There are two primary ways to make friends in this world. The first is to try to quickly discern what this bright, new shiny person wants out of a friend, and hand it to them.
The second is to be yourself with some respect and service thrown into the mix, and let them make up their own mind.
I've done the first method way more in the past, and as a result, became very good at reading people's body language, facial gestures and tone of voice for clues on how well I was doing. Of course, that meant I had to change up what I thought or wanted to do or how I felt about anything, according to the so-called friend in front of me and their mood of the day.
These were only so-called friends, because they had made friends with just the false front I had presented to them. They had no idea who I really was, or if they would have liked me. I didn't know either, and frankly, it got to a place where I really wasn't sure who I was, or what I liked because I never gave myself much of a chance to find out.
I had a sense of loneliness and isolation that I carried with me everywhere. I didn't see it at the time, but it was a form of lying that had me questioning my choices and wondering about my self-worth.
Another unexpected result was, I became reluctant to ever ask for reasonable help from someone, because I didn't want to appear weak or vulnerable.
However, without constant updated information from others on how they feel or what they're really thinking, it's impossible to get to know someone on a deeper level or let them get to know you. Everything is superficial and probably leans toward the cynical. No fresh air is getting into the story lines in our heads.
It's no wonder I can write a really good thriller. I've been writing everyone's part and weaving a plot in my head for years.
My methods, which are common, also left me without a discernible way to ask for enough help with my career, or parenting, or even new fashion tips, because I couldn't utter the words, "I don't know." My stale reasoning was, the so-called friends might choose to leave and look for smarter, more well-informed pastures.
Actually, if this is the way you've been gathering friends, too, the circle around you just might leave because chances are they are operating under the same faulty system.
But, as I learned to take my time and say what I was really thinking or speak up for what I really wanted to do, others came in to replace those who had made an exit. A vacuum is always filled, but we have to have the courage to hold it open for the right fits.
It's taken some time, but I've gotten to know myself better, learned a lot more about mineral makeup and some new hairstyling gadget called an InStyler, as well as started working as a team with my literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, rather than insisting I knew best.
Last weekend, I even found myself on the dance floor whooping it up with a circle of friends who were all dancing in a clump with great big smiles on their faces and no real cares about how they looked or who was impressed by their styling moves.
These are all people that know me through and through as well as I know myself today. We've had celebrations, funerals, disagreements and amends as well as showing up to help move furniture or bring a casserole when one of us has been sick.
To get to that dance floor though, I had to learn to figuratively keep my hands open and tell the truth all the time, without insisting on how someone would take in the information. The more I have opened up, the more I've realized I'm not so unique, which is a good thing and that it's not necessary to always have something to offer.
Friendship stopped being some kind of grand barter and more like real life, which is a journey full of all kinds of events that are easier when there's a circle of friends along for the ride who see you with clear eyes. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." Free eBook at www.MarthaRandolphCarr.com. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.