Friendship Should Not Hurt
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
January 3, 2013
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
I blog a lot about relationships but not so much about friendships. For sure they can be as wonderful and toxic as a "relationship." I was thinking a lot about friendship because the girl in the apartment up over me was at it again. There is always some kind of drama and it typically begins in the wee hours of the morning.
As I was walking Sophie this morning, I started to give it a lot of thought. So at about 4:00 A. M., I was awaken out of my sleep by someone yelling and throwing things over me. Instantly, I said to myself, "Here she goes again." I took a deep breath and sighed then tried to go back to sleep. It was difficult because I could hear the one voice screaming, as things rolled across the floor; CRASH! BANG! BOOM! Then for a while it got quiet and I drafted back into sleep land. All of a sudden, I heard CRASH! BANG! BOOM! again. I looked at my phone, it was now 6:00 A. M. I dragged myself out of bed to go knock on her door. I was trying to be nice before I called the police. Next time, I will just call.
Anyway, as I made my way out of my apartment there was a young woman in tears sitting on the stairs between the second floor. She was a wreck! She had her coat and bag in her lap. She looked pathetic, sad and helpless.
She looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, I just want to get my things and go." That's when I noticed that she was wearing one boot. "Why don't you just knock on her door and ask for your boot?" I suggested. She replied though tears, "She's crazy. She literally picked me up and threw me out of her house." I took a deep breath. Just as I was exhaling, I saw a police officer standing at the outside door. "Thank God," I mumbled. I'm glad that someone had called. Clearly this was a messy mess that I could not handle. The girl jumbled up from the stairs and came down by me, scared she mumbled, "I don't want to get involved I just want to go home." I opened the door for the police officer and the first thing he asked, "Did you call?" "No, but I was gettin ready to," was my reply." He started to assess the situation.
The young lady was scared out of her wits. She tried to explain that all she wanted to do was go home. She wasn't making much sense to the officer so I explained what I had heard for the last two hours or so and her pattern in the past. He headed for my neighbors apartment and the girl came closer and closer to me. "How long have you known her?"I asked. "About a year," the trembling girl said. "Has she ever done this before," I questioned? Trying to asses it all myself.
The girl began talking, We went out drinking and she asked me if I wanted to spend the night. It was late and I said yes. We were up there and she just started screaming and throwing things. I don't know what happened. She's crazy.
The second officer had made his way to the outer door and the girl came closer and closer to me. My impulse was to guard my door and Sophie who was in the bed looking at me. I closed my door and opened the outer door for the police officer. The girl started trembling, she couldn't talk and so I gave a mini review, the police officer took over and I closed my door.
When that police officer walked back out the building, I was so concerned about the girl that I opened my door again. The young lady was scared out of her wits. The other police office was still upstairs talking to the girl in the apartment. I could hear bit's and pieces of the conversation. She sounded all articulate, but it were clearly wrapped around some kind of mental illness. She sounded normal, but if you really listened closely, it was a bunch of articulate crap that wasn't making sense when you add it up. About a year ago, she had invited a friend to stay with her until she found an apartment, and it was the same thing every night. Clearly, she is the problem.
The police officer shut her door, they stepped in, and I could no longer here the conversation. I was wondering what the Officer thought the moment he stepped into her apartment. She has been trowing things for almost 3 hours or so. In fact, I have no idea how long the girl had been sitting on the stairs in the hallway, but when I found her there the girl in the apartment was still trowing things and screaming.
The young lady standing at my side spoke up, "I don't want to get involved. He took my drivers license," she mumbled." "It will be Ok," I tried to comfort her. "If I were you," I added my Aunite advice, "I would be done with her. This is not her first time behaving like this." The girl's eyes got big and she reached out and touched me as to say thank you, thank you for confirming that this is not about me.
"So it's not me?" She asked. "No dear heart I've seen it over and over again." I could see the big thank you in her eyes and she sighed in relief. "There's something wrong with her I added, I would be done if I were you." She spoke up in a hushed tone as trying not to anger the girl upstairs. "I'm a really nice person. All I want to do it bake cookies and be nice to people." I giggled to myself. Wanted to say much more but it was not my place. My role at that moment was comfort.
By that time, the police officer came down with her boot in his hand, shaking his head. "How long have you known her?" He than began asking her more questions about their friendship. It was clear to everyone that she was in over her head; that this girl was not the girl she thought she was.
A few minutes later, the girl up stairs walked out of her apartment and when she saw her friend standing there she hollered to the police officers, "She don't live on this premise, make her leave." They shook their head and told her to go back into her apartment. Then she wanted to know for how long? Like really?!
When she shut her door, the police went back to speaking with the girl. They asked about her well being and how she was going to get home, the first officer on the call, a fine brother might I add, offered to give her a ride home.
I said a prayer for her as the police officer escorted her out of my building. About five minutes later, the girl upstairs came out of the building walking her dog as if nothing had happened. As if she was just a regular Gold Cost Girl walking her dog. As if she hadn't terrorized the hell out of this girl for the last 3 hours.
I was so blown away by it all. We meet people and we really don't know who they are. All we really know is what they tell us and what we see. This goes for dating and non dating relationships. And what if, what they tell you, is a lie? How do you work your way out of their maze? And if God should fix it so you learn their truths, what do you do with them?
Do we rationalize friendships based on the good things, over and above the bad things? You do trade off some of your spirit to be a part of the "in" crowed; to have chic friends; to have a ride to the party; to not be lonely; to have someone pick up the check at dinner? The list can of why we stay in toxic friendships goes on and on.
As we move into a new year and a better you, I'm asking you to assess your friendships. Ask yourself these things: Does that person add value to my life? Do they take more than they give? Do they make you feel a certain kind of way at certain times? Are they always negative? Does everything add up or do you have that funny feeling about their life, the things said and the things you have seen. Are they really living the life that they preach? Do you have arguments over things that don't even make sense?
In making your assessment I want you to remember: If they lie once, they will lie twice; if they throw you out of their car or apartment once, they will do it again; if they degrade you in front of people once, they will do it again; if they talk about other people to you, they will talk about you to other people; if you thought an issue was resolved and you still hear about it in the grapevine, they play in mess for fun.
People are basically who they are unless they have had some real help over a long period of time. Change does not come quick and easy. Especially if their is some clinical mental illness that has not been diagnosed and even with those diagnosed. People stay in denial, and even family stay in denial and then change never comes. Sometimes, the change for that person is hard. Sometimes, they are not mentally ill they are instead, sociopaths that prey on people. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Sometimes mental illness is an excuse for unhealthy behavior.
But what I knew for sure is this, their inability to change does not mean that a change cannot be within you. You should never be in a relationship where you feel less than. Self-Love should be your baseline. Everything stems from that place where you can be your best you. Never sacrifice your spirit for sub-standard love and nurture.
In all cases you must access your liability and your gain. The liability should never out weigh the gain.
Self-Love should be your parameter. If you feel a certain kind of way in your spirit when you are in contact with that person, you have to ask yourself honestly, is this feeling worth it?
Does this feeling destroy a part of my spirit each time I encounter them? Friendship should never hurt. This morning I saw a wounded girl, a hurting girl. I pray that she will deal with this trauma and go on with her life. For sure, when someone shows, you who they are, you better believe them or each time you come back, they will hit you harder and harder.
With Self-Love as your guide, you can be a better you! Happy New Year! Here's to making you a better you in 2013!
Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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