Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friend Request, part II of II

What is a friend? At times, I am befuddled by my own friend interactions. I have responded inappropriately to hurt feelings and botched ending relationships, aka the "Friend Break Up." Clearly I haven't mastered the art of friendship; how can I offer guidance to my kids?
Ahhh, the friendship bracelet. Let's bring it back! A few things from middle school are worth saving. Here is the site just in case you need a refresher.
So, in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I realized the best way to answer the question is to turn it back on itself. Hopefully things will fall in line with my and my daughters relationships when the focus is on our own actions.  It is NOT, "is Susie being a good friend to me (or my child)?" It simply becomes, "Am I a good friend?

We are in control of our actions and reactions; we have a responsibility to choose wisely for ourselves. Consequently, the first question we must ask is, "am I a good friend to myself?" Seldom is a problem solved with perseveration and nursing feelings of victimization and resentment. When we stop ruminating and focus on the only person we CAN control (our kids, who are just puppets and we are the master--jk), ourselves, the right course of action is illuminated.

In "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion", Dr. Christopher Germer says that true compassion involves giving loving attention to whoever needs it, and sometimes that is your own self. With that in mind, I am working on  ".... responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgment or self-blame...", engaging in self-care, and talking kindly to myself (see: Please be Nice to my Friend).

In addition to being a friend to myself, I want to be a good friend to you. (BTW--I adore you). Research confirms what I long suspected; friends help us live better and longer. There is magic in these relationships. They offer endless opportunities to give and receive support and to learn about others and ourselves. Complex and sometimes tricky? Yes, but so worth the effort. And I value my friendships infinitely. I want to nurture and protect these relationships, to use them as a tool for showing my girls their positive aspects.

But all of this has me wondering: how do I know if I am a good friend? Therapists are terrible predictors of the therapist/client relationship. They chronically over-estimate the bond and how the action in the room is going. Is it the same for friends? Do we overestimate our compassion? Do we think our love is accepting and unconditional when really it is wavering and fickle? How would we really know?
Or until I can slip you the hint without the awkward face-to-face via Facebook
So friends, I have attached an evaluation form. All you have to do is sign in as "anonymous" or come up with a clever user name like friendeval8er and go to town. I realize that it is highly unlikely anyone will actually do this, but I am open to the feedback, as we all should be. So fill it out, or just let me know what you think about the friendships in your life. What is your philosophy on friendships and what do you hope to teach your kids through your own relationships?  How does the friendship with yourself factor into both?

Sister1's Fabulous Friendship Evaluation Form (FEF). Eat my dust Meyer's Briggs--no one is going to care whether or not they are extroverted when this form hits the fan:

1) After an interaction with Sister1, I usually feel:
A. Contemplative-wow, is she ever an external processor!
B. Tired, oi vay, does she ever shut up?
C. Sister who? She sucks at returning messages.

2) Sister1 can keep a secret:
A. When in a coma
B. Does it count if she prefaces it with, "now don't tell anyone else..."?
C. You bet, what a vault! And no one has the combo.

3) I feel genuinely accepted by Sister1:
A. Warts and all!
B. Seriously? She slips more hints at self improvement into the conversation than my mother.
C. Sister1 is a judgmental bitch.

And for the essay portion: How can I love you better? Inspired by this beautiful article, it is a question that I am earnestly asking everyone in my life (dorkily including myself).

As always, my gratitude and lots of love! Leave any comment and even if it is crappy and sucks, I promise not to friend break up with you.


  1. PS-A BIG thank you to Shellody for her editing help on this post. :)

  2. You're very welcome, Sister1, although I don't think I had much to offer. I'm honored you asked.

    My philosophy on friendships is that there is something to be learned from EVERY relationship--even the ones that were bad (notice the past tense here, because we don't stay in the bad ones). Maybe it's learning that we were stronger than we thought, and we do know how to effectively FBU. Maybe it's learning that the people we most wanted to be friends with weren't worth the time of day...

    I'm a terrible friend to myself, and hadn't really given it much thought until this post (thank you Sister1). I really need to say no to outside influences more, and make some "me" time.

