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The right way to build solid friendships
Spoiler: It's not paying people to like you
Howdy! Welcome back to Traipsing About, a newsletter about reclaiming creativity and ditching tired personal paradigms.
Still full-swing sunny fall here with nary a frosty night in sight. Sadly, heat is no help for fire suppression and smoke from a giant fire still nags us.
It feels crazy to still be checking Purple Air every morning in mid-October buuut this is our new reality. No escaping climate change. Strange to look back to pre-wildfire season times when I took clean air for granted.
This week on Throoshing About, Edition #111:
Boundary setting as a friend filter
The real point of FIRE (financial independence, retire early)
50 ways to waste your time
Traipsing Tidbits: history, music and tech I dig
BTW, “throoshing” is an old Scots word meaning to play truant.
ICYMI: Last newsletter I wrote about the power of compersion (not a spelling error!) vs. envy.
Regarding envy, my friend Paul replied with something that rings true for me:
Your envy exercise is a good one for happiness. All or nothing. It seems to be part of the human condition that we never want all of someone else's life. The idea of switching lives is like killing yourself psychologically and I think people don't like to opt for that.
Enough chit chat. Bando alle ciance, as they say in Italian!
Building solid friendships the right way
During the past three years, two of my friendships blew up. One major reason sticks out: I started setting boundaries…and holding them.
For instance, when I asked one friend if he could call me for a conversation instead of sending lonnng monologue texts, he responded, “I’ll call or text whenever I fucking want to.” Say. Whaaaat?
It went downhill from there. Shockingly.
Oddly enough, I was culpable as well! Since I hadn’t set and, more importantly, held boundaries before, I’d allowed people into my life who didn’t respect them. Or at least respect mine.
Boundaries as feedback generators
You know that process of making a friend? It starts out shallow with, “where are you from, mutual friends, the dreaded ‘what do you do?’” question.
As the friendship deepens, you each show more of your true colors via vulnerability—sometimes sending people scrambling to escape through a window—or keep it at acquaintance level with activity buddies or colleagues.
In all new relationship, there are moments where you have opportunities to define who you are and what you expect from a friend. For me, some boundaries were easy to set, while others were difficult.
Values-based boundaries around drinking or not eating animal products were easy. The non-values based stuff was tougher: not wanting to go ski when it was shitty out, but doing it anyway. Not wanting to let people down by declining an invite to, well, anything, then regretting it. Hosting when Chelsea and I needed some down time.
In retrospect, those type of boundaries sound so easy! When I first start exercising them, and then more difficult ones, it felt like bench pressing 400 pounds after starting lifting weights a week ago: overwhelming and even dangerous, like I could get smashed under the pressure.
The good news: I realized that setting boundaries acts as a friend filter to prioritize the people you want in your life.
Because every time we set boundaries, the other person’s reaction is useful feedback. Flexing that muscle gets easier each time, and the feedback helps determine if we want to continue investing in a friendship or shift energy elsewhere.
Looking back at both former friendships that failed, I realize my lack of boundary setting encouraged (or at least allowed) behavior out of line with how I wanted to be treated. If I’d set them earlier and held tight with clear communication (“when you do this, I feel this way and need this moving forward”), I suspect the friendships would have fizzled far earlier.
On the flip side, a remarkable aspect of boundaries is they allow other friendships to shine. When I set boundaries with people and they respond respectfully, it adds more mortar to the friendship trust bridge between us.
With my closest friends, that mutual respect has grown to the point where we can drive a truck over the trust bridge. All the boundary setting is 100% worth it.
There is no escape
When Chelsea and I paused full-time travel after three years of travel, we were so.burnt.out. We longed for community, roots, a place to call home. Bend provided that place. We dug in.
Before, we were looking for an escape from busy careers and seeking a time to play and explore. Moving forward, we’re looking for a balance, a mix of footloose plus contribution plus community—if it’s possible.
Maintaining a foothold in Bend, longer stays in places, learning the language, contributing in various ways. We’ll see how it unfolds.
However, freedom as escape is a tantalizing but thin motivation. Absent some purpose, passion, vision, quest for meaning, desire to serve, escape is a relief, for sure, but not a life. Freedom as escape also misses the point that “no man is an island”, that escape without some ethical obligation to improve conditions for others, to change the system that oppressed you, to send some lifesaver out to those still flailing, doesn’t take you deep enough.
In the same blog post, Vicki says the financial side of her book was just a launching point, not the end point. Engagement, contribution, living lighter on the planet: those were her real goals of FIRE.
Fifty ways to waste your time
I’m guilty of a few of these ways to waste your time A to Zen Life, an excellent minimalism blog. A good reminder and gut check any day!
A few of mine:
#12: Toxic relationships. Mostly a thing of the past these days, but it ties in so nicely with my essay this week I had to mention it!
#15: Multi-tasking. I’m juggling and studying chess while I write this, is that bad?
#33: Gossiping. One of my goals is to stop talking about people when they aren’t in the conversation, either in a positive or negative light. We never know what people want shared about them.
Traipsing About Tidbits
Uncharted Territory’s brief history of the UK was fascinating.
I still love Readwise for managing any reading highlights I make or quotes that I want to save. I use it for my Kindle reading, online articles or newsletters, or even wise things friends email me. Can’t recommend it enough!
I’m digging this Modest Mouse radio playlist from Spotify. Brings me back to summer of 2005…cheery nostalgia for songs I took with me on my round-the-world post college trip.
Quote of the Week
The idea that one is in many ways an extremely difficult person to live around sounds, at first, improbable and even offensive. Yet fully understanding and readily and graciously admitting this possibility may be the surest way of making certain that one proves a somewhat endurable proposition.
There are few people more deeply insufferable than those who don’t, at regular intervals, suspect they might be so.
Stick a fork in newsletter #111 of Traipsing About!
This week’s unsolicited advice from yours truly:
BOUNDARIES. Set them. Hold them. Use the feedback signals you get to decide where to invest your energy.
I promise your relationships (and life) will improve. As the saying goes, “the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind.”
Til next time…ciao ciao.
P.S. Slim chance anyone gets mad at this package thief.
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