You know how sometimes everyone seems so selfish sometimes? Or you just feel so misunderstood and alien? Or you just keep finding yourself in relationships that suck? Have you ever stopped to think of what is the single common element in every bad relationship, every sucky interaction you've ever had? Hm. I wonder.
We create our relationships the way they are. We don't like to take responsibility for them that way, though, because then it's hard to blame someone when things fall apart. And they do sometimes fall apart. The things we do! The things *I* do. I dominate the people I love and I judge them to keep them from judging me. I withhold the deepest fears I own because I'm disgusted by fear, powerlessness, insecurity. I fail utterly to share myself intimately with those closest to me and then lash out at them for not being there when I'm in pain.
Well, I used to, anyway. Not to say I never will again, but I didn't even realize I was doing it. Now I know not only what I did, but what pathetic little payoffs were there for me in doing it -- moments of triumph over my friends as "the strong one" -- and what long-term costs actually were -- being left alone in my darkest times of need, and my friends feeling alienated from me then.
See? If I ever felt like people were selfish or alienating or judgmental, I wonder where those things came from?
There's been room for improvement in even the best relationships in my life, much less some of the trickier ones like my stepmom (and her family) and my Dad; but in my ignorance I've really shot holes in some of my very closest friends too. So, the last few months I've spent cleaning that up. Starting with my closest friends, I told them how I withheld myself and how much closer we could be if I were more forthcoming. Even after telling Gina that I've found myself doing it again, and dominating her and trying to be "right", and after a struggle for forgiveness with her I now see with great humility that she actually has a lot to teach me about patience and compassion. And here I go around acting like I am the wise one with all the answers.
And Lucian. We've been friends for so long that I think we ventured into codependency at one point, before I met Ashley and moved up here to San Francisco, leaving her 400 miles behind. And when I left, it was with a crash, in regards to relations to her. I left America to be with Ashley in England after we were engaged and his visa ran out, and we had to apply for a different visa from England together. The day I arrived in London, into Ashley's arms (whom I hadn't seen in a month, as I wrapped up loose ends with quitting my job, moving everything I owned into storage, finding someone to take care of my car, receive my mail, etc), Lucian's father passed away. She and her father were very close like I am with my own, only she had lots of lost time with hers. Her parents divorced when she was like, 3; and her father was an alcoholic and basically wrote off the family, telling his two daughters not to bother contacting him. But Lucian was persistent with him, and after years of trying (and him becoming sober) she finally developed an extremely close, loving relationship with her father when she was in her late teens. And he was taken away from her so quickly! I often think of how that would be for me, losing my father.... the thought is so painful that I discard it immediately. I can only imagine what she must have been through. So she asked me, tearfully, if I could come back to be with her as she dealt with his funeral. And there I was in England with my fiance, no job, no house, in a foreign country. And I said "no." Not because of the fiance, the job, or the house, although that was my excuse to her. Because over the last year I had begun to cut my trust off from her, close my love to her; and she may not have even known it. I felt righteous doing it, too; and that's usually a bad sign in any case.
The year before, I had broken up with my boyfriend of four years, and lost my kitty in the breakup (possibly the worst part of the breakup), as well as the entire community of the record label he ran and all the music fans I'd befriended working with him. Then my grandma died. She was the closest thing to a mentor I ever had... she lit my way in my life, shared and encouraged my love of art and ancient history. She made me feel truly understood. She was my counselor, I could ask her anything. I felt like she and I were the same person in separate bodies. Losing her was to lose... all of that.
Then my other grandmother died, who was like a second mother to me, and this was quite a sudden death. I never guessed how much she had meant to me until she was gone. That's the worst feeling! My next boyfriend, of nearly two years, then decided to leave me... to, I don't know, find himself. I was left, at that point, quite alone... and in excruciating pain, reeling in loss. I felt like I'd been flayed.
Lucian probably tried to comfort me with each of these losses, and I probably shrugged her off just like I did when she tried to reach out to me when I was depressed in high school. But one night (and nighttime was the worst, when the sadness and feeling of loss would overwhelm me), I just knew I needed her. I just wanted her to hold me and let me cry, and say it would be okay. I went to a play she was in which she had invited me to, and I sat watching it, feeling like an open wound sitting there - raw, exposed, torn.
After the play I came to the edge of the stage, where she greeted me and I congratulated her on the wonderful performance. "So, do you think you could come have a cup of coffee with me?" I asked her. "Well," she said. "I know you have to take off your makeup and stuff," I continued, trying to smile but feeling my throat choke a little, feeling so weak and desperate. Of course I never said anything about how I was feeling. I didn't ever say, "I need you. Please come." I know if I had, she would have. But she shook her head. "There's a cast party over at one of the lead characters' houses. I guess you could come along....? But I don't know..." Whatever she said, I didn't hear it. I heard, "Nope, you're on your own tonight."
I went out of the theatre to my parked car, got inside and turned on the radio to drown out my sobbing. I think that's when I turned off my love with her. So six months later when her father died, and she asked me to come back to California, I said, "No." Inside I had blamed her for not being there for me, and I understand now that she couldn't be because I didn't let her - and I never told her I needed her.
I told her that yesterday. And I promised I would never hide my pain from her again. I have now committed to my two closest friends that I will be honest with them, and willing to share myself even when I'm not "okay", not strong.
And I think they both felt that I meant it. The hugs they gave me were proof enough.
Honestly... the compassion I get from my friends when I'm a dolt -- it's the one thing I lack most. When I have my judgment, my strength, my denial of fear.... I'm alone with them.