The latest from our Heart and Soul
Kalli* and Rebecca shared a lifetime of experiences. Friends since high school, they had seen each other through transitions and trauma, celebration and secrets. They had spent summers travelling together, marched in each other’s weddings, and been among the first to hold each other’s new babies. And then, after nearly 20 years of friendship, it was over.
Kalli’s father passed away unexpectedly in January of 2009, and though she relied on her family immensely, she was looking for comfort from the friend that had known her dad the longest. And she just didn’t find it.
The 37-year old mother of two explains, “Rebecca just couldn’t be there for me. And it was a pattern that was always there, but I couldn’t ignore it any more. My dad’s death was the thing that really opened my eyes, but I guess the cracks were always there. I know that as I got older, had a family, and saw a shift in my priorities, I had less and less tolerance for behaviour I could ignore or forgive before.”
“We talked about it, but it didn’t make anything better. So I just started allowing more and more time to pass in between phone calls. Eventually, I realized that it had been a year since we had talked.”
There is a misconception that, once we enter adulthood, life stabilizes. We’ve made it through the tumultuous years, the experimental years, the emotional years intact, and our reward is security and calm. Sure we expect some things to change and some people to come and go, but BFFs? No. BFFs are supposed to be solid, firm. They’re not supposed to go anywhere. There’s a reason that last F is there.
But, as Kalli stated, adulthood also gives us a greater sense of what our priorities are, and though the emotional need for our friend might be great, an unwillingness to spend precious time and energy on somebody that doesn’t seem to give anything in return, can be greater.
And even when the end of a friendship is something we facilitate, it’s not easy.
“I definitely grieved,” says Nancy, 41, whose 5-year friendship with a former coworker ended in, “a spectacular explosion of hurt feelings and things we probably both wish we hadn’t said.”
“For months afterwards, the reality that we weren’t going to be friends any more would hit me in the gut. There were lots of tears and lots of sleepless nights.”
The expulsion of someone from your adult life is tricky. Unlike in high school, when we may have opted for high-drama and a healthy dose of gossip to make it through the end of a friendship, adult friendships (much like a divorce) can carry a lot of baggage. Husbands and mutual friends are often caught in the middle, and when children are involved, things can become even more complicated.
“When I ended my friendship with Rebecca, I pretty much ended our daughter’s friendship with her daughter as well, “ remembers Kalli. Their husband’s did their best to arrange and shuttle the kids to playdates, but it was soon obvious that the situation was simply too awkward to continue. Too young to keep in touch on their own, the girls’ relationship became another casualty of their mothers’ break up.
Nancy’s friend didn’t have any children, but her own, now ages 4 and 7, continue to ask about the woman that used to come over with treats and plenty of attention for them. “It breaks my heart,” she says, “to have to tell them that somebody they were so fond of isn’t coming back.”
It’s difficult to edit somebody completely out of your life. Surreal as it is to ‘unfriend’ somebody you once loved from Facebook or Twitter so that you are no longer a part of their present or future life (and vice versa), it’s fully impossible to erase them from your past. Often, our biggest milestones and proudest moments included our BFF, and reminders that were once sweet can now be sullied. Wedding albums, baby books, vacation photos – these can seem ruined by the inclusion of somebody we no longer care for.
And with the loss of a friend comes the loss of all the little things that made the friendship important as well. You may have just broken up with the one person who understood intimately why your office is more bizarre than Dunder-Mifflin, or why you’ll never eat falafel again after a bad experience in Morocco 15 years ago. There might be nobody else that knows the punch line to a thousand little inside jokes, and that can be the hardest part to come to terms with.
“I’m almost 40 years old now,” says Kalli, “and it’ll be years and years before I can once again say that I’ve been friends with somebody for as long as I was friends with Rebecca. That’s tough.” But she does hope that the time will indeed come. “ I definitely don’t want to go through this again,” she adds. “It sucked when I was a kid, and it sucks even more now.”
We may no longer deal with it by scrawling long, tragic entries into our journal, or arranging mean-girl style coups against the ousted in our posse, but one thing, regardless of how mature or experienced we become, remains certain:
Breaking up is still hard to do.
*All names have been changed.
