Sun Mar 26 01:30:40 SAST 2017

I'm not sure if I need all these friends in my life

By Thabiso Mahlape | 2017-02-12 12:26:06.0

I have spent most of my life making friends.

I remember at one point apologising to my friend Makgano, formerly known as Suzi, because as the person who has been my friend the longest she has had to deal with all my new friendships, year in year out.

I have loved fewer things in life than loving and investing in friendships. But it's a love affair I am ready to end. Here's why.

I have been seeing a psychologist since last month and it is particularly our session from last week that has led to this column.

When I started seeing her, I was feeling some type of way over a specific issue in my life.

What this past month with her has shown me is that I have a lot of unresolved issues in my life, one of the biggest of these issues is relationships: how I use people and relationships as tools to fix me.

I have always believed in celebrating birthdays, thanks to my old man who made sure that no single birthday passed without fanfare in the form of a beautiful cake, from a shop that used to be next to the main Shoprite in Polokwane.

I have tried remembering the shop's name and drew blanks, even called Papa but he doesn't remember either. But people from Polokwane will know exactly what shop I am referring to.

To this day I still celebrate my birthday religiously even though I am no longer Papa's girl and the cakes have stopped coming.

Papa I know you are reading this and just want to say I miss the cakes.

Year after year as we sit for dinner or lunch with my friends I listen to most of them share their thoughts, feelings and memories of me.

I have gathered from these that I am a loving person, that I am person you can count on for a hug, for laughter, for a drink and generally the kind of friend one is blessed to have.

For many years these definitions have fed a very central part of me, my ego. You see this did not happen by mistake, I set out to be that person, a person that others could depend on.

What I hadn't realised is that I had gone out of my way to be this person because this is what I needed other people to be for me.

If you have been following my column you will know that my mother died when I was 12 but it wasn't just her body that left; the hugs left with her, she took her laughter with her, she took the force of protection with her.

It has taken me this long, 21 years later to accept that not only is mama not coming back but neither are her hugs, her laughter and everything else that she embodied. I cannot recreate them or her.

As hurt as I still am, I am not 12 anymore. I don't need the same coping mechanisms I needed then.

Life hasn't always had a feeling of fullness, because I spent so much of my time giving to people what I needed.

In a perfect world I would have had these parts returned to me with the same gusto that I gave them out with.

Many of the people that describe me as I have outlined above, I could not say the same about them.

I opened myself up to parasitic relationships that sucked love and laughter out of me, leaving nothing for myself, the one person that needed me the most.

Many of us feel broken, so we are attracted to broken people because we hope that we can fix them and, in so doing, they may turn around and fix us. We are left even more broken.

Looking within can be a hard and daunting task to undertake, but the things that demand that we do carry on eating away at us until the day we have the courage to look inward.

All the alcohol, sex or whatever distraction one chooses doesn't take them away, all that it does is allow us the false feeling of thinking everything is okay when it isn't.

I have started to let go of some friends because I am tired of carrying them. A few years ago, when I had just met Lebo Mashile, she spoke to me on many occasions about the magic of being in your thirties.

That feeling of being enough and not needing to have - let me just say- squads of friends? In the past week I have thought back to those conversations with Lebo. And I have opened my heart and mind to letting go of squads, to remember that it's in the quality and not quantity that matters.

Mahlape is a publisher at Jacana Media

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