Monday, April 11, 2011

On the importance of Friends and Online Connections

Over the past week or so, I have been thinking back over the past ten or so years of my life. Specifically, looking at the friendship and/or support circles I have been amongst and how these have grown, evolved, shattered and, ultimately, become something I am able to be genuine and my authentic Self amongst.

The brief rundown goes like this:

• High school - never properly fit in. I eventually found a group of 'safe' girls (who still had moments of excluding me and I was never "in" with any of the groups in any way that I felt properly safe, never to be "dropped") and we muddled through to the end of our school days together. Mostly at high school, I was the target of the bitches. I don't know why. I suppose I was a bit of a soft/easy target. When I was cut with their words, I bled noticeably. When I defended myself, I was ridiculed even more. It was not a comfortable time for me, high school.
Note to self:  Remember to execute healthy level of detachment from personal memories of school when helping the LGBB through her school years.

• Post-school years - My first job didn't yield any more personal friendships. I worked with Steve for four years during the mid-'90s. It made the two of us tighter, but my 'circle' didn't increase. Those same high school buddies were my only friends during those years, but I rarely saw them. Mostly due to our vastly different lifestyles. I had the house and the picket fence already, by the time I was 21. My friends were house sharing in the inner city and studying. Their first jobs were highly paid and saw them spending as much money on a pair of shoes as I was putting towards my share of the mortgage for the week.

• By the year 2000, I had had and lost my first pregnancy. This shot me right out into the stratosphere, way beyond my friends and their concerns. They couldn't understand if they tried (and I'm not certain they did put much mind to it). In my youth and confusion, I withdrew from them completely and we parted ways. It was long overdue, but I finally admitted that we just weren't in the same place and my friends, therefore, probably weren't doing me any favours (nor I them, being a bit like a dragging ball and chain already amongst their partying, uni-style, carefree youth).

• During the years between 1998 and 2003, I held jobs that brought me a few very firm, enduring friendships with co-workers. Several of these remain to this day. Some of them did not outlast what was to happen to me in 2004. And that's okay.

• After we lost Ellanor in early 2004, reality kicked in. After spending 12 months floundering in a sea of unknowns - who was I now, how difficult was I to be 'friends with', how the hell could I go back to who I was before knowing Ella and, therefore, what did that mean for existing friendships and relationships - I emerged in 2005 with a refreshing new arsenal:  The Internet. Forums. Blogging.

• Firm friendships formed from expressing myself online. And while I lost a relationship or two along the way through that same sharing and expression, the benefits and return have been inconceivable. Far more than I could possibly have imagined. What began as an investigation into what I was in for with my first IVF cycle in early 2005 turned into membership of an online community/forum that sealed the friendships of at least half a dozen wonderful people who, to this day, I call my friends.

People who know my struggles, are willing to stay in touch and go through them with me - many people who have themselves lost a child or been through miscarriage/s - and don't see me as some social leper because of all the loss I have experienced.

These are women who, although a year had passed since Ellanor's passing, treated me as they found me. Used compassion, a sense of knowing innately what they would have wanted if it had been them in that situation. They matched me better. We fit. It was worlds away from what had been my reality for the previous 12 months - which was, basically, "get on with it, I can't keep listening to you, I have to talk about me and my life and my children... you're, frankly, cramping my style and boring me with all your infertility and loss talk... come over and play with my kids, entertain me! Entertain them! Like you used to... Oh, what's WRONG now??" My newfound, unexpected friends sent me little gifts in the post, I arrived home to flowers on my doorstep on Ella's birthday in 2006 from several people, I got to start meeting some of these fabulous fellow online buddies, some of whom were following a similar path to me, others sharing only the similarity of desiring another child and chatting the days away as we all waited.

The point is, where once I was conditioned to think that I was not a decent friend now that I had too many burdens and opinions to share, I've actually made the healthier choice. This is not to say that I haven't had a baptism of fire - I've been burned and have burned others with some of my choices and opinions - but I have grown from this. I am very grateful to have seen this early on, even through my grief-stricken, low self-worth eyes, because had I not, I would have closed this blog and run away from this online life forever.

But I have stayed. I have learned. And I have grown.

And now, I have so many cherished blogging friends that I can't possibly link to them all! Some are very dear to me for personal reasons, others are dear because they are always here with a helpful word or dose of reality, a unique perspective on something I have written, or a bloody good laugh (and I always love doing that!). I was only able to meet up with and spend time with a very small portion of those bloggers - some of them were unexpectedly kindred and they were some of the most pleasant surprises of all to come out of the Conference for me - but I learned to let go and accept my Self even more after that weekend in March.

Me (left) with adorable Seven7Cherubs, the inimitable Glowless and the ravishing Diminishing Lucy

If you read my blog, you pretty much know who I am. Blogging has helped me stay on the straight and narrow. It has shown me so many things about myself, most importantly how to get real with my writing and expression. About the reality of not knowing ANYTHING about anything. About broadening my love and acceptance of All - my Self included ;-) - and about the things that keep me ticking. I know more about myself now, having been through this weeding out of my close circle and have come to realise a few things that I need to do to remain balanced in my life.

To keep writing

To keep sharing and expressing

To always remember the Bigger Picture

To get off the computer and get amongst the reality around me (whether it's a messy kitchen, a weed-filled garden, a needy house with four pairs of eyes following me wherever I go - that being, my child, the cat and the two dogs...)

To never, ever write anything here (or in comments) that I would not be comfortable saying out loud

To never forget why I started this in the first place and to be thankful, eternally, to that guiding light of mine. Wherever she is now.

So, what about you? Have you ever had a complete friendship cull? Have you shed the layers of your outer reality and found that your real Self needed to seek more like-minded souls? Have you never done it and perhaps grown together with the same people you've known since childhood/early adulthood? 
I'd love to hear from you! Email me instead if you wish, I always love to learn more.

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