Friends. Compadres. BFFs. Bosom buddies. We all have em, we all need em. Whether we want to share silly stories and create fond memories, sip a glass of wine while conversing over a foodie-adorned table, or need a shoulder, friends are there because... well... they are. We cherish them, we feel like different people with them, we can be ourselves with them and sometimes, they bring out a side of us that we may miss, or never knew we had.
Girl friends, boy friends - they're not all the same, and each friendship gives us something that we need. Each has traits and a special history of its own. But sometimes, we're caught in a friendship with someone and it leaves us lacking. Sometimes, friendships cost more than they replenish. These friends are the kind that we might not want to indulge if we want to find contentedness in our relationships:
- The One-Upper
This friend may not even mean to do it, but you find yourself stating a fact or sharing some important milestone, and they immediately rebound your statement with their own inflated one. If it's intentional, this might come from a lack of self-esteem or large sense of woe-is-me, but regardless, it can make you feel like your own life and accomplishments pale in comparison. Watch out for this, because you may soon find yourself censoring your conversations just to avoid feeling like you don't matter. But keep in mind: some people do this unintentionally, to tell you (tactlessly) that they understand or empathize.
- The Self-Important One
Take, take, take. This friend is all about She. Sure, your daughter won the spelling bee, but She scored a fabulous deal on some thigh-high boots and may not even remember that there was a spelling bee the next time it's mentioned. This girl (or guy) is a give-and-take void - and I caution you to watch out for your own interests, too. At its worst, this friend may walk over your feelings and needs, because She values her own, whether She knows she's doing it or not. In fact, the worst situation is when she completely lacks awareness that she's edging your soul out of the relationship.
- The Drama Queen (or King)
These people are entertaining and a ride, for sure, but it might not always be a fun one. Emergency phone calls about that guy that she suddenly hates but a week ago wanted to marry (again) don't pan out well in most families' homes, and this friend will always have something huge happening. Whether you have the emotional energy to deal with these ups and downs and higher ups and downs, or not, is up to you.
- The One Without Integrity
Trust is one of the most important traits in a relationship, even one between friends. When we let people into our lives who steal, cheat, never live up to their promises and lie, we allow this behaviour to be considered acceptable to us. There's a fine line between being a judgemental person and being aware of your friends' short-comings. In the case of a friend who causes you to think "yeah, right" on more than one occassion, or to question whether she gossips about you, like she does others, or if she lies to you, like she does to others... this friendship might be worth writing off.
- The Compliment Dropper
There's nothing worse than the friend who drops in on you and says "oh my god, that outfit looks so good on you! It totally makes you look like you lost weight!" This friend - whether they mean to or not - buoys you for about two seconds before making you question yourself, often in a way that diminishes your self-esteem. This friend is bad news for your inner-zen, baby.
- The Unpredictable One
Always late, if they show up at all? Prone to freak outs at the most embarrassing, inappropriate times? A fan of changing her entire life around... every few weeks? Absent, then obsessively involved? This friend leaves you wondering if she's coming or going, and which you rather she do. You might not feel like you can trust the things she says or the opinions she forms, and you might find yourself wondering if you really want to be out in public with her when there's alcohol involved. This friend is... entertaining, but sometimes leaves you feeling like you wish you could disappear from situations or drift away from her.
- The One Who is Never Responsible
You know the friend who was demoted at work because she was always late and took extra long lunch breaks, but it's not her fault because it's really because her supervisor hasn't liked her from the very first day she started (probably because she's envious of how young and thin she is), and because traffic held her up, and because she was given the parking spot really, really far away from her office? This friend is constantly attacked by life, and she has no role in it other than to be a victim - except for when she accomplishes something positive, of course. This friend saps your positivity and frustrates you, and sometimes all you want to do it yell, "leave your house fifteen minutes earlier and pack a damn lunch!" This friend's been through the ringer, but she's the one creating most, if not all, of her problems, and because she doesn't recognize her own control over her life, she will always be stuck in the same negative cycles. This friend will probably never change. Really.
It can be hard to walk away from a friendship, indeed; it can be hard to change patterns in a relationship; people's core attributes may never change. What keeps you in friendships with people that have these labels - are the good times enough?
Discussion can be the best way to resolve of hard feelings and frustration…though the key is to do it correctly. Choosing the wrong way, time or words can cause relationship meltdown and make problems worse.
WHERE TO CLEAR THE AIR: Do not use Facebook or Twitter as a tool to convey your feelings. #1 it is public. #2 it allows others to comment which cannot be conducive to clearing the air #3 it is plain rude.
