Tag: making friends

A Contradictory Heart

“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.”  Betty Friedan.

“What person is for himself, what abides with him in his loneliness and isolation, and what no one can give or take away from him, this is obviously more essential to him than everything that he possesses or what he may be in the eyes of others”  Schopenhauer

This is going to be one of my long rambling posts where I think about life that nobody reads and I’m okay with that.  I decided a couple of weeks ago that I’m happy with what I write and that is most important. It is my blog after all.

…but it may be helpful to someone out there so read and ponder along with me. 🙂

Sometimes I feel confused about myself.  I am a creature full of contradictions, and at times it feels like God wants it that way.  Today is a perfect example.  I went visiting teaching and felt so connected to my girls.  I really felt like I made 2 new friends, cultivated an existing friendship, and shared a message all 4 of us needed to hear. Days like today I feel like I have a way of creating friends and interacting with others that not everyone can. I’m not saying this to boast but ever since my days of being bullied I have never had a hard time making friends.

I actually enjoy public speaking and teaching and it seems like I can usually find a way to reach my audience.  Someone told me today ‘I really enjoyed your talk you gave a while back’.  This was a talk given in March and he remembered it.  I found that to be amazing. 9 months and he remembered it. I’ve also had great experiences putting together parties, swimfests, bookclubs, a writing group and any number of other group activities. I’m a natural leader and gatherer.

Even on twitter I have made wonderful dear friends and felt a comfort level around strangers which most people do not share.  This blog is certainly abundant proof of that!

I’m also a very loyal person and most of my friends stay friends for years.  In fact, loyalty and honesty are essential to me in any friendship. I have friends from high school, college, people I’ve traveled with, been in wards with (pretty much all of them girls…don’t know why that is the case), swim friends (some of them are guys!), and just so  many treasured relationships.  I feel so grateful and have certainly not done anything that warrants such a blessing from God.

Here’s where the contradiction comes in…

After visiting teaching I put up Christmas decor myself, cooked a meal for one,  and went to meet with the bishop alone.  We talked about my individual scripture study and how I can do better.  We talked about my life and how independent I have to be.  How I have to stay motivated and be persistent or it will not happen.  There is nobody to push me along and challenge me to read scriptures everyday, go to the temple, exercise, or whatever worthy goal I am trying to accomplish in my life.  It’s all on me…

I am probably the most independent person I know.  Ever since I was little, and I mean little, I wanted to do things in my way, under my control.  I hated being a kid.  I hated being told what to do and  how to do it.

It was my dream to have my own place, my own space, my own life.  I never remember dreaming about what kind of husband or kids I would have.  In fact, for years while being open to love I was antagonistic about the idea of having a family.  To me it was a giant life and freedom suck. I’d seen how hard it was to have little kids and I wanted none of it. (Sorry but I grew out of it.  I promise!)

I don’t know many other Mormon girls that grew up wanting to be independent and free but that’s the way it was for me and that’s the way it has turned out.  I’ve always been a bit mystified by love and the dependence couples seem to have on each other. I’ve grown to a point where I want it but still don’t really understand the innate human need for it and yet…

I am lost without friendships and human bonding.  So maybe it is just love that confuses me?  Romantic love?  I don’t know.

I remember one time on my mission my trainer and I were talking about marriage and life.  I told her I didn’t know if I wanted to take my husband’s last name.  I like my name.  She said “This from the woman who wears a pink sweater every day” (and I really did wear a pink sweater a lot on mission.  Look at the photos!).  And yet both statements were equally true.  A contradiction….I feel like I have lot of those in my life.

Today I realized that in many ways the last 2 years have made me even more independent.  I didn’t think it was possible but it’s true. I am now a homeowner, I lived alone for 3 years happily before that, spent holidays alone, traveled alone and my spiritual sustenance is now maintained alone. Any leaning I was doing on another’s faith has had to be replaced with my own knowledge and strong conviction.  I don’t know anyone else that has been forced to be independent in more ways than I have.

