Friends & family

I’ve been trying, in a somewhat haphazard way, to piece together old friendships, relationships with friends & family that I have let slide as my attention’s been focused mostly on putting one foot in front of the other.  I’ve been trying to do this with the consciousness of several things all at once, or as the White Queen once said, “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

It’s not that easy, and keeping all those things straight makes me feel very Down the Rabbit Hole-ish indeed.

In often contradictory order, those impossible things have been:

Thing One:

As someone bipolar and depressed and anxious and insecure as an adult child can peculiarly be (and all of those things do not always intersect, though sometimes they do, because they are separate pathologies/traumas whatever the emergent DSM-V might have to say), I can often be a self-absorbed and shitty friend who doesn’t hear when someone’s in distress and/or who drops off the face of the Earth during my own points of distress because I can’t handle social interaction, and so I miss important things in people’s lives, and if, as a result, people no longer trust me at all, or as far– they have that right, and my unreliability because of my crazy and perhaps maybe just because I am simply selfish, as well, can make me an undesirable friend.  So– if I reach back out to someone and get no response, or a chilly response, or an initial response and then a withdrawal– I can’t really blame them.

Everyone has a right to want people they can rely on.

Thing Two:

I have reached out to some of my oldest friends, ones who’ve disappointed me and I’ve probably disappointed in one way or another and gotten initial warm responses, only for them to fall off again.  People have babies, spouses, other things I do not, and those things are consuming, regardless of Thing One.  And the fact also is that people change, and our expectations of people aren’t met, whether they’re realistic or not.  I’ve found that with one old friend that I chafe under the old constraints of our once-friendship and old expectations about who I was going to be in that friendship– and I have the feeling that they didn’t approve of my leaving my husband despite the support I gave them during their breakups, a fact I find I’m really, really angry about.

Despite all of that, and because we’ve known each other so long, I reached out and got an initial more-than friendly response, and sent a birthday/congratulations on a momentous occasion gift not that long after that I hoped was well-recieved– but now it’s back to nothing again, not even a thanks for the gift, and I think at this point I’m just going to walk away, as sad as it makes me to say and think that.  They’re just– caught up in a life where there’s no room for me, and I’ve made attempts to visit and be part of that life(though not lately because: personal meltdown).  I don’t feel like it’s been reciprocal, though, (they’ve visited maybe once since their marriage) and I just don’t want to keep banging my head on that wall.  That’s ok, right?  To give up on a once-best friend because they just… aren’t anymore?  And to ignore them if they ever reach back because it hurts to try to be a person they want you to be and you aren’t anymore?  I know all of this.  I’ve told it to others.  It’s just hard to take my advice.

Thing three:

I find it very hard to tell people I’m friends with on less than a best friend level (especially ones that I’m conscious of having been a shitty friend to on occasion myself, despite the fact that it’s life, and even non-crazy people have ebbs and flows) that they’re bugging me because of X behavior and that I need them to either stop X or I can’t be friends with them anymore.  Partly, this comes from a long history of not speaking up for the things that I need and being afraid of confrontation, and partly, guilt for having been a shitty friend.  I have two different friends who this is a problem with, and both of them are engaged in shitty cycles of bad career choices/self-hate and want me to validate them– and I can’t.  I really can’t, because I no longer have patience for people who self-victimize (see: my Mommy issues) for years and do jack shit to change things, even if it means really painful retrenchment (see: I haven’t bought new underwear in two years, and don’t ask me about my sock drawer).  It hurts to see them flagellate, and I am angry and angrier the longer I spend time with them/talk to them and… I don’t want to be angry.  I have spent so much time being angry.  I feel guilty because they have been very supportive of me in the past, but at other times they haven’t gotten it, or have been poking at me when I have expressed a real desire not to be poked, and I just can’t be around them while they’re focused on feeling sorry and not doing bupkiss.

