I Beg Your Pardon, “Friend”.

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It’s been a few years now since I sat down and gave myself a critical pep talk.
The time had come to take stock, admit my mistakes and grow because frankly, the alternative was beating my head up against the same wall indefinitely. Hardly attractive because I bruise easily and I have a low pain threshold.

I am the first person to admit I can come across as abrasive. I am often more concerned with truth and fact than I am with someone else’s emotions. It’s not that I don’t care, let’s separate those two issues because they are not the same thing. If I care about you and I call you friend I will endeavor to be honest with you and I expect the same in return.

The pure and simple fact however, is that there are many people who claim to want honesty but when they are presented with it and it doesn’t fit into their neat little box, they dismiss it faster than you can say “bullshit”.
They will also turn you into an emotional pirate who has no feelings and is unnecessarily mean.
If you believe that I am a mean person, you have absolutely no business calling yourself my friend. I have recently had to purge more people from my life because of their utter ignorance of who I am – partly because they are, if I am being frank, selfish. Which is not to say that they cannot be kind or have not been kind, because I have witnessed great acts of kindness from them both to me and others.
I say selfish because while they profess to be friend, they are infinitely more concerned with what they can get from me or how I can support them emotionally, than actually getting to know me and understand who I am and why I say and do the things I do. If you make little to no attempt to understand someone’s motivations they will never make sense to you. This is fine if you ignore what doesn’t make sense to you. If you are not the type to just let it slide over you and you choose to assume the worst and then call me on it, you will come up against the warrior in me and depending directly on how confrontational you are, I will be equally as brutal. The side of me who is concerned more with being clearly understood than not hurting your misdirected feelings will seem to you merciless.
Because I am factual first and sympathetic second, people will see my swift and logical dissemination of inaccuracies as hurtful. I am not responsible for this, you decide how you react to the external stimuli in the world and you need to take ownership of that. I am not trying to be bombastic and I am certainly not trying to be hurtful, perception is how you see things, it is not necessarily reality.

If you can look objectively at the facts and keep an honest dialogue open, you will see the massive expanse of my emotional and empathetic core. If you step into that arena and are comfortable with–yes, what can feel like brutal honesty sometimes–you will be rewarded with one of, if not the most faithful and true friend who will love and support you, unconditionally. One who will self sacrifice often in the right environment because my ultimate happiness rests in my relationships.
If however, you cannot step into that arena; it will seem like a harsh battlefield, you will be unable to sustain that level of emotional upheaval and you will one day lay down the gauntlet, whether consciously or not and set your feet on the path to ruin.
It will be painful and swift but more importantly, it will be final.

I say this because when I did not understand myself properly, I was the one who was in constant emotional upheaval and distress, trying desperately to please everyone around me with skant regard for how I was emptying out my entire self and getting very little back.
It got to the stage where I was of no good to anyone, least of all myself. When I realized that, I had to pull back from the emotional vampires around me who were shocked and horrified that I had seemingly ‘stopped caring and being supportive’. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard those words. It took me a lot of time (and therapy) to understand what was going on, why I was feeling the way I was and that I had to cut the emotional vampires out of my life completely. I liken it to the difference between being ‘dry’ and being ‘sober’. If you give some people an inch they will always take a mile because they are inherently selfish.

It is therefore, no small wonder that I have a very small group of exceptional women in my life who are caring, generous of heart and spirit, truth seeking warriors that I call friends. Women who love, support and truly understand me.

This is difficult for some people because they themselves are often in crisis and in need of support. From extra marital affairs to substance or alcohol abuse or eating disorders, those people are not honest with themselves and cannot bear the weight of my honesty as a result. They want my emotional support and buoyancy in rough seas without wanting to swim against the current of their own denial and resolve it. They want the empath in the ditch with them.

It is no small wonder that these relationships disintegrate. Despite the fact that I had to remove them from my life I carry them with me each day. I feel the presence of each of them and the loss weighs on me but I respect myself too much to allow people to take more than they are willing to give back.
It has taken me years, heart wrenching pain, oceans of tears, a failed marriage and the breakdown of a few friendships to reach this place and I will not allow anyone to unpick the work I have invested into becoming the best version of myself that I can be, endeavoring to learn how to be more gentle than I was yesterday.

Thank you for reading.

My INFJ-ness

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To those of you who have done your Myers¬†Briggs Type Indicator¬†(MBPTI), you will know immediately of what I am speaking. To those of you who have never heard of the Myers-Briggs, it is very simply a personality test. I did mine on 16personalites.com. It is free of charge for the assessment and you can pay a nominal fee for the in-depth ‘Personality Blueprint’.

I did my first personality test during my time with my marriage–and then divorce–therapist. (No he was not responsible for my marriage ending, haha). The Hartman Color Code is very insightful and sparked in me a desire to become more self-aware and therefore a better version of myself. The Color Code was a revelation and aspects of my personality started to make complete sense and explained a lot of the events of my past, especially of my teens and early twenties.

If the Color Code was a revelation, the MBTI blew my mind!

I am an INFJ and we number less than 2% ¬†(some stats list it as less than 1%) of the world’s population and we are the rarest of all types.

I am an introverted intuitive who follows her heart, values harmony and who is decisive and prefers clear rules, basically. People often ask you to describe yourself in one word. The closest I can get to an answer for that question is: complex. I am a reasonably erudite person, some would even call me articulate. All this changes when I am under stress, emotional or otherwise, when I battle to describe accurately what¬†I am feeling. I can tell you the why¬†easily but battle to quantify what I’m feeling as I cannot always see the wood for the proverbial trees.

