November 30, 2020 – Matters of Convenience

I just returned from Wal-Mart. It’s not a store I enjoy spending a lot of time in. It is massive and it’s easy to get swallowed up in the place. If you go, you can expect to spend a fair amount of time retrieving the items on your list. Would you like a gallon of milk to go with that box of cereal you just placed in your cart? Hope you don’t mind walking another half mile. It’s exhausting! And you’d better hope you didn’t miss anything on your list once you’ve finally made your way to the checkout line in the front of the store. I’ve done that before. Oh, crap! I forgot the yogurt! Well, guess where the yogurt is? It’s back by the milk. Hope you don’t mind burning a few more calories because you’re going to be tacking another half mile onto the other four you just completed in order to grab the 4-pack of Chobani that you overlooked earlier. And it’s not only that, all of the endless walking and the time consumption, the store itself seems to be an oddball magnet. I am not making this up. There is a website dedicated to the vast array of interesting characters that frequent there. Think I’m kidding? Check it out! It’s called ‘peopleofwalmart.com’.

If you want to see a butt crack, I can almost guarantee you will see one if you go to Wal-Mart. Ordinarily, it’s only something you’d see if you contact a plumber to have repairs done to your kitchen sink. Not at Wal-Mart. It almost seems like a prerequisite in order to enter the store. Before you enter the first set of sliding doors, the greeter will check to see if you’re wearing your mask and then politely ask you to turn around to ensure your pants are just low enough to reveal the almighty ‘crack’. “Alright, you’re cleared to shop!” he or she will then declare. No. It’s not THAT bad but I do have to admit, that is the first thing I saw when I pulled into the parking lot at Wal-Mart today. A guy walked past me and his pants were hanging a bit low on his waist and there appeared to be a fleshy gap from where his jacket stopped and his pants started. Initially, I only saw him from the side but then he turned his back to me for just a couple of seconds and there was no denying it. At some point he must have become aware of his ‘exposure’ because as he walked toward the entrance, he pulled up his pants and pulled down his jacket and covered up that ungodly sight. I’m sorry, no matter how much you ‘dress it up’, there is nothing remotely attractive or endearing about a butt crack. I digress.

Why do I shop at Wal-Mart if I loathe it so much? Fantastic question!! That’s where ‘matters of convenience’ enter my story. Before we relocated, I used to shop there on a regular basis. What can I say? Those ‘low, low’ prices kept luring me back. But once we moved to our current home, I’ve only gone a handful of times. One reason I stopped going is because it’s the furthest store from my house and the main reason I stopped going is because I simply didn’t enjoy the experience. It was a surefire way of altering my mood from happy and carefree to angry and stressed out. But something changed in recent months that brought me back. Online shopping! I just happened to be comparing prices on the internet a few months ago and stumbled upon the Wal-Mart website. I noticed they had a ‘pick-up’ option. For a minimum order of $35, I can go online and order and prepay for my groceries or other goods, select a time when I want to swing by and pick them up, and have someone else schlep them out to my car and load them into the trunk. Ummm, YES!! You’re telling me I can purchase goods locally without ever leaving the comfort of my car? Say no more!! No screaming kids or worries about someone standing too close and breathing or coughing on me? You’d better believe I was ALL over that!

I don’t mean to sound like some kind of mouthpiece for Wal-Mart. I’m not getting compensated for tooting their horn. I just wanted to give you an idea of how things being convenient can be a real bonus. Sometimes it’s nice when things are convenient. But there is one thing in my life that I don’t ever want to affix that ‘label’ to, my friendships. I’m pretty particular about the relationships I have with other people, more specifically, the people in my life that I consider ‘friends’. I don’t have hundreds of friends or even dozens of friends. I would honestly say I have less than 10 total. And some of my friendships have been for decades while others have been for a handful of years. The best part about these friendships is that I can be who I am, raw and unfiltered, and they can be who they are, and we still love each other no matter how different our views or perspectives are. These relationships are incredibly special to me. They are as necessary to my existence as breathing. I try not to take them for granted. And sometimes they’re largely inconvenient.

The thing is, I don’t want someone to be my friend because it’s ‘convenient’. If that’s the only reason they’re willing to get together is because it’s easy and accessible, I’d rather not have them as a friend. Friends are people that ‘show up’, especially when it’s inconvenient. And lately I’ve been taking inventory of people like that in my life. If the only time someone can ‘fit me in’ is over lunch at one o’clock on a Wednesday, and the entire time we’re seated, they are constantly checking their phone or texting? No thanks. And there are the others that can’t be bothered with initiating a call or a text, it is always your responsibility. And if you shirk the responsibility because you’re tired of being the only one that makes any effort and at some point run into this person or these people, he/she is or they are usually extremely offended and visibly upset. “You haven’t called!” is the usual response. “You haven’t either,” is what I think in my head. Why am I bringing this up? Because earlier this week, I ran into one of those people.

