I have had so many ideas for books. For as long as I can remember, well, let’s say high school - ish, I have wanted to write a book, or group of stories, or letters to those who mean so much to me, and how they left their footprint on my life. I think the original idea was to write letters to these people. My written words, more than my spoken words, have always been more indicative of how I feel.
I think the idea morphed into a book once I started losing loved ones, and along with that, the realization there would be no more memories with certain ones, or certain times. I thought the relationship ended there, so I could summarize it, or even complete the story. But then I realized, for those who have traversed my heart, the story never ends.
My memoir started out as a tribute to turning forty. It started before I realized forty was old, or at least middle aged. Of course, I had heard others moan about it, but I never felt it, and thought I never would. A sigh and a chuckle as I write this - maybe thats the beauty of youth. We never think we will.
Anyway, my memoir started before I had to be sure my legs were crossed before I coughed. I wanted to do something grand to mark the occasion. Grand to me has often been different than grand to others. One thing led to another, as things do, and I started focusing my writing and efforts on truly knowing who I was and what I stood for. I felt it was essential to define myself, to truly know myself, who I had been before marriage and kids, what was still the same and what had changed, before I decided what I wanted to do next.
Part of my journey to know myself has been to explore my relationships and friendships. And I have discovered that I would rather try to catch a raccoon with my bare hands than look at this. This has been such an unexpected road block, such a painful process that I know I have only barely started. I start and stop, paralyzed into inaction. I can’t tell you how long it has taken to write this paragraph, because all of a sudden, knowing how much protein was in the white of an egg became paramountly more important, and I had to google that and read several articles on that intense topic.
I wrote a piece, a good piece, on my first friends, my neighborhood friends. A week or two or a month later, it doesn’t really matter - the next time I sat down to continue, was the first time I encountered this block, this pain. I couldn’t look at what friends I had at the next stage. We had moved to a new house, and in the picture in mind, my Dad moved out, then back in, then my mom moved out, and there were other houses to visit and extended time with grandparents - things that clouded my search for friends, among other things.
The next few years were rife with moves and school changes and emotionally unstable parents, and perhaps I missed a window on how to learn to engage, to trust, to even conceptually understand that people could or would last longer than a few months. I never had the experiences to learn that people would disappoint and anger me, and that I also would disappoint and anger people, but that relationships can sustain those disturbances.
I can write those words now, and theoretically understand the concept, but I feel like a fake. I don’t necessarily believe it. As a matter of fact, I get so scared when I even get the whiff of a negative feeling for any friend. If someone is annoying me, I don’t tell them. I just put it off as I am tired or not in a good place. If someone has treated me unfairly, I won’t tell them. I just tell myself that it’s no big deal. I try to ignore it. I am scared to address the issue, scared it will cause the friendship to end.
In the end, sometimes, I realize now, that I push the friendship to the limits and it has no choice but to end. I keep burying my feelings, the demands of these friends, the disappointments...... and it eventually comes to a head and I dance with my righteous anger of all they have done to me. And all the while, they never knew a thing, never had an inkling that I felt hurt, mistreated, taken advantage of... because I kept doing whatever they asked, saying it’s no problem, being the one who could take on everyone’s problems.
And there are other scenarios. I have put people on pedestals. I think they are wonderful in every way. And slowly, I realize they are not who I thought they were - how could they be? No one is perfect. My friend who is so bubbly and outgoing and has so much energy. The one who organizes tons of gatherings and showed up at my door with flowers when my dog died? When I discovered her darker moods, the razor sharp tongue that could leave me bleeding? I have no tools, no experiences to weather this. I don’t have the lens to see whether this is something that I can accept and continue the friendship. I certainly can’t talk to her about it. My walls go up, I will not be hurt, and the door closes. But, boy, do I miss her smiles, the connection, the long upbeat conversations.
I won’t even go into the scenarios where I wonder why in the world they would want to be friends with me. Just wait until they know the real me. This is fodder for my soul.
I am thrilled that my circles are again widening. Outside of the western suburbs, and on the web. I am putting no one on pedestals, and proceeding with caution.
I have a long road of self exploration ahead. Hopefully, at the end of this road, Lindsey’s post about friendships won’t make me feel so lonely, or Christine making wise, thoughtful decisions for herself won’t feel like someone is breaking up with me.