Posts Tagged ‘help’

How to Keep Friends: A Social Experiment, Part II

Friends courtesy HaPe_Gera, Creative Commons License

So here’s how I’m doing in my little social experiment. I’ve alluded to it here, and here. Let’s get specific.

I have fallen behind on my Facebooking, but I should remedy that with putting some time in this weekend.

I went out last Friday, but to a concert, and I ducked out early, so I really didn’t get to spend much time actually interfacing with people. In my defense, I had to work overtime the next day… I know. It’s lame.

I have put an effort in to keeping in touch, via text and phone call, but I can feel it starting to slip. Now is the time to redouble my efforts, yes?

I haven’t organized any events though…

With the holidays coming up, everyone’s time is precious, and money is earmarked for other things: gifts, travel, rent, feasting, therapy…

So I’m trying to generate some quick, painless, cheap get-together ideas. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Movie Marathon: Whether you watch Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, movie marathons are always fun, and if cheap if you already own them. Pop some popcorn, let your DVD (or VCR) machine do the real work, and have people BYOB. Done.

2. Bowling: At less than $20 per game, four people can have a lot of fun pretty cheaply. Plus competition – I hear you athlete types chomping at the bit already. And a plus against the movie marathon is that you can actually engage in conversation – more than just reciting everyone’s favourite lines as they come up that is.

3. Pub: A local watering hole to which people can walk or easily carpool can be cheap – it can also be pricey. It depends on how much people end up drinking, really. But at least the onus isn’t on the host, but each individual, so if they got the cash, and a safe way home, let ’em enjoy!

4. Potluck Party: I love potlucks. You get to try new things sometimes, and everyone takes home leftovers, and recipes are exchanged – it’s a great ice breaker and conversation starter, too! “Oh, you put green apple in your mashed potatoes – how interesting!” Plus, food, ‘nuf said.

And that’s all I got so far.

The problem with these is that they really depend on people being able to get together at the same time, which for my friends is pretty much a miracle. You throw corporate nine-to-fiver me in with shift working single moms and musicians and bartender/students and well, I guess Monday at 6:00 am might work for us all… But baby steps, right? So maybe I employ these with two or three people to start…

Or maybe I find a way to make that early Monday morning thing work… Wouldn’t that be cool, starting your day off bright and early with some straight-up friend time?

Any suggestions on cheap evenings (or mornings – seriously, I think I could be on to something here!) to spend with friends? What’s your go to get-together? Do you game? Video-thon? Evening walks? Organized sports? Let me know below, I could use the help!

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Family: Who Makes the Cut

Happy Family
Happy Family Taking Self Portrait courtesy photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As I write out my Christmas Cards, I can’t help but think of who I consider to be family.

I am part of many families, you see. There’s my mother’s family, and my father’s family with whom I share a common lineage (adoptively speaking), and my father’s created family (those who have standing invitations to our home), and my created family, which includes a few of my friends, and members of each of my other families, and Dashing and a few of his biological family.

It’s a little like this:

FAMILY CHART

FAMILY CHART – BY MISS HAPP

But how do we get there? When you’re little, your family are those people who take care of you, and by extension any whom they call family.

Over years one develops those existing relationships, growing closer to some, learning to tolerate (or not) others… and as one grows and meets new people one adds to the base from which to draw familial relationships.

That’s fairly simple, and common, thinking.

But when is it that someone goes from being a friend, to being family?

For me, it is that line where I would protect them from themselves. I love my friends, yes, but somehow I know they manage without me. I know they can take care of their own stuff, and I trust them to ask for help if they need it. I feel comfortable telling them when I think their behaving poorly, or when they’ve made a poor choice, but if they choose to disagree, well, that’s up to them.

Family though, family is so much more complicated.

Because somehow, in the idea that my life would be truly altered if this person were to leave or be in hardship, there’s the self-protective reaction that says I should do all I can to prevent it.

