Simple Conversation

Today I sat next to a woman who was holding her 18 month-old daughter on her lap. The daughter had just fallen off the bench and her nose was all bloody and she was crying . The woman was trying to soothe her daughter but she was agitated and eager for the service on her car to be finished.

She was really fragile and as we chatted she told me she had no family nearby and her husband worked out of town. It was just her and the baby all day long and she was so homesick. I remember how I felt when I moved to Colorado. I so wanted to be back where everything was familiar. Where I had my long-time friends and where my family was my source of entertainment.

And I remember when our phone was installed and I cried because I had no one to call. Then within a year or two of living here, I had to return to my childhood home and as the car was pulling away, I looked back at my house and felt a pang of homesickness for it and I hadn’t even left.

This woman is focused on what she doesn’t have (her family) and not creating what she needs (new friends) right here and now.

This is the thing:  it takes time, energy and effort to make friends and create a support network. It takes boldness to stand in front of strangers and share your story with them. It takes patience to be available to connect but not appear too needy.

And making friends is about give and take. You can’t share your life story all at once. You can offer some information and then gauge how safe you feel. After sharing, it’s time to listen.  Then share a bit more, then a bit more. I have a feeling you’ve been in her shoes. Moving to a new  place only to realize you have to start all over again with new friends, routines, doctors, services, schools and on and on. It’s hard and scary in an exciting sort of way. And it’s lonely until you make that first friend.

Friend Therapy

Lately I’ve been writing about ways to save your sanity. In the insane world in which we live it is sometimes hard to have quiet moments. In my last post, about claiming your space I offered some suggestions on how to make that happen.

This post is going to flip that idea and suggest you talk.  Or listen.

I will refer to this as FRIEND THERAPY. It’s when you are able to share your issues with another person in a safe environment. Yes, we can pay for this and go to a counselor but most times that will never happen.

Women sitting on a dock, having an intimate conversation during friend therapyFriend Therapy happens all the time. It’s give and take. It’s the freedom to badmouth a spouse, regret words said in anger or words never said at all, and cry like a baby. In the presence of a friend, these words are not acted upon, they are not resolved, and they are not repeated. Often just the act of voicing our thoughts is the cleansing part.

In the presence of a true friend, there’s no judgment, just allowing.

Last week, in the presence of a friend I related a story about a time in my youth when i was in a bad car accident. In the ambulance and at the hospital I was holding my breath with the fear that when my mom found out she would ‘drive like a bat out of hell’ and get herself killed on the way to the hospital. In the meantime, my dad showed up and suddenly I was able to be a 15-year-old child again. I didn’t have to be the parent and could just be an injured kid. The relief came through in waves of tears and gut wrenching sobs.

While sharing this story, it was as if I was still holding my breath. My shoulders, muscles and throat were tight… all over again.  What I received from my friend was a hug, validation and silence so I could continue.

When my story was over we discussed the topic of children of alcoholics and she related her story too.  Even with friends it takes courage to share a piece of you. And yet, I’ve found when I put myself out there, I’m met with more understanding and openness from them as well.

There are times, however, when going to a therapist is the right thing to do. In therapy, you can dig deeper and express thoughts without worrying if you are upsetting anyone. A therapist can offer insights and help you remember what’s important. A therapist is totally focused on you and offers a place to lay down your innermost burdens.

Friend therapy or professional therapy? I’ve sat on both sides of the table and know there are benefits to both. If you need talk therapy a friend may be able to help. If you need intensive, long term help – ask around for someone you can trust and schedule an appointment. with a therapist.  Knowing when you need more than your friend can offer is key to getting balanced again.

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