Which shelf are you on?
For many years, I have envisioned my friends and connections as books that sit upon large bookshelf, standing proudly against my wall. Some books are big, with colorful pictures. Other books are smaller and less visually-assaulting, but are packed with sensible, meaningful information. Still others have been around a long time and are weathered, but oh-so valuable. I love to admire the collection I have curated, which is one of my greatest treasures.
Those volumes most important to me -- and there are only a handful -- sit on the tippy-top shelf. These are the books that offer me so much and I, in turn, take excellent care of them. I dust them off weekly. If a binding gets cracked, I glue it together. Yes, each acquaintance, friend or family member has its specific place on the shelf.
Sometimes, a person surprises me and really comes through in a time of need. I may realize that I have undervalued this individual and need to move him or her up to a higher shelf. When someone disappoints me, and it happens, I don't knock the person off the bookshelf entirely. But I do acknowledge that it may be time to recategorize my collection.
I tend to be a good friend to everyone, and easily get hurt. So I have found this way of thinking helps protect me and allows me to feel less black and white about relationships. Relationships do not need to be all or nothing, and they are often cyclical -- depending on what we each have going on in our life. I try to be conscious of that, and this way of thinking allows me to provide some breathing room to a friend who may need to take a step back, for one reason or another. But hopefully not forever.
The truth is, I do value my whole book collection. And I hope I have found a spot on your shelf, as well.