Too many friends & in-loves?

“Holy crap! I’ve got way too many people who love me and care about me in my life!” is something I’ve never heard another living soul say.

Truth is, I don’t know, and have never known anyone who complained, at least within earshot, about having too many people who love them and care about them. Close friends, in-love folks.  I’ve never known a soul to fret over being overstocked on either front.

The bonds of friendship and in-love are the very veins through which love and friendship flow; they are also the veins through which loyalty flows.  

The absence of loyalty always poisons bonds between friends and in-love ones. 

I love my friends. How can I not? They’re my friends!

Someone once told me, “You know, you tell a lot of people you love them,” in a tone that led me to think the speaker believed my character trait might be something I should reconsider keeping, or, at least, tone it down a bit. 

Not a chance.

First of all, I can’t help it. And, if I could, I wouldn’t. I instinctively feel love and compassion for my fellow beings, until they give me reason not to. Even then, I mightstill care, I simply don’t act on it. T

There are rare instances when someone’s choices and behavior are so repellent and dangerous, I am unable to feel anything other than anger. Years ago I played in role in helping to put a man behind bars who had raped and sodomized a number of boys, grammar school ages. The brutality that man inflicted on those lives, and the lives of their loved ones, cannot be put into words. At least, I can’t do it.

But these folks, thankfully, are in the minority. 

There’s a man, in his fifties I would guess, who works as a checkout bagger at nearby supermarket. His name is Vincent. Vincent has neatly cut and combed gray hair and a full, well-shaped gray beard. He is small in frame and wears glasses with dark frames over a pair of the kindest eyes you can imagine. 

Always, Vincent is attentive to you, the customer, hopes your day is going well. Means it. Vincent glows with kindness. Now, when we chat, as I leave I’ll sometimes say, “Love you, brother,” and I mean it.

How can you not feel love for someone who brings kindness into the world?

Last year, or maybe it was the year before, I decided, on a whim, to go for a 18- to 20-mile walk on a really hot day, without enough water. I ran into trouble (duh, Peter) and had to call for help. 

The first responders in the ambulance were all about making sure I would be okay with every fiber of their being. These, men, in this case, who did not know me from Adam, were heart and soul committed to making sure I kept my life.

Of course I felt love for them, then and now.

One of the most heartbreaking, and, in a very real way, tragic realities, are the number of friendships and in-loves that implode because one or both could not, did not, or would not, or were incapable of recognizing and accepting the presence of some unhealthy behavior patterns they might be stuck in. Patterns they deserved to be free of!  

When a child gets raised, one way or another, getting the message that he or she is poor example of how he or she should be, and are supposed to me, that child’s self-image gets damaged. Moreover, what “supposed to be” might mean can be a whole other world of hurt for the child.

You don’t come out of these experiences without some unhealthy patterns in your repertoire. Chances are, these no unhealthy patterns were the very ones you had to use in order to survive your childhood. Absolutely. Fair enough. 

Nevertheless, you are responsible for getting free of them, now that they are toxic. Is this fair? Hell no. It’s not fair. It’s reality.

Here’s another reality. You deserve your freedom. And tell some folks you love them while you’re at it.

Don’t waste my time

“You’re too damn patient with people, too stupid loyal,” a friend of mine told me, though he used a word different than damn.  He continued: “Former friends, an ex or two , and family members who haven’t acted like family members in God knows how long, and you, Mister Loyal, keep the door open to them! And even worse –  I mean I love you, brother and I’m not saying this to hurt you but to wake you the hell up –  but even worse, you even reach out to some of these folks from time to time and let’m know you care about them and what do you get back? Squat! Stop wasting your time!”

My friend was right – is right still. Recently I’ve been thinking about his heart-filled diatribe, I guess you’d call it. The words, Stop wasting your time, seem to strike a deeper chord. Maybe they always ran that deep did and I’m just now getting it. Wouldn’t be the first time I was slow on this kind of uptake. This kind of uptake being, in part, that who you believe someone is may be entirely wrong. That we sometimes really believe someone to be someone they never were, and never will be. Or, we were right to believe someone’s initial presentation of self,  but the real intimacy that comes with loving bonds in life were too much for them, so they engaged in the age-old art of sabotage. In many if not most cases, the reason they never will be or can’t get back to being themselves is because they are so twisted up in their own unhealthiness, often caused by their history-wounds, they are unable to break free and get the help they deserve.

