January 09, 2015 ~ Comments Off

good friends

It is exceedingly frustrating when you’re dealing with a bad friend. Especially when said friend seemed so good for a while there, but something changed and you’re still not quite sure what. In this case, the friend is someone I used to write about in this space, someone I used to thank for his friendship and kindness and support. And while our relationship faded briefly when I moved across the state, it made a comeback last year. But now? Nothing. And with no explanation.

When I look back on my life thus far, there are four people I feel I have let down. One I’d rather not share, but here are the other three: 1) my best friend, Mandy, when I spent far too long ignoring her while we were roommates and I was busy driving back and forth to the middle of nowhere to see a boyfriend with whom I had a dead-end relationship; 2) my sister and niece, whom I’ve been terrible at keeping in touch with and didn’t spend enough time with when I was younger; and 3) my dad, whom I’ve fallen out of touch with and struggle mightily to connect with when we do manage to talk or see one another.

In the grand scheme of 30 years, that really isn’t so bad. (It occurs to me after listing them that these are three of the MOST important people in my life (as is the unnamed fourth) which I guess proves the theory that we hurt those we love the most.)

Outside these four examples, I have consistently bent over backward to live up to people’s expectations as a friend, daughter, girlfriend, etc. I’ve lent an ear and a shoulder, picked up on all the little things, bought meaningful gifts, sent encouraging messages without prompting, offered to do pretty much anything that was required to ensure that the people in my life are cared for and feel loved. And if I HAVEN’T managed to do those things, it was by mistake. It was immediately regretted. It was apologized for and smoothed over and made up for. I know how much it hurts to be ignored and taken for granted, so I’m not about to do that to other people knowingly.

And it’s this very commitment to caring that makes it hard to let dying (maybe even dead) relationships go. Even short-lived relationships are sometimes so rife with emotion and meaning that they become like that favorite well-worn sweatshirt that’s full of holes but you just can’t bear to throw it out. What if it could yet be mended? Could I make something else out of it? Is it really so far gone? But, even worse, this sweatshirt is a human being with feelings. So I’m paralyzed by the fear of hurting them somehow, even though I’m currently being hurt BY them. And I’m afraid to give up on them and us and what could be if we could just talk it out.

I’ve gotten a lot of very wise advice about this situation from other friends over the past few weeks. All of them are people who care about me more than this person seems to. Their advice is all slightly different, but the common theme is that I have to let the friendship go if it’s hurting me. Like the dying flower stealing nutrients from the whole plant, it’s time to prune it off and let the rest thrive. So I’ll try to do that. It might take a little time to get there, but I’m determined. 30 is the year I stop forcing people to be friends with me. I deserve better, and I’m finally beginning to understand that.

December 29, 2014 ~ Comments Off

disappear

One of my main methods of exercise lately has been jogging. It’s a struggle every time, but it’s also produced the greatest results, so I keep trying in spite of the pain and frustration.

One of my jogging routes is slightly longer, taking me back around a set of sports fields instead of just looping the tidy lake adjacent to our neighborhood. I usually skip the fields after dark, but twice during Christmas week I found myself out running just before sunset, so I took the scenic route.

The funny thing about the sports-field run is that it’s equal parts inspiring and depressing. Or maybe “depressing” isn’t the right word. Maybe it’s equal parts positively and negatively inspiring. Ringing the fields is a paved trail, and beyond that are woods. Granted, they aren’t thick woods (you can plainly see the houses on the other side) but they still make me think about disappearing into them. Could I run off and never be found? I thought to myself on each of those two runs last week. The problem I found within those thoughts was that I’d still be conscious. I’d be missing, not gone. I’d still know where I was, so I could never truly disappear. And that was what I wanted to do. Not just run away from my home and my work and my problems, but actually be gone and done.