Sometimes it seems like God wants me to be more independent and self reliant but in other ways he puts more people in my path to help and nurture.  People who need me and I desperately need them.   This is a good thing but it can leave me vulnerable to the lonely moments, which you would think someone who is so independent wouldn’t have.  Yep, still have them…

How can one human being need people so badly yet fundamentally resist them as part of my nature?  I truly have both yearnings and always have.

So, the giant Rachel tug of war will probably always continue.  One side needing and thriving on community and love, and the other needing isolation and freedom from what other people have planned for my life.

A contradiction…Does this make sense to any of you?  Do you see these 2 sides in your own life? Can any of you relate?

indexbtw- this is my 750th post!

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Ways to Make People Like You

how-to-make-friends

My facebook friends know I am currently preparing to give a lesson on Sunday about friendship.  When I first received this impression I thought it would be easy.  It’s such a universal topic of interest and something I have always held as a priority that facilitating a discussion should be simple, right?  Wrong!

First of all, I think anyone who claims to be an expert in making and keeping friends probably doesn’t have very many of them.  However, I’ve felt lonely enough in my life to make the search for this skill a priority, and there are certain tendencies that have repeatedly helped me along the way.

Perhaps it is being bullied as a child but I have always needed and prized friendship above all.  Friendship and loyalty to those friends is probably the most important thing in my life. Not everyone seems to have this need and prefers a solitary life, and there is nothing wrong with that, but its not me. I am not a perfect person but I think you will rarely find a more loyal or interested friend.  I try very hard to make and keep my friends.

As I was preparing the lesson my first thought was

1. Is friendship a necessity or a luxury?  What I mean is friendship something we require for a happy existence or is it an added benefit when time allows like a vacation or a special dessert.    Everyone on facebook agreed, friendship is a necessity.

So, most of us need friends.  Most of us see them as an essential part of life.  My next question was

2. Why as adults do we struggle making and keeping friends if it is as essential part of life? 

I think there are a lot of answers to that question but the main one seems to be time.  Our resources, time being one of them, are limited and often other essentials (and non-essentials) take the place of the essential need for friendship.

Now I had learned that friendship is essential and time seems to be the main barrier in creating these essential experiences.  So the solution to having better, more meaningful friendship in our lives is either creating more time or using what time we have more effectively.   Both can be helpful.

So how do we do this? How do we both create more time and use time we have with friends more effectively?  To figure this out I’ve been reading lots of articles and getting the opinion of friends.  One book I’ve read again is the old classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  It stands the test of time.  Really quite brilliant.  In his book he gives:

6 Ways to Make People Like You by Dale Carnegie

Principle 1- Become genuinely interested in other people. I find that focusing on what we have in common helps to be interested. On the other hand differences make life more interesting.  For instance, say a person is super into karate and you are not.  Well, now you have an opportunity to have a friend who is into karate. Your life has just become that much more interesting and well-rounded.

Principle 2- Smile Nobody wants to be friends with a grump. I would also add be real with people.  Privacy will only get privacy in return.  Friendship is a vulnerable experience.  Be happy but also be you. A smile goes along way to brighten anyone’s day.

Principle 3- Remember the person’s name I’d add remember details about their life.  It is such an attractive quality in a friend.  A friend of mine won my heart when on our second meeting he remembered about my swim meet I had been in the prior weekend and had briefly mentioned on our first meeting

Principle 4- Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.  The greatest human need is to be understood and be listened to.  I got good at this on my mission.  I had no interest in hoosier basketball or indy car racing but nothing makes a person happier than when they have a captive audience for their hobbies and interests.  I know that is true for me with open water or my other interests.  For most of us it makes us feel good to rattle on about our jobs, hobbies, friends etc.  We don’t need solutions just to be listened to.

