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.

Protecting from a loved one

They are not easy times when you must, I believe, protect yourself from someone you love. It can require disengaging them from your life.

There are any number of real reasons for this being the healthiest choice on the table, but none are, the person I need to protect myself from is a bad person, a bad human being. Unhealthy? Yes. Bad? No. Absolutely not. The range of problematic conditions has its fair share of members, alcohol, drugs, addiction, personality disorders, and so on. These elements know no bigotry.

That someone we may need to distance themselves from someone doesn’t make them a bad person and it doesn’t free them of their responsibility for wounding others, as well as themselves.

When someone fires off a few sentences of verbal cruelty, say, I believe the self-inflicted wound runs deeper and does more damage to the perpetrator. Someone tangled up in behavior patterns that wound the lives of others – lacking any empathy whatsoever in some cases – already has a low self-esteem, whether they realize it, admit it, or don’t.

A person in this kind of struggle has basically two choices.  They can recognize the unhealthy patterns they’re  in, and get the help and support they deserve, and get free of them. Or, they can surrender their lives to a method of life-management that guarantees conflict, pain, suffering, heartbreak, and guilt. Everyone of us deserves the chance to get well. Not everyone realizes it when getting well is necessary.

The reason the perpetrator takes the deeper wound is this. On some level, he or she knows what they are doing is wounding and abusive and looks to degrade the target. So each time the perpetrator strikes, he or she is reaffirming the message they got taught about themselves, when some where along the line, they may have been degraded, even on a daily basis, often by some adult who could not be escaped.

In fact, I know of some wonderful acronyms for the word, FEAR. It can mean, Face Everything And Recover, or, Fuck Everything And Run.

My instinct is wedded to the former.

A distance maker called bullying

It takes no strength to be a bully. That said, to call those who bully, villains or bad people, misses the mark entirely. Hold people accountable, certainly. But accountability does not mean compassion has no role.  When possible, it does. Very much so. 

Bullying itself is a distance maker as far as I’m concerned. A way of keeping people backed off. Distance makers, as I’ve been bold enough to name them, consist of some behavior, attribute, environmental reality, that keeps people at a distance. Distance makers come in many forms. A former colleague of mine who dealt with a weight challenge told me that some folks put on weight as a way of keeping people away. 

It was pondering that observation that led me to recognize the presence of distance makers and the sizable repertoire of distance makers alive and well in the human family. In short, distance makers, healthy or not in form, are meant to protect us, keep us safe.

Distance makers are everywhere. Yelling, nastiness, sarcasm, name calling, threats, all forms of violence. I can attest to the fact some perfumes and colognes are distance makers. The first time I smelled musk I thought the end of the world had come.

I had a spectacular dance teacher at the Joffrey School of Ballet named Perry Brunson. He taught, Men’s Class. In all my time as a dancer I never met anyone who could teach Men’s Class as brilliantly as Mr. Brunson. On top of that, he was a nice man. A nice man who, before each class, dipped himself into a vat of English Leather, a cologne capable of repulsing anyone who got within a yard of the man.  That said, Mr. Brunson was no bully. He was, in truth, a lovely man, and a teacher I remember with gratitude and great fondness.

Back to bullying. Bullying does not take strength, in my view. I’ve heard some theorize that some bullies are, underneath, cowards. I don’t agree. To call a bully a coward is to inflict judgement, and judgement, when applied in the arena of understanding human beings, distorts reality. 

It may very well be true that many bullies live with fear, a primary antecedent to the bullying in some cases, I would think. But to engage in bullying behavior, while managing fear, is anything but an act of cowardice. In truth, it takes strength to manage both at the same time. And, of course, when you bully, you run the very real risk of someone striking back. Such moments can result in some tough emotional quagmires that can often be worked through, with therapy. 

I’ll tell you now, the therapist who guided me through the end of my first marriage, getting shot, the suicide of my mother and my daughter’s suicide attempt is a New York-based certified social worker.

Bullying is a distance maker. As long as it is present, no human-to-human connection can be a healthy one.

No one is disposable

If you are treating someone as if they are disposable, stop it. If you are being treated as if you are disposable, stop it. No human being is disposable. What’s more, a healthy relationship of any kind is impossible.

If anyone treats someone else as if they are disposable,  they don’t just wound the other person, they wound themselves! What makes this true? The pattern of treating others as if they are disposable makes it impossible for other person to be close to you.  This pattern of behavior is what I call a distance-maker. Something a person does that keeps others as at a distance.

I’m 65. I’ve been on my own since December 1969 when my mother had me put in reform school and disowned me, having me declared an “emancipated minor” meaning that I was the sole person responsible for keeping me alive. My father, the greatest gift my life has given me, died in August 1969.  I was disowned by my mother and never allowed back into the family again. I know what it is to be treated as if I was disposable. I have a nephew, Joe. A beautiful a human being. A really good man.  The narrative of his life is his to tell. That said, I think it is a safe bet he knows what it is to be treated as if he was disposable being, just as deep  as I do.

For those stuck in this pattern, the questions are not, why am I  bad person? Or, why am I  mean ? You’re not bad or mean. The behavior is mean, but a behavior does not define the all of you. Perhaps the more salient question you might want to ask is this.  How did I come to believe (how was I taught) that intimacy between people was dangerous for me?

Two more thoughts. First, it is more likely than not that those treating others as if they are disposable don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.  Second, it is likely those caught in this behavior’s web fat the moment have been treated as if they’re disposable somewhere back down the line. They deserve compassion too.