That person your parents, family, high school or other old friends remember no longer exists. And we should be happy about it.
She has seen so much and been through so much. The person you used to know is gone! And her family and friends today cannot always handle the woman she now sees in the mirror, the outwardly older woman she has become. Yet she’s a much wiser, centered woman, often grounded in her Faith.
Compared to the awful suffering throughout the world, her trials may seem minor to those who don’t know all the facts. And she is very, very aware of all she has to be thankful for and the dangerous situations God has protected her from so far!
Those trials have shaped her, have driven her life, and have blown her off-course more than once. She is stronger for having fought her way back, for having learned to sometimes be courageous when she was not. Yet she is tired, bone-tired.
Family and friends often want the younger woman back. They want the daughter, the sister, the co-worker, the friend they used to know. They understood her – or thought they did – at least, until she “went off the rails” and took a path totally unlike what seemed to be going on with her upbringing.
Family and friends want the predictable person they were able to manipulate when that met their needs. Most of us were much easier to deal with in our 20s and 30s. What doormat isn’t? But we learned to stand up for ourselves one step at a time, like everything else, until one day the doors blew off.
Even now, certain folks think we will continue doing what we have always done:
- We’ll continue taking the abuse they handed out when we were kids or young adults.
- We’ll continue being The Little Red Hen who does all the work while others “dine on the results.” The least they could do is share the benefits by giving someone else a hand up.
- They like our patience in the face of huge frustrations in life but what else do you do? God is in charge of our lives. We are not. He listens to our cries of despair, but throwing tantrums does not please Him and will not get us what we want any sooner.
We are still there for our friends as they are for us, yet what person would willingly remain unchanged throughout their life? Sometimes we help in the same ways and sometimes, we have to offer different kinds of support.
Some of us have larger circles of friends than others have. I suspect variety probably matters much more than their numbers. But they have been in our lives for a reason and the “keepers” are all wonderful beyond words.
Few people can be all things to one person because it would be too draining to put that load on one poor soul. We gather in all those who fill different needs in us but only keep them if they don’t gossip (as opposed to sharing information so others may be blessed by helping).
Some strong women may fill multiple needs, and we give back:
- With one friend we can talk politics without completely destroying the friendship.
- With another we have a kindred spirit who doesn’t have her head in the sand when it comes to world events.
- With another we can pray or talk about our religious beliefs.
- Or we can discuss the aggravations of the business world, or the universities we attended.
With another friend, we can share:
- Frustrations with spouse, kids, in-laws or other relatives
- Nutcase neighbors or city council members
- Heavy financial topics
And then there’s the environment, a touchy subject to discuss, if ever there was one.
And perhaps most of all, we value the friends who have our back during the tough times.
None of these friendships would be possible today if we hadn’t stretched, hadn’t waded timidly into unknown waters, had instead all stayed the way we were.