probably don’t remember the trivia (though if you do that may prove the theory right). We were “roadtripping” around North Jersey, scouting apartments for our friend, and you found the box in the car. You proceeded to ask me questions about Africa, a continent I know almost nothing about except that my ancestors must’ve had crappy lives there because they were unfortunate enough to be sold into slavery by their African brothers and sisters.

Africa, a place as foreign to me as any other, yet fairly well-known by you. The same Africa you had contemplated revisiting. The same Africa I had no interest in seeing.

I didn’t know most of the answers to the trivia questions and that bothered me. Not because I thought I should, but because I thought YOU thought I should. Because you wanted me to be the kind of person who knew answers to Africa trivia. Because you wanted me to be not me.

But you weren’t alone. Because a few months later, I realized I wanted you to be not you. You asked if, after I got married, I might look back on our relationship and be disappointed that my relationship with my husband wasn’t quite like my relationship with you. I said no, because my relationship with you hadn’t been positive for a while and that would negatively affect my memory of it. But the real answer is “no, because you asked that question.” Because you didn’t get that it wasn’t about comparison or romanticism or a weird situation where I’d always want my future husband to be like my college best friend. Because you couldn’t help but be you and I couldn’t help but be just the slightest bit uninterested in befriending that person.

I sometimes wonder what good came of our friendship, but I know that’s a shortsighted perspective. I’m sure there were lots of good things. Other times I wonder how and why we chose each other to be the ultimate bearers of our disappointment. I have other friends, none of whom I place unrealistic expectations on, so what happened with you? I don’t know the answer to that and right now I don’t much care. To be honest, I don’t think I’d do things much differently.

Let me end with this: I’m sorry if you’re reading this. I assume you’re not because the chances are small but if you somehow are, sorry. I know you don’t like to be thought of, least of all by me. While on the topic, let me also say that I’m not actually that sorry. Because this was way more for me than it was for you. And losing your best friend is a big enough deal that it’s worth writing about more than once. I’m not sorry for having been emotionally invested in our friendship, though there are times I wish the investment had been smaller, less risky.

Sheila texted me about getting takeout and not responding to guys on a dating app. Steph texted about going to a rooftop bar and saying goodbye (again). They remind me how much I love my friends and how happy I am to be here, right now. I don’t say this to make you feel jealous or something dumb (you never seemed to be the jealous type). I say it because I’m always struck by the human capacity to span emotional continents. I’m thinking about you but I’m not, at least not fully. It’s odd but I guess it’s how life goes. Time ticks away, memories fade, and only the present seems important.

Or maybe I should just give up on philosophy.

Anyway, if you are reading this: don’t you have something better to do than read my blog?! Between all the obsessive posts about Adele and Tina Fey you’re probably losing so many brain cells. Go study or something. Learn a book. And good luck down there. Though you probably won’t need it.

Graduation

After 25 years and 3 graduation/commencement ceremonies, I finally understand what it’s all for.

It wasn’t until yesterday evening, when my brother came up to hug me from behind, that I finally understood it. I always stress so much about graduation ceremonies. I imagine it’s the introvert part of me (though I recently took an online test and I got that I was an ENFP! Gasp!) that feels that social anxiety. I would’ve been content to quietly receive my degree in the mail and never go through any formal recognition process. I would’ve been happy to know I had graduated and move on with my everyday life. I would’ve been fine trying to figure out next steps, planning trips, applying for jobs, and just figuring out what to do with my life. But I would’ve completed missed the point of graduation.

A few days ago, I wrote about my fear of disappointing people. It’s a constant fear I have and it’s especially prevalent when I feel like I’ve failed in some way. It stems from self-doubt, not any actual disappointment I’ve perceived from family and friends. But it also stems from a deep-seated arrogance and self-absorption, so that when I think I’m unable to maintain the charade of accomplishment – when I’ve finally been found out as an impostor – I assume that everyone can see me as I am: an emperor without her clothes.

