A lot of times, the source of our joy or misery lies in how the relationships in our life are going – be it the relationship with our lover, friend or even colleague.
We feel good when someone does something that makes us feel special, and we allow ourselves to feel down if we don’t like/appreciate how someone treats us (or didn’t treat us in some instances!).
In September 2014, I hit a bit of a low with my health. The series of events that followed made me see all the relationships in my life in a new light, and I learned a thing or two about the meaning of friendship.
I had to have a biopsy of the cervix, and boy was it an interesting one-month period laced with huge lessons all around. I’m blessed that everything turned out okay and that through that experience, I got to appreciate all my relationships with everyone on a whole new level.
It’s weird – it was a scary yet zen experience all at once.
I was going on the philosophy that “If it’s not the end of the world, don’t worry about it, and if it is the end of the world, no point worrying about it!”.
The last thing I wanted was to be trapped in a mental prison of worry and fear over a health outcome I had zero control over.
During this period between pap smear results and waiting for the biopsy results, I began a process of trying to clearly identify the emotions I was feeling, and being honest with myself about why I felt the way I did.
Of course I couldn’t help it and just like anyone else I did wonder at some point for a second, “What if it’s the Big C and it’s not looking good?”.
I did get a little scared. Who wouldn’t?
I realized that while I was at that stage of my life where I was learning how to deal with my fear of death and slowly accepting that it was inevitable (it’s been my biggest fear all my life), this experience presented itself at this very moment to show me that it was time to view the fear from a new angle.
Whatever it was, I knew I didn’t want my time here to be up yet – I wasn’t ready.
I found that I suddenly had a new found zest and appreciation for life. I was looking at life from a very different lens. It was the lens of appreciation and gratitude for all the love and beauty I saw around me. It was as though the color in my world suddenly got brighter. Like it had a good wash.
Life suddenly felt more beautiful when I was faced with the thought that the clock could really be ticking down fast.
I started to see my relationships in a different light, and felt so blessed for all the love and support I received. Those who knew (I was keeping it very private) reached out to me constantly to check on me, and there were some who had no idea at all but randomly reached out to say I suddenly came to mind and they wanted to see if I was okay.
I felt like my angels were looking out for me and showing me love from every direction. I felt so blessed for all the people in my life, near and far.
It was so beautiful and while I was experiencing a huge wave of love on one end (and keeping myself busy with that versus worrying about what my test results would reveal), suddenly a nagging feeling also crept up that distracted me from my zen state a little.
There were two friends, who to me, suddenly fell off the radar during this time.
The reason why this bothered me so much was because I felt that I had done my part to take care of these two friends when they were sad or not well.
These were the people I thought would be there to cheer me up in return during this nervous time.
I suddenly found myself hung up on this and it got me thinking: What is a real friend?
While I was experiencing some kind of magic on one end, I couldn’t stop thinking about these two friends, and the more I allowed my thoughts to go there, the more hurt I became.
I wasn’t sure if they liked me, or really cared for me. I felt like they took my friendship and love for granted but was not ready to reciprocate when roles were reversed.
And then I asked myself if I was experiencing these thoughts and emotions about them because perhaps I was not really processing my raw emotions about the whole health-scare the right way (in other words, going a little crazy) – what if I was just projecting to a new problem with these friends as a distraction from the real issue?
What if these friends going MIA was not what I was making it out to be? What if I just wasn’t thinking straight from the effects of post-surgery discomfort and anxiety?
After all, I thought, when we do something for others, we shouldn’t expect the anything back in return, right?
Of course I did end up speaking to one friend about how I felt, and the other came up to me when she picked up I was slightly quiet around her.
I didn’t give them grief, but I did explain my hurt. The goal is to always come from a place of love when communicating pain though, so we ended our talks well, and they understood later what kind of support I needed, and as true friends would, totally provided the support from then on.
This experience though, got me thinking how we all show love in different ways. These friends had valid reasons they felt was true to them as to why they “left me alone” during this time.
And then it hit me – just because we show love in one way, doesn’t mean others will show us love in the same. They too, have their own Love Language, which could be very different to ours.
Yes – a Love Language.
You have one, your parents have one, your boyfriend/husband has his and your friends are just the same (and believe it or not, your boss and colleagues are human too and have their own Love Language as well).
I learned about Love Languages a few years ago when I did an online test which told me my love language was Quality Time and Physical Touch, followed very closely with Words of Affirmation.
My husband’s Love Language is Physical Touch followed very closely with Acts of Service and Quality Time.
There are 5 Love Languages: Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Receiving Gifts, and Acts of Service.
(Curious to know what your Love Language is? Take the test here)
There is also a book on the topic by Gary Chapman (The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts).
The site which bears the test provides pretty good info and insight though – enough to give you a good “A-ha!” about how we all express and expect to receive love and feel loved.
If you get that you speak one language while others speak another, and if you can appreciate where people come from and accept that we all behave and process and demonstrate emotion and love differently, you’ll find that you don’t get too upset about the action of others if it’s not quite what you “expected” of them (in fact, it’s also a great tip to use if you want to make someone feel special).
I somehow forgot about this concept of Love Languages through this health-scare bout and saw myself upset with two amazing girlfriends. But then, it hit me after we talked that we are all indeed different and they were simply operating out of their own Love Language and I was mine.
I realized that despite our different ways of caring for each other, if I picked up the phone and said, “Please come help me now”, each of them would.
So yes, never forget that you and others around you have your own Love Language. It could save you a lot of mental distress if you’re preoccupied with wondering why someone did or didn’t do something for you or to you.
That was a huge moment for me, when I finally realized that – it felt so good to be free of the hurt I was feeling (clearly self-inflicted!).
Moral of the story?
1. We are all different. We process love different, and we share love different, but love is love. A real true super duper best friend may be the one who reaches out even when you don’t ask, but a great friend (which we should be happy to have in our lives) is one who is there for you when you do ask. Which leads me to…
2. If you want something, ask for it. Don’t ever be upset about something someone didn’t do, if you didn’t make it clear in the first place what you needed. Don’t expect anyone to be a mind reader either. Clear communication bridges all gaps.
3. Never make assumptions. Always seek the truth and when you know the truth, you can deal with it and hopefully feel better about any situation rather than getting caught up in senseless questions that leads to no real answer.
So these days, if I ever catch myself expecting something from someone and I feel low (works really well in the workplace!), I ask myself: Is this a matter of different Love Languages?
And then, I go through the three things above to course correct myself pretty fast. Try it, it works! 🙂
Share your thoughts – have you ever been in a situation where you questioned your friendships but then found peace through a realization?