Tuesday, July 3, 2018

About Friendships; Spontaneity, Personal Responsibility, The Diminished Soul, Jordan Peterson and Friendship Reciprocity.

The Importance of Spontaneity Within Measure:

Being an Introvert and a Planner, it would surprise most people to learn that I need spontaneity in my life within balance. One evening my grandparents texted and asked to come over within the half hour. Luckily, it was just enough time to tidy up and mentally prepare before we spent a lovely two hours chatting about their lives growing up in the backwoods during the 1950's. While I would not welcome numerous drop ins at my home weekly without at least a half hour notice, this had me thinking about the community of souls I am a part of.

Following that experience, I was reading my typical blogs and Mr. Money Moustache's newest post cited this HERE, "People would show up in the morning and just linger and come and go all day, swimming in the pool, grilling up lunches and dinners, playing cards at night or watching movies in the impromptu movie theatre I had set up in the old detached garage. There were last-minute multi-person sleepovers every weekend. Leftover spicy bratwurst for breakfast cooked over an open fire in the morning. The fond memories from this early-nineties teen utopia live on in all of us*. So naturally, I have wanted to find ways to recreate that carefree feeling ever since. According to people who actually study this stuff, the key to a really happy community and warmer friendships seems to be you need to run into people unexpectedly every day, and then do fun stuff with them. To facilitate this, you need to live close enough together that you encounter one another when out for your morning stroll. "

I also grew up in the nineties and my parents house was continually used for massive sleepovers, BBQ's, movies and the door was constantly open last minute to my friends. I needed loads of downtime afterwards, but I also loved the safety net of community. I enjoyed my friends and flexible excursions into connection. I thought that would be what I would provide for my children. Our house is amazing and children LOVE it when they come to it. But society has changed. Children are constantly in organized events. When they are not micro managed, they crave downtime or need family time. Our children are generally the exception and not the rule in this regard.

Over the last two years death happened, depression happened...and we had to keep a tighter closed door for a few years. We still like to keep our spaces pretty protected, but for the few people I allow into our lives, I like the concept of a flexible place...to make room occasionally and to SHARE in the experience of living together...(within balance for this Introvert of course.) Those whom have invested in us and want the best for us deserve some of our time. Especially if both parties genuinely enjoy the other's company. Luckily, we have some friends who feel the same and occasionally call up on a Sunday and ask if they can come chat. I think it's a brave thing to do- to risk both time and rejection for the off chance there may be space for one's soul. Sometimes we say no, but more often than not, we try to say yes. Instead of being irritated by the interruption I try to see it as an honour that they feel comfortable enough with us to ask. The dad of the house knows my husband from small group and is a few decades older than us. He remarked once, "It is so rare to find a family who is as welcome and flexible as you guys are. In the lonely winters I feel lucky that I can just text you the day of and come over to chat for long hours as our kids play. We can talk philosophy or general life and it's engaging and feels like a second home. Thank you for that provision. It is rare. Especially in people your age."

There are times in life when we need to be protective of our time. Perhaps even a little selfish. But there is also a time when we should question our own patterns too. There are seasons for everything. Whatever season we are in, it is important we balance ourselves with the perspective of the other side. For myself, this next decade encompasses the last few years of my children officially in my home. I intend to take this time as much as possible. But I also want them to look at what we provided for others, what we shared, and how we did not always require people to meet our time tables. Recently our children were sponsored to walk for water. We were asked two days prior to the race (short notice.) We said yes. Yet, the same week, we said no to an amazing offer to have our daughter be in extra in Carmen the Opera. Why yes to one and no to another? For us, it comes down to the amount of time commitment. Honestly, it is also sometimes easier to do the last minute engagement. Why? Because we know how we are feeling IN THE MOMENT.

Spontaneity is important due to this factor. We are who we are RIGHT now. We honour that in others by allowing them to show up in the world as they are to us in a certain moment. We honour it in ourselves by living life to the fullest. We prepare for the future, memorialize the past, but also have to maximize the present. Sometimes that means making room for quick interactions that build meaningful inspiration later. Some of my best moments have not been planned. Life happens whether we plan for it or not. What is important is if we can take the moment, once it is presented and make the necessary adjustments.

