I know two women who were friends for nearly 25 years. They lived near each other and spent a great deal of time together for the first eight of those years, then one moved far away. After the move, they called each other a few times weekly and spent time talking while they cleaned or prepared dinner, sharing minute details of their daily lives and missing each other. Sometimes one would fly to the other's home so they could be together for a week or two. They came away from those visits rejuvenated and happy.
Then one day the relationship stopped. I don't know the details. I just know the phone calls ceased and the visits ended and nearly a decade has passed without the two friends sharing a word or a moment. They simply are not part of each other's lives anymore.
I don't know how this happens. I don't understand how people can move from closeness and intimacy to nonexistence. Probably that sounds weird, coming from me, because I've been known to disappear from people's lives fairly regularly, but the difference is, I never allowed myself to feel closeness. There may have been close moments, or briefly shared intimacy, but I would not allow those things to become more than just tiny moments, nor would I allow those moments to deepen or form lasting relationships.
I've done that now. I have more than one relationship I feel has depth and longevity--relationships in which I invest love and time, and I not only allow the closeness to happen, I often seek it. And now that I've experienced what that feels like, I don't understand how close relationships wane or end. At all.
I actually believed that when I allowed myself to experience relationships, I would then understand the fleeting nature of human sociality. I thought I'd know how it happens that people allow life moments to replace interaction with loved ones. I thought I'd get it. But I don't. The longer my close relationships last, the more I am baffled by the account of the two women which began this blog post. If this was just one account, I'd simply believe they were unusual, or the relationship became unhealthy, but I know of several such stories. People who were close for a very long time, and then they weren't.
I'm thinking about this today because for the past three years I've felt very large changes happening to my emotional self. I'm allowing myself some leeway because I've been asked to endure unusual emotional trauma during that time, but as I heal, as I regain my stamina, I find myself changed.
I don't yearn for closeness as I once did. In fact, I feel a great deal of antagonism when others seek closeness from me, and when I feel a tug toward any other person, that antagonism boomerangs back and I feel it toward myself. Tolkien Boy has more than once told me that my emotional self is maturing, insinuating that it was stunted in my childhood and youth because I was not allowed to express emotions and love words from me were mocked or ignored. I can't discount this opinion, partly because Tolkien Boy knows me fairly well, and partly because it's a logical conclusion based on my weird, rather horrifying past.
However, I would not classify my feelings for Darrin and my children as immature and while certain aspects of my feelings for others might be, I don't know that that stems from a need for growth, but rather, I believe it to be a side effect of learning to live with people while dealing with PTSD--not an easy task and one which many people who experience PTSD avoid. Allowing people to remain in my life while dealing with the symptoms of PTSD is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. It remains difficult. I keep doing it. For whatever reason, my heart and soul believe it to be important, regardless of the effort it requires.
I try to make certain that my struggle in this area doesn't scare people away. I spoke to Tolkien Boy on the phone about 10 days ago. The day had been awful. I think I cried through most of it. I was overwhelmed and angry and sad and nauseated. I felt like a complete failure and sort of hated myself. I finally let Tolkien Boy know I was having a difficult day and asked if I could call (because that's what Therapist says I should do). When we spoke, he said, "You don't sound like you're falling apart. You sound like you're doing well." I believe I made some comment about that being my tragedy--I always sound like everything's okay. It's practiced. It's what I was taught. Never let anyone know you're dying inside. That's not allowed. Forget that you're hurting and make sure you send the other person away with a smile and a laugh. Supposedly that will make you both live happily ever after.
I know it doesn't work. I leave conversations feeling glad that I brightened someone's day, and wishing I knew what to do to lighten my own load. I know all that stuff about doing service for others when you're feeling low and supposedly that will make your day wonderful, but thus far, in my life, that has not been the case. I feel grateful and blessed when I serve others. I feel glad if I can make their day happier, but I still struggle with panic and anxiety and often, depression.
It's my attitude, right?
Anyone who really knows me, knows that I work very hard to remain positive even while being realistic. I don't wallow often. I try to do good things. It's not like I'm seeking to be overwhelmed by symptoms of PTSD or loneliness or sadness. And I try not to spread it around. I really do want the people I love to feel valued and joyful when they're with me.
I'm not sure, really, what I'm trying to say here. Maybe that I'm feeling the changes happening inside me and I'm getting tired of always trying. I'm feeling stressed when it seems the only time people want to be with me is when they need my help or reassurance. Sometimes I want to be sought out because I'm Samantha and I'm missed. Sometimes I want people to enjoy my company just because I'm delightful. Sometimes I want to be the person thought of first when something funny or happy or newsworthy or mundane or odd just needs to be shared.
I don't know that I'm "maturing", as Tolkien Boy has expressed. I think I'm just getting fed up with PTSD and probably with relationships and people, as well. That sort of sounds the opposite of mature--and it definitely feels anything BUT mature.
Darrin says I feel this way because I don't allow people to fill my needs. I interrupt them and try to fill theirs instead. He says I'm afraid if I accept nurturing or love, I'll "owe" something. Maybe he's right?
All I know is this: the antagonism rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times, and has me questioning the worth of every relationship in my life right now. And that's unfair to my counterparts in those relationships. And I don't know what to do about it.