If a family member has an addiction, it affects me in ways a friend’s addiction might not, and it’s so much harder to tell them “You have a problem, and I need you to get help” because it’s like telling part of yourself that you’ve been let down by it.

If a friend has financial hardship – I might give them some money to help out, but probably not that much, and I might expect it paid back someday. I can understand that a friend might fall on hard times. And I understand that they will get back up on their own eventually.

If I see a family member heading towards financial hardship, I do all I can – lecturing, giving of funds, subtle and not-so-subtle hints about job applications or savings accounts – because underneath it all, I feel responsible for their well-being.

I recognize that, like my friends, my family is mostly full of capable adults, who manage to feed themselves, and clothe themselves, and get to and from work daily without my constant assistance or supervision – but I still feel connected to them in a way where if they fail, I fail. If they succeed, I am proud of their accomplishment, and happy to have helped in any small way. But when family hits a rough spot, for me, it’s an all hands on deck kind of time.

At least, that is the gut, knee-jerk reaction.

But I’ve come to learn that even family, sometimes have to fail on their own.

After all, it’s through failing that we learn our greatest lessons, right?

But even when it’s a hands off – let-em-fall-down kinda time, there’s still that instinct, that basic desire to come between them and the cold, hard ground, because when they hurt, I hurt.

And that’s how I know who’s my family.

Where’s the line for you? Are you more protective of friends, trusting your family to speak up more? What do you think? Let me know below!

Breaking Out: Getting Over Yourself

Time to Break Out

Jail courtesy Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I don’t know if it’s natural, but it seems fairly common with myself and those around me to put up these walls around ourselves. These fences, and signs that say “Private! Keep Out”

Now, in my gregarious days of excessive flirtation I was a natural at knocking these down. Dashing used to say that it didn’t matter how much he would barricade the entry to something, I’d come in through a window or the chimney or something and kick down the door from within.

These days, it seems I am a natural at putting them up.

It sneaks up on you. You think you’re doing it to protect others, to keep the dangerous parts of yourself, the messy emotions, the things they don’t want to hear from them. Or maybe you’re just hiding the white-hot pain to keep people from tracking their muddy work-boots all over it. Maybe it’s self-preservation. Maybe it’s to try to preserve them.

It doesn’t really matter. Because eventually you realize you’re alone, in a house with concrete walls, barbed wire fences, boarded windows, and seventeen locks on the doors, and you don’t know where you put the keys. You’re trapped.

What was your refuge, your safety zone, is now your prison.

And you start to hate them for abandoning you there.

Nevermind that the “Stay Away” “Electrified Fencing” and “Trespassers will be prosecuted” signs are all in your handwriting… You are trapped, and alone, and you hate them for not noticing, or for not staying, for not pushing back. For not wedging their work-boot in the doorway. For not coming down the chimney to join you.

Well, I hate to tell ya, sweetie, but it’s rough all over.

They have their own prisons they’re building. Or maybe they’re building a house o’ dreams, but you nixed the neighbourhood barbecue because they wanted to host it on your lawn, and now they have fences, white picket fences to be sure, but fences none-the-less keeping you out.

But you can’t stay alone, trapped in your fortress forever. You know it. But maybe you need to hear it. You cannot stay alone.

Because eventually you would die, and if the only people to notice your death are Revenue Services, well, that is so much scarier than reaching out.

So you break off the boards covering your windows. You look out and see your very safe lawn for the first time in eons. You struggle to wrench up the screeching window, as it protests the entire time. You climb out. And breathe. And reach out between the links on your electrified fence, hoping to touch someone passing by. Eventually, you get brave and climb over the barbed wire topping. Your body armour snags on the top and you have to leave it behind.

You land, vulnerable, on the sidewalk. And realize, from this side of your fortress, those picket fences keeping you out of your friends’ yards? Well, they’re ankle-high. Not insurmountable like you’d thought. But still, you have to be the one to get over them.