In the midst of those dark thoughts, the positive inspiration came in the light and shadows of the “golden hour.” As dull and dead as a winter soccer field looks, there’s nothing quite like the warmth of the setting sun to light it on fire. I snapped several photos of this oft-missed everyday spectacle with my phone, snapping over my shoulder to capture my shadow running beside me.

And while just a moment before I’d been contemplating my escape from this life, I found myself suddenly filled with the sun’s warm light. No longer enjoying the single track I’d had looping on my iPhone all run, I switched over to Shuffle and was immediately blasted with Calling Glory’s “Don’t Give Up.” And as lame and clichéd as it was, I lifted up my face and started running. I thought about the faith I used to have in something bigger than me. I remembered the strength that it gave me. I don’t have that faith anymore. I realized it never made me feel as though everything was going to be okay in the end. In fact, everything is just as not-okay today as it was back then. But I remember when those fiery sunsets used to feel like smoke signals from the Great Beyond. I remember when the right song coming on at the right time felt like a letter straight from God to my aching heart and floundering spirit.

I know these are mere coincidences. But I also know that they buoyed me enough to keep me from disappearing into the woods last week. And if that’s what keeps me here from day to day, maybe it’s enough.

December 22, 2014 ~ Comments Off

loneliness: a cyclical shitstorm

The worst part about being a lonely person is that in the process of trying to draw people to you, you inevitably push them away. I have zero good friends within a 700-mile radius (and only one good friend outside that range). I’ve always said I wasn’t one for acquaintances, but now that I’m older and nobody has any free time due to spouses and kids and jobs, all the friendships I try to forge turn into acquaintanceships instead. So I have a lot of those, and most are my coworkers. And occasionally we do fun things like eat lunch or go bowling as a group after work, but it’s not a steady stream of activity for me. I’m sitting at home with my husband or all alone 98% of my life. And it gets really old.

So I try. I try really hard to make plans and forge “real” friendships, often with the same people who are firmly lodged in the acquaintance category already. And I try too hard. I seem desperate and sad. I say things like, “No, really, I’m free ANY time, so just let me know when your schedule opens up.”

Who wants a loser friend like that?

But at the same time, how do I become a hot commodity without convincing people to hang with me? I’m not ready to have babies. I’m not really a hobby girl. So I’m stuck. And the longer I spin my wheels, the more acquaintance bridges I burn with awkwardness and excessive tenacity.

I also have the issue that most of the people I’d like to associate with are male. And while I’ve always railed against the “Men and women can’t be friends” claim, I have come to believe it may be true. Not because supercharged libido gets in the way of shared platonic joy, but because the stereotypical man and the stereotypical woman expect different things from one another. And when that stereotypical woman is also a lonely cast-off? That’s a recipe for disaster.

I haven’t come up with a solution for this problem yet. I think back on therapy sessions of old, all the suggestions to join a Meetup group or just start inviting random female coworkers out for coffee, and I just don’t see that working. I’m not invested in those interactions. And maybe I don’t need to be, but it seems strange to go ahead with them if I’m not.

Or perhaps I should heed some of my own advice… A while back, a couple I know decided to open their marriage for a short time. The reasons for their decision aren’t pertinent, but in the end, their success was unbalanced – one partner found a lot more potential lovers than the other did, and it caused general unrest and dissatisfaction. One thing that was clear was that the less successful partner had extremely high standards when it came to finding a date. She wanted to find a 9 or a 10 before committing to coffee or dinner or a movie, let alone anything more. And while I wholeheartedly agreed that a 9 or a 10 was essential for going beyond those first-date activities, it might make sense to grease the wheels and have coffee with a 6. Get back into the swing of going on dates, flirting with near-strangers, etc. It had been so long since she’d engaged in activities like those, it was sure to be a little awkward and foreign at first. And who knows, that 6 could’ve turned out to be a 9 – she just may not have realized it from the start.

So maybe I do need to pursue some 6s in the world of friends and social activities if I ever want to meet a 9. And maybe by the time I meet the latter I’ll be a 9 myself.

