My mama was a wise, wise woman, although at the time of her death, I didn’t quite realize how much she had already taught me about the world and people in general. The more I age, the more I shake my head when bits of the wisdom she passed down to me bubble up to the surface and pop in my face.
I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot lately and this morning, when I woke up from yet another terrible night’s sleep, a memory of her came flooding back clear as still water.
When I was eight, I came home from school crying because a couple of my friends – girls I thought were my besties –had decided to turn to me and say, “We’ve decided we don’t want you to hang out with us today. We’re going to do our own thing.” It was probably not the first time that this had happened to me, but it was definitely the first glaring memory I have of the devastation and pain rejection caused my young heart. As I sat on the kitchen floor, bawling, and listing off the reasons that these girls should want to play with me (I always stuck with them, even when they were mean to me; I helped them with their projects in school; I did whatever they wanted to do, etc.), my mom lifted up my chin and, in an angry voice, demanded that I listen to her very carefully. I remember it like it was yesterday.
“Jo, those girls are what I like to call Fairweathers.”
Mom told me that there were basically three kinds of “friends” in the world – the Trues (Besties), the Fairweathers, and the Draggers (people you may know as Energy Vampires).
True friends are the kind of friend that, no matter what happened between the two of you, your friendship will survive it. A True will always stick with you, have your back and defend you (even if she feels you are in the wrong – in which case, she’ll tell you the moment she doesn’t have to defend you anymore and she’ll make you give your head a shake). She said that Trues can be separated by huge distances or be apart for long periods of time, like her and some of the ladies she grew up with, and when they speak or get together again, it will feel as though no time has passed and nothing has changed between them. Trues can be completely honest with each other, even though it might hurt each other’s feelings from time to time – a True will get over it and see that her friend is actually trying to make her see reason. The biggest thing about Trues, my mom told me, iss that they never demand anything from each other, never forget the good stuff about each other and accepted that their True isn’t perfect and will hurt them from time to time without meaning to.
Fairweathers, according to mom, are the kind of people who are only nice to you if they need or want something from you or as long as you always agree with her, take her side, follow her blindly, do her bidding, etc. The moment you disagree with a Fairweather or call her out on something or stand up for yourself against her, her true nature will surface. She’ll immediately forget about all of the good times you’ve shared, the nice things you’ve done for her, the times you’ve defended her to others, etc. and she will immediately turn into someone else – drop you for someone who is “cooler”, blame you for her shortcomings, publicly humiliate you, call you names, bad mouth you to anyone who will listen, go out of her way to make your life miserable, etc. Mom said that Fairweathers are extremely manipulative – the kind of people who never hesitate to point out other people’s flaws, but brush off their own or think their actions are totally justifiable, despite how mean or vindictive they are. They seldom own up to their words or actions and they always make a point of blaming others for the exact undesirable traits they possess or actions they carry out. Fairweathers always act as though they are justified in doing everything they do, even when they are hurting others maliciously.
Mom pulled me up off of the floor and we sat down on the nook. She made me a snack of apple slices and peanut butter and, as she worked, she proceeded to tell me that the girls who had shunned me that day were Fairweathers and that I was better off without them in my life.
In nearly the same breath, however, she also informed me that she was not naive and that there were always two sides to every story. She said that she knew that I, too, had shown some Fairweather tendencies and that, I too, had shunned other kids in order to play exclusively with these two girls. In short, she told me straight up that I had just received a good dose of my own medicine and if I wanted to avoid feeling like this again, I would have to put my best effort into making sure that I never, ever acted like a Fairweather Friend again and never made other kids feel the pain that I was feeling if I could help it.
The third kind of friend that mom told me about was what she called the Draggers. This kind of friend exhibits a recurring pattern of negativity, stress, drama, crisis, chaos, etc. Mom didn’t use those words, obviously, I was only eight – she merely said that these friends are always grumpy and always make you feel sad or angry or crappy about yourself and always say hurtful, nasty things about other people and judge everyone around them. Mom said this kind of friend can infect you with her negativity and suck all of your energy until you end up just like her – angry, bitter, critical, judgemental, and dissatisfied about life in general. Today, I like to call this kind of friend an Energy Vampire. This type of friend spends her life wanting more of everything and is never satisfied or content. She doesn’t see the good in the world, the good in her life, or the good in others. Instead, she spends all of her energy picking people apart, pointing out their flaws, turning people against each other, whining about how hard life is, etc. An EVs happiness only ever lasts a brief moment until she finds something else to get her started down the negative spiral again – be it a perceived wrong, a material possession, a want of something she doesn’t have, but thinks she deserves etc. EV’s also thrive on being perceived as victims and they go out of their way to make themselves seem so. They are experts at manipulating others into believing their stories and they will make huge efforts to build up armies of sympathizers so they will feel more justified in their actions and more warranted in their words.
