A note on being different

We are all different. In big ways and little ways. Throughout my journey to date I have found that it can be easy to gravitate towards those who we share things in common with or who are (cringe) ‘like-minded’. I’m not such a fan of that term– our minds are our own and should be encouraged to be individual, open, ever-changing and growing. I don’t believe you have to share an interest, a life path or phase to be able to connect or share time or tea with someone. However I do believe you have to have a mutual understanding, respect and curiosity for each other. You can feel all these things for someone that is your complete polar opposite.

I connect with people easily and often. As I caught up with a new friend in the park recently she confessed she had been worried that we would be ‘too different’ to be friends. After looking under the hood, we realised we actually had a scary amount in common. Surfaces can be deceiving. Never the less, this brought up a whole lot of thoughts for me on both friendship and being different.

1)      Life would be so boring if all my friends were just like me. It would be like talking to myself – yawn

2)      It’s great meeting different people as it allows me to learn, experience and grow

3)      It doesn’t really matter if someone is different to me or does things differently to me. As long as I respect and like them and want to spend time with them (and vice versa) then we are good to go – kettle’s on, biscuit tin open.

4)      My life is richer for all the different and wonderful people I have in it. Thank god I am not part of a zombie suburban mummy tribe wearing tracksuits with juicy on our bums and sipping lattes at the same café every day. I thrive on my hectic, diverse schedule and all the people in it.

5)      People often make quick judgements about each other (including me). They mentally label them as ‘too different’ to fit in their friend-shaped cookie cutter. And that’s that. I feel this is a sad loss. Remember the saying ‘pretty things come in brown paper packages’ – this is true of people too. It is always worth getting to know someone. Everyone has value.

When it comes to having someone in our life, for me, the most important thing is that we like each other and are good to each other.   I say embrace the differences, learn from them, perhaps even grow with them. Let’s certainly not shut them out.

Friends of Convenience – dispelling the stigma

People are not expendable. We should absolutely cherish each other at every turn.  However we should also recognise that every friendship is born out of purpose, a mutual need and dare I say it… convenience? There is no question that I love each of my friends wholeheartedly and I show them every chance I get. However I also have the integrity to admit that each friend I have has their own special place in my life, just as I do in theirs and it is convenient that way. Many of us fit neatly into the wrongly maligned category: ‘friends of convenience’. And I don’t believe that’s such a bad thing. As we walk life’s incredibly unpredictable path, it is wonderful to weave in and out of the lives of like-minded people. Some stay, some go and when we are really lucky, some relationships rise above the convenience to become our soul mates.

We live in a world of convenience. Quick. Give it to me now. I need it this minute. Easy peasy. Fast food; disposable nappies, single use cleaning wipes, pre-cut vegies. And yes… People. We all have and fill the role of ‘friends of convenience’. They fill a little chasm in our life – make it better, fuller, easier, happier.  Even as the words come tumbling out of my fingers onto my virtual page I feel a wave of guilt wash over me for sharing this truth. But why? None of these conveniences of are a bad thing. Especially the friends.  If our lives are that little bit happier because of any one thing and no one is getting hurt along the way… then I see no real issue. So where does this guilt come from?

We all befriend one another for a reason. There  I have said it. But that is ok. As long as it is mutual and reciprocal. Someone to talk to; someone let off steam with; someone to sip tea with; someone to bitch about a mutual acquaintance with; someone to cook with; someone to share playdates with; someone to exercise with; someone to travel with; someone who has a nice house to sit in; someone who’s cooking you enjoy; someone to learn from; someone to share a phase of your life with…. There are many reasons two people become ‘friends of convenience’.   It is actually very rare to connect with someone on a deep cerebral level and become lifelong soul mates. So along the way, we form passing bonds – friends that come and go with our mutual needs. Perhaps knowing that these friendships are based on convenience or need is where that pang of guilt comes in. But it shouldn’t. Because it’s perfectly natural and should be encouraged.  The soul thrives on human connection.

Reaching out to create new friendships is an important part of personal development. We are constantly in a state of change, experiencing new things, going new places and we require people to share this with – to laugh with, learn from and if we are lucky we can even cry with each other too.  Making space to both give and receive ensures that these friendships are reciprocal. Everyone is being nurtured as they need to be. We receive togetherness and expel aloneness. While at first the term ‘friends of convenience’ may seem harsh or cruel, perhaps after further explanation you can see that it encapsulates all the people that come in and out of our lives as we need each other at the time. A very positive thing.

Like all friendships, there is the potential for a ‘friendship of convenience’ to turn sour.  The most simple is a non-reciprocated friendship. Like any other relationship, if one party is giving and not receiving, over time it is bound to fail. Because this type of relationship is based on mutual need, balance is key. The other way for the sour to seep in is when the relationship becomes inconvenient. This is an incredibly hard thing to admit until you are already at the point of either feeling unappreciated or feel like you have evolved to a new phase in your life.  In either scenario, the relationship is no longer serving the purpose of fulfilling both friends and by this point there are likely to be feelings of hurt, probably not making it convenient at all. The question here becomes whether to rebalance to find that convenience again or not.

Friendship is fluid. Understanding that we all evolve at different times and in different directions, is fundamental to understanding each other’s needs and our place in each other’s lives. Not all friendships will always be convenient. Sometimes we learn to readjust our input and output. Sometimes we do learn to let go. As you ride the waves, do it with grace. Do it with compassion. Do it with lots of tea. And sometimes some sushi too. What is most special is when even after the convenience fades, we hold on tight because that person has become so much more.  For soul mates convenience is irrelevant.

