Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nurturing Relationships

Affirmation: My friends bless my life, I accept them as they are and treasure their relationships with me.

I like people. When I’ve taken the Meyers Briggs Personality Test, I come out evenly between the introvert and the extrovert. The test doesn’t tell you how well you relate to people, but whether or not you get energy from being with people or being alone. The goal is to find a middle ground. For me, I need some of both and the challenge can be finding that balance.
I remember when I was in graduate school getting my Masters in Social Work. My very first course was taught by a dynamite young woman. She was so energetic and knowledgeable. It was a fun and interesting course. She came in one day and it was immediately noticeable to me that she was not her usual self. She went on to teach the class. It was a three hour class. As the class progressed, she seemed to be feeling better. Her energy level seemed to be rising and she seemed to be enjoying the process more and more. When the class ended, I took the time to chat with her and I asked her how she was feeling. She told me she felt great but that when she had first arrived for the class, she had a migraine headache. Teaching the class had helped her eliminate the headache.
I, too, am a migraine sufferer. I’ve had a few “doozies.” I can tell you, standing in front of a classroom for three hours and teaching would not be the way for me to eradicate a headache. I need medication and a dark, quiet room. I decided there and then, this woman was getting her energy in a very different way than I was. She’s probably a high level extrovert.
I work very hard at staying connected to my family and friends. I know how important it is for my psychological and physical well-being. It’s easier sometimes than others. I seem to be able to putter around the house forever. I love a day when I have nothing scheduled and I get to go about town doing my errands and perhaps stopping somewhere fun for a quiet lunch and an opportunity to people watch.
Sometimes I fall into the trap of finding fault with my family and my friends. But, how does that improve the quality of my life? If I’m finding fault with them, what are they thinking about me, if they’re thinking anything at all? I want to simply enjoy my relationships, even those casual ones that come from interacting with people who are working to help me with all my different projects and errands. I want to like and to appreciate everyone. I know that isn’t feasible but I can make an effort.
When I heard the story about an elderly woman's funeral who had kept a Prayer Pouch, I was intrigued.  It appears she had only lived in her new community a short while but was very involved in the lives of all those with whom she interacted.  When people shared a concern, she would write it out and put it in her Prayer Pouch. She then made an effort to reconnect with the person to see how they were doing. Her funeral, I was told, had people from every phase of her life; they were from the grocery store, the deli, the church and the restaurants she frequented.  She was described to me as a saint because of her positive effect on the world.  She was a missionary in her own part of the world.  She cared and so people cared about her.
Relationships can be a tricky thing. I think most of our problems and issues relate to our relationships. There have certainly been a million books about them and how to improve them or deal with them, or understand them. Some of the most famous TV shows revolved around relationships: Seinfeld, All in the Family, Raymond and my favorite, The Golden Girls.  How do you do with your relationships? Are you more at ease with strangers or in your family circle? 
I’ve been married a long time, almost 43 years at this writing. Every so often, my husband, Sandy, speaks about his “good friend” and then he gives me a name. I cannot tell you how many times I have not had a clue who the person is that he has mentioned. One day, I asked him how come he thought of so many people as being his “good friend.” He told me, he chose to think of them that way. He chose to think about and refer to many of his acquaintances as good friends. Sandy is an unusual man in many ways but one quality he has which I have been told by friends that their husbands do not have, is he has a huge range of friends and he does a remarkable job of keeping in touch with most of them. I loved the idea that he also claimed them as his good friends. Why not? How we think about others is very often how they think about us. I believe it must be very unusual to have someone in our lives that we dislike that likes us.

I’ve had my struggles. I try hard to get along with everyone but I find some to be easier than others. I have a friend who refers to herself as a “low maintenance” friend. It’s the truth isn’t it? Some people we simply flow along with, others are often trying to pull us upstream. In Conversation with God, the author talks about “affability.” He says it’s not a trait most pay attention to but when it’s missing, it’s always noticeable.  It's defined as the ability to be kind, pleasant and gracious. I have found one way to appreciate people is to simply accept them for the way they are, not to judge. I value the people in my life and along with valuing them, offer up prayers for their well-being and for that of their loved ones. If I choose to believe my friends bless my life, they will. If I choose to believe they are draining my energy and causing me angst that too will be true. Once again, it depends on me and the way I choose to think. I want to be affable to all the people in my life and I hope they will respond in kind.

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