Monday, February 22, 2010

Musical Monday

I've had a really entertaining day. After my post earlier today, lots of txts flying around with me and a few friends. Mostly laughs, which is my favorite, but in the fun, so friendship affirming and building. Good times.

Aside from that, I've been asking friends on facebook to let me know their favorite "friend" song. Lots of great suggestions. I'm going to go out with my own personal favorite. This one reminds me of college. This was my "you really mean a lot to me, so here's a sappy song that's a little too gushy to be taken seriously, but really, you're awesome" song.

I know that Simon & Garfunkle have way better songs, but I still have a soft spot for this one.

When you're weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all.
I'm on your side when times get rough
And friends just can't be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When you're down and out,
When you're on the street,
When evening falls so hard,
I will comfort you.
I'll take your part,
When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Sail on silver girl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.

I love you, man!

I'm taking a cue from one of my favorite bloggers and doing a list today. And seriously, if you haven't read SCL or pre-ordered the book, I would encourage you to do that as soon as possible. The blog is hilarious and brilliant and I have no doubt that the book will be as well.

Anyway, as anyone who reads my blog with any regularity knows, one of my big "things" is relationships and friendships. I've always been a friend person, but the past year, what with my bff moving away has once again shown me just how important people are to me, and how much I need them in my life. On Saturday night, a friend and I were trying to set up plans for us & our spouses to hang out and we were both lamenting our pititful "will you be my friend" status and it felt like a hugely awkward moment in trying to express that I really do appreciate his friendship.

So I got to thinking, how do you tell the other people that without sounding like a Bette Milder movie? Some thoughts:

1. Go ahead and sound like a Bette Midler movie. People everywhere are dying to know that they're the wind beneath your wings. You sing the chorus to that song and all will know that you are serious about what this friendship means. And also, that they might be dying.

2. Put on a beat-up, backwards cap, an old poncho, grab your guitar and sing some Garth Brooks. You should win a million dollars. With that cash, you can rent a sky-writer to tell whoever what their friendship means to you.

3. Play it cool. Make sure that they know how lucky THEY are to have YOU. Pull the old switcheroo.

4. Hallmark. Seriously, those tall tri-fold cards say it all.

5. Go up to them, give them a hug and tell them that you're glad you're friends.

Really, whatever you do, be sure to let them know. People need to know that they're important to you. It might feel a little goofy or weird, but do it. If you can't feel goofy and weird with your friends, who else are you going to feel goofy and weird with?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hurts so good

"I do think I'm very approachable as one of the guys, but maybe I need to be even more approachabler." ~Michael Scott

In the past week I've had two conversations with people who were talking about how hard it can be to broach a difficult topic with someone. Maybe you feel someone has done something that needs correction. Or maybe they said or did something that they didn't know was hurtful to you and you feel like you need to clear the air. Or maybe you just have something that you need to get off your chest.

I think sometimes we build up in our minds how the other person is going to react. We know that we would be unlikely to react in this manner, but for some reason, we expect that the person on the receiving end is going to freak out or something. We worry that our relationship will be irreparably harmed. Or something even worse that we can't even imagine. I know. I've been there. I play out the most horrific scenarios in my mind about what this person is going to say to me, how they're going to treat me, and how this relationship is going to effect every single other relationship that I have.

One of the first times that I really remember dealing with this was when I was in college. I'm sure I'd dealt with other difficult conversations before, but this was the first time that I remember sitting down and thinking that I wanted to deal with the discomfort immediately rather than to dwell on it for days before finally getting up the nerve to have the conversation. It was a relatively easy one. I was preparing for a recital, and needed the main hall to rehearse on the organ. I had booked it well in advance because I knew that I would need to practice on the instrument that I was playing on. I went in to a lesson only to be told that I would be unable to rehearse at my scheduled time because a professor "overturned" my booking so that he could rehearse another ensemble at that time. I was absolutely livid about this, but rather than sit and stew about it and start to worry about how whiny I would look or how mean he would be or how it might affect any of my grades with him, I decided to simply approach him about the issue. I explained how I was upset and together we worked out a way for us both to have access to the hall. It was so simple. No drama, no tears, no screaming. We just...talked. We communicated and everything was fine.

