Do we really know our friends?

best friends forever
Photo credit: keycomp123

After spending several months now with only my parents and dogs as company, I’ve done a lot of thinking about friendships. I left behind many close friends and many more acquaintances in DC, and have yet to make new friends here in California, although I’m highly anticipating meeting people as soon as I make my next move.

In the fourth months since I’ve left, I’ve heard from some friends quite frequently, through texts, emails, online chat, or even handwritten letters (my favorite!). Other people that I thought would be in touch, I haven’t heard from at all, and it’s disappointing, and truthfully, hurtful. And then there are others still that have surprised me by checking in with me, and giving me updates on their lives – people I wouldn’t have thought to hear from.

With change in location and plans always comes change in friendships. Some are to be expected, some are disappointing, and some are refreshing. But more than just accepting that friendships come and go, is accepting the substance of those relationships, and coming to terms with the fact that some of them are surface, fleeting, or specific. I read a blog post this morning about how with the evolution of digital networking, our “friendships” may seem to be deep and wide, but in fact, so many of our connections aren’t really connections at all – they are just people we met once, or perhaps even if we spent more significant time with them, they held a specific purpose in our life at that moment: they were the friend of a friend that was always at brunch or happy hour, or the former coworker that you were friendly with, but no longer see since you left the organization.

And then, what about all of those close friends that you spent hours with, over wine or beer, at celebrations and summer outings…what of them? It suddenly hits me that I don’t really know anything about these people, and nor do they know anything about me. Sure, I may know what they do for a living or that they play kickball on the weekends, and they may know what I do for a living and that I really like Corgis, but not much more. It hits me that one of the reasons I was ready to escape DC is that so many hours were spent talking about stuff that doesn’t matter, and a lot of it was negative. Commiserating about work. Gossiping about friends. Idle chatter about stuff happening in the city. It was like this giant juggling act of getting together with people because that’s what’s expected of us, when much of the time, we didn’t even really want to do it. I can barely count all 10 fingers as I think about the friends that I had real, deep conversations with – about books we read, and how our families and history have made us who we are, what our dreams are and where we’re going, our deep-seated fears and our moments of pure happiness and accomplishment.

Some of what I’m saying may piss people off, people that I hung out with. And that’s okay. I’ll say first that I’m grateful for all of my friends, no matter how close we were or weren’t – because life is full of all kinds of friendships, and some are deeper than others. But more than ever, as I spend week after week figuring out what I want to do with my life and figuring out what’s really, truly important to me, I’m not afraid to shed some layers I don’t need, and I’m not ashamed of expecting my friends to be the best they can be – authentic, caring, supportive, adventurous, and true – to me, and to themselves. Friendship isn’t about judging, and it’s not about trying to fix someone else’s problems. It’s not selfish, and it’s not about convenience.  So I’m going to do my best to be the friend that I would want to have, and not focus on the relationships that give me more heartache than joy.

There is so much more to life and to friendships than to talk about work and people on Twitter day in and day out – because there is so much more to each of us as individuals, and we all deserve a chance to really be ourselves in front of our friends.

Overcoming resistance

what a view
My parents are gone for a few days so it’s just me and the dogs on the “farm.” The morning clouds and coolness has cleared, and now it’s the usual hot and sunny with some wind. The back patio is actually quite nice with the umbrella unfolded, and you can’t beat the views of course. I think these few days alone will be pretty telling – will it make the homesickness that has recently come on stronger or will I begin to really embrace the peace and quiet? When I’m one week in (the first week didn’t count because it was vacation), it’s an in between spot in my mind and my heart. I’m lonely and missing my friends, and missing all that DC has to offer within footsteps or a metro ride. On the other hand, the break from endless networking events, happy hours, and nine to five is a welcome relief. Instead of worrying about fitting in a workout or a chance to read for fun or do some journaling, I have plenty of time for that and more. When there’s no one to hang out with other than your parents and not many places that are easy to get to other than wineries, options are few so you have to focus, or get creative.

Speaking of focus, I started reading a book my friend gave me, The War of Art. It’s all about how a little thing (and really, it’s a huge thing) called resistance gets in the way of our hopes and dreams and what we’re passionate about. Everyone has resistance within them, but it’s up to us to control it and overcome it and put our head down, and simply, get shit done. It’s definitely something that resonates right now. It might seem easy to those on the outside – I have time, I have space, I have security, why not just sit down every day and write? But all the little whispers of resistance get in my face: I’m not a good writer anymore, I won’t make any money doing this, I can’t think of anything to write about, I’m bored, I’m restless… it can go on and on.

Having a routine is important, even when working from home. It still means getting up to walk the dogs and eat breakfast, and get other work out of the way. It means picking the spot in the house (or outside) and turning off the wifi and turning on the music (or whatever works for you) and just starting to write. Once it starts… it keeps going, until you’re truly ready to stop. Some days I will only want to write a page, other days, I will want to work on four different pieces. But on the days I don’t want to do anything, I have to remember that’s resistance. No matter the reason, it needs to go away, because this is what I chose and this is what I’m doing. It doesn’t mean that I can’t change my mind at some point, but for now, this is what I’m focused on, and I will only know if this is the right path for me if I give it, and me, a chance. A real one.

The weeks and months to come will be important…perhaps the most important of my journey. I made the leap, and came out here. That was tough. But almost harder is now putting it to practice, living in the moment, and then figuring out the long-term plan. So with that, it’s time to get to work.

