I've always carried around a host of complexes: body issues, insecurity, disordered eating, an inability to stand up for myself, lack of control over my emotions... I've spent my entire life alternating between working on these things and letting them define me. The last year or two has been categorized by a hell of a lot of work on this stuff. I finally got myself medicated for my Bi-Polar Disorder, which has helped clear the fog enough that I can see where I'm going and how to get there. I found Fat Acceptance and HAES and it has benefited not only my sanity and image of myself, but my physical health as well. I've grown more assertive, which made it possible to quit a job that was slowly strangling my soul. It's also helped me in dealings with Silas' father. Simply put - I've grown. I've waded through a lot of my deeply ingrained idiosyncrasies and come out ahead, but there is one specific area I seem to have a harder time navigating than the others... friendship.
I have had some seriously traumatic friendship experiences in the past and I'm finding it monumentally difficult to work through them and move forward with new relationships. I've made a couple of friends and instead of just enjoying our time together, I over-analyze every little thing they say, assume they're referring to me, assume they don't actually like me... It's self-absorbed, I know. Trust me, I know. I've just been burned so harshly in the past that I sometimes feel like I don't even know what friendship looks like. I had so many social rules shoved down my throat during my childhood that I don't know which parts are actually normal interpersonal expectations and which parts are complete and utter nonsense.
Never invite yourself along, wait for a clear and unmistakable invitation. Always show up for things exactly on time. Don't show up early or you'll inconvenience the host, don't show up late or you're showing deep disrespect for the host. Don't burden others with your feelings, it's not their business and it will make you unappealing as a friend. Keep things light and be pleasant to be around. Don't make any last minute plans, all social engagements should be on your calendar atleast a week before they occur.
How does anyone expect that heaping all that on a child will result in a grown up who has healthy friendships? I have no idea, but I spent so much time focusing on these "rules" that I would go along with ANYTHING my friends wanted. When I was eleven I knew a girl and I considered her my best friend in the whole wide world. I'm pretty sure I wasn't even in her top ten. One day when we were walking from my house to the public pool she warned me, "If we run into anyone I know, pretend you're my cousin. I'll say my mom made me hang out with you. Ok?" My response? "Ok!" She used to pretend she didn't know me, talk about me behind my back, boss me around and say mean things to me... and I took it, because she was my best (and pretty much only) friend. And it didn't stop in childhood - my last highly dysfunctional friendship was with a girl I worked with just 3 years ago. Once again, she talked behind my back, pushed me around, made me feel like chopped liver... and I didn't say much of anything because I so desperately wanted a friend.
In the last couple of years I've managed to reconnect with one of my best and closest friends from my late teens and although it's been hard at times, I'm so glad we have eachother in our lives again. I've also found a kindred spirit in my friend Candace, who I met 2 years ago and count on for advice, camaraderie, and just plain old good times. I've developed a deep and abiding friendship with a fellow blogger who lives just a couple of hours south of me. Now that I've connected with a couple of unschooling families in the area, I've found friends who understand our lifestyle and genuinely like me for who I am. Things are going well on the social front - there is finally conversation and support and time spent together; these are things I craved and needed deep within my bones for such a long time. Yet... I'm finding it hard to unpack my complexes surrounding friendship. I'm finding it hard to heal from past hurts and to stop assuming it will all happen again. I don't really know where to begin.
further reading: The cost of "manners" amongst the ladyfolk by Kelly Hogaboom (Underbellie)