That said, I also love to plan. I am an INFJ after all. I have lists, budgets for following years, goals and time lines. Some beautiful moments in my life have also been planned. It's a tightrope of balance. Lately, I have been challenged in my flexibility. To still allow myself to be ME, but take myself into uncomfortable circumstances occasionally. Sometimes the pay off is more than worth it. Other times it is a learning experience I would not repeat. The autonomy is important. So is the perspective and freedom to say no or yes without bitterness or resentment from either party. The beauty of freedom is aptly expressed in this give and take. Not only is freedom reflected but love, respect and trust. When we have relationships we trust, we don't tie them to schedules, but we also allow for schedules too because BOTH are part of the existence in this life. I am trying to work on my flexibility, being on the receiving end of tight schedules that were not my own, made me realize that I did the exact same sort of rule to others...and that I needed to take personal responsibility to let the people in my life know that I am open to change and balance. I am open to sharing my time and giving it, within what I can.

Personal Responsibility:

There is personal responsibility in every relationship. Even in a "helping" relationship, we need to ask ourselves if we are really lifting someone up out of their own muck or taking away their personal autonomy by 'rescuing' them. Sometimes we accidentally strip victims of their power by taking away any agency they had in helping themselves. "Vice is easy. Failure is easy too. It's easier not to shoulder a burden. It's easier not to think, and not to do, and not to care. It's easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, and drown the upcoming months and years in today's cheap pleasures... How do I know that your suffering is not the demand of martyrdom for my resources, so that you can oh so momentarily stave of the inevitable? Maybe your misery is your attempt to prove the world's injustice, instead of the evidence of your own ... missing of the mark, your conscious refusal to strive and to live....Maybe it's your revenge on Being. How exactly should I befriend you when you're in such a place? How exactly could I?" (*Citation below)

The Diminished Soul:

Recently I have been reading Jordan Peterson. Before my readers jump to any conclusions, let me state that I started reading him because I was opposed to him. I heard about him through my husband who really liked JP. I read articles and then I made a judgment. But, whenever I make judgments I feel I should at least know thine enemy in context and give a fair trial. It's who I am. Thus, I watched some Youtube videos, and read the book, "12 rules of Life" and changed my position. I don't agree fully with Jordan Peterson. In context, I find he has some wisdom to share and some needed (sometimes harsh) words for our current culture. On the flip side, I would not always take his cause either. (A blog post for another time methinks.)

I was brought up short numerous times while reading. Rule number 3 is "Make friends with people who want the best for you." In it he states. "Success; that's the mystery. Virtue; That's what's inexplicable. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits. You just have to bide your time. And once someone has spent enough time cultivating bad habits and biding their time, the are much diminished. Much of what they could have been has dissipated, and much of the less that they have become is now real. Things fall apart, of their own accord...I am not saying there is no hope of redemption..." (*)

I realized, I have allowed my soul to be diminished over the last few years. In some ways I gave in to some bad habits. I gave away my autonomy in the name of peace and harmony. I forgot that my way of BEING in the world has to be both freedom and responsibility. And I became less. I spoke up less, I asked for less, I gave less, I had less energy and it created a vicious cycle and the habits I started out of desperation became a REAL part of me. That reality point was tough to face. Over the last few months I have taken baby steps out of my own chasm. I came up with a plan that was flexible but also required discipline of myself. We began the Whole30 and my eating habits changed, which then helped my attitude change, which then helped my energy change, which then brought about change in how I showed up to those I loved. While I am far from perfect, I feel that my diminished sides have begun to fade into new blooms of growth. I still have chronic illness and struggles, I am still odd in a world of 'the norm', but I am taking back what I can. Establishing new habits, challenging my own ones, facing the hard truths and finding redemption.

The concept of "Helping Others"

Jordan Peterson finishes his chapter by writing that a person has to WANT to be improved, and help themselves a bit first before anyone can truly come alongside the journey. And for the helpers who wish to walk alongside the suffering, we must ask ourselves the tough questions first. Are we maybe trying to be too good of a person? Do we wish to see ourselves in the powerful light of Helper instead of the helped? Do we console ourselves with this type of martyrdom instead of doing the hard work of being honest and leading by example instead? While it is important to help those in real need of help, we must look at what exactly that constitutes.

