I had a catch up with Aunty C (my counsellor) today, and confided in her about my friends, and that despite my New Years resolution to not cut people out of my life, I seem, without too much effort on my part, to be shedding them like dandruff.
‘Maybe CL is right,’ I said glumly, ‘maybe I do push people away. Maybe I am the common denominator.’
But Aunty C was adamant that this was not so.
‘Stop focussing on the individuals and look at what is going on as a whole,’ she said emphatically, ‘when people start to make fundamental changes to themselves and in their lives, it can be very unnerving for their friends, and sometimes they can’t and won’t stay the course.’
And she’s right.
In the last year, my behavioural patterns have changed drastically.
- Instead of constantly engaging in battles I have learned to choose which are worth fighting, and walk away from the others.
- Instead of lashing out at someone when angry, I try to wait until I am calm, say my piece with brevity and integrity, then leave it with them.
- Instead of incessantly justifying, reasoning, defending, excusing, counter blaming, I am slowly learning that there is nothing to be gained from such behaviour. If someone does not, will not see so your perspective on things, you cannot make them, no matter how persuasive your argument, so, for the most part, I no longer try.
- Instead of being afraid when someone has a tantrum, sulks and/or walks away, I now see it as proof that the process is starting to work, bid them a sad farewell and get back on with my life.
When I stop bemoaning the loss of each ‘man overboard’ I realise that my ship is becoming populated with crew that like and accept me for who I am, bring something new to my life and are bloody good fun to be around.
Granted there are a few stowaways and a couple of ‘seasick’ landlubbers that may or may not want to stay on board, but when I think about it, as things stand, we seem to be sailing in the right direction.
Which is better than how it was before, when I was stuck ‘Pi like’ in a stationery boat going nowhere, in the glare of a relentless sun and having to deal with some very dubious passengers indeed.
Like Pi’s Richard Parker, my inner tigress has survived all of this and doesn’t need to bare her teeth that much nowadays, as I am no longer that skinny, scared, raggedy arsed scrap of humanity who was willing to put up with anything from anyone in order to avoid rocking the boat and ending up alone and isolated.
I have to stress that I will try not to make anyone walk the plank again (unless they are very harmful/destructive), and whilst some people have jumped ship of their own volition, I am potentially open to some of them re-boarding at a later date.
They just need to be aware that I am the Captain of this Ship, it is now a working vessel and run on an ‘all hands on deck’ policy so I only accept crew.
Anyone expecting to be treated like a first class passenger on a luxury yacht where everything is done for them will be sorely disappointed.
They will also need to get themselves a good life jacket as if we end up in the drink and they think they can push me under in order to elevate their own head above water, they seriously have another thing coming.
The biggest ask of all?
They should be, or want or be willing to try and be happy, as I cannot allow myself to be sucked into the riptide of their misery and drown alongside them as I get swamped by other people’s moods so their unhappiness ends up being my unhappiness too. I will always do whatever I can to help my friends and strangers when I can, but if that willingness and effort is not there, I cannot save them. Even if I wanted to.
My favourite crew? Those who have come to the fore and helped me guide this boat to safer waters, supported me through thick and thin (as I have them), forgiven me my many faults and I am happy and grateful to call them friends.
To all of the people currently gracing my life, I say ‘All aboard! Deck party at 7pm, champagne and seafood on ice as we speak…’
To those who choose not to?
‘Safe journey and happy travels. I hope you find the destination you are looking for.’