I guess there are all different kinds and levels of friendships, but with the exception of one or two people, I've always had a hard time opening up and letting myself be vulnerable.
My life-long friend, Tyler, knows me inside and out. We practically grew up together and our birthdays are just a week apart and we have a tradition of celebrating them together. He's actually the one who introduced Brad and I. They were both working together at this grocery store when they were 17, and Tyler invited him to his/our eighteenth birthday party, and the rest is history with Brad and I.
I was chatting with a friend of mine about Tyler the other night and she asked me what gives our friendship "staying power." This is how I answered her:
He gets me. And I get him. We've been through a lot together and had serious talks and shallow talks (lol). We share a lot of the same values and we're somewhat competitive with each other as far as sports are concerned. And he totally accepts me for who I am. And vice versa. He's very patient with me as far as my ADHD is concerned. We've shared secrets with each other and trust each other without reservation.
Tyler is the first boy I ever had a crush on. He's straight but when we hit puberty, my hormones sort of went haywire. And the cool thing about our friendship is that I felt totally comfortable telling him I liked him -- as a friend -- and maybe as a boyfriend.
It sorta freaked him out at first, but not like he thought it was disgusting. He actually thought I was just kidding around and trying to get a rise out of him. Little did he know at first that I was sorta hoping for a "rise" of a different kind! LOL
But it was just a "phase, " I guess. Not talking about being gay, but a phase in the sense that he was my closest friend and and I felt comfortable with him. We never did anything sexual because that's just not how our relationship worked, but he's extremely attractive and my hormones were running wild.
I respected him enough not to press things, and he respected me enough not to make me feel like I was disgusting. Neither one of us wanted to do anything that might jeopardize our friendship. We very quickly moved through this phase I was going through and life went on.
I remember the doctor I'm seeing for my ADHD meds asking me once if I had "enough" friends in my life. It was an easy question and I answered quickly, "Yeah, I'm friends with a lot of people."
Then he asked, "How many of these friends know 'the real you'? Not just facts about your life, but know what really goes on inside your head and your fears and your doubts?"
Well. . . . . . . . I don't open up easily about the serious stuff in my life. Tyler and Brad are probably the two people in my life who know most everything about me. Brad knows more, but Tyler would probably not be surprised if he knew everything Brad knows.
I'm very protective of my heart. I rarely go into a lot of detail about really serious things in my life. This is what goes through my head: I don't want to burden people. I don't want people to know I sometimes think I'm screwed up inside. I'm terrified of what people might think if I start crying. I have to know and trust you really, really well before I show you my tears. It's a very intimate thing with me.
And there's the whole thing about how difficult and complicated my brain gets when I'm confused about why a relationship is not working right. If there's a problem, I tend to royally screw things up because I start getting flooded with too much information that I have a hard time sorting out. Then when I can't sort things out, I start thinking the other person is totally responsible for the problem we're having. Things start snowballing and I tend to blow things way out of proportion. It's not a pretty picture.
I'm pretty lucky to have Brad and a few select people in my life who are patient with me and care enough to let me vent and then know when I need to stop venting and get back into my rational mind. Sometimes there are key words that calm me and help ground me. "Breathe" is one of them. Just hearing that word calms me down.
I'm not sure why I'm writing so much about all this. I think writing things out helps me organize my thinking. And maybe just to let you know that if you and I have a problem in our friendship, I promise to take it seriously and take responsibility for my part in it. I'm probably going to need some time while I try to get grounded so I can think clearly. But I promise to try my best to get there. And I promise to take it seriously so we can keep it.
I want to be a good friend to others. I need to learn how to be a friend to myself.
I'm trying. I really am.