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July 18, 2011

I never used to decide who I wanted to be friends with. I was, as they say, “Friends with everyone,” and when I spent time with someone, it was because it just happened, or because I am lucky in my friends in that they tolerate me and my lack-of-reaching-out habits.

I do have the very most wonderful friends, and they all know that when I go off the radar it’s not personal, it’s just that: I go off the radar. Not my kids’ radar, unfortunately — see my earlier post, but most of the time, I’m impossible to pin down. It’s not something I like about myself. In fact, it’s something I dislike about myself, and I work hard on changing, and I am doing better, which begs the question, “How bad can it be?”

Over the past year something new has crept in.

I’m becoming intolerant.

Not intolerant of foibles and quirks, but there is a certain disconnect, a certain uncomfortableness I’m experiencing and it’s getting in the way of my laissez-faire approach to friendship.

It’s like this.

I just don’t think I can be friends anymore with people who smoke, people who whine, and people who judge.

In the case of the judgers, it’s a no brainer. I get the axe because I am judged and found sorely lacking.

The smoking is more complicated.  It’s not about second hand smoke or poor choices, because no one smokes around me, and poor choices just means better conversation, or at least more interesting conversation. It’s that when I am around people who smoke, I feel like the parable of the beggar starving to death beneath the table of the glutton. Only not, because there’s a connection in the story that I don’t have in my relationship with my friends. Your smelling like cigarettes does not affect me, except that it makes me not like to be around you. You have this huge gift that is called Life Without Cancer and you’re trashing it. It’s hard enough for me to follow up with my friendships with people whose company I enjoy.

In the case of people for whom whining and complaining to me about stuff that is part of everyday life is a fine use of my time, it’s even more straight up. “STFU,” I say. I might lose friends, but what I gain far outweighs the loss.

This post makes me sound bitchier than I am. I can count on two fingers (guess which ones) the “friend breakups” I have had in my life. The richness of my friendships is, in many ways, a testament to the qualities I bring to the table, highest among them a tolerance of just about anything. But that is changing. In some ways, it’s another thing cancer has robbed from me, but in others, it’s part of what “they” call the gift of cancer. I usually write off that idea, of cancer as a gift, as sentimental nonsense that people invent because they’re uncomfortable with the reality of it all, but this one is a significant change for me, and I think it might be for the better.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll become a better friend to the people with whom I choose to pursue friendships as a result.

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