Dear Wednesday: Friendships are Not Subscription Plans

For the month of December, the last month of the decade, the theme is Relationships. Last week, hookup culture and the changing landscape of relationships was discussed. This week, friendships are on the menu. May these final Dear Wednesday letters of 2019 support you as you evaluate your relationships in your life as we enter a new decade. Be sure to share with a friend, become a member of our blog site, and comment your thoughts.

Dear Wednesday,

I have always felt such joy being around women. I was reared in a village surrounded by strong women – my mom, my aunts, my friends’ moms, the women at church. Women have been steady, stable rocks within the community who influenced me and helped fuel my desire to defy every odd and challenge in my way. I knew I could be anything I wanted to be and could go anywhere I wanted to go because of the life spoken into me by women, the pillars in my family and of my community.

I yearned to be that friend and sister and rock for other women. I yearned to build the fire for others that was built for me and in me. I yearned to grow and belong to a community of women who would support each other, personally and professionally. I desired to add a bit of vulnerability to the mix too. Geez, I’m not perfect. I am imperfect at best, and I began to have questions about my changing body, weird dating relationships, singlehood, stopped up toilets, and how to deal with annoying fruit flies that I wanted to be able to ask my community of women friends. Questions like “so do you Brazilian wax” or “when do you tell him you’re abstinent” or “how does your vajayjay behave after birth” or even “what do you do about the old man at work who is a pest” – are conversations I wanted to have and, in recent years, have enjoyed having with my great girlfriends. While shopping, ipsy bags, the deliciously gorgeous actor or Lizzo’s latest antics are funny… I tend to ponder the deeper thoughts of life, and I need answers! Anyone else?

I have always desired to come into a fold where it was not only “ok” to be me, but where being unapologetically me was required. I believed that the beauty of friendships is that they would be lasting because we women know how to make stuff last. We certainly do give our last. Imagine my surprise and disappointment to find out....

1. Some relationships are not meant forever;
2. Some people are not healed enough for friendship love which gives way to jealousy, competition, sabotage and negativity;
3. I was doing most of the work and putting in most of the effort. What I stopped feeding, wilted and, in some cases, died;
4. Some people don’t want to work in relationships. They simply want to exist in them at a time and place of their choosing, on their terms; and either you roll with them in their definition of friendship, or you don’t. When you choose to deviate from what they want, they ice you out slowly, ghost you, or manipulate their way out.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the stinging end of what was supposed to be a lifelong friendship with a really cool gal pal. It hurts. It cuts. Underneath what can appear to be an impenetrable wall, my heart hurts when great relationships end, especially with zero closure. No friendship is ever going to be perfect. But, surely we can work through the heavy without canceling the friendship, deleting each other from social media, and the unwanted addition of glaring realization that the gal pal of a lifetime was a temporary, conditional cool person I once thought I knew. Perhaps that’s the optimist part of me that kicks impossible or highly unlikely in the teeth and says “I WILL FIND A WAY.” Admittedly though, I have had to find my way out of friendships that were no longer healthy or life-giving. I did not choose to avoid what I knew needed to be acknowledged. In summary I found the brave one inside and said, “we simply can not go on like this.”

This is the time of year where many people are evaluating their relationships. After all, cancel culture – a buzz phrase I love/hate – has taken over social media and relationships of all shapes and sizes. Cancel culture says that when someone wrongs you, then “scroll, select, delete” them out of your life. Every other post online is about getting rid of toxic people, including friends and family. There is consistent encouragement to cancel the card-carrying privileges of anyone in your life who isn’t doing what you want, when or how you want.

They don’t worship at church how you think they should – cancel them. They don’t call or text enough – cancel them. They call and text too much – cancel them. They are too needy – cancel them. They don’t have the same goals – cancel them. Not on the same level as you professionally – cancel them. They are depressed and raining on your sunny day – cancel them. They didn’t take your advice – cancel them. They don’t say what you want to hear – cancel them. Cancel. Cancel. Cancel. Is that the essence of community? Where is the investment part of cancel culture?

Where is the work? What sacrifices are you willing to make for the good of the team? Or is this life all about you, your needs, your desires, your goals?

