Let’s Be Friends, Bitches

Best Friends

I’ve been watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix. Actually, on Saturday I binge watched a lot of episodes. On Saturday I was sick depressed. Anyway, I couldn’t bring myself to do much besides read and watch television. I’m also writing a lot and suffering a lot of angst. The two go hand-in-hand, ask any tortured artist you know.

The show is funny. It’s supposed to be a snarky comedy, rom-com, dark comedy. A mix of all sorts of genres. I like mixed genres, because I mostly write a mix of genres. It has hilarious songs that make fun of everything from Spanx to relationships. But it also can be real. In fact, in watching the show the main character reminds me a lot myself. Not to say I’m crazy, um, maybe I am. Who knows? But boy, I did some crazy things in my past that I would like to forget. Unfortunately, the past has a way of haunting the present.

One thing I love about Crazy Ex Girlfriend is its sarcastic way of dealing with real life. I love how Valencia has never had a group of girl friends and how they deal with that aspect of female life. Let me tell you—females can be vicious, catty, and petty. It’s time we taught our girls to be nice to one another, and not let jealousy get in the way. My husband said to me the other day, “You don’t even like girls.” That’s not exactly true–what I don’t like is bitches.

I made my best girl friends when I was in elementary and high school. I’m still friends with them. As an adult, I’ve had ups and downs. I had a great friend in college who sort of treated me like shit. Whenever I said something she would say, “I don’t care.” Well, not whenever, but a lot. I mostly chalked this up to the fact that she was from New Jersey. The thing is, it was easy to walk away from that friendship, because she didn’t give me what I needed and I didn’t give her what she needed. Plus, I had loads of college friends waiting in the background (Tiffany, Angie, even Jandy—that’s Janet and Andy for all you who didn’t know me in college). In my adulthood, I’ve had good friends who have come and gone. I had a best friend, and we were there for each other when we needed it, and then we moved on. Looking back on that friendship, I’m pretty sure I was going through a mid-life crisis (yes in my early 30s–I’m pretty sure life crisis happen every 10 years or so–hold onto your horses). I’ve always known when a friendship is ready to be over, because they’re easy to walk away from. If there’s angst about walking away from a friendship, then there’s probably some unresolved baggage and you need to get in there and work it out no matter how hard that shit is.

But girls are complicated. And I’m complicated. (Guys are complicated too even though they’d have you believe they’re not.) I’m apparently needy and have a lot of expectations of people. I’m aware of these faults and how they contribute to crazy-making. As I’m watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend and laughing at all the crazy bullshit going on with the main character, Rebecca, I’m also seeing echoes of my life when I was younger (and much less wise than I am today ;-)).

I think as people we tend to blame others for the downfalls in our relationships and our friendships instead of taking a long, hard look at ourselves. It’s much easier to pit the blame on other people, because then you don’t have to own up to the fact that you’re human and you likely make mistakes. For one, I’m super bad at communicating. I hate talking on the phone. I say things like, “Um, yeah, okay. Well I have to go.” Also, there are long extended, uncomfortable periods of silence, which are easy to sustain when you’re looking in someone’s face but harder for me on the phone. I would much rather meet in person for margaritas and Mexican food than talk to them on the phone, but that’s impossible with my long distance friends. I think about my long distance friends a lot (like Tiffany, Julie, Nabi, Kristin, Marianne). I’m just not so good at actually reaching out and communicating with them. I fall back on text a lot (who doesn’t), but I don’t think that’s an acceptable alternative to actually talking communicating.

I think the thing about girls is we let all the emotions get in the way. When we don’t hear from a friend, we think, “Oh God, that girl doesn’t like me anymore. Let me analyze this for twelve hours, eat a tub of ice cream, drink a six pack of beer, then shoot off some text to our used-to-be-best-friend saying: Why don’t you like me anymore? What did I ever do to you? Are you in love with my husband? Are we fighting over the same guy? WHAT DID I DO? Although, usually, in these types of situations I brood and never tell my friend I’m having all these thoughts (see–bad communicator).

Girls also do this thing where they let guy relationships get in the way of their friendships.

Let’s say Holly is best friends with Jemma. Holly meets Daniel. Holly and Daniel start going out. And to Holly it’s like Jemma never existed. Or maybe Holly thinks that their friendship is so solid that Jemma will understand and she doesn’t have to make time for Jemma. Um, not true.