This is the hardest part. Telling people what you need, and trusting them to help you get it. Reaching out so that they can have the opportunity to reach back. You can’t just fall, and trust that they’ll catch you. You have to let them know that you are falling, and that you need them to catch you.

Shame is the biggest obstacle here. No one likes being the one falling. No one likes doing it in front of an audience. It is so easy to curl in on yourself and dig a hole to hide in, but that hole just becomes a tunnel heading back to your fortress of solitude. Death and taxes. That is all that is waiting there for you.

So to the walls, and the fences, and the pride, and the shame, I say…

Get over it already.

The First Step

Do you think after the first step, I'll just be able to ride on up to the next level?

Escalators courtesy TeddyBear[Picnic]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tomorrow Night (yes, capitals) I am going out with not only one girl friend, but two!

I know, everyone is very proud.

I’m having supper with one, and then meeting the other at a bar where more of our friends are playing (they have a band).

I’m a little nervous.

I mean, it’ll be fine, totally. Except that the last time I saw the one friend, I ended up crying about the state of Dashing and I in the middle of a restaurant, and the last time I saw the other, I offended her by being, well, me, and not thinking about the words I use while speaking (another plus of blogging!).

Mostly I’m nervous because when I get around people, I get excited. And when I get excited, I tend to get a little, um, EXCITED. I chit-chat-chitter away, speaking without filter, and then I end up spilling all my secrets (I can keep other people’s secrets, just not my own), which leads to crying. I cry. I’m a cry-er.

I didn’t cry for something like ten years, and now, I cry. Most often when angry or frustrated.

But anyway, I’m nervous about getting EXCITED and crying. Again. And talking too quickly and offending people. AGAIN.

But these are my friends, right? These are my people, the community I’m trying to preserve, right? We are there to support each other, and they know me. They usually find my quirks endearing, refreshing, even… right?

But what if…?

There’s a lot at stake, and I have to trust that it will get easier. The first step is always the hardest – it’s why I talk myself out of it so often.

Deep breath. Wish me luck!

How do you get over the hurdle to take a first step? Is it easy to trust your friends? To trust yourself? What do you think?

A Community of the Mind: Literature

Growing my mental community

Idea From X Ray courtesy arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve talked a little bit about how music and literature and art reflect and define and cultivate us as much as we do them.

So in following my urge to grow and change, I contrarily took to reading some childhood favourites. When you feel the need for change, possibly drastic change, it can be helpful to find comfort in the familiar.

But now I’m done. My mind is adjusting to the changes, slowly, and right now it is screamingly bored.

I need something new to read.

Now I have a lot on my fiction to read list: Frankenstein, The Book Thief, and some new-to-me Sharon Creech – and those are just some of the ones I own… My shopping list is much longer.

But I’m craving some Non-Fiction. I could re-read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, but again, I want something new…. Something.

You know that feeling when you can almost taste it, you just can’t name it? Yeah, that. Totally THAT.

The problem being not many people in my communities read non-fiction. Oh, sure, if I want to discuss the Hunger Games, or hear (again) why I should invest in 50 Shades of Grey, or even to discuss Tolkien or A Song of Ice and Fire, I can find someone in a heartbeat, but non-fiction…? I’m hearing crickets.

Unless it’s a to-do (cooking, knitting, quilting) book, or a bio on someone you absolutely idolize, most people around me simply believe they will be bored without a plot filled with familiar character archetypes and either action or romance (or a little of both)…?

This is not true. A well reasoned argument, or well documented research and interesting conclusion, can be both stimulating and inspiring. Simply put, learning makes me want to learn.

And right now I don’t want to learn how to do something new, I want to learn how to think something new.

I want to bring new argument, new perspective, new challenges and debate into my mental community. I need some new fodder to chew on, I want to disagree and be inspired to do research and come to conclusions. I want to be made to think about whether or not I agree with someone’s logic.

So all you non fiction fans out there – help – any juicy non-fiction books you’d recommend?