Granted, this has not always been the outcome. I've had some difficult conversations that were simply difficult. Lots of anger. Little understanding. No real move toward any kind of resolution. But those are incredibly rare. Most of the time these conversations aren't tough at all. They're just conversations. A few times they're hard, tear-filled, 10-tissue events, but even those generally have a good outcome.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we avoid honesty, when honest communication almost always results in a better relationship? And what can we do to become "more approachabler"?

For me, I think I get myself all tangled up because I feel like people have a certain view of who I am and if I disrupt that view, they won't like me as much. But then I have to remind myself that if I'm not being honest, they don't really KNOW me to decide if they like me or not. Sure, they may like the version of me that I've allowed them to see or the version of me that they've assumed, but there's a good chance that it's not me. And if it's not me, it's not much of a relationship.

I also think that the second part stems out of the first. If I'm more honest about who I am, warts and all, I think that frees the people around me to be more honest. I don't think we have to be manipulative about exposing our real selves, but I do think that when people see that we're comfortable with who we are, they can be comfortable with who they are. And when we're all more comfortable, we can have real relationship. Not relationship based on trying to make someone something that they're not or trying to fit them into a mold that best suits us, but a real, genuine relationship.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Who are you?

Last week I read an absolutely fascinating book. It was I Sold My Soul On eBay by Hemant Mehta. He's an atheist who decided that he wanted to learn more about other faiths and "sold his soul" to the highest bidder. A Christian won the bid and sent him to visit various Christian churches over a year. Over the course of the year, he visited various churches and offered his thoughts on them. This book is a compilation of some of his church experiences and his thoughts on where the church is succeeding and where it could improve. At a time when I've been in a bit of a reading slump anyway, I absolutely tore through this book. I would highly recommend it.

After finishing it, I started thinking about what appealed to me so much about this book. And in talking to a friend about an unrelated matter yesterday, I think I figured it out.

A comment that I've heard and even uttered when talking about various difficult or controversial issues is, "My friend knows how I feel about this." Whatever "this" might be, most of us are pretty good about making sure that people know where we stand, particularly if we hold the majority opinion or believe that we have the moral upper-hand. I don't think that it's generally said with malice or pride or anything like that, but we are sure to make our stance known.

But what about that friend who knows how we feel? Do we know how they feel? Do we take the time to understand their point of view? Are we exhibiting any desire to put ourselves into their position to better know them? Or are we so entrenched in our views that we're unwilling to even give them the courtesy of our time? Are we listening to them or just forming our responses?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our rightness that we ignore all other opinions, particularly if they don't represent the views of most of the people with whom we interact. Most of my circle of influence is Christian. So when would I have had much opportunity to really listen to what an atheist has to say about how my faith appears to him? If most of the time I'm just trying to figure out how to prove that he's wrong, I'm not really listening to what he has to say. This book didn't give me a chance to respond, so I was "stuck" listening to him. And he had some really good things to say! I don't agree with everything he said and I haven't abandoned my faith, but by taking the opportunity to read his book, I was able to see myself, some of my actions, my words and my attitudes through the eyes of someone who is different than I am.

This was, of course, a non-interactive event. But how many people do I know in real life where I could apply this empathy? I tend to be a person of pretty strong opinions, so I can have a tendency to monopolize "discussions" and at that point, I'm not listening to the other person. And when I don't listen, I'm not being respectful of them. And if I'm not being respectful, am I really being a friend at all? If my friend knows how I feel, but I haven't taken any opportunity to know how they feel, can I really call them my friend?

Maybe we can all find a friend who "knows how we feel" and take a minute in the next few weeks to ask them how they feel. What is it, exactly, that they believe? Why do they believe differently? What brought them to the conclusions that they've reached? And if we're really brave, how do my actions or words make them feel? I don't think we need to do this to look to change anyone's minds, but perhaps we can find more of our similarities than our differences. Perhaps we can break down some of our misconceptions. And perhaps we can become better friends.
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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