Quiet

Recent weeks have been quiet on the blog.

I’ve been pondering how to systematise my thoughts on loving deeply.
I’ve been writing assessment.
I’ve been strengthening relationships.
I’ve been investigating delicious food and drink.

So expect some more posts soon. Sorry for the gap.

Friend – a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

That definition seems simple.
But making and keeping and growing and ending friendships is complicated.

This begins a series of reflections on friendship.

Friendship has broad agreeable themes – similar interests, enjoyment, connection.
But all of us have different expectations and energy.

Rebecca Bloom the main character of Crazy Ex Girlfriend sings
I have friends, I definitely have friends
No one can say that I do not have friends

I have friends, I definitely have friends, friends, friends,
friendly friends, time to meet my friends

[Disclaimer: I do not endorse Crazy Ez Girlfriend, much of the song list is catchy but dodgy.]

My current situation has me questioning my friendships.

I am in both
– an oasis of tight connection (the fruit of previous overlapping circles of writers group & gin club)
– and an isolation with lack of contact.

How did the oasis form?
What drove my friendships?
What weakened past friendships?
Will they continue?

My mum celebrated her 60th birthday this year, attended by friends from every stage of her life.
I’m not like that. I have so many friends whom I loved dearly but let slide because of my sickness or Stephen’s or both, because of changes in work, study, location, busyness.

I have so many friendships that I initiated – do they want it to continue?
Were we only close because of the structured nature of my mentoring?

Like Rebecca, I need to remind myself I do have friends.
People with whom I have regular contact, whose company I enjoy and seem to have a level of reciprocity.

Thus begins the reflections – I promise they are not all so melancholy.

I’m aiming for clearer definition of friendship by the end.
I’m aiming for steps to make and grow friendships.
I’m aiming for healthy ways to change and end friendships.

A pair of sunglasses for mental health

 

Keeping your sunglasses on during conversation.

Asking to move the conversation into the shade.

Changing position to keep you out of direct sun.

 

Each of these actions may be considered rude in other contexts but they are all accepted tweaks for the comfort of others.
We know that Brisbane summer is bright and hot, so we are generous with one another.
We know that Brisbane winter is bright and hot, so we are generous with one another.
We let people move around at a table, we tolerate squinting and sweating, we give them water and shade when they ask for it.

But when it comes to mental health, we are uncomfortable or forgetful. We are not gracious with one another. We often don’t ask for help, and this is partly because our requests are often treated as surprising or unreasonable.
Try thinking about mental illness like sunlight: it comes and goes, sometimes it’s worse than others, and it’s not under our control. It can be scorching. If someone with mental illness manages to ask for help: please be supportive and make it a safe place. Recovery is hard and we need your support.

Here are some examples from Felicity and Jonathan:

I find it hard to judge how formal my clothing needs to be at parties.
You can detail the dress code in advance.

I find that vase of dice unsettling because it is not ordered.
You can let them order it.

I find salad and stir fry hard because I feel compelled to eat vegetables in order.
You can prepare the food so that vegetables are clumped.

It’s uncomfortable and scary to ask for help. Instead, we can think about people in advance so they don’t even need to ask for help. And when someone does express a need or preference, please be gracious.

I forgive you

We were going through a stage of trite apologies in many of our interactions.
So for a month, Stephen and I tried to respond to every ‘I’m sorry’ with ‘I forgive you’.

It did a few helpful things for our relationship.

1. Our apologies weighed more.
Sincerity and need mattered. Did we mean it? Did it require apology?

2. Our forgiveness was more valued.
Our justified hurt/anger/frustration required effort to forgive, rather than just accept an apology. Our forgiveness moved to precede our apologies.

3. Our relationship was more developed.
Forgiveness points to restoration of relationship. It affirmed we were a couple who loved and forgave one another. We affirmed we would continue to do the hard work of apologising and forgiving.

Now years later – it’s still bearing fruit in our relationship.

The occasional eye roll for apologies offered at the drop of the hat.
The meaningful act of forgiveness.
The recognition of many, many little steps in loving each other.

A note on illicit drugs

So last month I wrote a few posts on alcohol. What about drugs?

Ready,
DON’T take them.
Did that answer really surprise you?

Because drugs are super scary.
They have stronger and faster effects than alcohol.

People die every day because their body reacted badly
– either the drug made their body stop working properly OR
– under the influence of drugs they made life threatening choices OR
– after one taste their body changed to want that drug incessantly.

Under the illicit drugs category I include marijuana, heroin, ice etc AND unprescribed medication.

“The number of Australians currently overdosing on addictive medication is overtaking the road toll, the majority of these are accidental.” Alcohol & Drug Foundation

Prescribed medications are not illicit drugs (if they are prescribed for the person taking them and taken as prescribed). I am privileged to live in Brisbane where we have access to doctors, pharmacies and medicine.
There is interesting research happening with medical marijuana, but I’m not convinced yet.

