Mostly I have been inspired by a blog I read by dreamphemera about relationships. My chin was on the table at how precisely I felt she had put all of my confusion into a deeper, clearer perspective. I gained the most in recognizing who and what I want from my own friendships and what I do not want to have to agree to anymore.
As a child I was taught to include everyone in my life, my sacred space of me, or God will be disappointed. This, I believe was an expanded truth from my mother, sunday school teachers, etc. of the Golden Rule- which I have now revisited. To treat another as I would chose to be treated is a truth for me that reflects my desire to treat myself the way I want to be treated and to be an example of that for others. If I am unthoughtful of my time, energy and needs- so too will others be.
Being a healer, counselor and all around loving person I have forced myself in many moments to feel guilty over NOT wanting to be someone's friend. I have learned that if I give my time away to everyone who wants it, I do not have time to give to those I want to give it to- including myself. The greatest challenge in these situations, and they do occur regularly, is that a voice inside of me likes to tell me how "mean it is to tell someone no" when they are asking for my friendship.
I have decided I cannot or will not give out my friendship like bread crumbs to all the hungry birds- for it leaves me starving for myself. I can however offer kindness, compassion and when appropriate, my time, IF it feels good to me to do so.
I find that I have been lacking in this skill. Recently a "friend" called me for advice. This is a friend I have only heard from a few times in the last year and always it was for advice (free counseling) over the phone. She has been to see me as a client and student but decided it was more to her advantage to be friends with me. I agree that for her it was a prime choice to make. But for me, I found myself feeling used and not speaking up about it. Why?
Why did I not say to her, "sounds like you need to make an apt. with me"? Me, who preaches this lesson to all of my students, why did I fail myself?
The answer, I discovered, was because I had allowed the lines between us to blur. I allowed the boundaries of our relationship to become undefined. I had catered to her desire for the friendship while I knew in my heart it was a one way street. I did this because I felt guilty about not wanting a relationship with her, because I was worried about what she would say to others if I told her how I really felt. I was afraid of being judged and condemned. Damn! and I thought I was beyond that. Think again...
My intuition had quietly been telling me the truth all along- "She isn't honoring your time because you aren't asking her to. She doesn't really want a friendship, she wants a mother, a caretaker, a giver."
I had to stop, admit the truth and apologize to myself and then be willing to move forward. I decided to hold a clear boundary in place for a future and current relationships.
Being a teacher, mentor and counselor I offer much love and connection on a daily basis to my students and client's but I am learning this time and love does not have to go beyond our agreed upon relationship.
In getting clear about what I need, I must now get clear on how I support myself in acting from this place. How I can say "no thank you" to those who want more with kindness and directness? How can I stand firmly in what I know and feel good about it? These are the questions I am asking myself now.
My new self care standard requires me to evaluate if the friendship is 1) something I truly desire and 2) will offer me as much as I am offering it. If I cannot fully say YES to both of these statements I WILL NOT permit myself to agree to the relationship. I will kindly decline the invitation for lunch, or to "get together" outside of work. I will not explain myself or allow myself to feel guilty about it any longer.
To remember as dreamphemera put it: "I know that I teach people how to treat me – so, I’ve decided to be a better teacher. And, I’ve come to realize that just because someone wants a relationship with me, it doesn’t mean I am obligated to return the sentiment – I can be compassionate, and be discerning. They are not mutually exclusive."