I am having a hard time separating other peoples’ baggage from my own lately.

In case you think you recognize you/a situation below, know that:

1) I’m not writing this to slam on anyone or complain about what I know – and please don’t let this stop you from sharing things with me in the future!  Really!  This is my issue, not yours.

2) this is coming from several (at least 4) directions – so it’s not just you! This is just me processing, that’s all.  I don’t even need a response as much as just a chance to clear my thoughts!

Maybe it’s the part of me that wants to be neutral, like Switzerland.  I want everyone to still like me.  Unless I don’t like them.  (And sometimes the jury is still out on that…)

Maybe it’s that while I can consciously try to stay out of drama, when someone does something hurtful to a friend, I take it personally.

I should give people a chance, before I make up my mind about them based on someone else’s opinions.  But then, if someone I respect was mistreated, and I have limited time for my already dear friends let alone making new ones, maybe we should let the chance at a friendship pass by?

The truth is usually somewhere between the stories on both sides, and I often only know one side of the story.

I listen – to broken hearts, to friendships torn asunder, to offenses of the past, to drama and grudges where sometimes there is no longer any reasonable basis for such….

At what point should these affect my individual relationships with the speaker, with the main players, with the people on the sidelines, with those whose actions I disagree with but I see the hurt emotions behind it, with those whose actions I disagree with because they have no reason to bear grudges for others (continuing a vicious snowball effect)…

When I’m in the middle and friends with both sides – I do my best to support them both. It’s all I can do.

When I have almost no relationship to someone who caused my friend pain, do I give them the benefit of the doubt, and get to know them so I can decide for myself? Or do I just choose to be amicable at the rare times we interact and not put any energy into creating a new friendship?  What if I see the person often instead of rarely?

I do not have to hold grudges on behalf of my friends.  And I know no true friend would ask me to.  But when I’ve seen their pain, and know their story, it’s hard to be objective about it and not remember that.

I guess it boils down to the mama bear syndrome.  My drama? I can choose when to nurse it and when to let it go.  I can let it be their issue, not mine.  Drama shields can be raised.  But when my friends are hurt, I want to protect them and get defensive towards anyone who caused them harm, and rather than drama infiltrating the shielded zone it comes from inside of me.

The people I already know, the people I am friends with or in routine contact with, I am doing my best to forgive (not that it’s even my place to forgive sometimes) and forget and move on, but I can’t help feeling awkward at times.

For those that I barely know and see, it’s easier.  I don’t fret (much) over the offenses of the past, but I don’t put energy into deepening relationships with them, unless it ends up coming about naturally.

I don’t necessarily like doing this – conciously not becoming friends with someone, but I’ve developed friendships before despite many warnings as to their nature, which all turned out to be true and so much worse than anyone thought.  Sigh – when is it smart to listen to the warnings and when does someone deserve another chance?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m missing out on some great opportunities, but as I said before my time and energy are limited as it is, so unless something happens naturally to move a friendship along…  I don’t know.  I know my guard will be up longer than usual even if I am not intentionally letting it affect my actions.

(The sequel post to this may be about turning down new friends when you are too busy for the ones you already have… That’s a whole nother can of worms!  And yes, I’ve heard of at least one story where someone met someone cool, and was told that they had no openings for friends in their life at that time.  Urban legend?  Who knows.  Kinda hard to google for it!  I’ve gone from years of constantly making new friends to a point where I worry that more would take away time that I should spend with those I have already. Ayeayay…)

Back to the main point….

I’m going to try to let this go.  I’ve honored my friends by listening to them, by offering advice, giving them comfort.  Holding on to the energy of the past is not doing me or them any service.  I’ll ask advice of those who seem to stay calm in the midst of chaos, friendly with all sides.  Next time something comes up that brings up OPB (other people’s baggage), if I’m not directly involved, I’ll breathe deeply and release it, it is not my struggle.

(This does NOT mean I’ll put up with people talking shit about anyone I care for.  But I will be mindful about when to defend a friend and when to ask that they just don’t say those things in my presence.)

And if you catch me getting caught up in OPB, please remind me of this.  Whether it’s gently saying something or smacking me in the head.  This has been too much of a pattern in my life recently – gotta love my dysfunctional family of choice sometimes! 😛 (and I really do!!!) but the only thing I can (and should) do is change my own actions and behaviour.  I have enough of my own baggage to deal with – I can support and encourage my friends without carrying their baggage along with mine.