But I realized yesterday that, in fact, I’m not a naked emperor. I’m not walking through life attempting to convince everyone that I’m clothed in splendid garments. I’m the opposite. I’m the dream you have where you’re naked in front of an auditorium of people. My nudity isn’t real, I’m just convinced of it at any given moment.

I’m realizing that I’m actually clothed with the love and acceptance of my family and friends. And that’s what graduation is for. It’s so that they can see you be the person they know you always could be. It’s so they can acknowledge your accomplishments and celebrate them with you. It’s so they can keep adding on layers and layers of splendid garments.

I’m turning 25 tomorrow, an accomplishment (can I really call it that though?) I’ve felt ambivalent about over the past few weeks (I was just at a party talking to a friend about being single and 25 and unsure of life and living in NYC). And I’m glad I had this epiphany before I made it to a quarter-century. Because that’s the knowledge I want to take into the next quarter-century, if God lets me make it there. My family (and friends) are my constant reminders of God’s love for me. And sometimes it takes a graduation celebration to remember that.

Hopeful (Part 2)

*A continuation of yesterday’s post. Let’s dive right in!*

The other email I received was from a friend. A few weeks ago, she tried to hook me up with a job at her company but it didn’t work out. However, since then, she’s been pretty amazing at sending me emails about opportunities and job openings she hears about. Honestly, the mere fact that she does this is pretty amazing and impressive to me because she really doesn’t have to. It’s not her fault that I didn’t get the job at her company and I know that she’s just being a good friend, but we’ve only been friends for less than a year. I guess I’m actually more impressed by the fact that she has turned out to be such a good friend to me even in the short time that we’ve known each other. But New York friends are a topic for another post.

As usual, she sent me a job opening post. Sometimes the positions are good and I check them out while other times I just appreciate the fact that she sends them and mark them as read. But this one was a post I actually applied to. Because it actually fit my credentials pretty well. And there’s something about that that just made me really happy that morning. It made me really hopeful. Hopefulness increase: +2


I was listening to the podcast, On Being, (one of my faves) and this episode was an interview with the host herself, Krista Tippett. She has a new book out, Becoming Wiseand at one point during her interview she talked about the difference between hope and optimism. It’s a difference I never thought to suss out. But it’s real. Hope is more substantive. It has a sort of weight to it. It’s not a blind rejection of reality and circumstances, it’s the decision to look past reality and into something deeper. Optimism requires no trust or belief, merely the ability to imagine life differently. Hope calls us to step outside of ourselves. Optimism is often just a naive reaction to a minor setback. Hope is born through the pain of suffering.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

This passage (Romans 5:2-5) ends with what is easily one of my favorite verses from the NT. The verses following verse 6 tend to be more well-known and quoted, but verse 6 hits me hard every time. And to think, this most jarring, gut-wrenching, sacrificially-loving verse all begins with hope.

So yeah, I’m more hopeful now than I was at the beginning of the week. And nothing may come of it at all. I may not get the job I’ve applied for and I may never do anything with that pilot script. But there’s something beautiful about hope, isn’t there?

I’ll end with the words of the poet Emily Dickinson.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

 

 

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

I remember hearing this song for the first time in my high school French class and it’s a song that has stayed with me for probably a decade since.

As I write this, I wonder if I have any regrets. That may be an odd thing to say – presumably, you’d know if you had any major regrets or not – but my confusion comes from my hesitance to trust my first response. When I first encounter this idea, I immediately react in agreement with the song: “No, I don’t regret anything!” But when I pause for a moment, I’m forced to ask myself, “Am I just lying because I know I shouldn’t regret anything? Do I actually have regrets?”

It’s a weird question to ask myself, I know.

Here, though, I think my initial reaction is true. I don’t regret anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about things. In fact, it’s that thinking that initially makes me hesitate to answer the question. There are certainly things in my life worth regretting: relationships with men, my academic performance, how I’ve navigated friendships. Those are the things I think about when I wonder whether or not I do have regrets. But when I really think back on those topics, I realize that they weren’t all bad.

