Many times, we are reminded to “be more open” – open minded, open hearted, and open to new experiences.
For those of us who were seemingly just born open to the world, too open, perhaps, this advice has always seemed obvious and easy. Many times upon reading self-help articles about opening oneself further, I have smiled and sat back, sure that this is advice I can take. Even in yoga class, when everyone else has struggled with heart-opening backbends, I have been thrilled at seeing just how open my heart can become. I love being open!
Growing up, I was praised for how easily I made friends. I always enjoyed meeting new people – they were so interesting and exciting! And throughout my school years, I was the first to befriend the new student at school, in high school making the foreign exchange students my best friends.
Ever-independent, as I’ve gotten older, there have been plenty of hurdles to lasting friendships. Among many moves and life upheavals, including transferring 5 times before completing my bachelor’s degree, marriage, divorce, living abroad, moving back, another marriage, and a move across country, I haven’t exactly had the most stable conditions to support long-term close friendships. As a matter of fact, my two best friends are my husband and my sister.
Thankfully, the nature of our relationships forces them to keep up with me. Otherwise, though, I often feel desperate for close friendship. I have spent years praying for close friends, trying to manifest the perfect friend group. In my grandest visions, we go to brunch on the weekends and take mini vacations together, we go to fancy events and everyone who follows our social media accounts knows that we are intimate parts of each other’s lives.
Now, perhaps I haven’t been in one place long enough to cultivate this dynamic. I have accepted this as a fact that is okay for now, and have been quite willing to settle for just one or two close friends who may not even know each other. Though seemingly reasonable and achievable, I have discovered that even this is a struggle for me.
Preparing for the new year, there is a lot in my life that I wouldn’t trade. 2018 was my best yet – I married my best friend and love of my life, we moved to a really great new city, my career is stable, and I feel more confident than I ever have. I have so much to be grateful for. Reflecting back over this past year though, I’ve noticed some room for improvement.
I would like to stop having limiting beliefs about myself and my potential, and I’d like to stop sabotaging myself in the face of success. I would like to stop placing so much undue perfectionist pressure on myself and release unrealistic expectations. Perhaps the biggest one, though, has to do with boundaries. I have come a long way over the past couple of years setting healthy boundaries in my relationships. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
As much as I love that my heart is perpetually open, I get hurt more often than I’d like at this stage of life. Each time a friend starts getting close to me, and says I’m their best friend, my open heart cracks open even wider, dreams of best friendship swirl in my mind, and I begin to trust this friendship as a lasting one. And then disappointment and confusion crush me once I am no longer needed. Suddenly, my bestie and I will go from talking twice a day and texting each other funny pictures, cheering each other on through life’s mundane, to drifting apart, calls and texts starting to go unanswered, friendship slipping through my fingers. This happens over and over.
I don’t blame any of them. I would still enthusiastically answer any of their calls with my heart wide open. Yet, I finally do recognize a problem. When I was younger, I didn’t really mind when a fast and intense friendship would sweep in and then just as quickly evaporate. I always knew that the next one was just around the corner. Now as I get older though, I am realizing just how few and far between real friendships actually are, and how much more difficult it is now to meet new friends. I own my business, live in a new city where I know relatively no one, and spend my free time with my husband.
This time last year, I wanted to make room for more and stronger friendships. Ultimately, I have fewer friends I count as “close” now than I did then. Moving forward into 2019, my intention and prayer is not to have more friendships, the perfect friend group, or even a new best friend. Instead, it is to be a better protector of my own heart. It is to build up healthy boundaries and be less of an open book right away with prospective friends.
Reflecting back over the past year, seeing patterns of self-sabotage, conditional self-love, and unrealistic expectations for myself, I can finally see one thing very clearly: the friendship my heart has longed for is my own.
In the coming months and year, my task is not to seek new outside friendships, but to cultivate a new one within myself. Though I have a feeling that true, lasting friendships will come as a result, it is no longer my goal.
In 2019, I will be kinder, gentler, and more loving to me. I will my guard my heart. I will be my own true friend.