Drugs and addiction are not things I know much about. I’ve had hallucinations, sleep paralysis, times of uncontrollable highs and stretches of deep lows as part of my messy mental health. I want to avoid inducing those symptoms or delusions even as I pursue escapism.

Casual user
IF you are trying drugs:
Think about it in advance.
Be with people you trust.
Do not mix them with alcohol.
Have someone who can call 000.

Obviously people are unlikely to follow this but I still feel it is important to say.

My series on Alcohol is also up on the blog.
Consumption
Service
How to host a cocktail party
Visible Excess
Invisible Excess
Relationship

Distraction – thy name is organisation

I have a task to do. It’s not that big. It’s not that hard. But I don’t want to do it.
I need to find a piece of paper. A financial piece of paper. It is somewhere in our filing cabinet.
But the filing cabinet is more of a contained pile of paper than files.
Or it could be on one of many USBs thrown into my desk drawer.

Instead – I’ve organised everything else.

Our pantry, kitchen cupboards, wardrobes, desk, craft shelves, furniture.
My sister’s pantry.
My parents’ pantry and spice rack.
Our books and games.

Shopping lists.
Meal plans.
Birthday presents.
Study plans.
Holiday plans.
Blog plans.

All culled, sorted, cleaned and labelled.
Soon the only thing left to do… will be to open the filing pile.

Moments of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another.

I write a blog about loving people deeply (and letting others love you).
But I do not follow my own suggestions.

The unsent birthday card.
The unreturned text.
The abandoned draft email.
The silence of the phone.
The mask of fine.

It’s because I’m tired, I’m lazy, I’m undisciplined, I’m sick. Sorry friends.

I’ll keep trying, and you keep trying. Slowly we will love people more.

“Your family is great”.

“Your family is great”.

Yes, they are. With such a large sample size (35) you would expect a bad apple – but we don’t have one. Wait, unless it’s me.

Anyway, usually when people say your family is great, they are referring to tightness of relationship I have with my siblings. We are close and they are awesome. Hella & Lucas.

Note: Some of you have families that are horrible: abuse, neglect, bullying, stealing. Some of you have families that are awful: strong differences, disinterest, dismissive of one another. Some of your families have had or are having seasons of broken relationships. Some of you have families that are distant. Some of you have lost loved ones. I’m so sorry for your situation.
I know I’m naive about the wonder and delight of my good family situations. 

Our current living situation has my siblings and I living next door to each other. There’s a lot of intentional and unintentional contact: I wander over to receive fresh coffee grounds from Lucas, I pop downstairs to use Hella’s washing machine. But so far it’s been manageable.

Here are four solid reasons for our relationship.

1. Likeable
We are mostly likeable and share many common interests (there is some nurture in this, we were all exposed to mostly the same things – not a surprise we all love books; deconstruction; language; improving life, quotes, meaningful television).

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Philosophy of Confidentiality

As we love people, they share and disclose themselves and their lives. How should we act in light of our received knowledge? There are three levels of consideration.

First do not share these details.

Be aware of the trust you have been given. Be reliably discrete; make it clear you will keep confidences.

Listening to someone talk is about helping them become a new person. Part of that is leaving stuff behind, or only bringing it up when it is supportive and builds maturity.

I’m part of many spheres of influence, in contact with many different people in different stages. In an average week I will have communicated in a meaningful way with twenty people. So I’ll often refer to someone broadly – by mentioning I’ve had a recent conversation on a particular topic, without identifying the person the conversation was with. It is also why I’ve chosen to use fake names here. With Felicity and Jonathan, with Agnes and Bernard we consider the broad implications of situations and how to love, rather than stick with personal details.
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Lotus Leggings – you thwart my self control

Lotus Leggings Sale!
It’s USA summer: there are lots of reductions and sales.
My feeds are full of them.

I want to be that person.
Who rocks geeky fashion.
Who confidently pairs eye catching leggings with her blue boots.
Who looks like she’s above active wear at the gym.

But really I’m not that kind of person. I know if purchased, they would sit unworn in my cupboard.
I’m not that confident. I’m never that cold. I don’t need more clothing.
I know it.

But I still want them. They pop up in my Insta feed, on my Google searches, in conversation…
They are so pretty, so distracting. I fill my shopping cart with my favourites.
.
Slowly but surely I feel my control wavering. Maybe I could buy them as a present… maybe I could share an order with someone… maybe someone could buy them as a present for me…

NO!
Remember you don’t need these. Remember you don’t want these. Remember you won’t use these.
Rather I’m chasing a moment of fantasy, of distraction, of fleeting pleasure.
Close the website. Do something better.
Watching cat videos would bring infinitely more enjoyment at a lower cost and with time limit.