Now, I’m not making the argument that you shouldn’t have regrets because every experience is a learning experience. That may be true, but I don’t know how inclined I am to agree with that statement at this point in my life. Some things don’t have to be experientially learned. Sometimes you should just make good decisions. No, my argument is different. Because when I think about all of my failed encounters with men I remember that they failed because I was focused on other, at times more important, things. When I look back on my academic performance in college, I remember that I didn’t spend additional hours on papers because I wanted to spend additional hours with people. And when I think about some poor friendship decisions, I remember that, in the grand scheme of things, they weren’t always all that poor.

The final thing is what I want to talk more about.

I’d be a horribly ineffectual liar if I said I don’t think about the impact of ending a friendship that, at one point, was one of the most important relationships in my life. I’d be lying if I said I never wonder what would happen if I were to revisit it. But I’d also be dishonest if I didn’t admit that those moments usually come when I’m feeling lonely, sad, or selfish.

The other day, I was thinking about loving people badly. How I’ve spent so much of my time looking for someone to love me well, that I do them a huge disservice in the end. That, sometimes, the best way to show your love for someone doesn’t include your continued presence in their life. I’ve had to learn that a few times already this year (admittedly, I’m not a good learner. I’m learning all of this very slowly. Like, right now, I’m in the midst of very-slowly-learning this). It hasn’t been easy to learn. And maybe it’s something I won’t fully learn ever. Because sometimes I’m selfish. And sometimes I seek the most immediate medicine to deal with my human condition. Because it’s not fun to feel lonely, or invisible, or misunderstood. But it’s also not cool to enter and exit people’s lives, wreaking new havoc with every appearance, all in any attempt to heal thyself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m the only 20-something in the world to ever make bad decisions, end friendships, and feel sad. In fact, I’ve been under the impression that this is everyone’s 20s (amirite? Please tell me I’m right. It would be so utterly devastating to realize I’m one of few people in the world who makes such consistently disturbingly bad decisions. Seriously. Comment if I’m wrong). Still, knowing that lots of people mess up like I do doesn’t make me feel so great about my mess-ups. It just makes me wonder why I can’t love people better.

Still, I think I love my best friend enough not to reintroduce her to the relational roller-coaster that can be my friendship.

There’s pain in saying that – a pain that will certainly dull as time passes – but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

No, I don’t regret anything.

The Chase

Sometimes I see an awesome HONY post and I like it.

Other times I see an important HONY post and I think about it for hours and write about it on this blog.

“I was married for 25 years and had five children, but I allowed myself to make decisions based on emotional glitches. I had affairs. But they were affairs of the heart. I think I had a hunger to see myself as a great man in someone else’s eyes. My wife was a fine person, and she still is, but after 25 years of marriage things become settled. And when somebody else comes along and makes you feel like something special – it’s like catnip. You want more of it. You want to say: ‘Let’s get lunch sometime.’  But in the end, you are what you are no matter how somebody makes you feel. It’s just a feeling. And I wish I hadn’t chased it.

The last two sentences (which I’ve emphasized) are the two most poignant for me. It’s how I feel whenever I come to my senses about some dumb thing I’ve been doing for whatever extended period of time. But, admittedly, it’s hard not to chase feelings.

Before college, I was never in a position where feelings were relevant for my life. But once I learned the beauty that can come from vulnerability, I began to chase that feeling. There’s a poem by Miles Hodges and Alysia Harris where he says something about how he loves being in love. I’ve found that I love chasing it. I love being in love’s vicinity. I love it when love teases me and makes me think I might get it but turns around and runs away. I love how love makes me feel too.

I used to say I’ve never been in love, but I don’t think that’s exactly the case. I know how it feels to be in love. I just don’t know how it feels to give that love back to the object of my love.

