Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, July 24, 2008

People are the same

I don't know that I believe people change. I think I believe trust levels change which allow a person to feel safe even when vulnerable, or belief paradigms shift allowing us to expose that which we previously protected without stress or guilt or some other previously present emotion.

For instance--a public figure suddenly writes a book about his years of drug addiction. The general public now knows this person is a user. Why did he tell? Because he suddenly realized this was a part of his life and hiding it was offering no safety to him. He has decided that he has more to gain by sharing the truth than by living with the fear that he will be discovered. Has he changed? Nope. But the public perception of him has shifted dramatically. Some will identify and commiserate with him, some will feel betrayed, some will call him weak or hypocritical... but he's still the same person.

I know behaviors and beliefs change, but I still think people remain the same, and I've never bought into the myth that behaviors and beliefs define a person. There's so much more. I suppose I'm trying to understand why relationships change...or become less intense...or just end.

Connections between people are made on so many different levels. I have a friend with whom I could talk all day. We make each other laugh. We agree about many things. We have a wonderful time together. But we aren't close friends. We go to lunch. We chat. We wave when we see each other--and then we're finished for a few more months. We've known each other for about 20 years. We've watched our children grow up together--Darrin changed her youngest son's very first diaper. We have extended family connections. There is every reason for us to be very close. But regardless of the fact that we're compatible and we enjoy each other, we're not. I think it's because, somehow, we haven't developed the trust relationship which will allow us to become so.

Then there are the people we've felt we could never live without. We've told them things no other person knows. We've had emotional experiences with them. We feel we understand their thoughts and dreams, and we want the very best for them. But somehow, sometimes without anything happening to catalyze it, the compulsion to share the parts of us that we protect the most begins to wane, sometimes we feel awkward because we shared what we deem to be too much, sometimes time and space stretch between us and we wonder why we were close in the first place--which isn't to say we don't still enjoy their company. We see them after months or years of little contact and feel kinship and camaraderie, but we know as soon as the visit is over the contact will be suspended again and the closeness will become a memory. What has happened? I believe, somehow, our trust levels shifted. We became aware that the friend's priorities changed and somehow our close friendship was excluded from the list of priorities. Even when we understand, even when we agree this is right, there is a level of trust which is lost which in turn, changes the intimacy level of the friendship. I don't believe we stop loving that person, nor does the love decrease, we simply restructure their place in our lives and change the depth of what we share with them.

I suppose I have realized that when I boxed myself up and shared myself only with Darrin, there is a a part of me that has yearned for connection with other people. That makes me vulnerable--which is intolerable. It also puts me in a position such that when I find someone with whom I feel safe and connected, I'm prone to sharing things I probably should keep to myself. Sometimes the things I share are awkward and funny. Often they're inappropriate and uncomfortable. Sometimes they're ugly and revolting. I have a lot of bad stuff inside me, I suppose. I believe there is a part of me which uses the information as a testing ground--will you still want to be with me after you know all the crap I've experienced, all the nastiness I still agonize over, all the misery that keeps me awake at night? But also, I think for many years I've wanted to say--hey, I think I need to talk about some pretty icky stuff--do you love me? will you listen? will you recognize after you know all that stuff, that I'm still me? I'm still the friend you wanted to be with because I make you laugh and I love you forever? will you still trust me enough to share your life? or will you back away because I'm not whole, I'm odd, I'm scary...

I have many things in my life which were unfortunate--but some of them were beyond my control and I refuse to apologize for them. I also understand that the most recent period of my life is one which is emotionally intense and not all people are strong enough to hear what I say when I need to say it--they're wise enough to refer me to my counselor and get out before they become overwhelmed. I understand that some people need a friend who has less going on inside and can lend a greater listening ear than I can. I understand that some people will want me to be something I'm not, an expectation I can never fulfill. I understand that even when the friendship is wonderful, things happen to alter trust levels--sometimes things beyond our control--and that friendship will move to a less intimate status to accommodate life.

In the midst of all this I find myself thinking that perhaps most people go through this when they are between the ages of 7 and 25, and I'm a severely late bloomer. Perhaps that's why the ages of my friends are somewhat lower than my own. Everyone my age has it all figured out, they've established their social supports, they've grown beyond the need for acceptance and understanding which it seems I still crave. Perhaps in the next 20 years I'll mature emotionally and be able to look fondly at all people without wondering who they are inside, and trying to find out. Perhaps, as people move in and out of my life, I'll be content to let them come and go as they please.

It is easy for me to imagine a time when people will become tired of me and move on. I cannot conceive of the reciprocal, though. Those who are closest to me are there because I want to know about them. I want to understand what hurts them. I want to hear what interests them, what makes them laugh, what brings them joy. I want to hear about the details of their days. I want to help when they're sad. I want to be with them when they have time for me...hmmm...I am truly a stalker at heart.

At the end of the day, I suppose I must acknowledge that regardless of how people feel about me, I have never truly changed. I'm still the little girl who giggled easily and longed for a mother's embrace, the youth who stared with wonder at the beauties of nature while she wondered how to stop hurting inside, the teen who was reckless, curious, and sometimes vindictive, the adult who has never stopped questioning, researching, working...and the woman who wonders how love works, how friendships stay, how to be everything she is all at once.


  1. Sometimes the things I share are awkward and funny. Often they're inappropriate and uncomfortable.

    It makes me happy to hear other people say this. Because I feel like I'm always doing this.

    Sometimes they're ugly and revolting. I have a lot of bad stuff inside me, I suppose.

    I don't think you have bad stuff inside you. You've had bad stuff happen to you, which is totally different. You're not planning to rob banks, kick puppies, or steal from the elderly. People hurt you. And it was ugly. But that's their ugliness. It makes me sad that you have to deal with it. What I've seen of *you* is beautiful--you look for happiness in everything, you are generous and forgiving in your assessments of others, and you help people when you see them hurting.

    Everyone my age has it all figured out, . . . they've grown beyond the need for acceptance and understanding. . . .

    [grins] I wonder if anyone really thinks they have it all figured out.

  2. Sam, so much of what you wrote describes me. Wow!