"She's one of my best friends in the world," he said to the group. And while I was honored to be single out in such a flattering way – why was it that his statement of love and adoration didn't make me FEEL good. I looked around as everyone nodded approvingly and looked at me as if to say, "Oh, you must be very wonderful that he loves you so much." No. I didn't feel so wonderful. I felt like a fraud.
For most of the years that I knew him, everytime we got together the conversation would inevitably be about him, his successes, his troubles or want he wanted. I could count the number of times on one hand that he ever called to say, "Tell me about you. What are you up to? How can I support you in what you are doing right now?" I DO remember him doing that a couple of times, but I also remember the conversation ALWAYS ending up on something that I could do for him. ALWAYS.
I remember once when he was living in San Francisco, I invited him to attend a presentation I was doing there in his city. I had been selected as the opening keynote speaker for a large healthcare group and it was a pretty big deal for me. When he said yes, I thought, "Yay! We can go out afterward and have lunch and catch up!" Well, he did come to the presentation. He gave me a cursory hug and then walked up to MY meeting planner, introduced himself and gave her his business card as he proceeded to explain how he could help her with her coding and billing procedures. Huh? Say what? I was mortified. Any trust we might have ever had between us was shattered in that moment.
When he SAYS that I am his good friend – but doesn't SHOW me that I am his good friend, there is a huge disconnect for me. After giving for so many years, I want to just stop giving. And no, I didn't give him my time, attention, love or gifts so he would do something in return for me, but in my definition of the word "friendship" there is reciprocity. There are ACTIONS that support the words, "You are my friend and you are important to me."
I was straight with him once. In a very loving, kind way I told him that I'd like to be a part of our friendship too. I told him how I felt, how important he was to me and what it was that I needed from our friendship. It seemed like he heard me, but then went back to his old ways in a very short time. Again, actions screaming one thing – words screaming another.
I choose now to love him from afar. To love the things about him that I consider his "gifts to the world." He has them. He does know how to make a positive difference for people with his sparkling personality, amazing intelligence and quick wit. I just choose not to put him in one of those seats in my life called "Extremely Trusted Friends." I've got some LOVELY people in those seats right now and because they are so loving, giving and trustworthy – it makes me want to give them MORE!
So I invite you to ask the question I'm asking myself right now. As "other-focused" as I THINK I am – can I do more? Can I be more thoughtful? Can I give more unexpected expressions of love and friendship for my friends? Can I pick up the phone right now, call someone and ask, "How are you? What's going on for you? How can I help?" I think I can. I think I will.
Oh, and thank you Ralph Waldo Emerson.