    I just read the article you suggested, and it made me cry! How can you love me better? Love yourself yourself and what you are doing (thinking of the blog and parenting here), and enjoy your life for what it is now. Laugh at the mis-steps and mistakes, and chalk it all up to learning. You might not have time to enjoy it as much when the blog goes viral and you spend your days maneuvering through pages and pages of comments :)

  3. Shellody,
    Gosh, I had never really stopped to think about how busy I will be when this bad boy goes viral. Thanks for that!

    And thanks for your thoughts. I whole-heatedly concur with each of them. A good friendship should be supportive and uplifting and those are the ones I was thinking of when I wrote this, but in the interim I have been pondering how much I have learned from each relationship.

    All the experiences we have friends (be they real, false, fickle,or fleeting) are tremendous learning opportunities. And the lesson that keeps getting underscored is that I am the only person that I can control. I am in control of my thoughts and actions, how I frame my feelings, etc. I just attended a talk by a spiritual teacher ( and she said "how self aware others are is none of our concern." She spoke beautifully to the art of awareness and how it allows us to put our best into practice.

    So cultivating awareness of my own process and being a friend to myself through all of it is where I am starting. If there is one thing I want to teach my girls, it is the thing my mother tried to teach me but I ignored for some 30 years...we can choose! We have the right and the ability to say what we want and how we feel, and it when it doesn't work...we can move on. ("Ignore" was mom's term but you know how I like to be verbose). Loving ourselves, laughing with ourselves and choosing compassion over feelings of shame or humiliation are a wonderful place to start. So I am totes trying to take the essay portion of your quiz response to heart. ummm, longest response ever. Thank you as always!

  4. Dangit, my kid just deleted my answer! Me write it again. This post was very much needed after some recent public humiliations I suffered. Sister1 gently reminded me to not be so hard on myself and to "have compassion."

    My answers to the quiz:

    1. D. better
    2. D. She can keep a secret quite well, but she will tell HB and that is okay.
    3. D. Skin tags & all :)

    Lucky to have both a sister & a friend in you. You're fabulous!


  5. Hee hee. I love that you took the quiz. You sort of made up your answers but that is okay because it is a made up quiz. You may be a lucky star, but me the luckiest by far. (paraphrase of Madonna).
    Love you!
    sister1 and your actual sister

  6. Oh, I forgot the quiz! I got so sidetracked with the article that I forgot!

    Here are my answers:
    1. Both A&B, but the only reason it is tiresome is that we tend to call each other in times of crises. It's only natural to get a little fatigued when one or the other of us is in full panic mode.

    2. Both A&C. As a nurse, I'm quite certain she can keep a secret when in a coma, but she does well otherwise too. Or at least I think so. Maybe I should survey some readers and see if she's been posting about me behind my back....

    3. Both A&D. Warts, skin tags, excess body weight, neuroses, anxiety disorders, etc, etc, etc and all. Sure, she offers self-improvement advice, but only when requested.

  7. I LOVE that my (2) readers took my quiz and not only took it, but improved upon it by adding extra funny answers. Maybe we should all start carrying around evaluations forms, or maybe I should ask my 5 year old to take one...but I don't know if I am that brave, she is more apt to be honest than funny! Thanks again!

  8. I really like the concept of being a friend to yourself. If for no other reason, it's good practice! How can we forgive others if we can't forgive ourselves?

    Then again, if you need a reason other than practice, or are astutely aware of the fact it is WAY easier to forgive others than it is to forgive yourself, another reason to be a friend to yourself is because it truly does make you a better friend to others. If you are full of self-hate, how can you be a friend to others? If you don't trust yourself, how can others? Just as you must eat and drink to maintain some measure of health and live life, you must feed the emotional you to maintain some measure of emotional health and be a friend.

  9. Anonymous, That is beautifully said, "you must feed the emotional you to maintain some measure of emotional health and be a friend." We are always better suited to serve/parent/work/etc when we are fortified and well sustained.

    I also think it is important to model for my girls. I want them to treat themselves well, to be kind to themselves and quick to forgive themselves. So I figure I better put my money where my mouth is! Just this afternoon someone at school told my daughter that she was stupid and that they hated her. I was SO impressed, she said she wasn't letting the words get inside of her and that she knows she is "smart and special." I spend 90% of my day second guessing my parenting choices so it was really nice to both see her skills and resilience and to feel that something I have tried to teach made some sort of impression.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!


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