Principle 5- Talk in terms of the Other Person’s Interest.  This goes back to principle 1 and it can be easier said than done.  Sometimes it can feel impossible to have anything in common with another person but usually if you dig hard enough you can find something.  For example, I have zero interest in video games but I love art so I can try to relate to those who have an interest in gaming in terms of art of the games.  Usually once you get beyond the cursory interests you find deeper things you have in common but it takes digging.

Principle 6- Make the Other Person Feel Important- and do it sincerely.  (Basically think more of the person than you do of yourself.  Be the kind of friend you would like to have and you may come close to getting such friends.  Regardless, you will be happy because you will make others happy).

A Few More From Me!

Principle 7- Friendship is not an Equitable Relationship.  It will always feel like you are making more of an effort than your proposed friend.  Whether this is true or not is beside the point.  Expecting things to be fair will not get you far.  For example, I should not invite said friend for dinner expecting to get a dinner from him or her in return.  It just doesn’t work that way.  I have to be the one to make the effort and be content with that.  It is not a competition or a popularity contest.

We can only make an effort and be happy with our choices.  Unless it is a toxic relationship, most of the time we get back plenty of what we put in; however, it just may not be in the exact way.  For instance, a dinner invitation may be returned by a phone call at a needed moment.  A relationship is about people not about fancy scrapbooks of perfectly planned out memories.

Principle 8- People will Almost Never be More Open with You than You are with Them.  If you want meaningful, open and honest relationships than you have to be a meaningful, open and honest person. If you want a casual relationship that is just for fun you will probably get a casual relationship that is just for fun.

Principle 9- Not all Friendships Could or Should be Saved.  There are absolutely toxic friendships.  When we are being manipulated, lied to, or abused in anyway this is not friendship. We can be twisted to thinking it is, or that by denying this help we are a terrible, heartless person but the reverse is usually true.  Don’t be an enabler.  Trust me.  These types of relationships are like strychnine for the soul.  Avoid at all cost.

Principle 10- People May Break Your Heart. Love Anyway.  I certainly have had my fair share of disappointment  going way back to the bullying as a child.  You never forget it.  But remember the advice of Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

I guess I would end that not everyone needs hordes of friends.  Some just need one and that can be your spouse.  There’s nothing wrong with that but no matter the number we can all be better friends to those we know and reach out to the lonely we don’t know.

Be a Bother

This makes me laugh and it goes along with a discussion about inferring when others make a statement or an invitation.

I had an interesting experience today.  There is a family in my ward who I had greeted but didn’t know very well (that’s true for most of the family’s in my ward!).  Especially without a ward activity I don’t feel like I’ve had a chance to really get to know people.  Last week being Easter a number of people asked me to their home for dinner because they wanted to make sure I had some place to go for the holiday.  I had a lovely evening with one of those families but another one I said ‘please invite me over another time.  I’d love it.’.

So this week I saw the Mom of the family and said ‘would you like to come to dinner tonight?  We’d love to have you.  It’s totally up to you’.

My immediate reaction was ‘I don’t want to be a bother.  I have food at home.  I don’t need to bother them.’  but then I reasoned ‘She is inviting me, so why not?’

With a shrug I said ‘sure.  That’s so nice.  Thank you.’

I offered to bring something, we chatted and then I joined them later for dinner.  We had a wonderful meal with her in-laws and the whole family.  It’s fun to go to someone’s house because I can have just a little bit of food I don’t normally indulge in because I can’t make a whole batch for myself.  For example, she had rolls that were big and fluffy.  I could never make a batch of rolls because I would eat too many on multiple days!

In the course of our conversation she said ‘I was pleasantly surprised when you said yes.  I think that shows great determination to accept an invitation from a stranger who you don’t know very well’.

What I didn’t tell her is that I’d almost said no but living alone has taught me to take advantage of the social opportunities presented before me and gather with others when you have the chance.   Its interesting to me that I would have held off from having a pleasant experience where I wasn’t a bit of a bother out of a fear of breaching some kind of social protocol.  Do we fear that the offer is not really sincere? Kind of like when someone asks you how are you doing and you just expect a ‘fine’ in response even if their world is falling apart?