So– do I say that?  Do I withdraw and let them feel hurt?  Either way will result in hurt feelings, but my preference would be to be honest, even if it isn’t potentially “kind” to say that I think they’re being a moron.  (Not in those words, but still.)  I made a vow to myself when I left my husband that I was going to be honest and stand up for myself and not put up with people who couldn’t meet me halfway.  Keeping that promise is hard.

Thing four:

I’m really fucking lonely in my regular, in-real-life life.  I love my dad, but he doesn’t like to talk about feelings.  Getting over his alcoholism and keeping a job is what he can manage, and that’s about it.  He is my friend, in his way, but he also drives me batshit and I can’t talk to him about my crazy thoughts except in a clinical “I am feeling kind of manic/kind of suicidal, please poke me occasionally” way when I have that level of lucidity.  And I do that, and he does, but beyond that, it makes him twitch to talk too much about feelings.  My brother and I are not close; he and I can talk about Traumatic Family Shit when my mom’s acting up or my dad’s in poor health, but he’s not a talker to start with and I find it hard to tell if he likes me at all beyond family “of course” obligation.  Of course, I’m scared to ask.  I am sure he is worried he’ll melt down like me.

I have some married friends from law school who all have kids and spouses and jobs and it’s erratic how often we get together– and I have a feeling my most recent drop-off-the-planet stint pissed one of my female friends in this group off to the point of no return, which makes me sad, because she is sarcastic and smart and refreshing like a beach breeze, even though we don’t see each other all the time. I need to send her a card and tell her I miss her and I wonder if I did something to make her mad, even though I worry that it’s clingy, because I won’t know unless I ask, and if it’s clingy, well, I guess I can’t make things worse.

As to the others, well– there’s a married couple and I need to balance them because I enjoy their company in different ways as well as their dynamic together, and they’ve been kind and moreso to keep me after I broke up with the husband.  They have wonderful kids, are busy with that and professional life and their pack of married/kids/friends, and I can’t help but feel a little bittersweet every time I spend time with either or both because we used to do couple things with them and now it’s just me.  And I have another local law school friend who’s going through a rough patch who I’m trying to be available for, but he’s in a needier place than I am and I need to conserve my energy (aka, I need to watch all my spoons), too– so while I am grateful that I have more kindness and patience for him than I used to (I was a horrible bitch, at times, in law school, I like to think it’s not just the meds that have changed me)– I can’t spend too much time with him or I get exhausted, because while he’s a good resource for getting my Geek on, it’s more of a me giving than a reciprocity thing.

There are other friends with other commitments, and it’s hard to keep track of them all, because: everybody has lives/lives at a bit of a distance/I haven’t sucked it up to apologize yet/it’s been a really, really long time/we only talk on Facebook.  They are none of them best friends.  But they are all of them friends.  And I need to work harder, even if it does wear me out.

Thing four:

I am feeling shy about making friends at the new store, both because of my role there– professional secret keeper of personnel files, etc., disciplinarian helper, etc., etc., and therefore The Last One to Know– because I’m older than a lot of the others, if only by a few years, because I’m experience-older than others by a few years– and because I’ve been burnt by people at work who I thought were my friends before, only to have them either backstab me or drop off the face of the Earth once I left an old job, in spite of all their  “keep in touch!” and “<3 u!” protests.  Some of them hurt less than others when the attempts to get together (some initiated by them, some by me) slide off into nothing.  Still, it hurts.  (I feel like that should be my real memoir’s title.)

I should know better.  I do know better.  And yet, still, I’m hopeful.  It’s either a sign of psychosis, uncurable sentimentality, or something else that has yet to respond to medication.  And yet, I know that same soft-heartedness and “I just want everyone to be OK and happy (and also for people to like me)” thing is what makes me a good middle manager and good at my particular job, because my job is to figure out people’s emotional tone & be helpful in a caring, kind, neutral way.  Which I can’t always be if I’m all entangled in messy friendships with people.  I should probably talk with one of the other people in my particular job group outside my store about my TOO MANY FEELINGS about the job and how to/whether to make any friends aside from the three people at work more or less on the same level at work with whom I’m passing from friendly to work-friends– at the very least (and gee, duh, that may result in making some friends there, too).

