Understanding Friendship, part 1

Namaste.

For those of you who are still checking in every now and then, I appreciate your loyalty more than you will ever know. I have not written in five weeks, and yet, you may still be stopping by. I believe that one or two of you may read this in the coming week. Know that, when you do, this entry is dedicated to you.

I have been away for various reasons. As is true with my other absences, the reasons have been, for the most part, all good. I have decided to self-publish my book, Journey to Cold Rock, and that has consumed much of my time. I have also played around with the possibility of applying for a new position in the county public school system, which would pull me out of the classroom and have me working with English teachers in all 12 county high schools. The experience would be phenomenal in so many ways, but in the end, I realized that I could not leave my students, or the classroom–at least just not yet. We’ll see what happens with Cold Rock in October when we launch the book, but until then, I have no other plans of leaving the classroom. One of the determining factors was, simply put, energy. I give a lot in my classroom, but my students give me a great deal as well, and so there is this nice balance of energy that flows between us. Sometimes it’s a little more giving than taking, but it all works out nicely by the end of the day, the end of the week, the month, term, year. Everything always works out.

And…I’ve been busy working out and losing a little weight. For the most part, I have remained dedicated to my vegan lifestyle, with the exception of a small diversion this weekend to celebrate the 13th anniversary of my 29th birthday. I am more focused than ever, though, and I write these words just minutes after returning from the gym for a good aerobic workout on the elliptical trainer. In these past 2 months, I’ve managed to shed 14 1/2 pounds, so I figure that is a good beginning. Now the workouts and the diet and the weight loss are about me and not about some good biggest loser competition at school. That was fun, but now it’s time to focus on why I’m really doing all of this. I’d like to drop another 15 1/2 pounds by the end of spring break, which I believe ends April 10. That would be 30 pounds in just about 90 days or so. I’ll gladly take that.

For the most part, that’s what I’ve been up to. At least on the surface. It’s what’s been going on under the surface that brings me to my Back-To-The-Blog entry about friendship.

You see, on Friday, a few friends took me out for a drink at our local bar to celebrate my birthday. On my right was K-man; on my left was K-girl. Two of the best friends anybody could ask for. But I didn’t know that, really, until the bill came, and I reached into my pocket to pull out some money. Immediately, K-man stopped me and told K-girl to make sure that I didn’t pay. Now, that by itself is a good thing, but nothing worth returning to my blog about (at least not to reopen my blog-writing season). It’s what happened afterward, and then a long time ago, that made such an impact on me.

K-girl said she got it, but K-man was relentless. He said something like, “I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. This is his day, and his tab is on me.” He leaned in to me, looking at K-girl, and I could tell how serious it was for him to make sure that he covered my tab. Not because he owed me this, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do, but because K-man’s just about the best kind of friend a guy could have, and he wanted to take care of me. He wanted to make sure that he expressed his friendship in a way that he knew how to do, without question or without missing a single half-beat of his heart.

I know it might sound ridiculous to you that such a small thing could mean so much, so let me tell you the rest of the story.

Last May, when it was K-man’s birthday, and the usual crowd had gathered at the bar to celebrate his day, I was running late at school, and one thing led to another, and I left my classroom and headed straight home. He was well taken care of by the others, I convinced myself. Who was I to him in this celebration anyway? I knew he wanted me there, but it wasn’t like my appearance was going to make or break the gathering.

It hurt him, though. It really did. The next Monday, he stopped by my room, and he walked in, looked at me, and said, “Where were you?”

I offered my usual dish of apologies, but he just looked so angry, so disappointed and hurt. He waved me off and walked out of the room without saying anything more.

I immediately got defensive and told myself that K-man had to grow up. It wasn’t a big deal. Others were there, and it certainly wasn’t anything personally against him that I did not show up. I was tired…I wanted to get home…I…I…I didn’t think I mattered to him so much.

For the longest time I thought this. In fact, for the better part of this year, our relationship has been strained. He’s knee-jerked a few responses to me that have hurt, and I know I have been less than kind on several occasions when I could have taken a step back and not been so defensive.

So when we were at the bar on Friday, and when I heard him make sure K-girl understood that he was covering my tab, this definition of friendship just hit me head on. It all made sense to me.

The relationship that I have with each of you is very special, and I have done the same thing to you that I’ve been doing to K-man for so long. I’ve ignored our friendship, and although it has never been anything personal toward any one of you, I am tired of running from friendships, from genuine friendships whether they are in person, on line, or on paper.

I want to be done running. Running from all of you.

Running from me.

I’m working on a new piece about “the lawn” at Merriweather Post Pavillion, where I spent my teens and my twenties with good, good people and James Taylor, the Doobies, and a strong line of other great performers. What I remember most about those days are the relationships that I had with those good, good people. I have always been a person with great empathy for individuals struggling to become their own person. But unlike the balance of energy in the classroom that I and my students are able to strike, I have found that those individuals with whom I have such a great affinity for never receive me for who I am. I never really give me back to them. This has been an unbelievably huge complaint from nearly every one of my friends, where we get into a groove, and then poof! I’m gone. Or I can no longer play. Or I’m *secretly* afraid of this or that or him or her. It got old a long time ago, but now I think I’m beginning to understand exactly what friendship is all about.

I know. It sounds crazy. You befriend somebody. You hang out. You be there when he or she needs you. Done. So very simple, I know.

But not when you throw in the rest of the baggage. The self-doubt, the inability to differentiate between being yourself and being a whiner, the need to wear that mask as often as possible in fear of what people may really think of you.

I’ve had this problem for years. This is nothing new. What’s new is that, through understanding friendship, I am beginning to see that there is a simple solution.

Let go.

Letting go of all of the stress and the anxiety and the fear and just being, just existing, is the best thing I can do for me and for the ones I love.

So I’m letting go.

and I’m scared as hell.

Tomorrow: What I believe “letting go” really means.

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4 thoughts on “Understanding Friendship, part 1

  1. So does this mean we are finally really going to get together?????
    I wonder if this is a pisces thing? I have difficulty maintaining friendships with people once they or I move on from work or school. It’s amazing to me that Jagman’s whole group of friends from high school still get together regularly!
    Happy Birthday. I hope it was great!

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  2. Happy belated birthday! And congrats on the weight loss! That’s fantastic!!!

    I’m trying to figure out how to say this so I guess I’ll just spit it out. There’s a couple friends in my life that do what you do, that back out of plans, etc., etc., and it does very much hurt my feelings. Perhaps they don’t like crowds or perhaps they think as you do, that it won’t matter to me if they show up or not…but it makes me feel unimportant in their life. My first reponse is to back away. But their friendship is important, so I keep on…hoping that they’ll understand they’re important to me.

    So congrats, too, on letting go 🙂

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  3. letting go….good for you, I’m proud of you. Good to see you back!

    I wish you well with your book, I hope it all goes well and look forward to the opportunity of reading it.

    The new job opportunity sounds intriguinging, I look forward to seeing what you decide to do.

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  4. Happy Belated Birthday and Happy AMAZING weight loss! Two wonderful things. Friendships can be tricky things. I struggle often with my moods and balancing my anxiety and depression tendencies and the need to be alone with maintaining my friendships. I know all of my friends don’t understand all of the time. I have spent many many years saying yes to everything and overtime I eventually totally shut down. This is not good for me or for my friends. So I have learned that I need to take care of myself first, without being a jacka$$ to my friends. For me a huge thing was learning to think before I said yes or no to something so I did not back out.

    I am not sure if it is working for all of my friends but as I do for my friends, I think we all hang in there for each other – just as K-Man has done for you.

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