June 20, 2015

Loving you long distance

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you left with this uncomfortable feeling of confusion as to what transpired there that would leave you feeling a tad angry, sad or just put off? Yes you laughed and hugged good bye, you even enjoyed bits of the conversation and might even have benefitted from being around this friend but somewhere in between something was done or said that cast an unpleasant cloud over the whole visit.

Before now I would never have thought of or given myself permission to purposely put distance between myself and someone I considered a friend and was only capable of this when I realised I absolutely had to rescue myself out of the negative impact of the words and actions of a friend who wasn't relating with me in a healthy, nurturing way.

I once had a very confusing friendship with a person who would appear to encourage my efforts and give me advice but it all seemed contrived. It would come as critique from an expert to a protégé, it sometimes was unwarranted, it overlooked reasons to praise or commend, and it was always in comparism to what this person was doing. Additionally, there always seemed to be a need to inform me of every detail that suggested this person's progress in the area I was also trying to build a niche in and this information wasn't limited to places gone or tasks done, I was duly informed when connections I had, had also become this person's as well.

There was a sense of entitlement which expected many things I couldn't expect in return and any refusal on my part to do something for this person was met with wounded feelings and harsh accusations that usually went something like- and I thought we were friends- it was all very one-sided.

At first all I did was talk. What the said friend said to me, what the said friend was doing and what I thought of what the said friend was saying or doing. Then my confidant of choice would add two cents usually to justify my analysis- yes I noticed this and that too- or sympathize with how I felt and suggest a way to handle it. I had taken the bait and it didn't take much to get me really fired up talking on this subject, I was consumed by the emotions I felt and didn't even know just how fixated I was getting on this issue.

But it was just talk. I felt too guilty to make any move. I thought of the length of friendship and the impact my actions would have on the wider web of relationships this friendship was a part of. So I did nothing until I was sure of what low risk, high impact strategy I could use. Finally after long suffering (lol), I decided to stop listening, to stop focusing, to stop reading and to stop being part of the audience this person had.

I stopped reading update messages this person regularly sent but deleted them as soon as they flooded my phone. I identified that the preferred mode of communication with me was messaging so I discouraged this by keeping messages unread as long as I could ignore them and long after the mood this person had to converse had expired.

At first it was hard to ignore someone whose words I had let have my attention before but gradually each ignored message gave me the balls to delete the next until I gathered enough courage to block off the contact from my messaging service.
At this point this person desperately did all to regain my ears, including arm twisting me into going back to the way things were before. And for the first time I was totally convinced this person knew exactly what they had been doing all along and stuck to my guns.

Eventually I noticed I stopped talking about this person. The little I knew of this person, the little I suspected of what they were trying to do, the less I thought of them. Finally there was peace as I limited their reach to me. And when it was absolutely necessary, I controlled if there was any need to get in touch and made sure it wasn't an avenue to be exploited or belittled.

I share this to say that as difficult as the task of pruning the dead branches in our network is, it's our responsibility to do so to keep a healthy tree. Some relationships will test our patience and we will have to decide which to endure and which to let go of. The friend who rubs you off the wrong way. The relative who leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. The colleague who turns you into a friend so they can undermine you as a boss. The peer who makes you look bad to look good. The person who justifies their progress only in comparism to yours. People who minimize to equalize.

They are perfect candidates to love long distance.

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