Two posts in two days? I know, right?!?
I had insomnia last night, and was feeling shirty and … I dunno. Not depressed, but irritable. Mean reds, as Holly Golightly would say.
I was venting to a friend in Cali a few days ago about a few frustrating, go-nowhere relationships in my life that I’m … ambivalent about. Normally I don’t know that I’d let them bother me this much, but I think its getting to me now because I’m so prone to self-doubt anyway, and I’m in a harsh place with my editing.
I think I just need a good writing group, honestly.
Cali friend says I’m prone to overthinking it, and I just need to let it go. Stop letting my mind run in circles. He’s probably right.
It’s hard, though. Instead of appreciating the good friendships/ relationships I have, I get in this downward spiral where I keep focusing on negatives. They occupy my mind. I even spent some time at family game night this week venting about to my BIL about one such unhappy relationship that I’m conflicted about. So now I’m spending fun relaxy time getting stressed.
It’s a weird situation. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m frustrated and ambivalent and uncertain. I don’t know if I’m ready to trust again.
On the one hand, I feel I should stand up for my values, and be a morally stalwart person. I feel that if I think someone is doing something I believe — to the core of my being — is a reprehensible thing, I should not tolerate that behavior. Racism, sexism, homophobia. These things are not acceptable.
On the other hand, I believe that people make mistakes, and that individuals learn and grow from their experiences. I believe that people misspeak. I believe that humans are capable of change and growth. I have changed many times in my own life. I have learned many lessons, many of them painful but necessary. I believe in second chances. I believe in forgiveness and compassion. I believe in apologies.
Yet … sometimes I feel like, to paraphrase Tevye, if I bend too often, I will break. Sometimes I feel that I forgive so many times I have become a doormat. Sometimes I worry that I zip my lip and turn a blind eye more often than is called for.
One of the traits I most admire in my husband is his stalwart character. He is of strong moral fiber. When he makes a decision, he does not waver. He is like a stone on the beach, unmoveable — the waves may eventually wear him down and smooth his rough edges, but he himself will not easily give up his position.
I have difficulty with this. I am more like seaweed, or the waves themselves. I am that which pushes at the stone, trying to move or shape it. And sometimes — after many, many years — I am successful in conveying a notion.
I think we complement one another well. His strength of character augments my tendency to forgive too readily (over and over again); and my lenient nature balances his natural tendency to not put up with even the slightest offense, ever.
The problem is that while I can set boundaries on issues of behavior and respect, I strangely have difficulty with boundaries regarding disagreements on moral values. I know that makes no sense, but let me try to explain.
On a issues of behavior and respect — to give a concrete example, I had a friend we’ll call … Ramie some years ago. She had social anxiety (like I do), and was often difficult to get a hold of, but we still managed to maintain a friendship for about 4 years.
In 2009, I became suicidal, and for a period of about 3 months tried to kill myself on a fairly regular basis. My first three attempts (overdose, overdose, and gun) failed because I know nothing about how much alcohol and medication to take (threw it all up), and because the previous 29 years of keeping myself 100% ignorant about firearms worked in my favor when I couldn’t figure out how to undo the safety. Then I decided to follow in my mother’s footsteps, and was braiding a noose. By that time, my husband had caught onto what I was trying to do, and took some FMLA leave to keep a suicide watch on me.
I didn’t really talk to anyone during that time. I didn’t call my friends. I didn’t talk to my family of origin. I wasn’t in contact with my in-laws. My husband and I were facing bankruptcy issues, and I was actually going off my medications to try to save money (which caused my suicidal depression — protip, don’t do this). John had his hands full trying to keep me alive. It was not a good time.
Then one day I woke up, and I dunno … I guess all the medications were finally out of my system or something. It was like walking out of the darkness. I didn’t want to die anymore. The belief that killing myself was somehow beneficial to my family was now repugnant to me. I looked at my husband, who had kept watch over my life for weeks, and I just started crying for what I’d done to him. I couldn’t believe it.
That was a very dark hour in my life. Our lives.
It was an hour when we needed friends, and all the people we thought were our friends were not there. These were people we had hosted at various parties and bbqs over the years, and they showed up for the free beer and cake … but when the stormclouds hit, we were alone. Local acquaintances I barely knew had checked in on us; co-workers of John’s and my classmates and some professors. But not our friends.
That was the first hint — but, you know, we were so caught up in our own problems that we hadn’t asked. We hadn’t wanted to bother anyone. So how could they know if we hadn’t asked, it’s not like they’re mind-readers, right?