A face to face sit down is the best, most private way, of discussing a relationship problem. A meeting at a public place (park, coffee house, bench) will keep the ground neutral and also ensure voices are kept down too.
If the relationship issue is with a spouse, friend or neighbour ensure that your discussion is done without kids around. #1 Kids listen. #2 Kids repeat. #3 Kids can escalate emotion (if they decide to have a meltdown the moment you are getting down to details with your friend – your emotions may rise because of the meltdown environment rather than stay steady to resolve the issue).
WHEN TO DO IT: Discuss relationship matters when you have the suitable amount of time to dedicate (i.e. don’t try to squeeze in a “you hurt my feelings” phone call as you are rushing the kids out the door to swimming lessons.)
Also, try not to make resolution meetings when you are fatigued (i.e. the baby had you up all night).When your mind is clear you are in a better place emotionally to discuss issues.
WHAT TO SAY: Keep your words respectful, un-accusing and in the moment. Don’t bring up situations from years past. Don’t bring in the actions of other people. Keep your discussion focused and honest with the person in front of you.
If your issue is with your child (or between your child and another child) remember to keep your vocabulary age appropriate (“You pissed me off” will not work and neither will “Your behaviour was counter-productive to my actions”). Use positive words that they understand.
With kids, get down to their level (so you are not intimidating). Don’t wave fingers or use threatening gestures. Keep your voice calm. Reiterate house rules and behaviour rules (“We do not hit, “We do not jump on furniture”) and discuss the reasons for those rules (“You’ll hurt yourself”, “The furniture is not a playground”). Be firm but understanding. If an apology is in order – tell the child the discussion is not over until there is an “I’m sorry”. Ask for the child to repeat back the solution to the issue (“We don’t hit”, “The furniture is not a toy”) to ensure they fully understand the issue.
When it comes to resolving a relationship problem it is also important to listen to what the other party has to say. Clearing the air is not a one-way rant from you. You need to be open and accepting to the feelings of the other party.
Discussing problems is a life-lesson. It teaches kids how to cope with authority and rules in the greater world. It shows them even parents have conflict – but see it can be resolved in a respectful and positive way. Clearing the air can make relationships stronger and better. Solid relationships are the foundations of our lives as parents.
Contrary to my prior post, I struck out last week with the intent to start menu planning and shopping less frequently. Why? Well, life happened, as it tends to do, and finances need to be stripped to the bare minimum in my little household – even groceries. You’d think that would be easy to do, since it’s just me and a three-year old, but no. My daughter has Celiac disease and a dairy allergy, and I’m extremely sensitive to both wheat gluten and dairy, too. Add into this scenario that we eat a mostly-vegan diet, and you get a picture of our food needs.
Prepared gluten-free, vegan food is expensive stuff. But, I’m better than I used to be: when my daughter was first diagnosed, I bought anything that was gluten- and dairy-free, regardless of the price – just in case she liked it. One month, I realized I’d spend nearly a thousand dollars on food – some of it meat and produce that had gone to waste because the yummy, processed, expensive food was being eaten first – and I started shopping differently, and cooking and baking from scratch. But, sometimes I get so tired of cooking, we’ll have a few days of restaurants and take-out. Even when I’m “good,” we still routinely spend at least $600 a month on food.
So last week, I thought: We’re two very tiny people! On a very tiny budget! We need to make some changes! I can’t be more enthusiastic than this! Let’s start meal planning! And onto the Internet I went.
You’re probably familiar with the meal plans that Scattered Mom creates every week – they’re fabulous, right? But I needed something a little more specific, so that I could have a defined grocery list that included every snack, beverage and gluten-free cracker needed. And it had to be meat-free, and cover every single nutritional base that a healthy vegan diet requires. Also? It needed to look pretty.
What can I say? I’m a stickler for a pretty font.
So, I got Google-happy and here’s what I found:
- Simple Mom has the system that will work best for me. With one exception: I rarely follow recipes, so won’t be linking to any in my Google calendar.
- Knowing the dietary requirements for each member of your household is important before you start planning a week or more in advance. Check out Canada’s Food Guide.
- If you’d like something automated to figure out serving requirements, try this.
- Vegans and vegetarians can find a very descriptive food guide [pdf] in a paper posted on the Dieticians of Canada site.