The World Keeps Turning

When we find ourselves frozen in a moment, or worse, an eon of pain, trouble or worry; or on the flipside are captured in a freeze-frame of delight, joy or living rhapsody, sometimes we forget that these moments and emotions are just ours. For everyone around us – our friends, family and John, Betty and Sally-May passing us by, the world keeps turning almost like nothing is happening.  And that’s perfectly understandable.

Everyone is living their lives separately. We have separate existences. Separate headspaces. Separate living spaces. So naturally, when our own separate existence changes course, it is only those residing within its sphere who we can expect to react or even have knowledge that there is anything going on at all.

And what are our expectations of others? Just because our life is changing in some way, doesn’t mean that anyone else’s is. It’s not their sick child; it’s not their divorce; it’s not their unpaid bills. It’s not their wedding; it’s not their new baby; it’s not their promotion.  Sometimes we might feel hurt, lonely or even angry or betrayed that the people around us are not jumping up and down reacting to the change in our lives – be it positive or negative. When we fall on hard times, these feelings can often be misplaced stress and inability to cope with overwhelming circumstances.  When we are experiencing the delicious highs of life, these feelings can simply be the longing to share. What may equalise the emotion is the notion that while you are living your saga of sickness, health, love, loss, fortune and wonder…. Everyone else is doing the same. So it’s nothing personal. You have not been forgotten – everyone is just living their story just like you, albeit a different one.

Keeping this notion in mind – that the world keeps on turning and life goes on for everyone – takes me to a further viewpoint: Just because you are deep in a life experience, doesn’t mean someone else isn’t.  If we stop our own separate world turning for one moment and look at how another’s is spinning on a different axis, we can see the word through their perspective.  In this still moment, our needs are irrelevant. This is how empathy and compassion are born. You may see beauty. You may see pain. You may wish to shut your eyes and wish you had never seen it.  Whatever you see gives you the opportunity to react.

We all benefit and enjoy the kindness of others. However we are the others. We have the power to make the lives better of those around us in some small way – if we take the time to understand their needs. I’m not suggesting we all turn into saints and superheroes. I’m far from that. I’m a whiney old mama who wants to sit around and drink tea and have a nanny and a cleaner and cook and a massage every day if I could! Huh! (Note I do not have these things). However I am suggesting that we stop thinking about ourselves and our own needs quite as often, taking the time to look, listen and learn (sounds like a primary school slogan for something) and if we feel that someone in our life is in need, offer something that is within our scope.  Perhaps, leaving soup on a sick friend’s doorstep, taking their baby for a walk, lending them money to pay a bill, doing a grocery shop for them or just listening to them have a big vent and a cry. Whatever it is that they need and you can provide without a detriment to your own world spinning soundly.

When you feel that your world has frozen in time, remember everyone else’s is still turning, however so is yours – you’ve just hit a bump.  It will start to roll along smoothly again soon.  Take heed that we are all connected and just as you can step outside your sphere and find compassion for others, so too can others find compassion for you. The first step is to let them.

Philosophy on reactions (and a bit of a purge)

It’s natural to react to things. Everything actually. An action occurs. And we have a reaction. I’m speaking both in physical and emotional terms. We trip and stub our toe. Ow. Someone upsets us…. Well that’s where this subject gets interesting. It’s how we react that has a huge impact on both us and those around us. Is reaction a choice or a reflex?
I’m a highly reactive person, both in my body and my soul. I’m sensitive. Growing up I would find that I was very easily upset by others’ actions and would therefore have extreme reactions. Funnily enough, for a time I actually classified myself as an extremist. I am only now linking the two as I write. However in recent years through my own journey of life, finding calm and my own personal centre, I have been teaching myself what I believe is an important lesson: ‘you can’t innately change anybody or their actions, only the way you react to them’.
This new found understanding has begun to bring me a fresh perspective on interpersonal relationships: the art of giving, receiving and adjusting our expectations of others. It has also taught me that it is not within my bounds to change others, nor is it within others’ to change me.
Of course there are times where I still struggle with this concept, however it has somewhat freed me from past feelings of injustice, inequality or dare I say even hurt or rage within relationships. It sounds wonderful to be able to stop the flow of inner-ache by saying to yourself: ‘wait – I don’t need to be expending this energy. It’s not actually helping anyone, especially me. Time to move on.’ I’m certainly not saying I’m immune to cruelty, callousness or even a mere back-handed compliment. The opposite in fact. I’m still the sensitive soul I always was, however this idea, or philosophy if you will, is helping me survive in a less sponge-like state – stronger, more understanding that my reactions are my own and I am responsible for them.
I would like to admit that I do occasionally flyoffthefreakinghandlewhenIampushedtomylimitsandmysenseofclarityisshottobits.
This happened today and I have been stuck in a funk all day which has inspired me to write. It also brings about the point that sometimes you do really need to feel your emotions deeply to process them and move on. (A little contradictory to my entire post, however nothing in life is black and white.) A good short wallow never hurt anyone. Especially when tea and comfort food are involved.
However having had a good day to process my thoughts and now write to you my dear readers, I am now back to my efforts to put the actions of others aside and take control of my reaction (albeit a little later than usual). Why waste time being anything but happy and enjoying my beautiful daughter and incredible husband on this snuggly Sunday? No reason I can think of.