At my Addiction Recovery Program we had some extra time for questions... and I asked for advice on how to make friends.

The guys gave some awesome advice. I'm going to read Dale Carnegie's book how to win friends and influence people for social skills and strategies, and they had all sorts of things that had worked for them. The meeting ended I was feeling super awesome and stoked.

And then.

I had a thought to talk with someone and say thanks for their ideas.

And I realized I couldn't.

Because I was absolutely terrified.

Terrified that by doing something... by doing anything, actually, that I would jeopardize any chance of friendship or even acquaintanceship and break everything. I felt like a bull in a china shop, who sees a tiny teacup out of place on the floor and would love to pick it up but I'm 100% sure I will break everything if I even try.

As I drove home, I thought more about it. Here I have all these awesome ideas for finding friends:

Treat people with Christlike love. Make them feel like they are the most important person in the world. Seek out the *best people* in my life and try to spend time with them. Get out of my comfort zone - join clubs or groups with people who might be totally different from me. Smile and say hi to everyone. Don't settle for people who don't want the real me.

Yet I am still terrified about actually *making* friends. Every single time I get an idea of how to approach someone, or try to improve a friendship that isn't already close, I second guess myself. And, inevitably, at least every time in the last couple years, I end up not doing it at all.

I've been called weird, awkward, overbearing, creepy, and odd so many times... that I'm pretty convinced that I *am* all of those things. Weird, awkward, overbearing, creepy, odd... they match up with how I've tried to approach friendships in the past.

I think it's because I have only a few demarcations between people in my life. 

First are the people furthest away. Strangers, acquaintances, work colleagues, other colleagues, and people I don't remember all fall in the same basic category: I'll give them pretty much anything they ask for if there is a good reason. Time, money (well... I've gotten better at not giving strangers or newfound friends money), stuff, ideas, advice - if they ask for it, and if they need it, I'm happy to give it. 

People who are sort of close to me are the next group: I treat them like the first group, but with some limiters taken off like the third, or like the third group, but with limiters placed on like the first. But which limiters to place or take off is really, really hard to figure out.

Which leads to the third group - people who are close to me. Or who I want to be close to me: I give them everything.

Everything is a lot.

I mean, if you tell me about any health problems you or your family face I'm probably going to research them and then come up with ideas on them. If you have a business I'm gonna subconsciously analyze your blind spots and come up with ideas to optimize your process flow. If you need something I'll buy it and give it to you. If I see something I think you'd want I'll give it to you with no fanfare or reason. I'll gush my life story and share the deepest parts of my heart. Taken together, you'll go from being a stranger, or maybe an acquaintance or a potential friend or lover... to suddenly having a life coach, a business consultant, a therapist, a workout buddy, an autistic stalker, and a best friend rolled all into one.

Most people don't want that. At least not in the beginning. But I only really have off and on. Which means that until I get close enough to someone to be able to be on... I find myself passive. Because passive is safe. I'm not going to be called creepy or told I'm trying too hard if I'm passive. I'm not going to hurt anyone. And yeah, a whole lot of people may pass by... but I know inside that as soon as I try to speak up, I'm going to only cause issues. Bull in a china shop. The safest thing is to do nothing but stand there. Don't try to move. Don't try to speak. Don't even wag your tail or breathe too hard. Just being there is probably too much, so just be still and passive and wait and somehow, someday, someone will come along wanting a bull in a china shop and get close enough to you while you're passively smiling to actually become a friend.

Or something like that.


Part of me doesn't believe it.

I believe that I'm an awesome friend. That when people can actually see my real intentions, get me for who I really am, and are on the same life path as I am, I am an incredible friend. And life coach. And lover. And whatever.

But I also believe that I'm a crummy friend. An awful one, to be realistic. I forget almost everything about the people I meet, even if I take notes on our interactions. I forget their names even after deep heartfelt conversations. I forget we even had the conversations. I'm overbearing. Weird. Awkward. I push too hard when I shouldn't, don't push enough when I should. People love me and I don't feel it, which makes them feel absolutely awful. I love people and they don't feel it, which makes them think that I don't care. And sometimes I don't care. Sometimes people want to be my friend and I can't even remember who they are or connect no matter how much either of us try. 

Deep down inside, I believe that you have to be worthy to merit friends.

And that I'm not.

I believe that if I try to make friends, or even try to be more friendly than a cursory smile and maybe hello, that I'll come across as trying too hard. That if I just let myself be myself, I'll find exactly no one willing to accept me, unless they are either so broken they have no other options, or hopelessly in love with me and unable to stop... in both cases, when all meaningful ability to actually choose friendship / companionship is gone and the choice is forced upon them. Or maybe they have some dire momentary need that I can meet. So I'm useful.

I know somewhere in my head that it isn't true. That I've developed good friendships with people who really, honestly cared about me... that I could even rekindle if I had the guts and the know how. The guys in Morris Code - the first a cappella group I joined - were good friends. Some of the people in my freshman academy group - the guys who lived on my floor and shared classes with me - were good friends. Some of the people in the freshman academy group I mentored. People in my wards over time. Mission companions. Past work colleagues. Classmates and teachers in my undergrad and in the MBA program. Students I taught. People I met through (G)MG. Strangers I met and somehow talked with about their hopes and fears and dreams. 

If I'm really, truly honest with myself, there are probably thousands of people that I've been friends with over the years. Being a good friend, making friends, was the only New Year's resolution I made for over a decade - until I found my best friend. But along that path there were thousands of people who made time for me, smiled when they saw me, opened their hearts and lives and homes to me.

And then I forgot about them.

And lost my side of the connection. The emotions dissipated over a few days, and they were gone... turned back into strangers inside my mind for absolutely no reason at all.

Deep down inside, I believe that you have to be worthy to merit friends.

And that I'm not.

What kind of friend forgets his friends? What kind of friend invests 100%, and then suddenly drops to 0 with no reason or warning at all?

I don't really have a perfect solution. This last week two people already in my sphere (people who it's not hard to interact with / see on a consistent basis with low amounts of added effort or energy) reached out to me and have seemed like they wanted to be friends... something that doesn't happen all that much. I'm carefully trying to be friendly while also not being overwhelming. Which scares me a lot. I'm signed up for more social skills classes. I have a book to read on friendship. I have an idea of how to help my ward be more friendly - we don't do ward prayer, and the ward is enormous, which means it's really hard to get to know people. So I'm thinking of doing ward prayer at my house on Sunday nights. Likely not a ton of people will come. But some will. And that might create opportunities to get to know people better, and help new people feel less alone.

And hopefully, someday, I can believe that I'm an awesome friend to everyone. And fill whatever needs I've got of my own.

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