The other day my ex texted me, notifying me of his location. I had texted him a few days prior asking when he’d next be in town so his text was something of a follow up. I didn’t respond. This probably doesn’t sound like a huge deal but it kind of was. I texted him for selfish reasons initially, and then, upon realizing that I should probably back away from the phone, I withheld those reasons from him, much to his annoyance. When he followed up on my text, I simply had no words for him. I left it unanswered.

I’ll concede that I have these momentary spirals. I have a lapse in judgment and convince myself to do something that will undoubtedly adversely affect me later on. And these spirals sometimes come from my hot pursuit of something like love. But such an all-consuming chase for that feeling is bound to leave people behind.

Sometimes I wonder how many things I’ve lost, trying to gain, in greater abundance, this thing that I already have so much of.

I guess it turns out the chase isn’t actually worth that much.

Inconclusive 

This morning, I awoke to a text from a friend. She told me that she appreciated our friendship and that we were able to have conversations about many things. It was sweet. 

Upon receiving the message, I smiled. But I also hesitated. It’s messages like those that make me nervous at times. 

I hadn’t fully realized it before, but I’m seeing now that I’ve been somewhat resistant to close personal relationships. I touched on this in a post from December. There’s some part of me that wants to hold back, for fear of repeating past mistakes. 

My fear isn’t completely unfounded. I was noting the other day that the friend who sent the early morning text reminds me a bit of a close friend and college roommate. My college buddy was/is a good friend but… I don’t know, there’s something inside of me that resists replicating that friendship with someone else. And yet there’s something else that draws me in deeper.

I know this isn’t a life or death issue (fortunately, none of the issues on my blog are) but I can’t help but think of these topics when I consider the last week of my life. It’s been unexpectedly confusing and I’ve often been led to rethink conversations, text messages, and basic interactions. 

The balance I’ve tried to reach in my relationships is something of an Aristotelian mean. With each person, I try to figure out how best to operate. At times, I’m trying to balance my desire for interaction with my perception of their desire for it. Other times, I’m trying to gauge my level of vulnerability and compare that to their desire for my vulnerability. But most of all, I’m trying to keep my head above water. I never want to act purely out of my own desire, disregarding the feelings of others.

This was especially true this weekend when I wanted to engage with an old friend but also felt like I may have done too much damage to the relationship to warrant any kind of future engagement. This gets to the idea of toxic relationships. I’m always acutely aware of toxic relationships and I try to stay away (hence my reluctance regarding the morning text. But that’s another story) but it’s interesting to think about all the toxic environments I’ve personally created. For instance, when I went back and talked to my ex, I was kind of aware that he may not want to see me because of how badly I ended things. And it probably would’ve been better for him not to see me. 

When we create toxicity, it’s easy to remind ourselves that we’re just good-intentioned people who were put in bad situations. But we don’t react the same way to other people. I expect immediate mercy and forgiveness for my emotionally distressing decisions but I only reluctantly grant those things to others. 

This leaves me in an awkward place with an odd decision. On the one hand, I understand reaching out. I get why you do it. I know why I did it and I know why my friend did it to me. But on the other hand, I get holding back. I’ve done it before and I may do it again today. And I know the only reason this is so hard for me to process and the only reason I’m writing so many words about it is because I understand fear, resistance, and uncertainty and I don’t know whether to continue on in what may end up being an emotionally draining relationship or give up on what could be an awesome display of redemption and growth. 

I was listening to a sermon a few years back (when I was on the other side of this situation) and the preacher said something I’ll never forget: “When you have the chance to choose between justice and mercy, choose mercy.”

It’s true, mercy looks different for different people. But for me, mercy has always meant engagement as opposed to distance. Right now, engagement is a little scary, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It may just be that my approach up until now has been a little off. 

DJP

Tina Fey

Anyone who’s spent any real amount of time with me knows about my undying love for one Tina Fey. My love for her is so strong and so real that I would quickly and without regret marry that woman, and live a beautiful, fun-filled, joyful life.

