Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Am So Much More Than A Donation To A Cause

As I posted before, part of my recovery from the Bankruptcy was and still is, my relationship with various people in my life. These past few months I did a costly experiment in human relations, costly in cash, but eye opening for me. I should also preface this by saying I know that friendships can be situation or geographic region specific and that they can run their course. Not everyone can be your Best Friend Forever (BFF) or even a Very Very Good Friend (VVGF) and some people gravitate to good aquaintences.
I am the person who belonged to a number of organizations, some social, some hobby, some charitable. To a certain extent part of my self esteem and self worth was tied up in my positions in these various organizations-Board Member, Club Officer, willing event Chairperson, etc. For a while, way too much of my self esteem was tied up in the positions I held in these organizations and not the person I was/am. I was the person you could call on to help rally the troops, give up an evening to make phone calls, etc. I enjoyed being the Go To volunteer. It made me feel good because I was good at my volunteer jobs and I had my fair share of things to do and people to see.

When funds got tight, I slowly stopped attending events, the charity lunches, the silent auctions, the drinks parties, I scaled back on my fiscal donations as well. I had a lot on my plate, I had other personal events going on in my life, I just could not “be there” for all these organizations, I was barely there for myself. I backed out of events, did not volunteer as often while I was in fiscal hell.

I noticed that after awhile, my e-mail inbox got a lot less crowded, my answering machine did not have as many messages, the invitations to events, both related to the organizations and with my “friends” also dried up. Pretty much, if I was not willing and able to donate money, place bids at the silent auction or give up my spare time to organize the spring fund raiser, many of the people I volunteered with and many I considered friends where just not there for me. And to be quite honest, I was not “there” as well. I’m sure some people considered my decreased involvement to mean that I was no longer interested in either the cause, organization and the people.

What really bothered me was that there were some people I really considered real friends, not just a friend from the Junior League or the Rotary Club, or the Garden Club,but a true friend, a VVGF and one a BFF. When they stopped contacting me, I took a lot of it personally for a long time. When things started to get a bit better last summer and fall, I slowly upped my participation in these organizations. Low and behold, slowly the invitations, phone calls, and e-mails started to increase as well.

As an experiment, I “upped” my participation in these events, went to the holiday silent auction, bought two seats at the February charity dinner, made a few phone calls to organize drinks out and shopping, volunteered my very limited time to organize an event, you know, all those things that cost money. I did this for about three months and even now, I still shake my head in amazement that I could be that dense about people. After my vacation, I started to scale back, saying I could not make a few events and would not be able to buy a ticket to support the cause if I could not attend and guess what, some of these supposed friends reverted to their old MO, decreased phone calls, e-mails, etc. I guess I was only enough of a friend if I was in the “organizational loop” and contributing to the cause.

One such person that has really disappointed me was someone I’ve known for about 20 years, I consider her a very close and good friend, a BFF if I needed to label her. We both belong to the same professional organization, we have been guests in each others home so often that I have a room at her house that is “my room”. We’ve traveled together, hung out together, gossiped together, shopped together, my ex and her husband got along really well, etc. I can not tell you the number of times I’d leave a phone message or send a e-mail just to say hi, what’s up, hope all is well, and get no freaking response in the past 18 months. None for days or weeks, not even, I’m sooo busy talk to you later. I pretty much would get a phone call or e-mail when information was wanted. Then I’d hear she had been in communication with another mutual friend. Like two or three times a week, via phone and e-mail. Needless to say, my feelings were hurt, the snub was pretty obvious. Since I was no longer an active participant in a mutual organization we belonged to, I guess I was deemed not worthy of communication. I did say to someone recently, this past year really opened my eyes about the various people I thought were my friends and my relationships with them and how those relationships would be moving forward.

Call me thick, call me slow, call me many things, but don’t call me your friend when the only reason I am your friend is when I can organize the spring charity fund raiser and gossip a bit about someone. BUT and there is always a BUT. This experiment also showed me that I do have friends and acquaintances that don’t see me as a donation to a charity. I do know that sometimes friendships run their course and can be “situation specific”, but I can only say again, I was really disappointed with the actions of a few friends that I thought were real and true friends. It also made me stop and think how I’ve treated a few people as well and I’m big enough to admit, I have some apologizing to do to a few people as well and some fences to mend on my end.

