Sunday, June 7, 2015

On relationships and friendships

"Can you call them at 2 am?"

Some time ago, my friend and I were talking about friendships and relationships and how things have unfolded for us over this past year.  Her question was rhetorical but also poignant.  She said we should ask ourselves that question when we wonder if someone is a friend, a true family member, a dear one.  You know, someone who is to be considered something more than an acquaintance.

It was one of those talks that required a drink or two in order to facilitate the flow of ideas and laughs.  The kind of conversation where you wish you had taken notes because we could have gathered enough observations to make our own TED talk...inappropriate comments with witty humor included.

You see, she and I have had our share of people who have disillusioned us over the course of these past months.  The names and events are of no consequence. I find we already dedicated more than enough time to them.  No, this story is not about the people or events that got us here. This story is about how we got here and what we've learned.  Here are some of the lessons:

Your parents and those inspirational quotes floating around the Internet were right.  

Like an unspoken rule of the universe, tough times will reveal things about people you may not have been aware of before for a variety of reasons.  I hypothesized to my friend that perhaps it's because we make allowances for people, thinking they'll grow, become more mature, learn that communication is a two-way street. Either way, the ones you thought would be there may surprise you and not in a positive way.

You may find yourself being the one who always initiates conversation or calls or texts or emails (and I would say pages, but those days are gone). You may find you're the only one making sacrifices, taking the initiative, giving not only things, but giving yourself and of yourself. You may learn that you have given the relationship your all and more and this person is willing to receive but is not too keen on the concept of reciprocity. At some point, you will see a pattern, hopefully.

While it is understood that each of us can become, at times, the proverbial wind beneath someone's wings (Thank you, Bette Midler)...if you're going to be the wind at all times then you may want to rethink things because self-respect is paramount and life is short. You may find yourself in someone else's journey and not in a joint venture.

It's okay to feel like the rug has been pulled from under you...because it has.

My friend and I would text each other and say things like, "It's okay for me to have this WTF moment, right?' Or, my favorite: "Who the fuck is this person? Was this ever real?"

When relationships die it's as if as someone has died.  You will go through all the stages of grief and depending on the length and breadth of the relationship, the mourning process may last a considerable amount of time.  There will be people who will, with good intentions, tell you that you ought to be done with it. It's over. You are better now and life moves on...and they're right. However, you and I know other things as well.  Mourning can be the calm before the storm, the storm itself, and the rainbow after it.  It helps to have someone to talk with, music to listen to, hobbies of your own, and things to do...amongst other things you will find along in your journey.  Your sense of the world has been jilted for fuck's sake.  Allow yourself time to regain your balance.

If Social Media is too much go ahead and unplug, click on ignore, mute, and yes... you can also delete that app. If necessary, unfriend. Trust us, the world will not end.

What did people do before social media? I think they lived peaceful days.  People nowadays get annoyed that you did not see their announcement or comment on their life milestone as if social media is the only means of communication. No, social media is the convenient way to communicate but not the only way to communicate or the most intimate for that matter. I personally *like* social media because it affords me the opportunity to travel without leaving home, the ability to catch up with former classmates, the chance to learn something new each day and be involved in the political process...but this all means nothing when you're grieving.

My friend and I took social media sabbaticals at different times.  When I got away from the constant posts of blissful happiness, I learned that when you're dealing with loss of any kind, self preservation is key. Let's keep in mind that people most often than not post their highlights and when you are dealing with loss there is no point in seeing someone else's highlight reel. They may not know it and should not, actually, but their posts feel like a slap to the face. Take some time to lick your wounds and come back when you're ready.  Choosing any one of the above options when dealing with social media may be not only healthy, but necessary.

In my own journey, when I took some time off from social media I noticed I would call people more often and I noticed who also called me or texted.  I sent and received letters, notes, and cards as well. It's incredible what happens when you disconnect from the virtual world and join the actual world. Communication became more organic and less restrained to just tidbits and pieces of information. Then, after months of no communication with the people I no longer had in my frame of reference, I personally decided to unfriend in the social media platform.  It was done not out of anger but out of acceptance. By that time, the anger was gone and I was only left with questions that I think will remain unanswered.

Unfriending on social media was a purely symbolical act but it was necessary. The real unfriending had already taken place months earlier, it's just that one hangs on to the idealistic hope that perhaps down the road things will change. Things had changed though and I was ready to face an already closing door.  Now at the helm of the situation, I went ahead and did what was necessary for my well-being. I chose to keep the good memories and as I closed the door on their profiles, I quietly thanked them.

It's important to say though that there is no need to broadcast on social media what you're doing on social media. Although it goes without saying, I find it needs to be said.  Do it quietly. Things need not be broadcasted to be significant.  Actually, silence often speaks louder than words.

And as that awesome English guy once said: To thine own self be true.

Months later, my friend and I still have our moments of quiet desperation. A moment, a picture, a song can trigger it. That's allowed, I find.  When things and people you thought were true are no longer that, you're allowed to have occasional knee jerk reactions.

In this whole process, I've learned that when things go sour, you also learn about yourself.  I've learned I am more sentimental than I'd like to admit.  I tend to overanalyze things...I probably should have majored in psychology instead of literature.  Then, to top it all off, I use my sarcasm as a shield. 

The trick is in not letting the experience define you, I know, but to learn from it.  I have gone over in my mind things that happened. I've replayed conversations, reviewed specific moments, and dusted off sequence of events. I've had the chance to be self critical more times than I care to admit and I have seen my areas of growth (as I've learned to call them).

Ask anyone who knows me well though and they'll tell you that I am, naturally, my own worst critic so I also have to be careful when I do these things. Remember that in relationships as in dancing the tango, it takes two. So, while being self critical is important, you are not permitted to diminish your own light in order to achieve closure. It's true I was raised Catholic, but that doesn't imply I enjoy the mental flagellation that revisiting the past constantly affords one. That's like picking a scab and expecting the wound to heal.

P.S. Trust that you will trust again. For your own sake, you will.

The other day, my friend commented on the trusting again piece.  It's hard to trust again, she said and I agreed. I would add and she would agree that it's hard to be open to new experiences again, and to let your guard down again, and to be friendly again to new people in your life. You can be cordial but friendly requires more of an effort.

As you and I have learned, the words love and friend have been overused in our lifetime to last several lifetimes and have therefore, lost meaning so for those of us who actually mean what we say, this process may take longer than anticipated.

Obviously, my friend and I are no longer at the age where we can have play dates so starting to socialize again may be a bit of a daunting task more so for me than for her, I think.  I have always been quite content with my ability to be an introvert. There is a familiar place I have at home with my own solace and I don't pretend to like social gatherings. I never have. I am more of a small group type of person and I am detail-oriented so I like to get to know people as opposed to just adding hundreds of them on my list of contacts...and that was the rug pulled from under me moment. I had thought I already had that small group, but I was proven wrong. My whole Quality vs. Quantity theorem was turned on its head. So, although I am more than comfortable in the company of E, books, and music and as much as I look forward to our trips, I know the world is a big place and I must learn to play well with others so-to-speak. Naturally, it will all take time.  Time seems to be a running theme in this whole endeavor.

Going back to the wisdom of the guy in question though, if I am to be true to myself and if this is truly my story, I need to be open to new experiences...this time with more wisdom and experience.

This piece is dedicated to M. Thank you, M. You said you would read what I had to say on this subject.  I thank you for our conversations and here is to the journey ahead.

I typed it all up on my Mac.  I generally write by hand so here it is.  Flaws and all. :-)