Alas, I can’t marry Ms. Fey because she’s already married (that’s the only thing stopping me. Because I’d totally be gay for Tina Fey. If that were a real thing). But as I was walking around on the UWS, as I often do for work, I thought about the prospect of meeting her and the greater prospect of staying in New York for as long as possible – a topic I’ll probably discuss at a later time.

See, Tina Fey is my ideal person. She’s smart and funny, but she’s also Liz Lemon and she seems real. I can’t tell you when this love affair began, but it’s definitely grown in the past few months as I’ve thought about my relationships. I guess, in a more perfect world, I’d be besties with Tina. And when I look around at the people I’m currently friends with, many of whom have a myriad of great qualities, I’m admittedly slightly disappointed that none of them is Tina Fey.

In reality, this love for Tina Fey probably comes from a combination of things: overly-idyllic views of female friendship, escapism, and the desire for romantic intimacy. The first thing isn’t entirely bad except for when it leads to the second thing. Sometimes, when I look around at the people I’m surrounded with, there’s a tiny part of me that wants to retreat. Sometimes that desire comes from the fact that I’m a little unwilling to make any necessary investments in the future of the relationships; other times the desire comes from me feeling overwhelmed by all the things that could be part of a close friendship. (The last thing in the list – the desire for romantic intimacy – is pretty self-explanatory. Men are very attractive.)

In any case, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that I’ll meet Tina Fey. I feel like I’m so close to making this happen. And I think I would actually explode if it did.

 

DJP

Community

At times, it’s been easy for me to forget the importance of community in my life. And it’s weird, because at times it feels like certain images and messages reinforce the idea that community isn’t that important.

I was watching an episode of 30 Rock today (I’m still hell-bent on meeting, befriending, and spending the rest of my life with Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy, the ever-quotable GE executive, was talking about relationships. He was reminding Liz that you’re born alone and you die alone so why try to build relationships in the meantime.

Obviously, I’ve heard that line before. Not just on TV shows, but in real life, talking to real people. It’s a kind of common phrase that you’re born alone and you die alone, but it’s usually uttered by cynical types who are fed up with relationships. And the counter to the phrase is usually, Yeah, but that’s why you should be with people for all the time in between!

In fact, you aren’t born alone and there’s probably a 50/50 chance you don’t die alone either. When I was born, both my parents were there. My brother was in the other room waiting. The doctor was coaching my mom through the process. Nurses were probably chilling in the area too. And my situation isn’t even all that different from most. Although not all babies are born in hospitals with doctors and nurses around, all babies come out of mothers (mothers count as people, right?) and oftentimes there is some kind of baby-helping specialist and community of people.

You don’t always die alone either. Sometimes you die in a hospital or some kind of care facility. There are probably millions of ways to die and at least half of them include some other person or persons.

But maybe I’m misunderstanding the quote. Maybe it’s about community. Maybe the idea is that you’re born alone (by yourself, on your own) and you die that way too. But even that’s wrong sometimes. Some people are twins.

In any case, community is important and inescapable.

This past Friday, I went to the fellowship group I had been attending for the past semester and while I was there, I remembered how good community felt. Before I showed up, I had convinced myself that I only really had one good friend in the group and if she wasn’t there there wouldn’t be much of a reason for me to be there. But afterwards, I realized that there were a lot of people there I really liked. And those people gave me such a strong sense of community, something I haven’t had in a while.

Without community, it’s easy to falter and lose track of all the other important stuff. Without community, everything else is so much harder.

A friend texted me the other day, asking my thoughts on the importance of bible-reading, prayer, and church/fellowship were for a Christian life. I told her they all were but that fellowship was the one most likely to lead to the other two. And it’s true. We were made for community. We were even commanded to it. And though I’ve had great periods in life when I wasn’t surrounded by a community, those were probably the exception and not the rule.

I could go on and on about community and faith and God but I won’t because I’ve done nothing all day and that feels wrong. But I will say that I don’t think it’s even possible to overestimate the importance of fellowship and community. And I don’t think it’s possible to replace authentic community. And I think both those things make community so amazing and fun and important and life-giving.

 

DJP