After spending so much time alone during the pandemic, I feel like I have a better sense of which of the people in my life are good for me and which ones aren’t. I’m tempted to focus my energy on the friendships that feel mutually beneficial and let the others fade. Is that selfish? Or is this what self-respect feels like?
Fake Name of Your Choice
Dear Fake Name (I like Mabel),
There aren’t many upsides to being forced to be alone or to getting older. But, what these two downers have in common is time: lots of time under your belt to figure shit out. The two most important things a person can figure out about themselves are their principles and their priorities. Both of these deal with a person’s values; what do you value? What’s meaningful to you in terms of what you stand for, what kind of person do you want to be, how do you want to spend your time—and with whom do you want to spend it? Focusing your precious time and energy on people you care about and who you feel care about you? Hellz yeah. That’s self-respect, not self-ish.
But I totally understand. It took me a long time to realize that what used to feel like self-involvement was actually self-respect. I had some toxic friendships with people with whom I spent a lot of time and had a lot of fun, but I always had this nagging sense that they were rolling their eyes or mocking me when my back was turned. I also noticed that when I got sick or sad these BFFS were AWOL. But time gave me insight and other people that allowed me to see what I could expect and deserve in close friendships.
Another thing we learn from both aging and the pandemic is that life is short. Don’t waste time on people—or anything, really—not worth your precious time. Prioritize your activities, live in accordance with your principles, and jettison those things and folks who don’t make you feel effective, respected or cared for.
Mabel, treat people how to treat you, and “Bye, Felicia!” those make you feel shitty. (If they’re people “un-jettisonable”, like maybe family or co-workers, do your best to limit your time with them. At the very least, remind yourself how low they are on your priorities and how little you value their opinion and treatment.) Choose to focus on what matters to you and shed what doesn’t, the way a caterpillar sheds a cocoon. Now go out and get yourself some altitude Mabel, and use your wings and newfound lightness!
Email your questions to Dixie at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may feature your question and Dixie’s advice on jumbleandflow.com. You can choose to remain anonymous or provide your name — totally up to you.
Dixie Laite has been a second-grade teacher and mechanical bull operator, and for the past 25 years she’s worked for a variety of TV networks as a writer, editorial director, trainer, advice columnist, even an on-air personality. But primarily she’s trotted around New York City in one cowboy shirt or another, lurking around flea markets, gyms, and anywhere they’ll hand her French toast. Currently she lounges around her apartment with one husband, one dog, five parrots, and roughly 2,000 pairs of shoes. Dixie is the main lady behind Age Against the Machine, a column about empowering women over 50. Sign up for the Jumble & Flowdown newsletter to stay in the know about Dixie’s latest columns.
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