Do we worry that we really will be a bother even if they don’t think we are at the moment of the request? Or are we just too prideful to accept an offer when it is presented?

Why do we hold ourselves aloft from positive experiences because of a mysterious social fear? Have you noticed yourself doing this? Someone offers you help or says ‘I’d like to do _____ sometime’ but you never pursue their request out of an embarrassment or you outright refuse knowing it would be a good experience?

It’s a funny part of human nature that’s for sure.  Why do we hold ourselves off from good experiences? Strange. I’m going to try and not do that any more.  Take advantage of every good thing that comes my way.  I’m not saying you have to accept every invitation offered to you but to not except out of some type of social protocol is ridiculous.

Anyway, just so you know I love getting invited to others homes and hopefully I’m helpful and can return the favor sometime.  So all you friends out there invite away.  I won’t be offended! 🙂 .

(Big Bang Theory on non-optional social conventions)

A Note on Party Planning and Making Friends

So I had originally put this post with my  Valentines Swimfest post but it was getting too long so I separated the 2.   They kind of go together.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love party-planning, entertaining and being with my friends.  Ever since I was little I have loved gathering people together and coming up with fun activities.  I love meeting new people, hearing their story and making friends (maybe because I’ve never really had a boyfriend friends are more important than ever in my life).

What’s the key to making friends? I’ve recently figured out a key piece in the puzzle.  It is being willing to share your heart with another person.  People sense a a guarded heart.  You just have to unabashedly share yourself with others and they will be drawn to that honesty.

Any real friendship requires great risk but even a fun friendship requires some sharing and vulnerability to be a success. That’s what I believe at least. I am SO grateful to all of my friends.  Thank you!  I hope I give half as much to you, as you give to me.

Friendship is hard work but remember when we were little and worked so hard to get into the right group or make a new friend?  Why do we expect it to be any easier as adults? (Well, hopefully it is a little bit easier but sometimes I wonder!).  Friendship takes work.  It ALWAYS risks REJECTION but it is worth it if the friend is worth having!  If someone is critical or resists your friendship you may want to ask the question- why do you want to be their friend in the first place?

It always helps to go to places where people have similar interests or backgrounds.  While I have a diverse group of friends, there is usually some common bond that unites us.

Most importantly I work hard at my friendships.  I always have.  I learned from being bullied as a child to cling on to the people who love me. I have lots of flaws but I think I can confidently say, I am a good friend.  I am loyal.  I am kind.  I want my friends to be happy and if you are my friend you know me- the good, bad, and everything in between.  A few years ago I tried to think of a single thing that my friend Camille didn’t know about me.  I couldn’t think of one.  That’s just the way I love. (I can also be petty and vindictive but I’m working on that.  Not close to perfect yet!)

Planning a party is an entirely different proposition.  If this is something you want to do, here’s some ideas.

In party planning, go to as much effort as you want to go to.  Unless you are a senators wife or on a reality show most of us don’t NEED to throw parties.  It should be FUN!  If you get joy out of putting together a goodie bag, go for it (hunt around, you can find deals!). If you enjoy making a tablescape look pretty, do it.  If you value a perfectly made meal, make it. If you like making handmade invitations, make them.

Don’t expect others to enjoy things as much as you do, and don’t do it expecting certain results.  This ALWAYS leaves a person feeling disappointed.  People’s praise is never effusive, nor their gratitude gracious enough.  Entertaining is usually the most fun when it is looked at as a service you are doing to provide joy to others.

One of my dinner parties literally changed my life….

