Back when I was a healthier person, I’d routinely take off to visit friends and family that are scattered along the East Coast. It helps that my friends and family tend to be in cities that you drive through to get to other cities, giving birth to the idea of what I call the “Alayna National Tour”. I couldn’t go to visit family in Philly without stopping to see a friend in D.C., another in NYC, or meet another for dinner during a layover in Richmond. I never thought this was anything special: I genuinely love the people in my life, and if someone is important to me, I will make time to see them. My year of illness has gotten in the way of this, something that’s made me very sad, but my recent travels have proven to me that I may not have the stamina I did before I got sick…but I can handle more than I think I can. I definitely plan to have the energy to get myself to NYC and Philly by the end of the year.

When I decided to visit my friend in the Durham area, and then two others in Charlotte, I really didn’t think anything unusual of it. I visit people because I like them, and because I like spending time with them in a world other than the one I inhabit each day. However, a chief concern of mine (and if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard why) is that visiting my friend in Durham would result in chaos that might end our friendship permanently. However, we’d managed to create that scenario numerous times over the distance since he came to visit me in Atlanta, so I thought it might be the best thing to either work out our issues or realise exactly why we could not be friends—an odd concept for me, as I’ve never been able to not be friends with someone I genuinely liked, save for very complicated situations that were simply never going to change.

There was, in fact, a moment that followed a very nice evening of bonding and spending time together where it became pretty obvious that either we were going to talk through things in an open and honest way, or end our acquaintance with him leaving me sitting in a bar in North Carolina. (No, my friend is not that big of a jerk; I am. I am the one who told him to simply leave me there because I deserved better treatment. He simply considered taking me up on it.)

This friend has told me he dislikes being a character in my blog—admittedly, not the first time someone’s told me that. When someone tells me that, the chief reason is because the person is either afraid they’ll be obviously identified by the rest of the world and judged unfairly, or because the person is an introverted soul who doesn’t wish to be put on display. My friend is an extremely private person, and I am someone who has lived my life on the internet for 12 years, and sees this blog a little like my own reality TV show. So, when he told me it made him uncomfortable to see personal aspects of our friendship made public, I promised I’d skip the whole “who, what, where, when” saga of us managing to work through some of our issues and build a better friendship. Or an actual friendship. Or something. *laughs* Instead, I’ll post this rather nice series of thoughts on friendship that I recorded in my personal journal while at a cafe in Charlotte.

“Some people come into your life because they remind you of who you are; who you really, truly are, beyond the layers of artifice, social propriety, expectations, and carefully constructed walls and defense mechanisms designed to protect at the expense of real connection. They are the rare, unusual people with whom you can laugh, cry, yell, discuss all manner of thoughts and feelings, be as silly as possible or as intense as possible, and feel you’re not only accepted, but that you should like yourself as much as those individuals do. They are the people who make you feel as if being yourself is simple and easy, and being vulnerable and unpretentious isn’t frightening, but the most natural thing in the world.

Others come into your life to remind you of who you have yet to become, because even though they are wise enough to see you clearly, recognise your flaws, and even identify your capability for being a tremendous pain in the ass and making life harder than it needs to be, they also care for you. As a result, they somehow see you as something better than you truly are, as something better than you see yourself.

If you’re fortunate, every so often—not frequently, but in a time period measured in years in between such people appearing in your life— you’ll meet someone who is all of these things, and discover a connection that isn’t quite ordinary. These are the people who affect you on some deeper level, teach you a little more about yourself, and make you a slightly better person for being a part of your life. These are the people who can affect you in a very emotional way, not on account of being mean, difficult, horrible people, but because you understand it is right to trust them enough to let them.