- If you’re new to menu planning, it’s easiest to start planning only a week’s worth of a single meal. Otherwise, it can get overwhelming. Trust me.
- Make extra dinner and you’ll have leftovers, so you won’t have to plan for lunch the next day.
- To save big bucks, look through your kitchen and pantry to see what meals are already there, and note them on your menu plan. Then look through your local stores’ flyers to see which sale items can be made into yummy, inexpensive meals the rest of the week.
- Want even less responsibility? Chatelaine has a cornucopia of 7-day meal plans.
This is post is part of a month-long series about integrating minimalism into your lifestyle. We started off with three basic tips: buy less, don’t own anything that you don’t need, and question what’s normal; then we covered how to spend less and how to scale back your possessions.
I admit it – I think out of the box most times, and have been called a little bit radical on more than a few occasions. But I do not preach a life of self-employment, homeschooling and veganism, just because it is how I typically live. And I have not always been this…quirky. I got here by asking myself some basic questions, and when I was not happy with the answers, I made changes.
In this final installment to this minimalism series, I ask you to think outside of the box by questioning why you want the things you do, why you own what you may not use or need, and whether you are really getting what you need from the life you lead.
- Do you remember 20 years ago, when virtually no one had cell phones, never mind smart ones? Do you know people who still do not use them? Why do you need one? I do not.
- Think about how big the home you grew up in was, and how big the homes your parents were raised in were. Do you sometimes feel as if you need a bigger home, despite the probability that yours is larger than generations’ past?
- When you were a kid and one of your friends had a toy you did not, were your parents likely to buy it for you? Or were you more likely to use time with your friend to play with it? Why do all kids nowadays seem to have the newest and greatest, just like every other kid?
- What would happen if your household only had one car, or none? If you live in a populous city, with mass-transportation, could you make it work?
- How reliant are you on technology to get through your everyday? Odds are, the applications, various communication methods, and lists you use to make yourself more available and productive are actually taking time away from your day.
- Are you happy with the education that your children are receiving, and more so, are they happy? Do they get excited about learning, like they did at one, two and three years of age?
- If you had the option to stay at home, or work from home, or homeschool your children, or be the breadwinner while your spouse did one of the above, would you? What stands in your way, now?
- How often do you unplug from life and go an entire day without checking email, reading blogs, texting, and using other forms of passive communication?
- Do you buy the foods you do because of convenience, price, or a label intimating that it is healthy? What would happen if you stopped buying convenience foods, period?
- Remember back in the day, when a day with family meant packing up a picnic and heading to the park or beach for most of the day? Why do we over-organize our free-time, when we could languish on the grass, blowing bubbles in the spring breeze?
- If you spent an entire day only doing the things that were mandatory, would the world blow-up? Imagine that you do only the necessary work, cleaning, and cooking for the day. Over-extending ourselves is a common symptom in modern-momville.
- Why do you exercise? I am not negating the benefits of it, but if you are choosing a method to feel the burn because it worked for person X, or you want to look like person Y, you might want to reassess. Exercise is supposed to be fun, and something that makes you feel alive and energetic. Not as if you must get in the time, drop the pounds and sweat, or you are failing.
- How often do you get to sit down and read? You can tell me you are too busy, or that your kids will not let you, but I might call it hogwash. Let yourself have some time to unwind with a book – hopefully everyday – even if it’s only for 30 minutes, while your kids are flipping through their own.
- Do your kids hook themselves up intravenously to the Playstation, Wii or Xbox, only quitting when really, really
yelled atasked to? Why not join them, to see what is so great and spend some time with them? Consider it Quality Time 2.0.
- Do your traditions orbit holidays, period? Regular traditions are a great way to tie everyone together when you are used to running in different schedule-mandated directions. What about regular date nights with each of your kids, or family potlucks, where each family member prepares a dish?
- What if every family member owned a bike? Odds are, you might find yourself riding together and commuting differently.
- Do you have lots of contacts on social media sites? If so, you are probably not actually communicating with them all, so why list them as ‘friends’?
- You can only bring 100 things to a desert island with your family. What do you pack and why?
- What did you want to be when you grew up, and how did you envision your life? What is different, now that you are, and why?
- Do you have a love that you rarely get to indulge? Whether it is travel, cooking gourmet meals, or watching the sun rise with a steamy cup of coffee, what is really stopping you from doing it more often?