While I have certainly shed a tear at a burnt cake or craft that went wrong, it is also important to have a sense of humor.  As Ina Garten says ‘you can always order Chinese takeout and serve it on your best china’!  It’s supposed to be fun.  My first swimfest I sent out conflicting restaurant addresses so half the group went to different places.  While embarrassed it was an honest mistake and everyone laughed it off.  Most of the time I find people are just grateful that you are trying. There is nothing more annoying than going to a party where the hostess is critical of herself all the time or constantly complaining.  A little venting may be appropriate but isn’t the idea of a party an escape from reality?

Also, recognize your own limitations and then figure out solutions.  If you have kids, build your parties around them.  If you don’t have room for 15 people, plan the party somewhere else or invite 5.  If you don’t like big groups, don’t plan a party with big groups.  There is nothing saying everyone has to be a socialite.  Companionship is what matters.  Human contact is what matters.  Also, always give your guests as much time and as many reminders as possible.  Its just a fact that people are busy and will forget (and so many don’t RSVP!). It’s so easy to remind people these days that why not?

Human beings respond very well to traditions.  Whether it is book club every month or a super bowl potluck, people build relationships based on traditions and memories of love.  It gives security in a world that often feels chaotic and out of our control.  (Maybe that’s why I like planning things.  It gives me a sense of control in this insane world I live in).  My sister and I used to do a potluck the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  It was a tradition for 3 or 4 years while we were in college and it was fabulous.  We learned how to cook a turkey, our friends experimented with family recipes, and we all watched a fun BYU football game.  It didn’t last forever as people moved but it was a great tradition.

Having a strong theme usually helps (holidays make this easy).  The Swimfests have been a success so far because I have planned them at a time where most people can come and most of my friends are swimming anyway (Saturday morning).  If you are a Mom, plan a brunch when kids are napping or a playdate and everyone can bring a pie or a cookie exchange. Whatever, make it as easy as possible for people to attend and have a theme.

Recognize that your guests are your guests.  They aren’t a burden you have to deal with.  They are a blessing in your life.  If you have to make a cookie gluten free or get raspberries instead of strawberries because someone is allergic, that is OK.  We learn a lot in life from making other people happy and thinking of their needs above our own.  It is the time’s when I am always happiest, even if it is something as simple as picking out a swim cap or selecting a book my friends might like.

As I said in my Swimfest post, you will have your share of failures.  Even Ina Garten has had her entertaining failures.  You will have parties where nobody comes, where nothing turns out right.  You will wonder what’s the use?  Again, I had a party once where nobody came!  Don’t give up! Keep trying.  It is worth it.  At least it is worth it to me. (Remind me that when my next party tanks.  I’m on a high right now!)

I’ve learned to expect that with book club 2-4 people almost always come, and I look forward to seeing those girls.  It is not a failure because my expectations are appropriate.  I enjoy spending time with 2 or even 1  of my friends just as much as I do a group of 15 swimmers.  I love bonding with people, the human connection.

I LOVE this idea of a party planning workbook where you keep track of ideas, things that worked, failures. Great!

Finally, just for the record- I HATE surprises, surprise parties, whatever, and I’m not just saying that to be coy.  Please don’t ever plan me one.  Half of the fun of it for me is looking forward to the event and helping make it special.  That may sound crazy but its the way I have always been. No surprises!

Valentines Swimfest

In Utah we are so lucky to have a great group of US Masters Swimmers.  I know it sounds corny but they really are a family, that has never been anything but supportive, kind and most importantly FUN!

I’ve got great friends including my swim friends.  In December I wanted to do something to thank my swim friends for all their support, so I came up with the idea of a Christmas Swimfest.  This was just a fun get-together where we could swim, play games, get to know one another and have fun.  It was a great success.  So much so that I decided to do it again:

A Valentines Swimfest!

Team Photo after saltines relay!

It was without a doubt the best valentines I’ve ever had!  We had a good turn out and all the trimmings of a great Swimfest (yes, I’ve invented a whole new term- one life goal checked off my list!) including matching swim caps (King and Queen of Hearts caps got for .99 each- thank you swimoutlet.com), workout planned by Josh and then fun relays!