How to Keep Friends: A Social Experiment, Part I

What's wrong with a little social experimentation?

Blue And Red Flasks courtesy posterize/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, I’ve talked about how little I know about this here, and here.

But here comes the social experiment part. I’m going to list five methods I’m going to try to reconnect with my existing community, and I’ll let you know how they go.

1. Facebook

I’ve talked about how exhausting it is to come home after staring at a computer screen for eight hours and feel like you have to look at another one just to contact, oh, anyone… but since I’ve actually managed to blog fairly regularly lately (yay, me!), I think I can manage a couple of hours per week of skulking into my friends personal lives to figure out what they’re up to. So my goal is to go onto Facebook at least once a week, and to not only creep their lives but to change a picture, update a status, poke someone to let them know that I am alive and reaching out.

2. Engaging Phone Conversations

I’ve talked about how I hate the phone, and I do. It’s very useful as a tool, but for contact, well, it’s a cold, plastic box.

So, my goal is to move beyond my hatred, and when people call me to engage them in interesting conversation, instead of my usual “OK, got the info, gotta go” routine.

This is actually really huge because it will force me to think about my day and come up with interesting things to say, instead of feeling like nobody’s interested because if they were, they’d already know what my day was. Which, bullsh*t. Really.

3. Organizing Outings

My hope is that eventually these will become more routine so that they take less organizing and so that others maybe think to invite me out once in awhile.

To start, at least once every two weeks I will go out, for supper or drinks, or to watch the band, with at least one of my friends, and in this instance, Dashing does not count (because I would go to the moon every day for that man, it’s embarrassing, really).

4. Holiday Cards

Nothing says reconnection like the annual catch-up of holiday cards. I’ve never done them on a large scale. This year, I will, to all and sundry. I’m talking researching mailing addresses, old-school letters enclosed, stamps and envelopes Holiday Cards. I should probably start in the next couple of weeks.

5. Downtime

For a lasting change, I can’t just do a complete 180 and hope it sticks, like I’ve done before. So if I need a night or two (or five) to myself, that is OK. If I miss calling someone back, that is OK. If three weeks go by and I haven’t gone out at all, that is OK, but I should start thinking about it soon at that point.

This part is the trickiest, because while it is important to take time to oneself, for a hermit like me, it can be oh so tempting to live there. But friendship is a two-way street and I have to have faith that once my friends know I want more time with them, that they’ll be happy to oblige. I have to give them the chance, and trust that they’ll come through for me.

Those are my five, for now. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but I think it’s a pretty good starter list.

What do you think? What would you add/take away? If I manage to achieve these goals, what should be on my next list?

Break In Suspense

Image "Coin Flip" courtesy Chris Sharp/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Would I truly let this determine my fate? Actually, maybe.

OK this one is all about Dashing…

Dashing loves me. And I am so very in love with him.

That right there, that says everything.

I do truly believe that he and I may end up together. But we are taking the scenic route for a lot of reasons, which I’m not featuring today.

I believe that he and I could be very happy together. I know that I would love to have his children, and to live day to day, and have adventures, and experiences, and disappointments, and arguments, and making up, and flowers, and chores, and finances, and taxes, and growing old together. I want him. I want us to live together – and I don’t mean co-habitate.

I have no idea what our life together would look like. I see flashes. An eighties montage of varied possibilities and they all could be true. But I truly have no idea, because I don’t have his input.

He is afraid. He doesn’t want to make a mistake again. He doesn’t want to disappoint me. He believes he can’t envision his own future, and so shouldn’t be tying me down to create one with him.

I just want him.

I do also want a home. But I don’t care if it’s a city townhome, or a country cottage, or a suburban cardboard box, or a highrise apartment. Alright, I have my preferences. My very opinionated preferences.

I do also want security. But I don’t care if I have to work corporately to support us, or if he wants to work to support us, or if we both have to work to support us. And let’s face it, I’m so frugal and careful that we could probably both be un-employed for six months before we really had to start cutting back on, like, internet usage.

