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Friday, March 14, 2014

Stomping My Foot and Having a Tantrum

I am recognizing as I write this that there are a few things I need to remember:
1. It has been only three weeks since surgery and I'm still feeling tired and over-emotional--and even, perhaps, a bit depressed.
2. I'm not yet able to expend a great deal of physical energy which has been a large contributor to PTSD management throughout my life.
3. I'm tired and frustrated most of the time.
4. There have been some unusual significantly difficult emotional obstacles that have presented themselves in the past four weeks including the death of a very young family friend, some mishmash crap with my mother, and an attempted suicide of another young friend who has been like a part of our family for nearly 12 years.

Given such circumstances, while I feel a great need to write this post, I may also, in a matter of days, also find the need to disappear it as I reevaluate. Then again, I might not.

It's no secret that, while I have always felt self-sufficient and capable of caring for myself, I've also always wondered about people who have close friends and family--people integrated into their daily lives; ones who live near or who communicate frequently; the dear ones who fly out to take care of a sick friend or family member, or who care for the kids when Mom and Dad are struggling, or friends,couples, or families who want to spend vacation times together. They mystify me. I know people like that. I believe there have been times in my life when I wanted to be those people.

But I'm not.

I live three blocks from my parents. My siblings have been known to stop to visit my parents for a weekend without notifying me that they were there. Sometimes, (because I feel obstinate and I believe that because we're related, they owe me an hour or two of their time every couple of years), if I am inadvertently alerted that they're visiting, I've dropped by unannounced. They always seem happy to see me. They're happy to visit with me. I'm the one who cuts the visit short when I've had enough of being with people. This confuses me. If they like me--like visiting with me--why do they come and not tell me. They know I'm not one who monopolizes, nor do I like crowds, so it's likely my time with them will be lovely, but brief. So...why?

There have been a few times when I've bought into the "close friends so we should live by each other" thing. I had a roommate in college who became a very close friend. After we were both married, we planned a couple of vacations with our spouses, and later, with their children (Darrin and I didn't have any yet). The vacations were fun and filled with laughter. We talked about how wonderful it would be if we could live near one another. It didn't happen. We tried to find jobs in the same area, but our vocational interests were different and in the end, perhaps it was all for the best. We rarely talk anymore. I've not seen them in about four years. They've made no effort to contact us, and I've been too overwhelmed with my life to contact them. And I don't really miss them.

When I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with some of my online friends, I made certain that when I was near where they lived, I visited. I wasn't really invited--I just did it. I let them know I was in the area and I'd like to see them and if they agreed, we'd go to lunch or I'd visit in their homes. Edgy was the only one, really, who was insistent that we have a standing lunch date every time I went to Utah--I loved that. I don't go anymore, though, and I miss him. There's something extremely validating in knowing someone not only makes time for you, but they expect you to do the same for them. It feels concrete and safe.

While I know I wasn't unwelcome, I always felt I sort of forced myself on AtP, Ambrosia, Boo, and Tolkien Boy. I remember telling TB, when we'd spent about two months getting to know one another, that any time he was in Utah, I would arrange my schedule to see him. He didn't ask me to--and I didn't ask if he wanted me to. I just wanted to see him. It was the same with AtP, Ambrosia, and Boo. I've also been known to let them know that, not only was I visiting, I was spending the night. Yes. I invited myself. And they weren't the only recipients of my assumed welcome.

I admit that with Josh and Tolkien Boy and AtP, I've always sort of wished we lived closer. I've wished that with lots of people, but always with the knowledge that they would probably be unhappy living by me, and I"m in no financial or emotional position to relocate any time soon, and I would never want the people I love to live in a place that made them feel unhappy.

 Josh, though, seemed as if he and his family weren't quite settled. I thought they might like one of the nearby cities and opportunity seemed endless. Then I realized the climate would never be a good fit for his wife and the pipe dream was probably best left being just that.

AtP toyed with the idea of attending a nearby nursing school. He was serious enough to come for a tour and stay a couple of days with me. In the end, though, leaving Utah wasn't for him. He met his husband. They now have a family. Someday, when I'm better, I'll go visit again and insist they have dinner with me. Utah will have to be near enough.

When Tolkien Boy was single, I confess to wishing a few times that we lived closer. I told him that I wished it. I knew the wish was not reciprocated. It didn't matter. Wishes don't just go away. For awhile, even after he was no longer single, TB talked about leaving Seattle, living closer to family, being in a place with more sun. When I suggested living near me, he didn't swipe the idea away. I understand now that it was because he understood better than I, that moving from Seattle was his pipe dream. He didn't have to discuss the possibility of living near me because it was probable that moving was simply not going to happen.

I feel a bit nonplussed that I ever entertained the idea that a family member (yes, there were a few of those that I wished for) or friend would live nearby and be a part of my social and emotional life. It's not like I've not survived a life without that. Nor is it likely that I'd even be able to manage such a thing successfully. I'd probably hate it.

I had a recent conversation with TB, in which he was supposed to be expressing his opinion but was asking me questions instead, in which he said, "It sounds as if you feel you don't want to need people anymore?"

I sort of wanted to punch him for saying that.