I have been working on this aspect of myself since I did my MBTI about a year ago, with reasonable success. Knowing more about yourself is one thing. Putting that knowledge to good use is quite another and takes practice as we all know, change does not happen overnight.

I am very fortunate to have a partner and indeed friends, who are equally as articulate as I am. My partner is also very similar in type to me. He is an INFP (perception vs judging). We have had our first couple of boundary establishing relationship scraps and I can tell you that I am far more adept at ‘fighting’ well–this is of course when the other person is fighting fair. I¬†listen more and try not to let my own feelings get in the way of what needs to be said or prevent me from listening to other people. Mr M is very pragmatic and sees things from a completely different perspective, which is inordinately good for me. ¬†The J in INFJ means that I like clear guidelines, that I favour equality and seek closure. If you step outside the confines of these ideals it sets off in me an emotional response.

A friend of mine and I have been having difficulties recently. She is making decisions based on my recent withdrawal from her, the reasons for which, she does not know. I chose not to share these reasons with her because this friend is having a tough time and I didn’t want to say anything to her that would cause discord because I felt she had enough on her plate. I wanted to support her without being a burden, however this became burdensome to me, in a way–I internalise matters a lot and eventually it needs to come out. My¬†desire for harmony has kept me from being honest with my friend. I chose to internalise what I felt and this was not fair to her as she did not understand the reasons why I had withdrawn. The treatment I’ve had because she is acting in ignorance served only to make me feel punished for said withdrawal. I’ve had my share of life stress recently in what feels like bucket loads. I shan’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, I am emotionally and psychologically exhausted. 2013 has been a wonderful, surprising and hellish year all at the same time. So I’ve chosen to put our friendship on a time out. I need to take some time for myself, replenish my reserves, which for any introvert is vital. Time will tell if we can navigate our way through this labyrinth. I am still unsure of whether or not I want to, or even should, tell my friend my reasons for withdrawal. I do know however, that everyone deserves honesty from their friends because if you cannot get it from the people who love you, who can you get it from? I also cannot really expect people to treat me fairly–according to my standards–unless they know all the facts. I will need my friend’s buy-in to sort this misunderstanding out. If I get it and she is willing, we have a real chance at deepening and continuing our friendship, if she is unwilling I will consider that closure.

Thank you for reading.

I See My True Colours

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I saw this picture on the interweb and it struck a cord with me. It’s glaringly obvious that through your trials and tribulations the best and, of course, the worst in people will become evident.

What struck me though, is that the same was to become evident in me.

I was warned right in the beginning, just as the divorce wheels were set in motion, that people would pick sides. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come, both positive and negative. While the positive had me in awe, the negative stunned me to my core.

The greatest surprise was watching an eleven year friendship come to a sudden and abrupt end. All the laughter, tears, love and care that I had ploughed into this living, breathing entity, started to evaporate. Julia and Harry (not their real names) both of whom I had introduced to Gerald, decided to remain friends with him. I would never have expected them to suddenly cut him out of their lives, however this is exactly what they ended up doing but to me. I heard completely by accident of their attendance to parties and social gatherings at my ex’s house–which is categorically not what I was hurt by. I was hurt by the fact that Julia was not upfront with me. Because she did not volunteer this information, I immediately felt she was keeping it from me and all I felt at the time was betrayal. Something to note is that we stood up for each other at each other’s weddings. The chasm that opened up in me was massive and it quite simply, broke my heart.

On the converse, however, the two other friends I have, who I now consider my closest confidants and heroes, truly stepped up to the plate. I was afforded a safe place to unload, cry, make jokes about and mourn this loss. The strength, wisdom and candour of these women buoyed me to calmer waters where I was able to get perspective and differentiate the wood from the proverbial trees. Something I have battled with my whole life. This is one lesson that has stuck with me. Instead of getting embroiled in the details, there is much to be gained by taking some breathing space to assess the situation from a distance. Your perspective is much clearer and you are able to recognise your own role in what went wrong with any given situation. This may seem obvious to some but some things take others longer to learn.

It did help that I was distracted by a budding romance, pretty soon, in fact, after the divorce. Not to cheapen that relationship but for various reasons, it was not to be one that would last. We came from vastly different backgrounds, faith systems and race groups. Try as we did, the emotional weight of that relationship became too much for me to bear. At one point, I realised that relationships should not be 80% hard work and 20% smooth sailing. It lasted longer than it should have because I was determined to make a success of it. To prove–to whom I’m not sure–that I was not ‘the problem’. My expectations were probably unreasonably high. That’s a lie, they were too high.

I had just reached a plateau of my first real coming of age. I had learned so much about myself, pieced so many of my past experiences together, made peace with a vast amount of emotional baggage that I had been carrying around since childhood and was expecting him to be at the same level. He wasn’t. He also began to display some, shall we say, unpleasant character traits. In the end, he ended it, tried to reconcile but this time, I had the presence of mind to put myself first.

This is for me, the greatest lesson of them all. I am driven by intimacy, in relationships in particular. I will often self-sacrifice for a relationship, be it romantic or platonic, that is not symbiotic. I hold the relationship itself close to me and so wish for it to be meaningful, that I allow people too much liberty to take what they need. The end result is that eventually my reserves are so depleted that I end up depressed, wondering what is wrong with me and feeling altogether unfulfilled. The only person to blame for this is me. People take because of how much I give. It’s up to me to audit how much I allow people to take.

This learning curve and subsequent self awareness has allowed me to build new relationships that are far more nurturing and balanced, that allow me to lean back. I would like to say thank you to those people for showing me, truly, how colourful and beautiful life can be.

You don’t see it at the time, but what comes after the dark is the bright light of ¬†a new dawn, a new chapter of promise and hope.

Thank you for reading.