So it begins…life in the country

The view from the back of the house
The view from the back of the house

I’ve been on the West Coast for exactly a week, and in my (parents’) new home in Paso Robles for less than 24 hours. A slight hiccup means my stuff still isn’t arriving until Monday, but when it all gets here and I start a new work routine, it’s going to start feeling a little less like vacation and more like reality.

corgi signBecause so far, it hasn’t quite hit me yet. A weekend in Napa to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my friend followed by a couple of days in San Francisco with another dear friend who moved out here in 2011 has been a stellar introduction to my new life as a California girl. Imagine trying to answer people when they ask, “So, where are you from?” I used to have trouble explaining my Louisiana to Ohio connection, but now to throw DC in the mix, especially right at the transition, is another story. Because I did in fact end up making DC my home, and I felt more in tune to it than I ever did in Ohio, despite living in the latter for nearly three times as long.

First order of business upon arrival to the “farm” was greeting the Corgis of course. My boy McGee is the same as always, and it’s wonderful to be with him again. And Abbey, oh Abbey, she’s a just a little ball of fluff and cuteness that I can barely describe. To be with puppies again is so much fun! And exhausting, for sure. Leftovers for dinner and a glass of wine topped off the first night, and I went to bed with the windows open in my room, all decked out already with some personal touches from my parents.

New coop door!
New coop door!

Today started with a great long walk with Dad and the dogs in the neighborhood, and I got to see just how many great hill workouts I’ll get in. My runs won’t be boring around here. Life on a farm has its duties — I helped Dad build a door to the chicken coop, and later I’ll pick some tomatoes from the garden, and maybe we’ll go to a wine tasting nearby.

But what’s most important is what’s happening right now: the dogs are laying on the floor, I’m in a chair writing, and my parents are nearby doing their own work. Beautiful scenery is all around us, and I get to wear stretchy pants and drink Dad’s fresh coffee. Life’s pretty good in the country so far.

As I settle in to my new home and figure out this journey, I hope you’ll stay tuned. Readers of my blog know I’m not really a daily update type of blogger, but I did want to share this first one with you from California. And if you really can’t get your fill of the Corgis, you can start following, for lots of updates on… well, Corgis and wine.

A day at the new office
A day at the new office

Change your attitude to make change happen

This week, our office had a time and life management expert spend several hours with us to help us clean up our act. The simple pieces relate to email organization, meetings, project management, and procrastination. But the big picture is about change, and your attitudes and behaviors that affect that.

If you aren’t happy with how something is going, you can tweak it, improve it. If it’s something little, you make the change and then life goes on. If it’s something bigger, a true lifestyle adjustment, it will take longer. It takes 21 days to make a habit, and three months before it becomes a subconscious act. It can take years to readjust feelings about someone or something – and sometimes, it can seem like just a snap of the fingers to fall back into old habits, and old emotions.

What about when you’re a roadblock to change, and it affects other people? For instance, you know that you are terrible about keeping in touch with friends or family. “I never call people, I’m bad at responding to emails, or texts.” Okay, well that’s nice that you admitted it, but what are you going to do about it? Saying it out loud doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. The burden shouldn’t all fall to the people that are waiting to hear from you. Think about how your actions are affecting others. Maybe you can’t call every week, or respond to every email, but can you set aside half an hour each month to catch up with loved ones? Put it on your calendar if it helps.

What if you’re waiting on someone else to change? That person that never responds to your texts, that doesn’t seem to make the initiative, that seems to give lip service. Well, you have a few options. You can a) keep going on like normal, and accept that you will be making most of the effort, with little or no return, b) bring it up with the person and try to come up with something that works for the both of you, or c) if it’s negatively impacting you too much, remove that roadblock from your daily life. Sure, it may mean a lot of pain, but sometimes we have to do that. It’s like quitting smoking, or drinking, or throwing out sentimental items, but it can make us happier, healthier, and more sure of who we are.

While we’re sitting around for everyone else and everything around us to change, here are a few ways that YOU can change your outlook, and make change yourself:

  • A thunderstorm ruins your outdoor picnic plans with friends –> bring all the fixings and have it inside. The point is the same: quality time with your pals.
  • A colleague constantly has input on your projects –> listen to it, and incorporate what you think works, and thank them for their thoughts.
  • Guy says he wants to meet up, randomly will reach out, but then is MIA when it’s time to make something happen. –> He’s just not that into you. Move on. It’s not worth playing games.
  • A family member or friend is consistently obnoxious about a certain topic, says inappropriate things, or generally pisses you off. –> Ignore them. Remove them from your social networks if you can. Be civil when you see them, but don’t encourage the behavior, or respond to it. Don’t let it affect your attitude.
  • A friend is in a situation in which you’ve given advice, but s/he refuses to acknowledge they are headed for a bad ending. –> You’ve done your part as a friend. Support them and let them live their life, or stay out of theirs.

What are some ways that you change your attitude to create change?

The best time to move on…is when it’s best for YOU.

Taking a leap!

I feel like I’m playing hooky today. I’m not on vacation, I’m not taking a sick day, but I’m not checking email or doing work either. I’m in between jobs.

It’s been three and a half years since I was transitioning from one job to another, and this time, it’s a little different. It’s different because my second job, at the UN Foundation, was like a home to me for the last few years. Many of the people there became my family, and I made some friends that I will have for life. I also grew up in that job, personally and professionally, and although I am excited about my next chapter, it was hard to say goodbye to the people I worked and laughed with, to my cube, to my accomplishments.

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