One day in fifth grade when I was ten years old, I went to a state fair and had a handwriting analysis done. Which is funny to think about because really, I hadn’t practiced “penmanship” for more than what, two or three years? And at that time, I was desperately trying to imitate any right-handed friend I had because being left-handed, my penmanship sucked. When the analysis came back, on this weird little sheet of yellow receipt paper that was so faded I could barely read, it stated my handwriting indicated (along with a bunch of things that I don’t recall) that I wrote with the infinity sign and that mirrored my life because everyone I met and became friends with would always play an important part in my life. That my relationships continued on forever. This was really special and important to me and I took it VERY LITERALLY when I was that tender age of 10. Fast forward to age 12 and I was at an overnight party where the girls were reading Tarot Cards. I didn’t know much about Tarot Cards, or my sign (other than it is Cancer and the sign is Crab – both of which I wasn’t too impressed by at that age). My family doesn’t practice any sort of spiritual star reading or believe in superstition or anything other than Murphy’s Law and that everything happens for a reason. And low and behold, there it was again, the card I drew was an infinity sign. Now, that would mean nothing to me (or would it?!) but then, it sure meant A LOT. I was vaguely feeling like this was a “sign” and maybe I was a little superstitious…
The infinity sign fascinated me and I began thinking a lot about it. It felt good to me to know that a friendship or relationship lasts forever. I mean, at that age, the only thing you really understand (hopefully) is that family lasts forever. There wasn’t a guarantee with a friendship or new found relationship. So I was gleeful at the thought. And most of my girlfriends liked the explanation I had when I would positively tell them. I liked the thought of infinity because that indicated never ending momentum. Which I generally liked with the exception of when I would over think how far does space really go? Does it go on forever? And does my soul live on forever and if it does, will my mind always be able to think? Or, when I look at an elevated map in my parent’s Atlas and see mountains in the ocean, with wonderment and total exasperation, what lies below those mountains??? My early conception of infinity was so beyond my mind’s capability to comprehend that I often was left perplexed, mind boggled and a little freaked out by my own thoughts.
Now that I have a little daughter of my own, I often think about those early thoughts on infinity and the role it played in my childhood friendships and how untrue it is. It brings up something that came to me while I was actually doing yoga the other day, and again when I heard a little girl say best friends forever at the mall, and then again when I heard it discussed on a talk show and I decided I had to write it down and I wanted to share. To share to see if others have the same feelings that I do.
I was always taught the Golden Rule growing up – Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. This made a lot of sense to me (it was actually on the light switch frame in my room. I got it one year in Vacation Bible School – I picked it out). The part of the Golden Rule that is left out is, although you will treat people the way you want to be treated, not everyone is going to treat you the same way back. Common sense and knowledge at an older age does afford us this understanding, but not as a child. Luckily, (I say with sarcasm), you have girlfriends growing up that teach you this. And that best friends forever also has a caveat. What is left out is, best friends forever at this moment in time.
I believe that everyone comes into your life for a reason. We are taught something by each person we meet. And we teach something to each person that meets us conversely. I think that is a very important lesson to teach my daughter. I haven’t ended any friendship in my life but I sure have had a lot of friends that I am not friends with anymore. And each time a friend of mine decided to walk out of my life, it was torment to me and my very being. It scarred me and left me with an aching heart. I almost admire people that can walk out of someone’s life or end a friendship without looking back. My earliest recollection of this was when my best friend moved away when I was around seven years old. She didn’t move to another town or out of state, we just didn’t live on the same street anymore. We couldn’t ride bikes or take walks anymore. I vividly recall lying on the couch sobbing because she hadn’t called me. But what would she call me for? We couldn’t play. We couldn’t go ride bikes. So that was it. And I was devastated. And that was the lesson she taught me, life goes on. But at that age, nothing can prepare you for a harsh reality that you just didn’t know was going to happen. Move, yes. Never talk or see each other again, no. But that was what happened.
Another friend stopped being my friend because she realized that I had a friend that didn’t like her. And another friend stopped being my friend because she realized my family didn’t have money. Brutally, new friends stop being your friend in middle school because you’re not leaving your “old friends” to sit at the “popular table” with your “new friends.” I had a friend stop being my friend because she was jealous of everything that I did. I lost a friend because my “best friend” was so mean to her (and everyone else around her) that she couldn’t stand to be around her. I lost a friend that determined she couldn’t be my friend if I was going to have other friends. I lost a friend because I didn’t visit her once in college. I lost another friend because I told her that her boyfriend was calling me drunk at night and I thought she should know. I lost a friend because every time she would get drunk, she would try to hurt me with mean and vindictive words and she actually just one day called and said, you know, I can’t apologize anymore every time I do mean things to you, it’s exhausting, so we just aren’t friends anymore. I lost friends because I got a new job. I have lost friends because while I was going through the most difficult time in my life, my “fall from grace,” (losing my job, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, incorrect illness diagnosis, a molotov cocktail of prescribed drugs, bad decisions, self medicating, pain and suicide attempts), they decided they couldn’t watch the Stephanie roller coaster anymore and instead of waiting on the sidelines for me to pull through and begin healing, they stopped talking to me altogether assuring me and everyone else in my life that I wasn’t going to get better.
I stop and think about it all and try to come up with how I am going to shield my daughter from all of this pain. I realize I can’t, I mean, if mom’s could do that, my mom certainly would have. And I realize each of those are lessons. Lessons that opened my eyes and taught me I am better to have lived and learned. It doesn’t mean that if I could go back and change my behavior when I was five or seven, ten or fifteen, twenty or thirty or change any of the surrounding circumstances for that matter, that I would. It just means that I have had to learn to accept each loss as a lesson. Learn to find the lesson in it all – and I think the lesson is still the Golden Rule that my parents taught me. Because in the end, I wouldn’t quit being friends with any of my friends for any of the reasons that those who quit being my friend did. Does this make it any more clear to me how I should guide my daughter? I am not sure. I will make her aware of the fact that people are in your life for moments and to enjoy them while they are there. Give and hopefully they will give back. Fill your reservoirs with their love and return the favor. Never try harder than they try. Never feel you have to bend over backwards to be someone’s friend. Understand give and take. Don’t allow the seven deadly sins to play any part in your friendships – don’t lie, don’t be deceitful and envious, jealousy is ugly. I am thankful beyond words that my husband is the wonderful strong man that he is. Because I thought I needed him more than ever a few years back and now I recognize I am really going to need him now as we help navigate love and loss and bullying and disappointment and happiness and pride with our little one.
The important part of this is, there are TRUE friends in your life. That stick by you and believe in you. They are the ones that even in your worst hour recognize their life is better, more enriched with you in it. They recognize a treasure in what you give to them the same way you recognize what they give to you. Maybe another key is it isn’t about how many friends you have in life, it is about the quality of your friendships. And to learn that everyone isn’t a best friend – there are acquaintances for a reason. And if someone leaves your side or decides the friendship is over, don’t feel it is always your fault. Don’t agonize over what you could have done differently to make it better or more than what it was. Just accept it and move on. Friends are important because we need them but losing one that wasn’t a true friend in the first place isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a lesson.
Something I read that I heard the other day that I really liked was, The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.
Life’s lessons are hard. REALLY HARD. And I continue to learn as I go.
XO ~ Stephanie