There are some folks I know from these organizations who were genuinely pleased to see me, I ran into one person at my local coffee house when I stopped in for my weekly latte. This person said she missed seeing me at the clubs monthly meetings, hoped I was well, and bought me my morning latte. She even went as far to say that she was starting to come to the coffee house a couple mornings a week to just enjoy her coffee without the husband and kids and maybe we could both meet every once in a while to just watch the news and catch up. I said yes and we meet up about once every two weeks to talk about everything and nothing. Sometimes we just stare at GMA.

I am also grateful for some of my other friends who have been there for me without evening knowing it. My friend Dee who I will see this weekend. She has fed me fabulous food with great wines and has lent me her ear on numerous occasions. She knows I don’t cook as well as she does (she is truly a gourmet cook), nor do I have the budget to buy the pricey wines she does, but we enjoy catching up on life over her good food and drink. I do try to bring good appetizers; I can buy good cheese, crackers and pate. My friend Frank I've known since college, who will call me up and say there is a really tacky B grade movie on TV, come on over and the Mrs. (his wife who hates B-grade movies) has volunteered to make us nachos and chicken wings. Gotta love his Mrs, she makes the most awesome real Buffalo Style Chicken wings complete with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks and is delighted that there is someone over the age of 17 who will watch Flash Gordon with her husband and kids and she can happily watch Desperate Housewives. My friend Jill who will meet me and one of the dogs for a walk in the woods. Jill is probably happier walking in the Mall, but she knows I’m not a shopper, so we meet for dog walks when the weather is nice. My neighbor who will come over and say come on over for a beer or a glass of wine! My friends Peter and Dave who always invite me to their fabulous cocktail parties and always make me feel comfortable and welcome in their home, always.

These are just a few examples. I also know that communication is a two way street and I know with me “dropping out” I probably alienated a few people. As I said above, what really bothered me was the response from people I considered old and true friends that I thought I kept the lines of communication open with. And the response from the newer friends I thought I “clicked” with. Just goes to show what a great judge of character I was and can be. What I did realize is that yes, some of my so called friends just did consider me a donation to a cause and when I ceased to donate to the cause, I ceased to be a friend.

What has this got to do with Personal Finance and Bankruptcy? It’s about not letting your membership to the Tennis Club, Golf Club, Country Club or whatever club define who you are. It's about the fact you as a person are so much more than your credit card that you bring on the shopping expidition, or the number of items you bid on at the auction, or the number of raffle tickets you buy, or cookies you bake for the bake sale, or committees you sign up for. It's many things. One of the greatest lessons I've learned through this is I am so much more than a donation to a cause. It just took me a while to realize it.


Dawn said...

Interesting post... all of my friends I've met through my involvement in nonprofits. They've been there when I was involved and when I wasn't, although I admit, there were a lot more invitations from acquaintances when I was fresh in their minds! (This is as opposed to those I considered true friends, who have always been there for me.) Now I am at a point where I am considering dropping my involvement and it will be interesting to see what happens. In some ways a little quiet time for me would be good, but I can see how it would hurt your feelings. I also see in myself the same drive to want to be the perfect volunteer. I have to fight against saying "Yes" all the time, constantly.

444 said...

I don't want you to think people are not reading this. It's sort of long, so I've saved it to read later. It looks very interesting, like one of my standard rants. :oD

444 said...

This stuff starts early. I have kids in school and at the elementary level, the fund-raisers, raffles, spring fairs, etc. etc. start, with a circle of "in" ladies. Since it's hard for them to get anyone to participate, and I put forth some rudimentary effort now and then, they'd be all too happy to welcome me into their money-grubbing circle, but I've purposely stayed outside it. The last thing I need is a bunch of "friends" who are only interested in me as long as I keep the checkbook out, pen in hand.