This particular individual that I’m referring to I used to consider a ‘friend’. She is actually an honest-to-goodness lovely person. But a friend? No, not even close. The only time I see this person is when we ‘bump into’ each other on the walking trail about once every two months or when I did have a job, I saw her nearly every weekday because she used to volunteer at my workplace over lunchtime. She always greeted me with a very exuberant, “Hi! How are you doing?” Sometimes she’d linger for a few seconds, but usually it wasn’t for long. She would always throw out, “Love ya!” or “I’ll pray for you!” in her comings and goings, but it was never anything more than that. I tried to impress upon her how much I wanted to get to know her better. “Why don’t we have lunch or just grab a cup of coffee sometime?” “Sure! That sounds great!” she’d respond. But no matter how many times I’d gently remind her, it never went beyond lip service. She refused to commit. And it finally dawned on me in recent weeks that she is never going to commit. I’ve known her over 4 1/2 years and not once has there been any effort on her part to take it beyond a casual acquaintanceship.

I’ve got enough people like that in my life. I know it sounds selfish, but I want more. I want people that will get in the trenches with me. I want people that can lower their armor and be their authentic selves. I want people that can be honest with me and I can be honest with them. We don’t always have to agree, but we can still respectfully listen to one another and maybe agree to disagree once each of us has had an opportunity to share our viewpoint. If you’re not willing to do that, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to waste any more of my time on you. If you want to be an acquaintance, that’s perfectly fine! I have no problem with that. But I’m not going to share anything that’s personal with you. I’m not going to ‘bare my heart and soul’. And when you pass me on the trail next time and we conveniently ‘bump into’ one another, I will smile and greet you and then I will go on. And, well, that’s exactly what I did when I ran into ‘that’ person earlier this week that I used to consider a friend.

Her response? Clearly, she was puzzled. It was obvious by the expression on her face. She’s so used to me ‘spilling my guts’ and sharing all kinds of details about my life while she shares nothing. In the past, anytime I’d try to get her to ‘reach’ a little bit and share a little bit about herself, the question would be swatted away. All I usually got was, “Doing great! No complaints!” And as I said, she is a lovely person but whatever is between us will never become anything more. And since I’ve finally realized that, I’ve decided not to continue to invest my time and energy towards this person any longer. I’ve given up on the idea of getting together over a cup of tea, let alone a full-blown friendship. It’s just not going to happen. And I have to tell you, after I walked past her after I saw her standing still, looking over at me from across the road, after I waved and said ‘hello’ and kept walking, I immediately felt a heaviness. A very clear feeling of discomfort settled over me. I felt like a bad person.

“What have I done?” I thought to myself. “She’s going to think I’m upset with her. I didn’t stop. I waved and I smiled and I said ‘hello’ but I didn’t stop”. And with each step, I thought a bit more and the heaviness started to lift. I realized that what I had done was perfectly ok. I established boundaries. I wasn’t rude or unkind, but I didn’t become vulnerable and ‘share’ like I ordinarily would. Those kinds of things are reserved for friends and she isn’t my friend. She’s an acquaintance and has made that crystal clear through her inaction. So, no, I’m not going to feel bad about it. What we had worked before but it doesn’t work anymore. And, yes, I’ve thought about what I’d say if she ever actually asked, “What happened?” “You are a lovely person,” I would say. “But I need more than you’re able to give.” It’s really that simple. And it’s the truth. I don’t want to spend time with people because it’s a ‘matter of convenience’. Relationships, at least successful ones, take work. You cannot expect to do all of the giving while the other person does all of the taking or vice versa.

If you want to be my friend, earning your stripes isn’t an easy task. I do realize this. That’s probably why I only have about 10 true-blue friends. It is comparable to doing the obstacle course in military boot camp. You’re going to get dirty, there are going to be tears, you might even have to scale a really high rope ladder even though you’re afraid of heights (not likely, but you never know). But in the end, it will be worth it. You will have my friendship, my heart and my loyalty. And if you ever need me, I will be there for you. And I will treasure you to the end of my days. Just want to be my acquaintance? That’s ok, too. But if you want me to help you the next time you move? Sorry, I’ve got other plans.

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