What we learn about friendship from the Tarantula Hawk
Updated: Apr 4, 2021
Creating new bonds and friendships as an adult can be rather awkward and somewhat difficult. We judge people. Plain and simple. And when those people don't show up as what we had hoped, we figure that the investment was futile.
In an attempt to grow comfortable with discomfort, I forced myself to connect with new women. I wanted to push my introverted limits and commit to seeing a new connection through before completely self-sabotaging.
I cast a wide net and landed a few bites.
I ended up going to dinner and chatting away with an acquaintance. I vowed to take the time to get to know this person and dismiss everything I had heard. Most of what I heard was not good. Gossip at it's finest; notwithstanding, while gossip steal's another person reputation, it can also show concern for the person in question. I threw away all gossip and forged forward.
I picked a rather awkward time in my life to make new connections. Those who don't know me well can be taken aback by my transparency and openness. And those who don't know me too well don't fully understand that I can get chatty when I'm uncomfortable.
This new connection was a test of my patience. And my endurance. All things that I have been working on for a very long time. I also believe that we attract that in which we are. Maybe this was a grand time to see my own reflection. I was used to being the chatty one. Not this time.
I heard story after story after story. I'd chime in with a 'for real' every now and again to note that I was actively listening. And then, things got a little weird. Awkward. I couldn't tag us at dinner on Facebook because, "when people see that others are friends, they try to ruin it." I simply said, "ok." The conversation took a few uncomfortable turns although the lanes were familiar. The names and events being discussed made me uncomfortable. And what do I do when I'm uncomfortable? I talk about me!
I redirected back to my problems. I redirected back to the quick sand I was standing in. Talking about myself never gets me in trouble (that's a total lie).
And at the end of the night, I was exhausted. There were too many land mines I had to navigate and way too much tip toeing. I didn't want to sit and discuss her other friendships or other people, especially people we know in common. I ended the night with much regret.
I invited her to dinner. I paid for the dinner. Honestly, I felt sorry for her. She complained that no one really did anything for her birthday, though publicly she made it appear like it was the best day ever. I told her dinner on me in celebration of her special day. I made sure I had zero alcohol (it was a weeknight and I'm 90% on the wagon anyways) and that made the two hour dinner go by very slowly.
I really thought I was ready to turn a leaf. I wasn't. I faded to black after that dinner. Cold turkey. I fell off the face of the earth. My reasoning was three-fold: 1) I felt myself oversharing my personal business out of sheer discomfort, 2) the connection felt forced, and 3) her good intentions, as she referenced them, just didn't seem like enough.
We were two women in a difficult healing cycle venting about everything from marriage-to-kids. Two women trying to find connections that were safe. Or so I thought.
I ran into her recently. It was interesting that as soon as I arrived, she left the scene. I didn't even have time to say hello.
That certainly wasn't coincidental. I'm certain she spread and shared gossip amongst other things following that birthday celebration. I can't be sure. I can't be concerned. I have no reason to be.
Back in January, my spiritual advisor described someone that would only come into my life to create chaos, someone who was a volcano, someone who would go to great lengths to destroy others in order to preserve face. He described this person's physical features down to a science. I couldn't think of anyone. The one person I thought he was speaking of was not properly identified. Now, only in hindsight, do I know he was talking about birthday chick.
I hate trying to connect with women as adults only to find out they're still mentally stuck in high school.
It's a blessing when someone takes the time to get to know you. Those who have invested that time into me truly understand three guiding principles that are stitched into my DNA.
1) I just play dimwitted on tv--I pay attention, I just don't say much. Some think because I don't say anything, that I'm unaware. NOT. Others think that I'm so busy talking about myself that I couldn't possibly be dialed in. That's the real gag. I focus more on what's not being said.
2) I get zero joy out of seeing others do bad. If someone contacts me gossiping about the plight of someone else, the most you'll hear me say is, "Damn. Blessings. Hope he/she is doing okay." Even if we're not friends, I don't wish bad on people (with the exception of those who owe me money).
3) I used to be a fixer; I used to try to control what people thought; I used to try to manage how people saw me. But I was always flip-flopping between overexposing myself and protecting myself. I was always exhausted from managing and fixing. I was tired of running in circles, convincing people of things, explaining myself, re-explaining myself. I'm still learning how to exit conversations that make me feel uncomfortable. I'm also still learning how to end friendships that do the same. However, through my newest therapist, I’ve learned a lot about trusting myself enough to speak up, draw boundaries, and say no.
This new, empowered part of me wonders if I should confront her or others. The only caveat with this is that confronting Every. Single. Person who does something that bothers me feels less like self-empowerment and boundary-drawing, and more like being an overly sensitive, entitled little bitch.
I'm okay with not giving one fuck. I don’t mean trying not to care. I mean legitimately ceasing to care, without malice, without fear, without self-recrimination. It takes a long, long time. I got there by cultivating compassion for myself, and for others.
Because everyone is difficult, really. If you get to know someone very well, you will get to know what makes them difficult. There’s no avoiding it. But you also don’t have to tell a story about why someone is toxic just because they’re going through a time in their life that’s predominated by anger and envy and frustration and alienation. The more patience and compassion you can have for someone like that (while still asserting what you will and won’t put up with), the more compassion you’ll have for yourself when your inevitable hard times arrive.
Bottom-line: Sometimes meeting new friends is like a tarantula coming in contact with a tarantula hawk. The tarantula hawk is an extra-large wasp. The female tarantula hawk preys on tarantulas in order to feed her young. They will sting the spider, rendering it paralyzed and completely incapacitated, but still very much alive. Then she drags the tarantula, sometimes four times her size, into a burrow where she lays her eggs inside the abdomen of the spider. When the baby tarantula hawks hatch, they proceed to eat the flesh of the tarantula. And, although the tarantula hawk larvae feed on the flesh of tarantulas, adult tarantula hawks are exclusively nectar feeders. The tarantula and the tarantula hawk both look big and menacing, but both are docile creatures unless they come in contact with one another. I pray, for your sake, when establishing new friendships that you are not the tarantula. Sometimes, people looking for hosts disguise themselves as people looking for friends.