My father used to tell me that if I could count the numer of real friends I had in my life on one whole hand, I will have lived a very rich life. At the time I was a burgeoning teenager with a huge gamut of friends. I had no clue what he was talking about. I thought myself very wealthy indeed since I could count my “friends” on all my fingers, toes, nose and probably a good deal of strands of hair. I was a social butterfly. But, I also had only one person with whom i shared anything real serious – my friend Margaret. She and I would tell each other the worst of the worst (and still do today). That kind of intimacy really slips away as we get older, and as relationships impact our lives in a more deep way, then it is time to take stock and see where you are at with your people.
The people in our lives exist in circles. First there is our inner circle which contains our most intimate relationships. You are the first on that list, having the most intimate relationship is always with yourself. Then, the normally few people who really know your daily life activities and who have a handle on where you are at emotionally – your check-in people. The “how was your day?” people. The ones who know when you are going to do groceries or when you are in crisis. This circle includes a friend or two, your significant other if you have one and maybe some family members. It’s a small circle and who you allow into it is usually pretty guarded and entirely depends on what you need from relationships. Then the next circle outside the inner contains people you frequent often. Those involved in your life, but are not necessarily privy to all of the intimate details. These can include acquaintances, work mates, other friends, even some family members you are not particularly intimate with yet have a steady communication with. Then there is the third circle level, containing those that you interact with, but have no relationship with at all – the clerk you always meet at the grocery store, the guy who delivers your water to the office. Inconsistent but constant interactions with non-intimate relationships. The way these relationships come into your life, and which circle you end up placing them in, is very often a subconscious action. rarely do we actually sit down and decide consciously where people fit into the grand scheme of our life.
Sadly, we tend to spend the most amount of time, energy and resources on the less intimate relationships, and our most connected ones can go uncared for. Many of us spend 80% of our time in work relationships (non-intimate) and have very little energy at the end of the day to care for the inner ones. Most importantly, our relationship with OURSELF goes uncared for. If we don’t place and prioritize ourselves in the center of that circle and care for our emotional physical, intellectual and spiritual health, how is it we will have anything to give to anyone else? We have to be our first priority in order to be of optimal use to others in life. All relationships take work, no matter what circle they are in. But the kind of work you put into them depends on their place in your life.
In my life, I have a crazy number of people with whom I interact with. Depending on if I am working on the farm, or in music, drumming, writing, I have any number of dozens of folks I see and interact with on a multitude of levels. However, lately I find myself not enjoying the interactions and have become overwhelmed and feeling sucked dry by the end of the day. This is no one’s fault but my own – we teach people how to treat us. No one is a victim of another person’s interactions. But, it has become clear that it is time for me to make a conscious evaluation of how I am choosing my relationships, what they bring to me, what I bring to them and whether or not they are energy taking or energy giving relationships. This includes my marriage and closest friendships.
I was recently given the good advice of being told to move “towards things that give energy and away from those that don’t or that take energy”. The advice has sat with me for about a week, and my mind has been quietly taking notes on how I feel after being with certain people and the jury has reached a verdict: It’s time for me to take my own good advice and make some conscious choices for myself. There are some people who I don’t spend very much time with, there are optional people, and non-optional people (family and non family). Some I spend very little time with are sometimes the ones that bring me light and love and energy. Then there are (many) others who gravitate towards my higher energy and bring their low energy, which after a while wears on a person. I am managing my time badly in my relationships.
So this week is dedicated to relationship choices. I am going to really look at who I have inside my life and see how that relationship makes me feel. Maybe I have to work harder on some of my more important relationships – like with my 15-year-old daughter who I find communicating with particularly challenging to say the least. I will spend less time with the people who continuously come to me with their problems and anger issues and do nothing to change their circumstance. I figure it’s ok to listen to a friend, but it’s another to listen to a friend who s doing nothing to help themselves. I can relate! So often in the past of my life I have found myself miserable and unable to see a way out fo the circumstances. But, over time I know that even the smallest positive action that honours what i can and cannot do, can make an enormous difference when life gets heavy. I have begun to notice that in some cases, people define the relationship by how miserable they feel. This means essentially that if I allow the relationship to continue along the lines of “you complain, I listen” – often I am not doing anyone, nor myself, any favours. Sometimes loving someone means taking away the energy that you are giving that is feeding their “neediness”. In my case, this means making choices about who I interact with, at what level I interact with them and what kind of energy it brings us both after. Letting someone struggle with their issues can motivate them to find solutions.
Just like everything else in life, relationships change, and the place they hold in your life also changes. If you can’t recognize the change, then one day you will be caught off guard by a stranger in your midst. You can either wait for the surprise, or you can make a conscious decision to choose as to where that relationship fits into your life. You can decide which topics you will and will not cover with that person, and how much of your time they get. Decide consciously if you are helping or hindering someone by allowing them to always bring their negativity into your life.
This ability to choose consciously is my ticket to freedom. Although people will always cross my path and I will always want to help – there is a time and a place for everything. I don’t quite have the answers for all of this yet – I only woke with questions. I think this “discomfort” about my circles and relationships is simply the beginning of some form of guidance urging me to make some healthy choices and changes in the way I interact with people on a daily basis. I would like to have kept some energy for myself by the end of the day and not spread it around to those who wouldn’t use it productively anyways!
So just for today ~ this is where I am at.