Jemma says, “Hey Holly, want to get a taco and margaritas tonight?” (I’m obviously in the mood for Mexican food today, but then again, when am I not?)

Holly says, “I can’t. I’m going to watch Daniel and his best friends play Madden for four hours, while simultaneously clinging to his arm and acting like a cool girlfriend.”

I mean, girls, why do we do this? We give up who we are a little bit to be with a man. Men don’t do this. They still have their “bros.” Bros before hos, dudes. They make time to game, to talk, to drink loads of beer. But women love to say they’re too busy with their boyfriend, husband, or their kids to maintain and nurture friendships. Man, that’s stupid and has to stop.

I know I’m an offender of this—in the past and today. I use my family as an excuse a lot to blow off my friends. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my good girl friends (like Cecilia, Stacy, and Andrea) can’t be replaced. They are people who I will always be there for no matter what. Even if we don’t talk and fall back on texting, when these people float back into my life and we get back together it’s like nothing has changed. And that’s what real friendship is. And it’s worth fighting for.

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The End Of A Play Date

In my alternate life, about 10 years ago, I stayed at home with my oldest child. I look back on those days fondly. I don’t know if that’s with rose-colored glasses or not. I had a good friend, D, and we used to get together for play dates with our boys. We’d take the babies over to her house, or my house, or our other friend’s house. We’d make coffee (that’s when my addiction to coffee took hold) and muffins, talk, and let the kids play.

I loved those moments to reflect on parenthood with my friends. We could bounce ideas off each other, commiserate about parenting issues, laugh, love, and learn. Later, my husband and I moved away. I got a full time job, and I added two kids to the crew. And the play dates stopped.

I’ve had friends, and my kids have made friends. But somewhere along the way play dates ceased to exist. I wonder if this is because I work on the weekdays and somewhere people are still hosting coffee dates with their friends while their toddlers play. But I’ve also noticed that less and less people call up to have their child play with mine. I wonder why. Is it the way I’m raising my kid? Am I just nostalgic for a world that doesn’t exist in this technology-craved world we live in? Or is it because people are too caught up in their own lives to make room for friends?

I think that playing with companions, having a bunch of kids over at your house, and encouraging your children to socialize lets them become better leaders, communicators, you-name-it. They learn how to solve problems and how to listen to one another. If our kids don’t have that anymore, then where are they getting it from? The internet–probably not. I know kids, especially the teenage variety, socialize over the phone, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same for the moms either. We are all much too obsessed with the world of our phone to communicate effectively with each other at this point.

We have our friends at our fingertips, right? But when was the last time, you went out and really enjoyed someone’s company without looking at your phone? When did you go sit at a friend’s house and commiserate about how you’re screwing up your children? Don’t take these types of friendships for granted, because there is something to be gained from having someone who is battling the same storm at the same time as you.

I don’t have very many close friends. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I’m generally a pretty happy person. I smile and make conversation. I have a hard time saying no. I might come on too strong sometimes. I’m a thinker, and I guess sometimes, I’ve been told, this can be intimidating to other people. I’m not a huge fan of small talk. I tend to make friends with men, because men tend to let the self-conscious go and just be real.  This is somewhat socially unacceptable, especially in the South. People still seem to think along the lines of When Harry Met Sally that a male and a female cannot just be friends. I get it. Sometimes one or both of the people in the male/female friendship develop feelings, but this isn’t always the case. Let’s be honest: adults can be adults and keep their belts buckled, right? It’s called willpower, folks. I think male friendships can offer something that female friendships never can–an understanding of the opposite sex. And so I think that having both female and male friends is important.

I grew up with two sisters though, and so I feel as if I’m sorely missing out on the days when I had a good female friend. I think about D and how are friendship wasn’t competitive. How we loved our kids, and we cared about one another, and that was enough. We had very little expectations of one another, but we were always there for each other when we needed to be. And I wonder where I went wrong from there. Maybe it’s where I live, which seems to be full of cliques. Maybe it’s that I neglected my friendships because I made specific choices not surrounding them. Perhaps I didn’t try as much, because I didn’t always realize how important friendships could be. Who knows, but I know what I’m missing and that makes me sad. I also know that there are a lot of women in my life I’d like to have a closer friendship with, and I hope to focus on making that happen in the next year.