Esther, Me and Renee

I have always loved playing games and even more- orchestrating games. Naturally I love relays!  We did 4 different relays.  Each relay had 2 teams.

First, we did a t-shirt relay (red shirt for the holiday, of course!).  In this relay you have 2 over-sized t-shirts and after 25m’s you must give the t-shirt to the next swimmer.  It was harder than you’d think.  You have to tread water and take the shirt off and put the shirt on.  One group got out of the water.  That was a smart!

Goody and I before the t-shirt relay
Renee and Esther trading the t-shirt. It was hard!

Second, was a kickboard relay where each swimmer kicks 50 meters and passes his or her board to the next person and they must add it to their own, so with 4 on each team, the final swimmer has 4 kickboards.

kickboard relay
Team 1 before the kickboard relay. Esther, Kate, Goody and Josh

Third, we did a saltine relay.  For this relay each person swims a 50 meters, gets out of the pool, eats a saltine cracker and then whistles.  Once they’ve done this the next swimmer can go.  It was really hard! The chlorine makes your mouth dry and then the saltine cracker makes it worse.  It was fun!  I had to basically hoot my whistle.

Chris with the dreaded saltines!

Fourth, was a ‘race car’ relay.  The idea is you have to dive under water and run a matchbox car along the line at the bottom of the pool.  Once you are out of air you go to the top and the next member of your team (who has been following you) must take a turn until you complete a lap.  First team done wins.

After the relays we cleaned up and went to a diner that was close, Left Fork Grill.  It was a great find!  A terrific bargain and good food.  A place I would never have gone to without my friend Josh’s suggestion (he had never been there but saw that it was close).   How fun to have a greasy spoon type place close by.  Delicious! I broke a few rules and had buttermilk pancakes, eggs and sausage…yum!

At the Left Fork Grill. Yum (and open 24 hours a day. This could get me in trouble!)

I had such a good time!  It was exactly what I needed- just fun with friends.  Plus, we had 2 new swimmers come which is always great.  Welcoming others into our little swimming family is my way of paying it forward because I felt so welcome back in August at my first clinic.  I really feel the Swimfests is an inspired notion because it is an easy way to introduce people to swimming without the intensity of a meet or open water swim.  Not everyone is as gutsy as me (Can I say that without sounding cocky?) and coming to a party is low pressure.   One girl, Esther, came this time who has only had 3 lessons and she was awesome!

You know the saying ‘no man is an island’?  Well, if he is I will swim out to him!  I need friends.  I need support.  I don’t want you to think I have great success with all my parties.  I have had get-togethers where no one, zero people, came. As discouraging as that can be (and I shed a tear or two!) you just have to push through it and keep trying.

Companionship is worth the price.  Having a little fun is worth the price of a few failures. Believe me, this week, it was so worth the price. Don’t give up! If you don’t click with one group, try another, keep going.  Like anything in life, it takes effort and sacrifice to make friends (and no, the ‘ah ha’, ‘meant to be’ friend has only happened to me once- thanks Emily!) but if you are open and honest and work at it, somewhere you will find  kindred spirits- even if it just one great friend.   I promise!

I am now looking forward to the next Swimfest- they have St.  Patrick’s Day caps after all!  (It makes sucky holidays so much more fun!). We had a great idea to do an Easter Egg hunt in April! You’d have to think of a way to weigh down the eggs but how fun!  I love a project!

I had a great time making goodie bags for the swim.  Something fun to focus on after a hard couple of weeks.  I even made my own valentine, which was designed by my super talented friend Joan.  Go to her website!

How fun to design your own valentine! Happy Valentines Day Everyone!

It was just a great time and I have a big smile on my face today!  Thanks friends for the great swim!

Here are some more photos of the day:

Our new friend Esther!
A great picture of Renee taken by my friend Kate
Gords and Josh. They both led the clinic at my first open water swim. You might call them Swimming Ambassadors!