The answer is obvious. Of course I don't want to need people! They're unreliable and misleading. They say they love you, and they do, but being a priority (and yes, there are times when I wish I was a priority) is not an option. They're interested in you as long as they don't have more pressing matters demanding their attention. A marriage contract is the only thing one can call upon to say, "Hey! We chose each other. Sometimes I need you and I need you to need me. And it might not be convenient or comfortable, but that's the way it is and as long as we're married, that's how it will be."

You can't say that to a friend--to "people". Not ever. But sometimes you wish you could. Sometimes life overwhelms both you and your spouse and you need someone else to step in and hold you just for a while. But you can't ask. There's no contract or commitment or promise.

So, yes, TB, I do not want to need people. I'm happy to be a part of their lives. I'm happy to give every shred of love and support I can when they're in need. I'd even be delighted if some of those people I love lived near me, and would come have dinner with me whenever they wanted. And maybe, every once in awhile, someone whimsical would build a blanket fort and sit inside with me while we read books and ate cookies. But I don't want to need it. Not ever. And I'm frustrated, embarrassed, and a little bit angry that I have needed people in the past few years. I've been through some awful things--things I would wish on no one.

I've been blessed that there were incredible people who responded to my needs. They collectively fed me, housed me, visited me, talked to me, prayed for me--I needed those things so very desperately. And I sort of hate myself for being so needy. I gave nothing in return. I was emotionally and very nearly financially depleted. And I was in more pain than I ever want to think about again.

My hip surgeon is a competitive body builder. He has trophies. And he's big. He understands pain and endurance. After my surgery, he said to Darrin, "She waited far too long to have this done. Her cartilage has been gone for at least nine months, so she's been working with bone against bone every time she moved, and one of those bones, at the time of surgery, was in eminent danger of collapse. I have no idea how she was walking--let alone going to the gym daily to lift weights, swim, or run on the elliptical. That's pain I can't even comprehend."

Darrin said to me, later, "You told me it felt better to go to the gym."

I wasn't lying. It did feel better. I felt less helpless. Going to the gym brought emotional relief. But I won't lie--I was always glad there was a bathroom near the elliptical I was riding, because the physical pain really did make me worried that I was going to vomit at any moment. In the month before surgery, I could only tolerate a 30 minute workout on the elliptical and there was one day when I lost consciousness while I was cleaning the machine. There was a "Call 911!" flurry, but I was only out for a few seconds and I assured everyone I was fine--I just forgot to eat before I worked out that day--and as I seemed to be just fine as I headed for the locker room, everyone put their phones away. That was the Saturday before surgery. I thought it would be prudent not to go back until after my hip was replaced.

So yes, it hurt, but it also made me feel better. I can't really explain it.

I feel a little angry right now. I feel angry that I ever wanted people in the first place. It's silly, because those who care about me have done nothing to warrant that anger. They've loved and supported me and cared for me whenever possible. I think I'm angry though, because they're not mine. They're not my parents or siblings. They get to leave whenever they need to--not that my family has ever been there for me, but they're supposed to be. And I'm angry that I needed them, too. I want to take care of myself. I can never leave me. I will always be there when something happens and I will always be responsible for finding a solution. It's in my contract with myself.

In the meantime, I have to admit that I'm really bad at giving myself hugs, and sometimes I'm not the best conversationalist, and just forget harmonization when I sing. It doesn't happen. So maybe I can't do everything for myself. That makes me mad, too.


  1. My friend, I'm sorry that I let you think it didn't matter to me if you visited. The truth is that I lack confidence and that I have been a needy friend, chasing after people who don't want me, too often, and so I try to give people space to come and go as they like, and I forget that it's selfish to never be the person who indicates interest in spending time together. The truth is, I was delighted and honored every time you, with your charm and your kindness and your genuineness, your ability to see people for who they are and love them anyway, and your constant stream of fascinating ideas, wanted to spend time with me and made time in your busy schedule to do so. I was secretly ecstatic when you made our home, for a time, your designated place to stay. And a little astounded that with all the people you could choose from, you would choose me. I've been very lucky to get to spend so much time with you.

    So now, let me say what I should have said years ago and perhaps assumed that you would somehow magically know: You have a standing invitation. You are always welcome in our house, and more than that, you are always, always wanted. I hereby request a visit every time you are in the area. Moreover, I'm planning to inflict myself on you sometime this spring or summer.

    I understand feeling angry that you need people. It's not a nice feeling to need something that is out of your control. It doesn't make you weak or needy to have let people help you, though. You have helped many, many people, and it's okay to need help, too.

    Also, I understand what you mean about going to the gym (although that sounds terribly painful).

    Also, I have this daydream that sometime I'm going to have enough money to have an enormous house or commune where I can live with all the people I'm closest to, so we can all cook together and talk together and go for walks and be less lonely. I hope it's okay that you're in my imaginary house. I would make you so many cookies. : )

  2. I really, really wish you could move up to the Northwest. I think you would fit well here, and we would love to have you close. Also, Brozy's comment was beautiful, and I don't make good cookies, so she's kinda got me beat on that one. But if you don't want to live in her compound I'll save you a place in mine ;-)

  3. Thanks, you guys. I always feel silly after a rant--but better! And validation is always helpful. :)

    Brozy--it was a joy staying with you. If my children were not allergic to your pet-family members, I would, no doubt, still be visiting often. Stupid allergies!

    Josh--save that place. You never know what might happen. :)