Last night, I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. My mind has been churning lately, hence the uptick in blog posts and hopefully a finished novel before my life ends. I thought about D and how much I enjoyed our friendship. I thought about my friend T with love and how we enjoyed a part of our life together. And then I thought about how I don’t have a close friend to reach out to right now. I have church friends. I have PTA mom friends. I have co-workers who I love and enjoy. But I don’t have someone who I can call up and say, “Hey, what don’t you come over on Saturday, have a cup of coffee with me, and we can shoot the shit.” I don’t even care at this point if that person sees my house dirty (by the way, it is always dirty, so that person if she exists will see my house dirty). I don’t even care if they see me ugly cry some times. Because that’s what friends are for–to support one another.

I think it’s time we all put the phone down for a second and meet up in real life. We need to bring back the play dates. Not only will this help our kids socially, but it will help the moms and dads too. Our community, in the U.S., if not worldwide has become individualized to a fault. But children need other children and adults need friends, besides their spouse, who they can turn to in times of need. Humans, after all, are a social species. We literally need one another.

Instead of the end of the play date, maybe we can begin again.

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Expect Less, Live More

When I went to Midwest Writer’s way back in July (it now feels like eons ago), someone said to make a name for yourself you have to blog. She/he (all the faces blurred together-sorry for vagueness) said readers like to hear from authors consistently, so set up a blog schedule and stick to it. Well, obviously I’ve fallen short in that category. I intend to blog three times each week, but sometimes things happen (like lice, or vacation, sick kids, sick me, anxiety-ridden can only sit on the couch and watch seventeen episodes in a row of How I Met Your Mother type days). But it got me thinking about expectations.

A few years back, I felt unhappy. And during that time, I found my love for writing again. I started writing for catharsis, to heal old wounds, and new. I wrote to rid myself of feelings I deemed wrong or inappropriate. I wrote to find solace from within myself. I wrote so I could function every day and not curl up into a ball and rock back and forth in a corner even though some days I wanted to. Back then, I held myself and everyone around me up to sky-high expectations. And it was a nightmare.

Unrealistic expectations of others only serves to further unhappiness in yourself. When one has expectations of other people that those people don’t meet, then one is stuck in a state of disappointment. How can you be happy when you’re constantly disappointed with others? Expectations become a little like mind-reading. Come on, we all say we’re not mind-readers, but the truth is many of us expect others to read our minds. Many of us expect others to fill the void within us. Many of us expect to achieve happiness from other people, instead of searching for it where it really exists: inside ourselves.

When I really thought about this—letting go of expectations—I thought it was ridiculous. I mean come on. My whole life, I’d been trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, to my bosses’ expectations, to my teachers’ expectations, and to my own unrealistic expectations of achieving perfection. I wanted my marriage and life to seem perfect, and in the end I had set unrealistic expectations for myself. When I realized this, I sank further into the dark pit of oblivion called depression. And I had to pull myself out, one layer at a time. I had to realize by letting go of expectations that I had what it took to make myself happy and to spread that joy around.

You see, having expectations for yourself is okay, as long as you don’t set the bar too high. I have goals and expectations for myself on a daily basis, but I’m not afraid of failure anymore. I know failure is an opportunity to learn.

It took me a while to learn that pegging your expectations on others, well, that doesn’t work. It destroys relationships. It destroys friendships. It destroys happiness. Now when I reach out to a friend, I do it because I want to. Sure, in a perfect world, it’d be nice for my friends to always reciprocate. But I know when they don’t, it’s because they got busy. I’m not catastrophizing about all the reasons they don’t like me. I’m done obsessing about where they disappeared to when they didn’t call. Because all these things—they’re crazy-making, not happy-making! If you really want to know whether someone is your friend or not, then be there for them, and see if they give back from the deepness of their hearts. Talk to them. Put the phone down and meet them for lunch. Tell them how you feel. Stop guessing and expecting other people to read your mind!

The only person in this life who can make you happy is you. Let go of your expectations for others. Give because you want to give, not because you want someone to give back. I promise, if you do this you’ll see the world differently and it might even make you happy. Hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Have you found happiness? Have you found ways to let go of your expectations? If you’re a writer, do you write for happiness?

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