At my last bookstore, I didn’t push for activities outside of work except for one or two people– and even those fizzled, either because of significant others or I-don’t-know-what-dysfunctions.  It’s rough, mixing business with pleasure.  In short, as much as I really, really like all these folks I work with and have a lot more in common with them in terms of cooking! reading! progressive social issues! political thinking! geekery! the fact is, I’m still kind of an old lady and in an uneven power dynamic with a lot of them, so whether or not they like me as a person and think I am competent or moreso at my job, it’s probably not a good idea to try to do more than be friendly and helpful.  Which makes me sad, because see: fucking lonely.

Thing five:

My brother and his lovely wife are having a baby any minute now, and while I am really looking forward to being an aunt, and as much as it seems like my sister in law seems to be looking forward to my being a competent babysitter, it’s AHOY, MIXED EMOTIONS.  At one point, I wanted kids before I got married, and was pretty baby-crazy.  And then the husband didn’t.  And I was crazy, and angry at my mother and everyone else, and didn’t want to pass on my crazy to anyone else.

Then my husband’s brother and his wife had their son, and he is amazing.  I love him.  I miss him very much, his parents too, and my husband’s older sister’s husband (funny, that, which in-laws you want to keep, despite everything) and the family dinners we used to have.  I was uploading pictures to a fancy photo-editing program my brother got me and got chest-punched with feelings from old photos of some of those dinners with the nephew and my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace and roll her eyes at my drama forever.  (And also, do I email those photos to my brother in law, and try to have no expectations of any response, even a thanks?  I should send them, just because they’re good pictures, good memories, and any good picture of my mother in law is worth having.  But the brother-in-law kind of sat on the sidelines while my marriage dissolved and I can’t help but resent that, and my resentment clouds how I think about him, even as in general, I want nothing but the best for them all.)

Still, when my nephew was born, I started to think… hey, these baby things are pretty fucking cool, but at that point, there was a shadow of awareness at the back of my head that it wasn’t working out with my husband.

And now I’m single, if not yet divorced.

(Also, background, when my mother was moving to California, years ago, one of her prefatory declarations of why was because I wasn’t giving her grandchildren anytime soon. Thanks.  Thank you, mother, for reaffirming my conviction that your narcissism runs so deep that my use to you is limited only to your expectation that I fulfill those roles you had of yourself and failed at.  She is thrilled, however, that my brother is providing a grandchild and plans to come visit that grandchild on as much of my brother’s dime as he will spend as soon as they will let her come, and incidentally, she may spend some time with me.  No, I haven’t had this discussion with her.  It’s like kicking a retarded puppy.  They’ll still piss on the rug, and they’ll whine even more loudly than they did before you kicked them.)

I am really looking forward to being an aunt.  Again.  And this time, to getting to stick around.  (I don’t know what would have happened if I’d tried to maintain a relationship with the nephew-in-laws, but it would have been awkward for the husband, so I chose not to try.)  I do want to be helpful to my brother and sister-in-law, and not just because I’m fucking pathetic and need to be loved whatever way I can get it, even if it’s just competent cook and babysitter.  I want to be that sarcastic aunt who gives my niece all the cool books and takes her on hikes and teaches her to take pictures and shows her how to make a mean steak and a salsa verde and shows her how to install telephone jacks or whatever passes for handyperson skills when it comes time for that kind of thing.

But now I am thinking about– is there any possibility of me, mother-me?  It’s a hilarious thought, considering that I just had (just, literally, as in last night just) my first sexy dream about anyone in two years.  My sexual self has been on the back burner for a long time, and I still have Incredible Moments of Awkward where I don’t know someone’s flirting with me or I get embarrassed because they are and I have no idea how to respond because it’s been … IDEFK because it makes me cry too much to think too hard about it, six plus years since I’ve had someone else want to have the sex with me.  I am no longer used to feeling like I am sexy.  Attractive.  At all.

