I am admittedly a socially awkward person. I’m not great at picking up on social cues, I have a tendency to say whatever inappropriate thing is on my mind at any given time and I seemingly lack that social genius of intuitively knowing how to navigate new people/situations. Where I really excel is in making entire groups of people very uncomfortable. At the same time, I find myself to be the most entertaining, awesome and intelligent person I know. As a result, I am astonished that anyone speaks to me more than once and equally confounded that I am not EVERYONE’S best friend for life! HA!
Truth is, I would ditch this whole friendship thing if not for the fact that I guess I get lonely. As it turns out I am no Paul Simon. I am neither a rock, nor an island. In reality, I crave human connection. Also, I really like to laugh and as entertaining as I find myself, it gets kind of boring to sit around laughing at yourself all day, every day. Plus, some people might misunderstand and try to lock you up for stuff like that! I’ve already been to the hooskow. After the first few days it’s not all that great.
I moved out here five years ago and when I landed I set out to make friends. From scratch. I felt that I had really grown into myself over the previous few years and got this whole friend thing figured out. That I should be able to bag all the friends I could ever want. After all as I have already stated, I am awesome.
And I do have friends. I do. Sometimes I get really dramatic and try to act like I am utterly friendless. But it’s not really true. More true is that not one single friend in my life seems to have come with operating instructions. Or a label. Or something. I get really confused and mislabel these unsuspecting women all the time. I constantly find myself not giving one friend enough credit while at the same time demanding that another friend be something they simply are not. The problems likely begin from the get-go.
You see what I like to do is target a female from across the room and decide they are my new BFF! When she refuses to cooperate because … well let’s be honest that approach is just a tad bit creepy… but also, perhaps she already has enough close friends. Or maybe she is a very busy person and has no space in her life for a new friend. Whatever the reason, I become really, really insulted and decide that she must hate me! Thus setting off a long and tedious internal monologue about why she hates me and why I should just hate her right back. This pretend judge-fest can go on for years.
Once I manage to snare a friend she is now my hostage for life. She is never permitted to grow, change, be friends with others or *gasp* decide that she likes someone better than me. She is my forever friend!! Whether she likes it or not!! This attitude eventually leads to horribly one sided friendships where I am chasing the poor girl around acting the martyr while she is simply moving on with her life. Thus setting off a long and tedious external monologue repeated to anyone who will listen which details all of the reasons why this person is a horrible friend.
I keep finding myself caught between these two types of relationships and in the meantime some other perfectly lovely woman is attempting to invite me to coffee. But I am so distracted by the internal chaos I have created with these other relationships that I seem to miss that entirely. After all, it’s so light and effortless. That can’t mean much. Real relationships are dramatic and intense. I mean, I think we have all seen Thelma & Louise. If you are unwilling to commit murder and drive off a cliff for me then you are clearly not a very good friend!
Anyway, I find myself full of all this resentment with these fabricated friendships while missing all the joy of the blossoming friendships that are all around me. And what I realized the other day is that I am suffering from a mislabeling problem.
Many years ago a wise friend gave me this analogy:
When you place your cup of tea on a saucer, what you find is that the saucer is absolutely perfect for the function it is performing. It is the perfect piece of china to hold a cup of tea. You appreciate the saucer for exactly what it is. You are grateful for how perfectly it fulfills its purpose. What you do not do is attempt to place a rack of ribs on the saucer and then get angry with it because it breaks or the ribs fall off. After all, it’s a saucer and not a platter. It is not made to hold a rack of ribs. And in fact, it would be extremely dishonest and inconsiderate of you to insist that this saucer perform the duty of a platter.
Some people are saucers and some people are platters. If I am able to correctly identify the purpose and role of the various people in my life I can then place appropriate boundaries and expectations on those relationships. I will find the relationships much easier to navigate. I can enjoy the friendships for what they are without the incessant hurt feelings and resentment. There is a whole set of china available to us in our lives. Each person has a role to play, a purpose to fulfill. The role can change or the purpose can become fulfilled and that piece of china can be removed from the set.
Sometimes I think that life would be so much simpler if each person, upon meeting, would simply state their function. “Hi, my name is _________ and I am interested in the role of saucer in this relationship.” That would sure clear a few things up right away. And then later, if things change, they could always say “I’ve decided that I no longer want to be a platter. I am changing my status to saucer.”
But of course relationships don’t work like that. People don’t work like that. The fact is that no one really knows what any meeting will evolve to. No one knows what their journey will look like tomorrow, much less a year, or ten from now. Most people step into each new experience with the best of intentions. The trick for me is to remain open. Open to change and experience. To remain in a state of allowing where I can experience each interaction and each moment to be exactly what it is at that given moment. When I simply honor the beauty of each relationship precisely as it is at that given moment, whether it be saucer or platter, I am always blessed with the sense of oneness and unity which what I have been truly seeking all along.