Since I’ve joined the wider global community through online networking and blogging, and since speaking at the Alzheimer’s Australia National Fight Dementia campaign rally and appearing on the ABC TV 7.30 Report, I am gathering many new friends, people who have seen my story and want to follow or be with me in some way on the dementia train. I am humbled by the warmth and support offered to me by complete strangers, in fact often support that is far more tangible than I have received from those I know. I guess I had thought only real friends would be the ones to offer support or to follow my blog, so initially was surprised that the opposite is more accurate. We are a weird lot, and we have expectations of and feelings for others that perhaps we should analyse further before we enter into deeper relationships or friendships. Friendships and relationships have been hot topics for me over the last couple of weeks. It was discussed at length in a professional group I have been involved in, my husband and I are currently pondering the value of a current friendship we had thought was much closer than perhaps it really is, and an older friend is wondering about the value of her continuing to meet with a group of people. Another Cancerian friend and I yesterday discussed how being willing to use direct plain speak can often get us in trouble. Friendship was discussed at our family dinner last night. It is always challenging to understand and then work ones way through the maze of emotions and expectations you have placed both on yourself and on the other person or people in a group.
In all of these conversations, I have brought up the WIIFM principle (What’s In It For Me) and we have considered it at length. This principle is not about being selfish, but about all people feeling there is something worthwhile in continuing in a relationship, whether it is personal, business, or a casual acquaintance. There are times when we need to let go of friends or acquaintances who just don’t seem to fit into our world any more, or that we are simply not enjoying the time together any more. This situation could be forced upon us by illness or other life changing events. Dementia is one disease that definitely gets in the way of friendships, as so many people simply aren’t willing to get involved. The one thing agreed on in each discussion was if we choose to leave or actively stop participating in a friendship, it is best to try to do so without hurting the feelings of the other person or people if at all possible. Sometimes it just happens, and there is nothing you can do about it. Obviously there are groups you have to be involved in, for example through work or sport or volunteering, and the best way to positively manage relationships between the people you don’t especially get on with or like in these situations is to try to find a common interest, and stick to that. I suspect that lifelong friendships are indeed very rare; that is, those friends who you never fall out with, or if you have a disagreement, it is easy to get back to love and sharing without any resentment or anger. These people will always be willing to enter your world, good or bad, and will open their hearts to you. I think a truly close friendship, rather than just a social or professional acquaintance, is one where the WIIFM principle works for both parties, one where you have similar values and are willing to give to each other without expectations or limits. It seems to give and take might be the key, along with unconditional love. As a country kid I watched whole communities offering support to each other, and perhaps because of this I have probably worn my heart on my sleeve too much, opening it up to too many people. The WIIFM principle works well in business, but I wonder does it need to be applied to the people in your world who you want to be your close friends?
About now you might be wondering what the WIIFM Principle has to do with Australia Day or friendship, and why we celebrate this day at all. I feel happy to be living in a country that is as prosperous as Australia, yet despondent for the lives of many Indigenous Australians as things such as their life expectancy and levels of education are still so much lower than ours. I do wonder why it is we celebrate the birth of a white nation, achieved through the onslaught of Indigenous people and their culture. We are in it togetheras they say, as Australia is now a multi cultural country brimming with people from other countries. Today we have a population of more than 21 million people. More than 43 per cent of Australians either were born overseas themselves or have one parent who was born overseas, and Australia’s Indigenous population is estimated at 483 000, or only 2.3 per cent of the total (DFAT). Well, in all honesty, I am not sure about the relationship between the WIIFM principle and Australia Day, other than to suggest it might be a question the policy makers ask about how Australia moves forward with multiculturalism. Should the WIIFM principle be applied to immigration? Do we need a National Dish? Have we really asked ourselves what we feel about Australia Day at all? Enjoy this day, whatever you think of it! Rejoice and celebrate your friendships, and as long as the WIIFM principle is applied occasionally to everything I’m sure we’ll all get along!