A dear friend who has frequently invited me to borrow her clothes reprimanded me for borrowing an item with sentimental value. She explained that when she was growing up family members borrowed, then abused or destroyed, her possessions. My taking the treasured garment opened these old wounds. She also questioned me about another garment (which I had not seen). I have tried to take my ego out of this disagreement, to respect her painful, unresolved issues and be aware of our conflicts in setting boundaries because for three years we have lived semi-communally. I give what most people would say is a more than normal amount of time and assistance to her and her family. I find joy in doing so, partly because I delight in sharing, like sisters, our lives and possessions although she always pulls back from allowing herself to be entirely loved. She has a normal sense of material attachment. I’m not sure if I’m a saint or if I have rotten boundaries. Can’t everything be shared as long as love is primary? Am I enmeshed and expecting another to give without limitation, as I do, to the point of my own exhaustion?
Clothing is second skin. We wear it intimately and use it to announce our persona. So it’s a clever symbol to use (bless your subconscious!) to bring your ego into focus. Let’s sharpen that view. You hunger to belong, so you’ve tried to become indispensable in your friend’s life. That’s not saintly. Only the shadow side of the martyr archetype gives until depletion. The holy martyr can give selflessly because they’ve reached the stage of enlightenment that Buddhism calls no-self. Instead, your giving has produced a sense of entitlement. You believe that your contribution justifies borrowing what you had to have known was a treasured item. I’m not suggesting that your friend’s response was ideal. I’m just revealing that your selection was really an attempt to force her to reorganize her treasures so you’re higher on the list. Can you pull back and allow yourself to be entirely loved by you, instead of working so hard to secure your friend’s love?
And, yes, everything can be shared as long as self-awareness, communication and a commitment to truth is primary. But you and your friend clearly have disparate definitions of “sister,” “love” and “sharing.” That’s something to talk about.
My girlfriend and I broke up, but that’s not the problem. We have the same circle of friends, hang out at the same bars and in general are bound to run into each other repeatedly. Ideas?
Yes, be gracious (rooted in Divine grace and compassion). Smile, say hello and then move on to other friends. As your comfort grows, engage her in casual conversation. If, at any time, you are yearning for her attention or want to warn someone about what she is “really like,” take a time out from this shared circle of compadres, see a counselor and get clear about whether those thoughts are about her or if they’re really about you.
You might also investigate your concerns. For example, are you afraid of seeing her with someone else? Acknowledge that possibility and you’ll grow stronger. Remember, if you didn’t grow in humility and love during a romantic relationship, the end of that relationship gives you an exquisite chance to expand your capacity to love and learn how you want to be loved.