Updated: Jul 3, 2019
I did not have a great morning getting my kids off to school and my husband off to work. Or a great evening last night, for that matter. And so, once everyone was gone today, I called my friend Jodi. I may have cried. Actually, what I did was what my other friend Gina calls "spilling your teapot," letting all the hot water and steam of your emotions just pour out and relieve the pressure.
When I had finished, and Jodi had made suitably sympathetic remarks, and soothing noises, I said, "Thank you. You are a very good friend."
"No," she said. "I'm just being a normal friend."
"Ok," said I, "then thank you for hitting your daily quota of normal friend-ness. Good job."
Jodi giggled a giggle that is one of the reasons I keep her around.
I've thought about what she said all day, because I do feel profoundly grateful when someone is willing to listen to me be sad, mad or frustrated, especially if they can add to that empathy and well-timed wisdom. It's such a huge, valuable gift to me that it seems like it must be a really difficult thing to do.
The good news is that it isn't. Not to a normal friend. A friend on the normal spectrum of goodness would, in fact, see listening to the details of someone's bad day occasionally as basic friend duties. I, in fact, was the recipient of the hot contents of Jodi's teapot only last week, and I didn't feel it was any kind of a burden to do so. I listened, I made soothing noises and offered well-timed wisdom when asked and then hung up. All in a normal friend's day's work.
Darlings, do you have some normal friends around you?
This week I taught a lesson on Boundaries to a MOPS group in San Diego, and one of the important concepts I hope they got is that boundary problems are not only about failing to say no to bad things (your boundaries are like fence with a swinging gate...no good for protection). Another significant a boundary problem is failing to say yes to the good things, including yes to getting support, help and advice when we need it (your boundaries are like a brick wall...no good things get in). Boundaries authors Cloud and Townsend call this being an "Avoider."
At their core, avoiders are not comfortable enough with their own needs to let other people help, and end up shouldering the big boulders of their burdens alone. Deep down, maybe they feel that it would take a really, really wonderful strong person to be willing to listen and help. Maybe they think friends like that are thin on the ground; maybe they think they don't deserve people like that.
Avoiders, listen to Jodi: listening and caring about you is just one of the basic requirements of friendship. There are probably people around you who would be willing to give you a little more love if you'd let them. Give it a try this week, and give someone the opportunity to meet their daily quota of normal friend-ness.
P.S. Jodi is a very good friend, no matter what she said today. And I might need extra listening than others, being a rather emotional person. In addition to being a good listener, she is also giggly and smart, remembers all my birthdays and those of my kids and husbands, and this week let me come over and watch half a season of "This Is Us" on her couch because I don't have DVR and missed a bunch. If you can find a very good friend like this, I highly recommend it.