Mom warned me about Energy Vampires and told me to do my best to keep them out of my life. She also said that if I ever became an Energy Vampire, she’d kick my ass all over town until I snapped out of it.
Mom wasn’t the type to sugar coat anything.
When all of the apples and peanut butter had been eaten and when my tears had dried and I sat at the table feeling sad and still, despite the truth of her words, slightly vindictive towards the two girls who had dissed me, mom stabbed me in the chest with a well-manicured fingernail and gave me a stern warning. Listen up, she said, a Fairweather can also be an EV and the combination is deadly because she will usually be so good at manipulating others and infecting them with her energy that she could cause real and lasting damage to your happiness and balance. She told me to do everything I could to recognize these traits in people and to steer clear of them at all costs – they will not only crush your spirit, but they will infect you and turn you into one of them. Maybe mom was actually talking about zombies…
Despite mom’s admonition that I stick to being a True, I admit that there have been times since our talk in the kitchen that I have, indeed, been one of those nasty Fairweather people. In my teens and even into my early twenties, I was fairly adept at using or manipulating others to get what I wanted. And every time my nastiness came back to bite me in the ass and I ran to mom to whine to her about others hurting me or making me miserable, she would give me a hug and tell me that the truth was painful and that I should really take a hard look at my own actions to see if just maybe I had a hand in creating that pain. It always pissed me off and made me think she wasn’t being very supportive, despite the hugs and the soft words.
It wasn’t until I suffered some serious life trauma that I really started to wake up to the type of person I had become. After my son and my mom died within months of each other, I took a really hard look at myself and started making the effort to change the parts of myself that were undesirable. At first, it was because I wanted to do it for my mom – to make myself a better person in her memory – but it soon morphed into a way to make myself a better person in my own eyes. After all, why should I care what anyone else thinks of me anyway?
Today, 12 years and a few more tragedies and triumphs later, I am definitely not the person I used to be.
I have a handful of Trues in my life and I would do anything for them. I don’t have to talk to them, see them, or hang out with them every day, but I know that we would drop everything for each other in a second if the situation called for it. I am not afraid to speak my mind, be my brutally honest self, get pissed off and rant, or show my dark side with these friends and I fully expect and accept that they will do the same with me. I’m also delighted to share in their happiness, their victories and their positive life experiences. That is was being a True is all about.
However, despite my efforts to change myself and be acutely aware of my interactions with others, those Fairweathers and EVs still sneak in here and there. I don’t know how they do it – perhaps it’s that darn penchant for manipulation or maybe it’s my tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt, to a fault – but I continue to get sucked in. Maybe I’m a bit weak. Maybe I let my guard down. Maybe I just assume everyone will be as brutally honest as me. Maybe I just want to please people. Maybe I crave contact with people, any kind of people, more than I realize. Whatever it is, they get past my gut instinct once in awhile and they wreak havoc in my life – infecting me with negative energy, making me feel like shit, spreading rumours and half truths about me, etc. They make me forget what kind of person I strive to be and I slowly but surely begin to turn into one of them and start spreading negative energy and infecting others will the spill off of their toxicity.
Lucky me, though, I had mom and her little life lessons and I am fortunate enough to recognize and marvel at how much she taught me in the brief 24 years I had with her.
I don’t think Fairweathers and EVs are terrible people and I try not to let strong negative feelings like hatred cloud my view of them. That sort of thing is counterproductive to happiness and balance. A person can spend so much energy on negative emotions that get her nowhere and solve nothing. It’s super frustrating to get sucked into that kind of mentality and the Fairweathers and EVs of the world are really good at perpetuating that kind of mentality.
I truly believe that most of these types of people just don’t recognize these behaviours in themselves. Perhaps they have never had anything happen in their lives to make them become more self-aware or perhaps they have and it has jaded them rather than caused them to grow and evolve in a more positive light.
I honestly don’t know and I also don’t care. The only thing I can do is make my best effort to control my own actions and reactions. When I recognize these traits in people, the easiest thing for me to do is to cut them out of my life or have as little interaction with them as possible and move on.
Today, I am once again grateful for mom’s life lessons and today I’m going to start listening to my gut more again.
I’m also going to enjoy some summer sunshine and let my worries and stresses just melt away in a pool of warmth.
Have a great day, my friends. I wish you all enough…
Here’s a sneak peek of Tara & Ryan’s fabulous wedding!