Anyway, so what does Ramie have to do with this? Well, about 3 months after the whole suicide thing went down, Ramie called me and was like, “Where you been, I haven’t heard from you.”
And I told her, “Oh, I’ve been in a dark place.”
And she said, “Oh, honey, why didn’t you call? We’re your friends, we care!”
And I felt bad, y’know? I thought, she’s right. This is what friends are for. Friends are not just for good times, but for bad times. If I am in a dark place, I should call my friends. If I need help, I should rely on my friends. If they’re just beer and cake friends, are they really friends?
So the next time I was in a dark place, I tried to call Ramie. She didn’t answer the phone — that’s normal, she has social anxiety. When I was in a lonely place, I emailed her. When I wanted to share a smile, I texted her. But — as usual — she never responded. Before, this had never really bothered me. It was just the way Ramie was. She has social anxiety, I get it. I have it, too. I try and avoid unnecessary interaction.
But after she told me specifically to reach out to her when I was needing a friend, only to not be there, I started to realize something about Ramie and a few of my other ‘friendships’. They were there when they wanted to initiate contact, and never at any other time. Attempts to contact them vanished into the void, never to be replied to — not even hours or days later. They were never available to hang out when I invited them; only about once a year on their schedule, in their city.
That’s the first time I realized — at freaking age 31 — that sometimes adults don’t act like adults, and it’s okay to walk away when a friendship makes you feel shitty. Yeah, sometimes I’m naive about people. I believe the best of them, I admit it.
Thirty-one was a hard year for me. That was the same year my brother’s (now) ex-wife — who I used to be on good terms with — was discovered in her cheating ways. When it came to light, she ended up blaming me for talking to my brother about her behavior instead of taking responsibility for her own actions. As a result, she is still preventing my brother (her ex) from seeing or talking to me, or my nephew from interacting me or my son (his cousin).
I actually still have a hard time with being overly forgiving, which is where my wonderful husband comes in. He helps me stay firm, and reminds me to make sure my friendships remain positive balances in my life, and do not turn into toxic Ramie drains.
The problem is that there are several people my husband has easily and without remorse excised from his social circle for homophobic or racist remarks. He stopped hanging out with this whole group of motorcycle riders because they kept cracking ‘jokes’ he found inappropriate.
And I love my husbands moral character! I adore it, I envy it, I want it! He’s great! I love that he has thoroughly research civil rights and LGBTQ issues and feminism and democratic socialism, and that he’s taken this stance and is like, “This is my stance and I’m sticking to it!”
But I also keep thinking, when I heard these uniformed, bigoted attitudes, Once I was kinda like that …
Like, I can’t speak for John, but I know there were definitely times in my past when I made some cringeworthy ‘jokes’. I once cracked a joke in my senior year of high school (and lost an entire friend group) about a friend having a ‘gay accent’. I didn’t even know what a ‘gay accent’ was, really, but I knew it was supposed to be a bad thing. I did a floppy wrist wave and mocked the lisp, expecting to get a laugh — hey, the joke killed with my mormon friends and my stoner friends.
Turned out my drama buddies did not think it was funny, and I lost a whole group of carpool buddies like overnight.
But you know what? I had no idea why. Seriously. I was lost. From my end, they had just ghosted on me, inexplicably. I was finally able to contact one of my now-former friends, and he told me very seriously that the guy whose voice I had mocked was actually gay.
I said, “Uh, okay,” still confused, because (as a sheltered mormon girl in 1998), I still wasn’t 100% clear on this whole gay situation, or what it entailed. I didn’t understand why it was a big deal or a problem, and nobody would talk to me about it.
My mom would turn off the tv when Ellen came on, but laugh along with the laugh track for Will & Grace? It was all very confusing with tons of mixed signals. I didn’t work out my attitude on LGBTQ issues until around 2006, and in the years up until I landed firmly in the pro-rights camp, I probably said some vaguely offensive things.
I also remember once, as a teenager, having a perfectly cringeworthy argument with my bestest bud of all time. Kristen (a beautiful atheist) was dedicated childfree who had just stated to her appalled mormon friend that if she ever got accidentally pregnant she would have an abortion. I then spent the next several hours arguing with her about abortion, and I was on the anti-choice side of the debate! If I could apologize to Kristen about that discussion today, I totes would.
I don’t want to be like Javert or Frollo, where my morality becomes so rigid and unyielding that I cannot bend. At the same time, I am tired of being the doormat who has forgiven and forgotten so many I’ve lost count.
I need to find a middle ground. It’s just … exhausting, and hard. Hence no fucks to give.