Some people can’t face the journey that comes with getting free of your history, which is tragic because the freedom to be who you are is a truly wonderful place to be.

Remember to say I love you

I woke up this morning to learn a friend of mine has suffered two strokes and is now, as I write these words, in a drug-induced coma.  Right-sizing experiences like these remind me – and I would hope and pray they would remind anyone – that holding off on letting people know you love them is a tectonic mistake in judgment.

Grudges over  past missteps and “bruises” – real or imagined – impede far too many people from letting people know they are loved.  When you let someone know  you love them,  you will not always hear or read the same in return. Please don’t let that stop you from telling them they are loved. Who knows what wounds live in the minds of others, and impede them from saying I love you too? And then again, maybe they don’t. And that’s okay too.

Life happens to us whether we like it or not. We have say in how we respond to it.

Pray for my friend, please. He’s a truly good man. First thing I’m going to tell him when I see him is, “I love you, brother.”

Loyalty in the cross hairs

Nothing unique in saying the beginning of a year is a time of reflection, planning, gauging possibilities, setting a goal or two, among other things. For reasons I’m not inclined to study closely, I found myself thinking about a conversation  I once had with a close friend of mine. Obviously the following is not verbatim, but it certainly captures the essence of things.

Close friend: Why do you stay loyal to people that are not in your life and have in one way or another wounded you?

Me: Well, I don’t stay loyal to everyone who has been in my life but the ones you are talking about are people who, if one knew their history, have been badly wounded in life. Parents dying way too soon, spouse dying, a victims of violent crime, abuse, and so on. It’s not lost on me how desperate one can become when all hell breaks loose so I let them know, if that happens, I’ll be there.

CF: But some of these folks have been pretty nasty to you. Callous, flat out mean at times.

Me: That doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care about them. Also, the fact I’d help someone in no way means I’ll let them back into my personal life. Only if they own their wounding treatment of me and apologize would I consider that.

CF: But still, why the loyalty?

Me: Because few if any are all one thing. And the few people I retain this loyalty for have qualities to their character that in my mind make them rather extraordinary. I care about them. Having said that, they’d be foolish – anyone would be, actually – to mistake my niceness or my compassion for weakness. I won’t put up with nastiness or dishonesty aimed at me. Doesn’t matter who’s doing the aiming.

CF: But wouldn’t you feel taken advantage of?

Me: The thing is, it’s not about me, it’s about someone getting through a patch of hell in their life. I’ve been on my own, completely on my own, since I was 15. Facing the trauma life dishes out alone is brutal. If one of these people were in crisis and reached out to me, I’d find turning my back on them far more unbearable to live with than helping them.

A word on friendship & honesty

Yesterday I had the chance – and very real pleasure – to talk with a woman that used to be my girlfriend and is, I am very happy to say, my friend. It had been awhile since we’d talked because, as happens between friends from time to time, honest misunderstandings stumbled us up a bit. There are certain indelible truths about this woman that anyone who meets her would be wise to make note of. She is intensely courageous. I’ve seen the courage she brings to life’s challenges up close. The specifics of those challenges have no place in this missive because it is not my place to talk about them and, she is my friend, which means I won’t tell you.

It nearly always makes me shake my head with sadness when I see people trying to manage their lives by spinning webs of misinformation (or telling outright lies) rather than staying on the path of honesty. Yes, this latter is not always easy, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that honesty is a powerful ally. As one who lives a sober life, it is an ally I have no intention of betraying. The woman I spoke with yesterday is cut from the same cloth. She is courageous, honest, and, it must be said, the kind of mother to her two daughters that every child deserves.

Those managing their lives with dishonesty often attack and villainize the ones who love them the most because the ones who love them the most hold them accountable for their choices. Those who love them are wise not to lash back in kind. Pray for the person you love and hold them accountable.  Stay out of the poisonous web of deceit. It is not healthy for you. Equally important, it is not healthy for the person you love who may genuinely no realize honesty is one of his or her best allies.  The most painful experience for those of us who love someone who manages life with methods short of rigorous honesty is we  oftentimes need to disengage from them.  And loss, even when necessary, is painful.

Thankfully, none of this holds true with my friendship with the woman I spoke with yesterday. Talking with her was a breath of fresh air, it usually is.

If you love a person who is caught up in an unhealthy lifestyle like this, leave the door open. People truly can change. It is hard work, not easy, and takes courage. But if you love them, they deserve a second chance. People gave me a second chance (and then some) after I got sober.