That is bad enough, but the bigger problem is when I spend too much time with folks who have the habit of unhappiness. Oh, I know, you think I should "just say no" and I do limit my time and practice boundary setting. But if I were trapped in a head that roils with fear and anger and bitterness, I would want someone to toss a flower over the wall behind which I hide my tender heart.
Some years ago I was asked to visit regularly with a woman who was terminally ill and, between deaths of friends and family and behaviors alienating her remaining family and friends, she had a very narrow support network. It was not always pleasant because she tended to speak for long periods either justifying her own poor behavior or railing about people who had wronged her. I remember one afternoon she was working herself into a lather that was making her existence even sadder. I looked at her evenly, quietly asking, "How is that working for you?" She looked shocked and then started to laugh as she said, "Not so well, I guess." It seemed a turning point in our conversations.
I believe we are created for fellowship, for traveling in pairs and trios, for living in families or families of choice. My dearest friends hold me accountable when they notice I'm running off the rails or letting myself run on fumes. We share our challenges and fears with a high degree of safety. (We all, being imperfect, mess up sometimes, and being able to forgive one another is also an import part of the equation.) We cry together but also laugh together, often at ourselves. We do not live in each other's pockets, but these women are profound blessings in my life.
We seek the opinions of those we value and trust as we consider life changes or respond to changes imposed upon us. We share our faith struggles and broken hearts and dearest hopes in ways that affirm and strengthen us all.
I am so grateful I have learned the value of tending carefully friendships and relationships that are healthy, hope-filled, honest and joyous. (If you are reading this and think it might be referring to you, you are right and a blessing in my life.)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12