It seems people want the hashtag life, such as #friendshipgoals for the sake of a pretty mirage, but seriously have no clue of how to sustain a friendship love. Perhaps they have a faulty idea of love. They had no model for a healthy loving relationship. Or, the hurt they’ve experienced has rendered them incapacitated and isolated to the point that everyone is the enemy not to be trusted.

What I do know is that cancel culture teaches us how to quit whatever does not serve us. And, many must learn that everything or everyone is not there to serve you and make you happy. Very few of the women warriors who taught me about womanhood ever quit anything. They endured. They found ways to work together and come together.

For those who desire friendship and community, here are some recommendations:

1. Relationships take effort. If you’re unwilling to work the friendship soil, to keep appointments, to forgive, to keep a short account of wrongs, to reach out, or to listen actively, then spend some time in a space with yourself. No one is perfect at relationships, but practice and intention are everything. We must be intentional about our connections. Put in the work, and that includes inner work, too. Your inner self will be a work in progress until you die. Keep improving and innovating.

2. Recognize that growing apart does happen, but it does not mean canceling the person out of your life. A friendship is not a subscription service you can cancel at any time. First, acknowledge that the friendship has changed. Ask your dear friend, if they noticed. Be willing to hear from them and mutually determine what you want to do about it. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Accept their assessment of the relationship without feeling the need to make them change their mind or push your need for things to get back to normal. Perhaps the way things were between you aren’t the way they will be in the future. Patience handles some matters better than pressure.

3. Have a willing heart of a warrior. What you don’t feed will starve. Plants need water and sunlight. Friendships need truth, joy, compassion, laughter, and your presence even across the miles. Feed them well. A courageous community of women warriors is made up of women who are first and foremost, willing. We must be willing, not hesitant. Willing, not waffling. Willing, not complacent. Your willingness to open up, engage, ask, create, and even to simply be there is what matters. Warriors don’t quit during a rough battle. They fight for the win. They strategize. They connect and utilize each other’s strengths. Warriors are willing.

4. Determine the type of friend you choose to be and don’t ever measure your friendships by what you give or did. Each strand of DNA, each person, and each personality is different. Give from a place that does not expect anything in return but to be loved for who you are. No one is going to do everything you like, so stop expecting to be pleased and pampered all the time. The purpose of friendship goes beyond what’s pleasurable to what’s deep and refining. Be the friend who does not compare. Be the friend who loves well.

5. Understand that we were not created to do life alone. We were created for community. Discover who you are so that you can add value to your community of women warriors.

Women need other women. We represent the greatness of community, of class, of charity.

It breaks my heart when I see young girls bulling other young girls; and older women refusing to mentor young women for fear they will lose their seat at the table to the young ones. It breaks my heart to hear women gossip and slander each other extensively. It breaks my heart to see friendships end when they could have simply evolved and come to a courageous consensus.

We are better than that. I challenge you to be better because we need each other more than ever in a world that is full of I, ME, MY. May you experience the joy of friendship love when you let down your guard and allow yourself to be completely you. May you see people fully the way you pray to be seen. May you include other people in your day. Do the work to build lasting bridges.

The elders had their village. What shall be the legacy of your village?

See you inside!

Dr. Joy

Until next time, Be good to yourself and others!

Evaluate your relationships!

Check your thought life!

And, invest in opportunities that increase your quality of life.

Brought to you every Wednesday by your DWL Lifestyle Strategists

Dr. Joy

This Dear Wednesday Letter was hand-crafted by Dr. Joy. Dr. Joy Well, mental health clinician, confidence catalyst, professor, and avid researcher is one of the quintessential experts on the connection between the mind, body, and immune system. Her doctoral work explored the experiences of women of color living with autoimmune diseases and how they function and experience the medical community and beyond. Once a shy, small-town girl with big dreams, Joy has found peace and purpose working with women of all ages to develop a fierce, faith-filled identity, personally and professionally. She is a clinician and entrepreneur in mental health private practice, seeing all ages, backgrounds, and genders. In her spare time, she enjoys music, movies, writing, and getting into mischief with friends. You can find Dr. Joy on social media @captivatingjoy.

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