0127D: About Risking Friends

Mwahugs is a stupid word.

It needlessly tries to be cuter than it really is. It's a weird mash-up of mwah and hugs, as if the new word is so much better. And even just looking at mwah, which is nothing more than a meager onomatopoeic attempt to capture the sound of a kiss or a smack on the cheek for equally saccharine sentiment. It's corny, cheesy, baduy and campy all at once.

At least, that's what I used to think.

But any term, no matter how strange or outside what you assume to be your normal comfort zone in terms of vocabulary, can become amazingly important given the right context. And the it all boils down to the right kind of people to manage that - people remain to be the one driving force in this life that really make an impact on your life such that the shared experiences and interactions can practically change who you are completely.

Take for example the term mwahugs - it only became truly important to me after Jayson entered my life. Given this is a relatively new blog, I know that I have not made any mention of him at this point whereas the archive of my old blog has quite a number of entries about him. And longer term readers of this and my previous blog should probably understand the degree of importance I put into writing about anyone in this blog. And he was definitely that kind of a person. In some ways I suppose he still is.

Its been more than two years since Jayson passed away and for some odd reason mwahugs remains a trigger of sorts for me. It's become a powerful term of endearment - a way to express a certain degree of affection between friends that is special and somewhat more than typical. And because the term is so important and special, I also realize that I hardly use it with the people that I consider to be friends today. Part of it is naturally the fear of being misunderstood, or perhaps even avoiding them making fun of the word and thus somehow maligning it or attempting to make it less than what Jayson made it become for me.

And thus mwahugs will always be a term that he'll own. He shared it with me, as he did with other good friends. He gave it meaning. And with him gone, I know I hoard it in an attempt to keep a part of him for myself somehow, if that even make sense.

Holding on to that term for so long, in hindsight, is clearly a sign of some greater trauma, one that I've alluded to before in terms of my blogging. It comes from the very same part of me that makes it harder for me to make new friends, or perhaps more accurately risk new friends, because that's what it feels like. Jayson was one of my closest if not the closest friends I've ever had (and I can't even explain why I feel that way), but he's was also the first one to leave me behind. It's the proverbial case of him being taken from this life too soon. And clearly that really hurt me and made me question how feasible it is to still make new friends or even attempt to get barely a fourth as close to the kind of friendship we shared.

In the past I had written about recognizing this problem of sorts and my determination to somewhat work on it. And looking back to the past year, I recognize I made very little progress on this front. Last year was the year I shut down a number of old social networks like Multiply and Downelink. I also culled more than 300 contacts from my Facebook account and limited myself to a rather select group of people. And even with that culling, I know that I'm prepared to thin the herd even further.

I posted a status message about having pretty high standards for friends as a sort of defense mechanism earlier today. And that's what it really is - an excuse to cut my losses and avoid exposing myself to more risk. I think I expect a certain degree of effort from the other party to make me feel that the friendship still has some value. And it can be as simple as them taking the time to periodically interact with my social media updates, commenting on my blog or starting up the odd chat conversation. And when I don't hear from the person for a set period of time, I start limiting my connection to him or her until I eventually decide to defriend them, and treat them as non-existent. Harsh, I know, but again we're talking about trauma here. Or at least I can now recognize this to be trauma. That's a step in the right direction, isn't it - recognizing the potential problem for what it really is?

I can't quite explain why (again), but this song from the play Into the Woods came to mind. Children Will Listen is one of the more popular songs from the musical (and in fact it's the finale) and while most of it seems to be advice from one parent to another about how to raise a child, there's this little bit snuck into the middle of the song:
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometime she spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen
And that totally changes the way the song flows. In typical Sondheim brilliance, he turns the song on its head and now you're no longer sure if he's still talking about children or just every day people like you and me.

It's strange what effects we have on other people. We don't always think about it, but we all make an impact on everyone else's lives. And with the advent of social media, our ability to affect more and more people expands exponentially. And you can't really predict how it's going to go, really.

Recent weeks have been a reminder to me that maybe it's not so bad to gamble on making new friends again. Heck, I devoted time yesterday to blogging about Pamilya Egg, our little extended family. Tobie and I have made strong connections with a few newer people and some have just come out of the blue and surprised with their appreciation for our perceived interest and concern. It's an interesting risk and it will always be a risk, but the rewards are also potentially significant. And while you don't hit pay dirt every single time you put yourself on the line with people you hope to become friends with, you won't find the good ones if you don't venture. And it also means that trying to keep existing friendships alive won't be easy either. It means that a lot of your attempts to stay in touch or reach out will be ignored due to a million other things that seem more important to them at this precise moment in time.

I'm not ready to use mwahugs with just about anyone that I meet, mind you. Realizing all this and reminding myself that my introversion is both an explanation and an excuse for unfriendly behavior at times is an insufficient conclusion. It's taking any flimsy excuse to push people away and keep them at arm's length, thus ensuring your safety. And that's no way to live, really. Friends, or at least the real ones that exist for you out there, will take both the good and the bad. They will support you when you need it and they will tell you that you're being an idiot when you're emotionally compromised. And we all need that kind of support in our lives.

And so it's funny with the odd friend here and there suddenly hits me with a mwahugs over text or IM. It still surprises me and gives me pause for one reason or another. I can't help but think of Jayson and that brings up a whole mess of emotions, both good and bad. And then the spell passes and I'm back to figuring out what to reply. More often than not I resort to some other way of showing appreciation for the sentiment. The rare time I reply back with a mwahugs of my own. But that's pretty rare as well.

I still have a lot of stuff to work through before I can really make more friends, I know that. I need to move beyond the safety of the walls of the Sietch or the comforting and reassuring anchor point that is the role that Tobie plays in my life. But it doesn't mean I'm not trying - to the world at large, I beg your patience.

You can't immediately expect the likes of a mwahug from me, metaphorically speaking,  I really can't promise that. I can only go so far so fast after all. But know that I will continue to make an effort to reach out and operate under the mindset that people deserve more than a single chance and that eventually there will be those who will merit mwahugs one day.

I mean come on, if I didn't believe that, then what's the point, right?

Friendships, like all human relationships, are risks in themselves. But all of life is one big risk in turn, and living in fear of hurt and pain is no way to live at all.
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