Do they spark joy?
The Feel-Good Vacuum
A few years ago I was sitting in front of a tent in the south of Portugal, participating in a pretty dead-end discussion about friendships. We all had our personal opinions – I don’t have any friends at all ~ Almost everyone I know is my friend ~ etc – and we were clearly unwilling to give them up. Or maybe it was just me.
Looking back, I admit I used to be pretty radical about my friendships. I’d Marie-Kondo my social circle every few years, if not every few months. Four years ago I was a pure minimalist, chasing after the feel-good relationships only. Minimalism however grew into puritanism. If they spark joy, you keep them – if they don’t, you let go.
A pretty drastic selection, huh?
We all have our self-protective mechanisms that we need to keep at bay, otherwise they turn into a witch hunt. For me, it was burning bridges. I strived for the feel-good so much I frequently mistook negative aspects of a relationship for a red flag. I’d see a brown spot and throw away the whole apple.
The Sweetest Apples
If that sounds stupid to you, I can assure you it indeed was. Being radical has generally never paid off to me, but being radical about friendships was pure lunacy. Too many people didn’t fit in the boxes: keep or let go? Too many relationships had brown spots on them. Inconveniently, these relationships were often the most important ones. The ones, which weren’t just ego mirrors but actually brought up the best in me. The ones, which always held me accountable for my own mistakes and appreciated my unique set of flaws.
It somehow took me a remarkably long time to realize that close friendships inevitably contain negativity. Proximity hurts and uncovers all kinds of things that most definitely don’t spark joy, and the only way how to avoid pain is to keep things shallow.
You can get the glossy spotless apples at a supermarket no matter what season, but the sweetest ones are always spotted. Errors are a fair price for authenticity. Especially because – PLOT TWIST – lot of the brown spots we so bluntly pinpoint on others are actually just mirror reflections of our own defects.
I’m still learning that brown spots can fade away. I’m still learning the difference between a rot and a rough patch and I’m also still learning to take things lightly.
And in the meantime, I’m eternally grateful for all the wonderfully terrible people that keep coming into my life ❤