December 18, 2014 ~ Comments Off

ownership and identity

You know how people are supposed to feel like their house is theirs? How you expect that one day you’ll feel at home in your own space and in your own skin? Well, I don’t. And I never have.

I have always felt as though I’m just biding my time wherever I am. In my relationships, in my dwelling places, my offices, my jobs. I’m just filling a space, bridging a gap, pausing for a moment but never truly settling in. Whether I’m filling spaces for others or for myself, I can’t be sure. But that’s all it’s ever felt like.

I’ve never felt as though anything I have is truly mine. If someone came along with a compelling reason he deserved my coat more than I did, I’d probably give it to him. And then I’d apologize for having kept it so long.

As with all other character traits of this sort, the worst part is not the listlessness or the feeling of being alien even on my home turf. It’s the shame of feeling that way. It’s the knowledge that I will never be perceived as “cool” by the people around me because I have nothing that is mine. The recollection of being deemed a “chameleon” with no defining characteristics, no hobbies, no real identity that wasn’t formed in an effort to fit in. I thought someday I’d move past that. I was sure I’d get older and more fully formed and suddenly I’d have passions and convictions and things that make me me. But I don’t. And I don’t feel at home here. Not just in Memphis or in my house but in my body, sometimes even inside my head. I feel as though I am both trapped and drifting. And it’s the worst feeling in the world.

April 03, 2013 ~ Comments Off

the reality of having kids

I had an incredibly refreshing conversation with my dental hygienist last night about having children. Thus far in life, when I have brought up never liking children or really wanting any of my own, people have never failed to tell me my opinion will definitely change, that it’s different when they’re your own, etc. But even if those people are over-the-moon in love with their offspring, that doesn’t mean I will be. So I’ve given up on trying to be positive and open-minded-sounding about it. When my hygienist asked whether my husband of 9 months and I were thinking about having kids, I said, “We’ve talked about it, but I definitely know we’re not ready now, and I’m really not sure I’m ever going to want any. I was never one of those teenagers who babysat, and I’ve never spent much time around children, but I just don’t have an affinity for them.”

And you know what she said? She opened her eyes up wide (the rest of her face was covered with a surgical mask, but I have to assume the remainder of her expression was just as earnest) and said, “Then don’t have any. I never wanted kids, so ours were more of an ‘oops’ situation. And while I wouldn’t trade them for the world now, if I’d never met them? I wouldn’t choose to have kids again. You have kids and you give up your life. It’s not really your life anymore – it’s theirs.”

I have never had anyone speak so bluntly to me about this topic. The closest I’ve gotten is having someone say, “Well, sure, you just got married, so you should wait a year or two – then you’ll definitely want to have some!”

Maybe it’s that I’m still very much a girl rather than a woman, or because I grew up way too fast as a kid and then got stuck in the later stages of childhood, quasi-Freudian-style, but I don’t trust myself caring for another life. I spend way too many waking hours as it is arranging things just so and doing things in a particular order in the hopes that the universe will not smite my husband out of existence. And I can really only use my universe-wrangling skills for one person at a time, so he’s bound to die if we have a kid and I get distracted protecting him/her from untimely demise. I just can’t let that happen.

We had a dog once, for a week. She was a two-year-old border collie with a few nervous tics, but mostly just an average dog’s inclination to bark and whine and be weird in a new person’s home. And we couldn’t handle it. Bryan worked from home every day at that point, and we couldn’t handle it. He would stand frozen in the backyard, covering his ears, while she barked in unison with a perturbed neighbor dog. I’d clench my fists in frustration when I’d take her outside over and over again to poop and she’d just flat-out refuse. We barely keep up with the cats’ litter box as it is. I sleep five hours a night already, due to insomnia and stress. I have no desire to shake things up. I have no maternal instinct. Thank you, hygienist lady, for making it feel OK for the first time ever.