At the very least, theirs was a friendship of unusual ardor.
Terms like “acquaintance”, “friend”, and “lover” tend to denote defined roles. This makes for convenient social constructs, where we have an idea of the nature of the relationship, even when not directly involved. Responsibilities of one group — care, affection, respect, commitment, trust, will to cooperate — don’t often overlap with another. When they do, terms like “work wife” or “friend with benefits” might be used; re-characterizations of previous terms for a lack of better ones.
It took me longer than I’d like to admit before I realized how rarely relationships can be so neatly labelled. Not every “friend” considers it an honour to be trusted with the spare set of house keys (and would I really consider them a friend if they’re not to be relied on in an emergency?). Not every romantic partner is interested in exclusivity or commitment. Not every sexual encounter goes as far as penetration, or even contact (which is why it’s possible to have an affair of the heart).
Suffering the loss of many important people has also taught me that relationships often evolve, as we grow and circumstances change. Whether it was due to some breaking point or simply the passage of time, most of my significant relationships have come and gone. Now I can’t help but tread carefully when I’m about to invest my emotions in someone, whether that means prioritizing them in my life, opening up with my secrets, or letting myself like them; that’s when I’m as scared of being hurt as I am of losing them.
Tiana recently shared this great article with me. It’s written as a guide for personal growth within one’s relationships, but I find myself well familiar with the concepts it covers; being accountable, empathetic, grateful, introspective, and responsible are all things that tend to come naturally to me. I’ve also been actively working on (or struggling with) being more patient, forgiving, resilient, autonomous, and optimistic in the last few years.
Instead, I use this checklist as a reminder of the qualities I should be seeking in others. If I’m going to invest any of myself into someone else — whether that’s time, energy, or feelings — they should have a general comprehension, if not a certain level of competency, in all these areas. I’m no longer in a place to teach someone how to be honest about their emotions, take responsibility for their actions, or listen with intent.
It’s difficult to let go of this basic expectation when I’ve already done a fair amount of work on myself to understand and practice these ideas. Spending time with anyone who reminds me of the person I used to be makes me feel like I’m regressing, and it doesn’t take long before I lose interest in their company. At this point, I’m doing everything I can to move forward, and that means being involved with people who are already good at relationships. It’s so much easier for me to let down my guard and give myself wholly to someone when I have a mutual foundation to work with.
“Suzanne is forty years old and has never had a close relationship. She spends most of her spare time reading books and browsing the web. Suzanne is most comfortable with casual, friendly relationships where nothing very personal is discussed.
Suzanne is married to a man who is out of touch with his feelings. He’s more interested in being married than in being married to Suzanne particularly. He has few friends, and does not expect closeness from Suzanne. He wants a woman just so he can fulfill the conventional role of husband. Their relationship is based on traditional roles, not on real intimacy. They rarely confide in each other.
Suzanne has smoked marijuana her entire adult life. She insists that she is not addicted — she tells herself she only does it for recreation, and that she has control. Besides using drugs on a regular basis, she tends to drink in settings when she doesn’t feel as socially capable as others.
Suzanne became depressed, but was not in touch with her feelings of abandonment and defectiveness. She spent much of her life making sure she was not in touch, and trying to escape her feelings.
Continue reading “escape artist”…
It’s been more than a week since I had a night alone. I never thought I’d be able to handle this kind of stimulation again, but most people work during the day and my shifts involve running the tourneys when they’re off, so I still have mornings to myself. I can tell how quickly time is passing cause the gaps in my photo folders are turning into months.
Being around so many people gives me a chance to work on my altruism. It’s always been easy with people who are important to me. Now I’m trying to fall into the habit of being kind to the ones who are neutral, to try to truly understand their reality so I can acknowledge their happiness or suffering. It’s a way for me to remove my bias, including whether I think they deserve either of those emotions, and always a humbling exercise.
Still, I wish I could explain what I was feeling. So much of myself was defined by my emotions. I remember riding the bus, losing myself to the warmth of the sun on my face and the swelling sound in my headphones. Nowadays, every scene plays out like all caps slug lines in a screenplay. Nothing has changed but the dosage, and I don’t know if that’s a fact I should take comfort in.
Not to say there aren’t difficult times. I don’t have much control over triggers, and I’m not ready to deal with certain parts of my life yet. I’ve had to keep a distance from toxic people and situations to gain a sense of stability before I approach them again. It’s a way for me to give myself time to heal, after realizing just how much needs to be done.