There is no timeline in my brain for dating again, though I know it’s something in the aspirational undefined future.  I don’t know about pregnant/foster/adopt.  But I look at babies and toddlers and think for the first time more than just cute/adorable/give them back.  I think… mine.  Maybe.  Even if the idea of who/what I might do that with is as nebulous as things they aim the Hubble Telescope at.  (And about as far away.)

Thing six:

I have made a lot of really good friends on the internet, some of whom I’ve then gone on to meet in real life.  Some of them were through this blog in its various url-incarnations, some of them were through writing/fandom sites.  Some I’ve let go because they were toxic, some I let go because I began to associate that community and what I was writing (once I’d looked it over) with the falling-apart of my marriage and I needed the distance to sort out why the hell I hadn’t seen it sooner because I had this erroneous idea that I was beginning to get a handle on shit.

Hah.

Now I need to try repair those friendships I’ve neglected, and suck it up if people don’t reciprocate anymore because I’ve let things go too long, not given enough of a heads up, not apologized enough.  I need to understand not everyone has to understand, because everyone has their own shit and they can decide that even though I have mine, they don’t have time for it, and that if they let me back in at all, I have to accept it on their terms.  I have to apologize in not too abject terms, try to be straightforward and honest and say all the whys while not getting all TMI with the gory details– and if they respond, then I am lucky and blessed and they are generous and kind and I have to work hard not to waste it again, knowing that there’s a good chance I will anyway.

Thing seven:

I have given all this advice to other people.  I need to reread it.  I need to reread my own blog and stop committing Santayana on myself.

Thing eight:

I’m having a bit of a comedown from the initial high of the new job as we settle into the real everyday problems and I’m being a bit of a drama-llama and insecure and feeling depressed as I come off the high, which could be situational or neutransmitted or both.  But I want glitter and flowers and fucking unicorns, okay?  I just do.  It’s unrealistic and I still want it.

Thing nine:

I want a cat.  But– we have a feral one who will attack any other one we bring in the house– I don’t want to bring her to a shelter to kill her just because my father couldn’t be fucked to tame her and only fed her and changed her litter for the four years before I moved in.  But I want a cat who will sit on my chest and love me me me me, because people-friends and lovers and all the see: above shit to the side, animal comfort is no small comfort in deed.

It’s enough to make a girl want to hide under a mushroom and wait for someone to tell her what to do, no matter what nonsense they might happen to spout.

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3 thoughts on “Friends & family

  1. Dawn

    Being “The Fun Aunt”(tm) was always my preference, although I have no idea if I have achieved that status. (not something you can ask, is it?) Never really wanted to be a mom–mostly because I don’t think I’m up to the job of being a good one–and life conspired to render the matter moot. Can you imagine my surprise a few years back when the biological clock I thought was removed went off? I was cooing over babies like no one’s business!

    As for friendship, mi amiga, the King & I are still yours if you want us. Feel free to drop us a line any time; you will find me at the same old stand as before. I wish we lived closer, but if we’re ever out your way or you are ours, it might be nice to expand that friendship.

    Reply
  2. Robert

    My better half has said the most important thing – we are yours if you still want us, and honestly, even if you don’t – neither of us is really good at taking a hint.

    Anyway, I’m going to keep it relatively short here – mostly because I’m still digesting what I’ve read and I know I’ll have to read and re-read it again as I write what I want to write you, but also because what I am feeling, what I need to express to you, is no less complex or heartfelt than what you’ve written and honestly the comment section of your blog is simply not the place. So expect an email from me – most likely sometime late on Monday or possibly Tuesday – and know that you are in our thoughts, our hearts, and our prayers.

    Love always,

    Robert

    Reply
  3. Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I am glad to see you back in the blogosphere.

    Life is really funny sometimes–a very good friend of mine–who I did not speak to for 3 years because she goes underground when life gets rough (I left voicemails every three months or so), was at my daughter’s wedding yesterday. She drove 900 miles to be there. She has met a lovely man and is incredibly happy for the first time in 15 years. I guess, never give up hope is the point of this anecdote.

    Reply

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