"Here's something to consider; If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn't recommend to your sister, or you father or your son, why would have such a friend for yourself? You might say out of loyalty. Well, loyalty is not identical to stupidity. Loyalty must be negotiated, fairly and honestly. Friendship is a reciprocal arrangement. You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place. Quite the opposite. You should choose people who want things to be better, not worse. It's a good thing, not a selfish thing, to choose people who are good for you. It's appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve." (*)

The above statement had me thinking for quite awhile. I used to attract everyone who needed help. In my early twenties I was constantly giving our limited time, resources and money away, believing it was what was required of me to be a good person. Plus, I tend to have a bleeding heart when it comes to some causes. Then I had to learn boundaries. Now, I am in a new cycle, learning to incorporate both sides of the coin. Yet, maybe withdrawing help sometimes gives help? I know, in our circumstances of early life, when the church refused to help our desperation, we did what we could, and over the years we learned how to be independent and thriving. We needed that hard lesson. I am thankful the church refused. Some may think I am bitter for remembering, but even though it hurt, it was one of the moments that helped define our autonomous future. Did it create more suffering and heartache at first? Yes. Did I have therapy for some moments of trauma during that time? Yes. But I am here, now, who I am in a beautiful life, partially because of that moment of refused help. It's tricky. I do believe in helping the truly vulnerable, needy and innocent...but often those who ask for our help have some responsibility of their own. I find that a tough lesson to learn.


"If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and others and punish you carefully when you do not. This will help bolster your resolve to do what you should do, in the most appropriate and careful manner. People who are not aiming up will do the opposite. They will offer a former smoker a cigarette... They will become jealous when you succeed ...withdraw their presence or support or actively punish you for it..." (*)

I have had to ask myself, if I am that friend (cited above) to my husband first and foremost. Do I celebrate his upward aims? Do I not allow him to engage in his own self destruct? Do I encourage him to be healthy and do what is good and create boundaries when he engages in self harm? Do I do this with my children whom are also my friends? Myself? My other friend circles? How can I be more brave with honesty and not just harmony, while still incorporating the harmony of myself that I also need to honour?

Jordan Peterson ends the chapter on Friendship with this;
"It is for this reason that every good example is a fateful challenge and every Hero, a Judge. Michelangelo's great perfect marble David cries out to its observer: 'You could be more than you are.' When you dare to aspire upward, you reveal the inadequacy of the present and the promise for the future. Then you disturb others, in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable... You remind them that they ceased caring not because of life's horrors, which are undeniable, but because they do not want to lift the world up on to their shoulders, where it belongs... Don't think it is easier to surround yourself with good, healthy people than with bad unhealthy people. It's not. A good, healthy person is an ideal. It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Use your judgment, and protect yourself from too uncritical compassion and pity. Make friends with people who want the best for you." (*)

What a challenge to live up to! To lift the world on one's shoulders like Atlas but not because of punishment, but because it is part of being a good human being. If I look around at who I surround myself with, within this lens, I realize I have a lot of work to do on myself, while still accepting whom I am and what I have been given.

Luckily, I am grateful for those who are in my small circles. Many of them inspire me to be a better person. Either in body, soul or spirit. Each person has a different set of ideal gifts to learn from. It is humbling to stand next to a beautiful friend who takes the best care of herself that she can. I admit that it inspires me to look into skin care, keep up my work outs and eat better. NOT because I am comparing. I may not look like that friend at all. But because I see the love she has for herself and it is contagious. It is also humbling to stand next to my friend who is honest when I ask her opinion on all matters but gives the news with grace. I find myself wanting to be more truthful in speech and brave in my bearing. Not to be her, but to find my own way of being brave. It is humbling to be friends with someone who asks me to do better, to work with her quirks or schedules but also makes way for mine. That kind of acceptance asks me to be both considerate and self giving. I am no longer off the hook with excuses but gloriously thought of as independent. It is humbling to see my gal friend be on time and show up in her busyness because she committed to me. It makes me question my integrity and how I show up in the world. Sure, I will probably always be a little late to some places, but her presence makes me question how effective I can be in managing my time. It is humbling to hear my best friend celebrate me when she is struggling. It makes we want to be a kinder, non jealous person when I am struggling and others are succeeding. It is humbling to see someone be themselves even though the world around them judges because of preconceived notions of what is good, but they are who they are, regardless. This makes we want to stand strong in whom I am.