But he says he may need a break. To figure out what he wants. I am all on board with this idea. It’s the word may that I’m objecting to.

See, I don’t always know what I want, but I usually know what I don’t want. Dashing is swayed. Back and forth like a swing. He knows what I want – uh, the grocery clerk, the dentist, and the construction worker on the corner all know what I want. And he wants to deliver – but is it what he wants??? He says he doesn’t know. So please, I say, please by all means, take a break, take all the time you need. And he says, he’ll think about it. And I say, OK let me know when we’re breaking.

And he hasn’t let me know.

We’ve talked about it a couple of times since then, and … nothing.

It’s like every time we get together, every time the phone rings, I’m just waiting for him to say “Yes, now, break time.” And he doesn’t. But meanwhile we are in this weird limbo. Because he also hasn’t said “Break unnecessary. Pshaw, to you, Break!”

And so I wait. And I worry. Because it is important that he call this time out. It is important not only that he take it, but that it be on his call. I worry that he is so scared of hurting me, that he won’t do what he needs for himself.

So he calls, and asks what I’m doing, and if I want to do lunch, or how is this night for date night this week – as if nothing has changed. As if we are still working towards building whatever life together we were working towards. And I can’t say no, stop, wait, do you not see how this is hurting you, and hurting me, and not helping anything.

Because I gave him all the power. I told him what I want, and how I feel, and that I’m willing to wait in the background until he figures things out – but this waiting in the foreground thing is killing me.

If I knew we were on a break I could distract myself, because I assume he would call less. Because he would be figuring out what he wants out of life. Because we wouldn’t have weekly date nights. Or weekends to organize. Because he would be experiencing life without me, so that he could be sure that he really wants life with me. Or that he doesn’t, and that’s OK too. As long as it’s what he wants.

I can be his friend. It will be hard, but it’s how we started out, and eventually we’d find a new balance.

But in the meantime, I need him to decide. To choose. To flip a d*mn coin already.

To take the break. Because nothing will change until he does. He won’t know if he needs it until he takes it and goes “Yeah, I needed this” or “What was I thinking?”

Enough with maybes. I may be (ha!) a woman of extremes, but I’ve tried walking the middle path on this one, and it sucks. So rip the stitches, strip off the bandage, drop the robe, open the door, jump off the cliff, and then… ride the wave home to whatever shore you find.

*I wrote this post Sunday. We spoke at the wee hours of Monday morning. We had date night Monday night. We officially started our break Tuesday morning. I’ll let you know how this social experiment goes…

I’m Back

Brick Wall by m_bartosch/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Brick Wall” courtesy m_bartosch/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back to reality. Honestly, you’d think I’d gone to the moon.

I decided to stop off at my grandmother’s house first. It’s between where I was and my hometown, almost exactly midway. Grannie was excellent, she always is. She was proud and not worried at all. Empathetic and kind, with a twinkle in her eye when she heard where I’d gone, because she was very close to being right in the betting pool.

She also told me Mom was very, very worried. Seriously.

So off I went to Ma’s place next. Making the rounds. Saying, “Look, see, I’m fine. I’m all in one piece, and this smile – totally genuine, though quickly becoming less genuine the more relieved you get.”

You would think I’d said I was going to start using intravenous drugs, instead of simply seeking out solitude for a weekend. Mom was reacting as if I’d been gone a year, and we don’t see each other that often when we’re both in town to begin with.

Next, I went over to Dad’s. Which is home, really. Plus my sister and her current boyfriend were there. My stepmom was still proud, my sister was glad I was back, but couldn’t figure out why I’d gone, and her friend, well, whatever, I think he’s still figuring out our family dynamics. Dad was tired. Hadn’t been sleeping well. Is it egotistical to think it’s because I worried him, too?

Which is to say that all that family nonsense I was so blithely escaping – was just waiting for me in concentrated form.

Help me, I need a nap.

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