For some time, I’ve suspected this friend might be one of those people in my life, an oddly intuitive and inexplicable reaction to have upon meeting someone you’ve known of and about for a long time, yet don’t know at all. I’ve been consistently saddened by our inability to bridge certain points of conflict, while having the ability to connect in a fairly unique and special way. It has seemed that it would be a great loss to walk away from knowing a person I immediately, intuitively, and inexplicably gathered might be important in my life, on account of common phrases like “too different” and “complicated”. The odd thing is, once you look past those differences and points of conflict, and accept that someone being able to affect you on some level isn’t cause to run and hide and employ all sorts of anti-vulnerability shields, you often discover that opposites are simply mirrored reflections, the same picture expressed in a contrary direction.

I am so glad this friend and I made the decision to put aside issues of mutual distrust and communication complicated by a lack of willingness to be open and invest in knowing another person, while asking that person to give that level of trust and faith and understanding. I’m glad we seem to have chosen the option of recognising our friendship is one for which it is worth learning to understand and appreciate our differences—a choice which, strangely, unearthed more similarities and understanding than natural and unavoidable reasons for conflict. Sometimes, once you understand someone a little better and are willing to invest a little trust (the hardest thing for many of us out there in the world), you see that not that much compromise is really necessary to end up on the same page, or even face in the same direction.

You can’t demand what you’re not willing to give, and spend months wondering why the result isn’t positive. Trust and faith are things I don’t have to offer in abundance, and I have always been the sort to hesitate to offer them, even to those I consider a important part of my life. I have a way about me that I’ve perfected over the years, one that allows me to appear extremely open and accessible, to engage in abundant communication rather than real, meaningful connection, all while keeping any sense of real vulnerability hidden. This isn’t something that has ever worked in this particular friendship, because I would always feel as if I were uncomfortably transparent, as if this friend had a gift of getting to the core of who I happen to be. Meanwhile, I always seemed to be able to look through this person in the same way, never being able to take things at face value because of a weird sense that I was looking at one picture that was truly another.

Some friendships just don’t have room for games and walls and unwillingness to trust. Getting to know this relatively new person in my life has made me see more clearly that trying to build any sense of emotional intimacy while still maintaining impenetrable protective walls is not only not possible, but almost toxic and destructive. It isn’t real, and it’s often manipulative. It’s anything but accepting, because you’re too focused on protecting yourself adequately to truly see another person clearly. The attempt ends up hurting everyone involved. Some people—even those that haven’t been in your life long enough yet to become essential and permanent pieces of it—deserve far more, even if you don’t quite understand why. When you find one of those rare people, you kind of just have to make space in your life, which means taking down a few walls. In the end, it is usually worth it, and often even more so than you anticipated.”

During the rather unpleasant argument that preceded the “Either we have to be real and honest and trust each other, or just not try at all.” conversation, my friend asked me why I would visit him and what I expected from doing so. I thought I knew the answer, and that it was simple: “I visit people because I like them”. I didn’t really see it in terms of as big of a deal as he was making it out to be, because for me, it wasn’t. It touched me that he saw that as something beautiful about me. Now that I’ve had some time to look back on that, I realise that on a deeper level, I understood there was a more important decision to be made in my knowing this person: either we were going to take a chance and develop a real friendship, or agree not to be part of the other person’s life. Some people simply make terrible casual acquaintances, and connect in a way where that doesn’t work as easily as it should. Others can only have a conflict-free friendship if there’s very straightforward communication and honest expression of thoughts and feelings. I think both are applicable here.

I think I can safely say it worked out for the best, and I’m glad we chose to make the more difficult choice, and decide that our weird, confusing, complicated acquaintance was worth turning into a friendship of some substance…or at least getting it on that particular track. I actually believe it is one we will both value for some time to come. However, you may not hear about it, as I will henceforth avoid making this particular friend a recurring character in my blog. Fortunately, that may be a sign of a distinct lack of conflict and drama both of us will appreciate.

I have no doubt that I’ll find my drama elsewhere…which will be illustrated tomorrow by my piece on my relationship with annoying corporate entities. *laughs*

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