I want to make friends with people who want the best for me. I also want to be the friend who wants the best for those around me. "Well, you came and opened me, and now there's so much more I see, and so by the way I thank you...Keep smiling, Keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure, that's what friends are for. In good times, and bad times, I'll be on your side for ever more. Cuz that's what friends are for." (**) I want to not only support my friends, but call them to make the world better. And if I am not doing that, maybe I should scrutinize if I am even being a friend. I also want my friends to not only accept who I am, but encourage me to be as much as I can be, to make the world better. It’s both acceptance and responsibility...

* All quotes taken from pages 80- 83 of Jordan Peterson's book "12 Rules for Life. An Antidote to Chaos."

** Song Lyrics from "That's What Friends are for"- Dionne Warwick's official music video for 'That's What Friends Are For' ft. Elton John, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder.


C2Q CalledtoQuestion said...

Great post. So glad you are my friend. Jordan brings a sense that is not so common these days.

Ashe said...

It is really refreshing to get enough free time to read one of your blog posts. :)

It seems in the past few years that the only safe, spontaneous socializing I could do was when I went out grocery shopping. It's an unofficial personal policy to try to make somebody smile, even better if it's a chuckle or laugh, and try not to be one of *those* customers everybody dreads. Sometimes it's not the employees, but other consumers, like friendly small talk, entertaining each other during a wait, or trying to relieve the anxiety of the person who has unintentionally caused the wait because of technology or whatever.

I hadn't heard of Jordan Peterson before. Off the cuff, it sounds like he's aiming for that delicate little place of personal responsibility and kindness that doesn't stray to martyrdom, patronizing, or other unhealthy mindsets. I'll have to read up on him sometime.

S said...

Agree with everything you wrote. Socializing or friendship is a delicate balance. Both me and my husbands are extreme introverts and IQ wise too, we were high achievers in our academic life. This creates a bit of a problem because our ideas and thinking is not popular with the society. We have dumbed ourselves "down" in order to fit, in the initial years. Also my chronic illness is another factor which restricts our social activity. When you are in the "minority", that too in a traditional and rigid society/culture ( like ours), it is obvious that the social rules will not bend to accommodate us. So, you have rightly said, that you had to create your "own model" of an autonomous future. Moreover, even if I miss those good old childhood days of a house full of people, sleepovers, etc.etc. it is not possible to go back to that stage simply because we have evolved and so has the society and things cannot be like how it was before. My cousins,my extended family and my ex friends-all of them have become so complex that a few minutes of interaction shows that we are actually "not into" each other. Their lives have become too complicated to be human. Somewhere, simplicity is lost. It is very difficult to find a peaceful and loving community/friends nowadays. How many people understand the realities of introversion,chronic illness,peaceful life, etc.etc. ? Moreover, due to difference in brain "wiring", friendships do not last. Yet, in real life, I am always in search out for a loving kindhearted friend/community and the search continues. In virtual life, i.e. online, I got you and a few others and I am so grateful and thankful for that !!

Kmarie A. said...

C2Q I am glad you are my friend too. yes agreed.
Ashe: Hey Ashe!
It is so refreshing to hear from you! I am glad your busy season is starting to slow down!
Yes, with young kids spontaneity is so tough. I hated it. I am now getting into a new season but with young ones spontaneity can sometimes feel cruel! Sounds like you are very sweet in public places.
I actually think you are bang on in your assessment of Peterson. That is exactly what he seems to do in his book. He is Canadian.
I hope your summer is going well. Over the months I left some comments on your blog but I don’t know if you got them or they went through :)
So good to hear from you! You add an element to my life, even though we don’t communicate a ton and are far away - I enjoy your occasional comment and the presence of you:)
S: It is a delicate balance! Yes, I can see that about yourselves and hubby. We have also dumbed ourselves down in all conversations outside of safety....Yes I agree the chronic illness is a huge part of social constructs. You make a good point of not going back too...yes I guess its true that simplicity is lost and we dont get each other. I agree!!!! In virtual life I have an amazing support system and you are one of them...I think its a truly unique way of communicating for those of us who are such a minority we have to find like minded individuals so far away. I am so thankful for you too...I love your presence in my life here and on Insta.