I saw the above somewhere on the interwebs one idle night and saved it, meaning to return to it as the basis for a blog post. But then I promptly forgot about it, as I am inclined to do with such flashes of inspiration that come to be on idle nights.
It was only when I was reading a post by Louise Sprinkle of Glitter that I saw it again and was reminded. In her (excellent) post she talks about letting go of the guilt associated with letting such people go from your life.
“Why are we so in denial when we know we’re not happy here?”
I call those kind of people, the ones who drag you down, rather than up, take more than they give and generally drain every last bit of joy from you, “Flotsum & Jetsum”. In the vast sea of friendship, these people are quite happy to bob along with you in calmer waters but the moment a storm threatens to disrupt the inertia of the waters then off they go. Probably to a nice bed and breakfast with a sea view. Somewhere far away from you. If life was a production of The Tempest, this sort of person would ruin the opening scene by popping up and making it all about them. I know you know the sort of person I am talking about, perhaps you even have one in your life right now.
I think I am now at a stage in my life where I am less willing to let people let me down. I used to be the sort of person who willingly laid my expectations at the feet of those around me. For a while I did wonder if they were unrealistic, I mean, all friends put you down, bail at the first sign of a problem and cancel on you at the last moment right? RIGHT?
Er, actually no. Toxic people who keep you around to better their own egos are not friends you should be charging with any sort of expectation. So why do we pour so much energy into keeping these friendships going? Always running ourselves ragged seeking approval that won’t come or that is handed to us begrudgingly for some self-seeking end? Some people in life only want to be around us if we are a certain way, if you are a bit down, sad, going through a tough time or just generally at the shitty end of the stick for a bit then these people will not be there for dust. They will tell you to “cheer up” or in some cases vanish entirely, declaring that they are not prepared to be around you in that state. Accept that this is about them, not you. You will notice that the good friends know exactly what to do at times like this, even if that happens to be nothing. They are still there.
I have accepted, over the last 18 months that indeed, some people suck. That is just the way of things. It is nothing you have personally done to make them act that way. It is nothing to do with the way you are that has made them a terrible friend. You can excuse it all you like. You can link it to any number of reasons why this person is not treating you the way you treat them.. but really it boils down to the fact that they suck at being your friend. Do a Lord Sugar, fire their asses.
Of course, I am talking about this as the last option, when words fail and communication is scant. Where do you go? I personally just slip away, I have done it fairly recently with a person who I am not sure even noticed, underscoring my concerns with the way the friendship was going after all. The choice to avoid people who do this is not an easy one, Lord knows I have wrestled with it, but in the scheme of things you have to think about it like this: Would this energy be better spent elsewhere?
I know that if I was to add up all the hours of worry, sadness and disappointment spent on unworthy folks, along with the residual guilt about our friendship not working (yes, it is always MY fault) it would add up to a vast amount of time. Time that could be better spent with other, more valued people and activities that will, in turn bring the right kind of people into your world.
I will end by sharing my own personal theory about friendships: I bore people with this fairly frequently.
I have always seen life as a tube map. We go along a journey at our own pace, as do those around us. We have times when our lives intersect with other people (tracks) School, Uni, Work. Sometimes we bumble alongside each other for part of our respective journeys, only to branch off when things like Jobs, Geography or Family take us in another direction. New trains intersect with us and on we go.
And here is the thing. Sometimes the lines come back and run alongside each other, and sometimes they don’t. We might not know where we are going, and we cannot control who will come crashing into our lives, but we can have some influence about how long we are prepared to let people come along with us. It may require more effort, but this effort is mutual and that is worth working on. Don’t slow your journey down with heavy, guilt ridden baggage. I’m trying not to.