Wednesday, February 19, 2014

To Be My Friend...

On cold days, when the skies are gray and the light is dim, I look within.  I look inside to find the light, the warmth that makes these less than sunny days bearable and easier to endure.  The light that shines within is love.  Love is power.  It is not power over others, but a thing that fuels passion and creativity.  Love is fed on many things – things like beauty, nature, family, and friends.

I've been thinking a lot lately of what it means to be my friend.

I am "friendly" with a lot of people, but I do not necessarily consider all the people that I come in contact with to be my friends.  To be my friend is a special thing.  Friendship is a bridge between hearts, where love is exchanged freely and without condition.  Combined and together, this exchange makes the light burn brighter and more beautifully.  We are stronger and better for the friendships in our lives.

When I was little, I was a lonely child.  In my heart, there was hurt that would not heal.  I was always afraid that if you loved someone, they would leave you.  I made up imaginary characters to keep me company, but even they said goodbye eventually.  When I was little, I used to climb up on the wooden fence and try to bribe the children at the next-door daycare with oranges and kittens.  I would whisper to them through the fence and hold the toys thrown over the fence hostage.  "I'll give them back, if you talk to me."

I was not supposed to cross the road.  People would speed along the highway and I lost many a furry companion to wheels on asphalt.  I did it anyway.  Ride bikes, skip stones, I made friends with the children in the neighborhood.  Some of them, even after decades, I am still friends with.  And when you start to build bridges, it's hard to stop.

In thinking about what it means to be my friend, I have looked back on sun-drenched memories and tiptoed forward through my personal history.  I've looked back to look forward, to learn and understand.

To be my friend, we must have contact.  It doesn't need to be every day or once a week.  Life is busy and varied.  While I would love to surround myself with my favorite people and slip into a world of constant contact, I know that isn't always possible.  Sometimes years go by in between exchanges and that's okay.  When we do come back in contact, we'll have stories to share and experiences to relate.  Contact need not be face to face.  Sometimes friendships bloom through words and images and I have many friends that I have not seen in person, but are no less my friends than people I have set eyes on in person.

To be my friend, you must speak kindly of me.  We might not always agree and that's okay.  We are different and unique and individual with our own lives to lead, but it always important to speak kindly of those one calls their friends.  To vocalize anger, aggression, displeasure is to manifest negative energy.  That negative energy is like a gremlin that lives on the bridge and tears it down piece by piece. It is a black spot on the sun and left to grow, it will eclipse all that is bright and good.

To be my friend, you must support me and cheer me on.  I'll do the same.  The more we hold each other up, the more we can achieve.  We might not always agree that the things I do are right for me, but please understand that I do and there's a reason why I do what I do.  Advise me, council me and express your point of view, but respect me and respect my decisions.

To be my friend, do not criticize me.  No true friendship was built on putting the other down.  If there is something that I am doing that I could be doing better, I want to know.  I want to learn and grow.  But I also am doing what I think is right or in a way that I can afford or understand.  When someone keeps suggesting ways to change, they are in a way saying, "I don't like you the way you are."  Constantly being told that you are wrong or should be doing it differently wears down the bridge.  I am different and I love that I am different.  Please don't try to make me into something I am not.

To be my friend, listen to the words I say and more importantly, listen to the words I don't say.  I will communicate my feelings, but sometimes words fail me or circumstances prevent me from saying what I want.  Know that if you are my friend, my words and actions are not against you.  If you think that the things I am doing are meant to harm you, trust our friendship and the history of our friendship.  Know that I would never consciously hurt a friend.  If someone has said that I have said something or done something against you, please defer to our friendship first before passing judgement.  I am not a villain.

To be my friend, please do not use me.  Friendship is a give and take relationship.  I am a person that will bend over backwards and do anything for a friend.  Please respect that and do not take advantage of that trait.  I do not want to approach every situation with a guarded heart.  I want to give freely, knowing that if need help in the future, the favor will be returned.

To be my friend, it is important to know that you don't own me.  I am an individual with ideas and aspirations and refuse to be controlled.  Because of what I do, my passion is my livelihood.  I have left behind much more lucrative positions in fields that were not in line with my path, so that I can live a life doing what I love doing.  Respect that our friendship and retail relationship are different and separate.  We can be friends, even if you don't buy things from me.  We can be friends, if you do buy things from me.  But if you do buy things from me, it does not mean that you can manipulate me or my business.  It is easy to think that because one is a supporter of a business and that they are "good customers" that they have a say in the operations of a business, however, when someone starts a small business, it is usually to be free from being told what to do and how to do it and are not readily agreeing to be a servant.  If you do not like something I am doing or saying personally, do not threaten me.  To be my friend, means that you respect me and my business separately, no matter how much gray area there may be.

To be my friend, come to me if there is a problem.  Know that I will listen to you and I hope that you can come to me if there is an issue and that you should be comfortable in expressing your point of view.  Don't let it bottle up.  When we bottle up our emotions, they have a way to explode and cause more damage.  Even though I want you to be comfortable in saying whatever it is you need to say, to be my friend, remember to speak kindly to me.  We may both be passionate about our points of view and get loud and excited.  But calling me names, trying to make me feel bad, or intentionally trying to inflict harm is not respecting me and is not the actions of a friend.  Speak kindly.  If I lose my temper, just say, "I am your friend."  That is all.  I can promise that these magic words will make me settle down and step back.  I will defer to our friendship.  And if we do argue and I have said you've hurt me, say you're sorry.  While it might not mean that all is well and make everything is good again, it is a step in the right direction.  Refusing to acknowledge that one has caused another personal pain is not the actions of a true friend.

I write these words, not because I am perfect and that I have always been the best friend that I can be.  In communicating these virtues, I've reminded myself of what it means to be a friend.  I have reminded myself of what I need to make those bridges from my heart last and grow stronger.  And in reminding myself of these qualities, I am reminded also of all the friends who have taught me what it means to be a good friend.  It might seem like a lengthy list, but with true friends, these things come naturally and easily.  True friends are committed to working hard to make things work when things aren't easy.  As I write, I think of all my friends who have weathered the storms and brought light on a cold, gray day… and how lucky I am to have them in my life.  I am a better person because of these friendships.  I am stronger because of these friendships.  I am who I am, because of these friendships.  So, I salute all of you out there, who are my friends.  I am grateful for you and how rich and beautiful you've made my life.  You've freed the lonely little boy, trading oranges for smiles.


Erica F. said...

A huge hug, big smile, and a fresh squeezed glass of juice to share. Namaste.

TesoriTrovati said...

You, sir, are a rare sort of bloom. One that never fails to delight and inspire me. One that shows me true and fragile beauty is in this world. Thank you for sharing that most intimate part of you through your art and writing. Enjoy the day. Erin

Janine said...

Thank you for this beautiful and honest post. Friendship is very important and friends can make a huge difference.

Shai Williams said...

What a beautiful post and one that should be shared because you have done such a wonderful job of summing up friendship.

Sarajo Wentling said...

Thank you for this reminder of what it is to be a friend... not just to you, but to anyone. Beautiful post, Andrew.

Unknown said...

Oh Andrew! As I read about your childhood I remember some of those feelings. I was not popular and so wished for those friends I would also bribe and give things with the hope of friendship. This post also hit home from a recent loss of a "friend" who wasn't. I hope to someday call you friend through contact and support that we both desire.

Jeanne @ Gems By Jeanne Marie said...

Thank you so much for this post, Andrew! Your writing is always insightful and inspiring. You always speak from the heart.

Anonymous said...

Most profound and true.