Buried deep within this essay in The New York Times is a minor point: “You know that ‘nice’ isn’t a sufficient quality for friendship, but it’s a necessary one.”
I forget that. Because I forget to treat myself with compassion, I am not surprised when others forget, as well. I’ve had numerous close friends over the years who did not give me warmth when I needed it. I’ve had close friends say things (to other people) that got me (incorrectly) banned from my yoga studio. I’ve had close friends try to have inappropriate relationships with current and former lovers. I’ve had close friends lecture me in ways that left me feeling suicidal. I’ve had close friends tell me things so horrible I wouldn’t wish them upon my enemies. I’m very good at making excuses for people and very bad at kicking them out of my life.
Maybe it’s a pattern instilled from my relationship with my father, who was very good at lecturing and very bad at showing warmth? Maybe I translate the controlling involvement as a sign of affection and love? Maybe I’m just too forgiving, too good at making excuses for people and situations?
But I’m trying to get better.
I had a very close friend who, when I needed her, took several days to get back to me because her phone was “in the couch,” and she didn’t have the few minutes it would take to retrieve it from beneath the pillows. She could not understand why this was upsetting to me.
I had a very close friend who lectured me (harshly) for not being more understanding of what was happening in his life when he had refused to tell me, and, in fact, made the situation out to be far more rosy than it actually was. But yet it was my fault for not knowing.
I had a very close friend who thought it appropriate to text my boyfriend repeatedly on weeknights and got upset when I told her that it made me uncomfortable. I’m still “blocked” by her on Facebook, approximately four years later.
I had another very close friend who not only thought it was okay to be sexually explicit with an ex of mine but also to cancel plans on me to hang out with him — behind my back.
Beyond the obvious questions of where I find these people and what’s wrong with my quality control, another obvious question is — where’s the compassion? Where’s the recognition that I’m a human being and certain behavior is just not appropriate to inflict upon another human being?
My girlfriend left my house this morning — after doing the dishes in the sink and cleaning the kitchen. I did not ask her to do this. I was not even in the kitchen at the time. But she did it anyway, because she’s nice.
I don’t mean nice in that pejorative way with which it has sadly come to be known. I mean nice as in kind and warm and thoughtful and compassionate. She doesn’t do things to make an effort; she doesn’t do things to get bonus points or to be controlling. She does things merely to be nice because she is nice.
And whenever this happens, it reminds me of how rarely this actually happens, of how unusual it can be for someone to be kind for no ulterior motive, not out of boredom but out of actual genuine thoughtfulness. Warmth and compassion from one human being to another.
It’s not an LA thing, because these things have happened with people outside of LA, as well as with people in LA who aren’t from here. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows about the various experiences I have had with people I have dated, but I’m not taking about that here. I’m talking about close friends who have been with me for at least a few months, if not many years.
I don’t know if it is my bad luck with people, or if it’s that niceness has merely been devalued. Have we become so busy, so desperate to keep up and succeed and be the best that we have lost the time and attention it takes to show (and feel) compassion? At least now, during those startling and unexpected moments when people are kind for no other reason than they are a human being with a heart and a soul, I appreciate it for everything it’s worth.