When I was younger, I tried to hang on to every single person who entered my life. If they left me? I had failed. I was more than willing to do back-flips, front-flips, cartwheels, and anything else required to make someone stay with me. I even recall pleading with a few people. And if they did leave? I had failed. Plain and simple.
I’ve lost a lot of people. Friends, family and others but I’ve learned something over the years that I credit to a few things… good therapy, a willingness to challenge my beliefs, some really crappy people who hurt me badly (they were the best teachers), and age.
Here is what I have learned.
We need to be picky about who we allow in to our lives. Some of these people are family and just placed in our lives but I still believe that when we become adults, we have the right to choose for ourselves. We should have the right earlier in life but many families do not allow a lot of space for self-expression if it means that you want nothing to do with b**chy auntie Betty.
I digress. As an adult you get to choose who you wish to be in your life. You do not need to hang on to everyone as I once thought.
There are those few rare friends or family members that are just always there for you. Through the years, through many situations, moves, job changes, life changes, and so forth. These people are the positive ones that are there for you whenever you need them and they also allow you to be there for them. These people are a rare gift. Cherish them.
Then there are the people whom come and stay a long time. Perhaps as much as 15 or 20 years. Sometimes this is a marriage that ends or a friendship that can not handle the strain of too many life changes. This does not mean they are terrible people. It just means that the years you cherished together are not meant to continue and that is okay. It hurts your heart but you will recover.
And then there are the “acquaintances”. Best buddies this month, don’t recognize you in the store next month. Those work-mates that swear they will keep in touch when you change jobs or retire only to be never heard from again. When I was in hospital the first time, dozens of people promised they would keep in touch. Only a few did and 3 years later, there is only one. I did not realize it at the time but a “few” was actually REALLY good because the second time I was there, no one kept in any sort of regular contact. I have pages of phone numbers and good intentions but no follow through despite my best efforts.
I am not complaining. I think these people are fantastic. We shared a very meaningful time of our lives and supported each other in amazing ways but that time is now over. They have moved on so I needed to do that as well.
What I am trying to make clear is that people will leave you. It often has very little if not nothing to do with you. It is a change in circumstances usually. I know that I am a person who keeps in touch with people. I’ve always been that way. My two grandmothers had many grandchildren but both said I was the only one who called them regularly. Their other grandchildren were not bad people or unloving towards their grandmothers, they were just set up differently. Of course you know secretly I was really the best grandchild… but that is another story. 😉
The way I see it now is that I only have so much time and energy. I am going to give that time and energy to the people who give something back. I do not mean “tit for tat”. I mean that in some way, I fill my own energy cup while also pouring it out. A good feeling, a reciprocal friendship, doing acts of kindness and getting happiness in return.
I try to do as little of the opposite as possible. If I feel zapped on a regular basis when spending time with someone? I will avoid having a lot of contact. If I call and call and call yet they never call me back? I will stop trying. I can still be there if they ever wish to reach out but one way friendships only make me sad.
There is a saying that “You get what you give.”, while I agree to a certain degree, I’d like to add “if you give to the right people.”
I do not feel that this is being selfish or unkind, it is accepting that we are not bottomless pits of energy or time. We can give and give and give but if we do not also find ways to refill ourselves? We become largely useless to everyone. Ourselves included.
So reach out, be caring, show kindness… but do not hang on to people who do not wish to also hang on to you. I think you deserve better. Don’t you?