Here is Part 2 of my previous blog post. It may not make a whole lot of sense if you didn’t read the first part…
Do you ever feel like you are stuck in some weird ‘gray-zone’? This zone usually puts you in the middle of different types of co-workers, or neighbors, maybe even in your own family. Where you don’t really fit into one particular group? Sure, maybe you know a lot of the same people, but this doesn’t exactly mean you’ll be kindred spirits. These days I am feeling like the gray-zone queen, and that everyone around me seems to be lit up in brilliant, colorful lives and friendships! You know it’s getting bad when only two people seem to notice if you make it to church or not, or talk to you if you are there or when people come up to you and ask you if you’re new there. This is usually what I’m thinking in response to that question, although my good breeding usually stops me from actually saying it out loud:
“Am I new here? Actually, I’ve been attending this church since 1997, worked for it for 3 years and was in labor with my second child right here in the main sanctuary. How about you? We will probably go through the motions of ‘turning around and saying hello to someone around you’ since that’s what the person with the microphone on stage told us to do, but you know as well as I do that you will forget about me as soon as the lights dim back down and the Powerpoint begins, so let’s just get this shallow, yet, obedient task over with as painlessly as possible, ok? Sure, I may know the names, faces, and even a good bit of funny anecdotes about 70% of the people surrounding me right now, but none of them will actually be free enough to engage me in a real conversation about life. None of them will ask ‘How are you?’ and expect to get the real answer. Many will walk right on by, or smile and do the ‘I’ve gotta go do some important ministry thing’ look or ‘I’ve gotta go get my kids’ wave when they see you. I know that wave…I’ve got kids who hurt themselves on the church playground too…but it still sucks. I’m also not pleased that my son has a permanent scar on his forehead from the old kids playground, but I’m more pissed that he remembers the incident not as ‘Ouch-that hurt my head!’ but as ‘Ouch! The other kids just kept walking over me and didn’t help me up when I tripped at the top of the slide.’ But what can you truly expect from a group of playground-frenzied 3 year olds, right?
It’s been a while since our main circle of friends have actually attended the same church as us. Things have changed there, and 99% of our close friends have left the church. I still feel like it was the right thing for everyone to do, some to go, some to stay, but I miss seeing everyone. I also miss the friendships that have seemed to dwindle down to Facebook-only status. Do you have friends like that, too, oh, faithful and determined to get to the end of this rant blog-reader? Friends where you hear what they are doing and what new things happen in their life only through Facebook? It’s pretty funny when I actually see these friends in person. I find myself saying the stupid phrase of, “I saw on Facebook that you…”. I know, I know…Facebook isn’t stupid. It’s actually helped me stay in touch with lots of people who normally would have gotten out of my normal sphere of friend-land, and it’s a nice way to deliver some quick encouragement or see a friends pictures. (Since when have you sat down with a friend and looked at their photo album? Ok, so sometimes this happens, but not really!) Without Facebook I would have no way of telling you that I’ve been writing in my blog, and since your feedback is one of the things that actually makes this task fun, I will continue to promote my own blog shamelessly through the FB universe. Although I can tell in just 5 minutes of talking to any of my friends or family if they actually READ my blog…usually it’s a ‘non-reader’ which sucks, but again, not surpising, given this gray-zone I’m living in.
Today’s friend scene is pretty scarce. People don’t return our calls or texts, ask us to hang out, call us for no reason to see how we’re doing. Sure, there are exceptions to this new norm; Dave just recently was asked to go out on a camp out with his guys’ Bible study and we got to attend a big birthday party for our friend over the weekend. But sometimes attending those big events is even harder than if you weren’t invited at all. Mainly when people start talking about all the social activities they’ve been doing together, and you realize that you weren’t invited. That sucks. The other day I was included in a group-visit with an old college friend and the topic of her wedding came up. Everyone was discussing the dresses, the weather, the cake, etc. I awkwardly fidgeted in my seat and waited in case anyone asked me for my opinion. Thankfully, the norm held true, and no one asked ‘What do you think, Jenny’, since I was the only one in the room who had not only missed the wedding in question, but was not invited. To the wedding in my own town. To the wedding of one of my bridesmaids. Ouch. Burn…
I have posed my whiny ‘Why does no one seem to like me anymore’ questions to my husband, and he is a good shoulder to cry on, but he may be too close to me to give me the real answer. Have I done something to push everyone away? Not that I can remember. Are our kids too crazy? Do other families shy away from us now because they don’t want their kids to be around my kids? I have heard of this happening with other friendships; maybe that’s what’s going on with us too. I really have no freaking clue what is going on. All I know is that I think it is lame.
I have considered the fact that maybe not everyone is pulling away from me, but that I am pulling away from them. Maybe I said ‘no’ to them in the past too many times that they stopped inviting me, or maybe I have been a crummy friend, and word has spread. Hmmm…It’s a mystery, I tell you! Oh, people are nice to my face, when I see them. I’ve even been asked to ‘hang out sometime when things are less crazy’. But these hang-outs rarely happen, and I still seem to continue bouncing around in my gray-zone. Think–Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore character, who was, ironically, always my favorite, and you’ll get a good idea of where I feel with my current relationships.
So now that I’ve established the problem of disappearing friendships, what do I do about it? Because although I can be a whole lot like mopey-ol’ Eeyore, I am more like Rabbit when it comes to seeing a problem and deciding that it, therefore, must be ME who solves it. Do I burn all the old, dusty bridges and say PEACE! I’M MOVING ON, PEOPLE! Do I go out and look for all new friends? Not likely. I like making new friends, but no one else seems to have an opening for a genuine, non-shallow, friendship that involves actually learning about who I am and how I tick, and not just having me around in the background since I’ve always ‘just been there’. Trust me. I’ve looked! So I’ve decided to create ‘OPERATION LAZURUS’ and attempt to revive my previous relationships. Now that I’m older, my tolerance for the shallow friendship is just about non-existant, but like I mentioned before, my good breeding causes me to not just cut you off completely. I know that having acquaintances in your life who know you on the outside but not on the inside is a fact of life. (Aside from the random people who you recognize at the store or doctor’s office.) I’m not sure why this is so, but it just seems to be reality. What Operation Lazurus is intended to do is create a boot-camp-like effort out of my mopey, gray-day attitude and challenge me to see who is left out there who really wants to be in a genuine friendship with me? And what do I have to offer them that would make them want to be friends with me? If I’m just looking for people to get to know ME and all MY quirks and help ME out when I need a hand, I’d be a pretty lame friend. I’m sure that I have had friendships in the past that were organized just that way…they knew a ton about me because of my tendency to talk about myself at all times, but what did I really know about them? Why would anyone want to be friends with someone like that? If this is what has led me into my current friend-desert situation, I am sorry! I am committed to being a better friend and learning more about you and what makes you tick, what things you need help with, and where you excel! I want to be the person you call (or text) when something really BIG/funny/scary happens to you. I want to help you grow to be who you are destined to be in God’s big plan-thingy! So, to all my current friends out there who have actually stumbled through all of this: You are on notice! I am coming to get you and will be shamelessly inviting myself to your girls’ nights. I will be texting you and letting you know that I was thinking of you today. I will be commenting on your Facebook wall that I thought of you when I saw that cool pair of shoes, or whatever. I am coming to get you, and prove that I am good enough to be considered your friend, and that I can be trusted to be one of yours. So look, the frick, OUT!
PS: Since I am still human, and often home alone with my kids, I still can’t promise that I will be able to offer you the most high-quality ‘I’m listening’ friendship. I will do my best, though, and look forward to getting to know you. Again.
3 John 1:13-14
13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.