I’m not gonna lie: lately, I’ve been feeling funky about my friends. This sentiment usually crops up once or twice a year, where I feel disappointed in others. Yes, I have recurring issues with energy and effort in relationships. I understand the dangers and pains of expectations, esp having been on the receiving end of it with my family all my life, yet I can’t help but feel sometimes like my people’s inactions fail me.
I read recently that in today’s media-crazed world, your attention is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to others. Sure, people have different love languages, skills, strengths and weaknesses, and all that. I try my best to remember what their love languages are (no matter how different or counter intuitive they are from mine) and blend what I sense is important to them with what I myself feel is important for relationships in general.
Of course, Bubbey listens/observes my gripes whenever I’m in the funk. And certainly, there have been multiple times where he tries to remind me not to take things so personally– people are busy and sometimes people just aren’t good with keeping track of details. Recently though, he told me that I do too much for others. Like whenever my friends are stressed about something or in need of something, I listen and talk with them and then later, I follow up with research to fill their gap. Admittedly, it’s the problem-solving part of my ESTJ nature, and as I’ve been told before: sometimes people want you to listen only and not solve their problems. That’s fine. I listen, but can I still share my feedback? Fucking social intelligence, man. Who the fuck knows how to navigate all this complication. But yeah, whether it’s dealing with depression, stressing about money, needing a student loan, grappling with the loss of a love, the death of someone… I think about how to find resources and options and then I offer what I can. Typically, Bubbey never questions my decisions and choices on how or where to help– be it for my family or for my friends–but a few months ago, I was stressed about a friend’s scenario, and I was ready to jump right in. In a rare departure from his usual supportive stance, he said “People need to figure out their own shit. You do too much. I mean, what about all the stuff you’ve been going through? I don’t see anyone checking in to ask you about all your struggles– leaving your shitty job, your fears for what’s next, all the burdens you’re bearing with Martin, your family, or anything! What have they done for you? So many times, you help them and they give you nothing in return!”
He’s always said one of his biggest concerns when I’m not working is that I do this dangerous manic dance, where I waver between busying myself and getting shit done and overthinking and feeling down about myself and my life. I dunno. Some of my relationships do feel pretty damn lopsided. Maybe I’m just feeling like a martyr today. I see similarities with my dad. He does a lot for other people and although he never asks for anything in return, small gestures of acknowledgement and expressions of care carry him a long way in feeling appreciated, useful, and helpful. In the past, I’ve criticized him for doing too much– to the point where people just seem to expect his help and they no longer are gracious.
Many years ago, when I was working at the government agency, a friend/coworker had an extremely volatile relationship with her boyfriend/housemate. Things came to a head, and J and I immediately offered our home to her and her hyper/aggressive dog. She filled our garage with her stuff, and she moved into my office/spare bedroom. It was a stressful time, with her working through lots of drama and fear and uncertainty. In the end, she only stayed a month, maybe a little less. After I left the agency, she and I lost touch. A few months ago, I met up with another coworker who told me that friend is basically blaming me for losing touch with her, and she even made some comment that I can only be friends with people who adopt my same perspective.
It’s true: we did lose touch for multiple reasons, but was differing perspectives the reason? I mean, I guess so if you consider a toxic personality a different perspective. Let’s rewind: On a few occasions while I was still working there, she misconstrued my actions and accused me of ill intention. In addition, she was constant drama, one of those people who always believes that she has zero choices and is trapped by life. For example, when she was staying here and looking for another place to live, for every suggestion J or myself or others gave, there was an excuse: She couldn’t live there bc her dog needed space. She couldn’t get a roommate bc her dog wasn’t good with people. She couldn’t live at a specific property even though it was in her price range bc it was too old and shabby. Blah, blah, she was never gonna have a home of her own… she’s never had a place that feels like home. It was exhausting trying to emotionally support her. And then other shit happened: I stopped having her dogsit Remy and Martin, bc her dog was aggressive towards Remy a few times and Remy was getting fragile in her elder years. I didn’t invite her on-and-off boyfriend (who could keep track?) to my bday party, and now I was accused of deliberately cutting her, her bf ,and her dog from my life. WTF, who talks like that? And her negativity pervaded everything. So yeah, I grew frustrated with the negativity. I was fine with her not taking my suggestions, but if you’re miserable with your life, do SOMETHING other than the status quo! Life 101.
And ultimately, losing touch is a two-way street. Since I left, I have organized multiple group activities with my coworkers. Of course, she was invited. Has anyone else ever organized a meetup? Has she in particular reached out to me independently? Apparently, she recently broke up with the boy and bought a house. I was happy for her, so to hear the ill will later is just plain hurtful. Not entirely unexpected, but still hurtful. My whole life, I’ve had to constantly defend myself against my mother’s accusations and insistence that my actions were questionable– done out of jealously or malice or selfishness. Come to think of it, my mother and this coworker have similar personalities: both are paranoid, neurotic, distrustful, and paralyzed by catastrophic thinking. I read so many quotes about love and friendship and relationships: be wholehearted and giving. I try to live by those values, to be generous and gracious and open. When my friends do well, I am happy for them. The right path forward is to acknowledge that this friendship was a temporal one, to wish her well, and to move forward. Still, her comments are so fucking irksome!!!
April 1 was the 2-year anniversary of Remy’s death. ONE friend remembered. ONE. Others were kind enough to say something once they realized the day, but I dunno. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Am I saying then that I expect everyone to remember all these dates and milestones, like the death of my nephew, the death of Remy, the death of M, etc.? No, that’s absurd. But I was so very sad that day, and it was upsetting to feel alone in my memories of Remy. I cried as I read through my stack of cards next to her shrine in my bedroom. The condolence cards from two years ago were so touching and meaningful to me. Even the vet, he wrote this lengthy card and later the UC Davis vet school sent me an acknowledgement that he made a donation in her memory. So sweet.
April 1 came and went. Then the other day, a friend emailed me after about two months of silence. What’s up, blah, blah all the things going on… which btw, I had asked about months ago and never heard back. I replied a day later, responding to her update and then sharing all my crap including my dad’s health and such. Not a damn. word. back. That’s what I mean. I know this isn’t a game of tennis where every volley needs a reply, but you asked how I was doing, I responded, and then nothing. It’s like this other friend. Months ago, I emailed that S’s boyfriend got hit by a car and died. No reply. I seriously thought my email wasn’t working. Weeks later, I was like, did you get this? Oh yeah. I got it and meant to reply and then I got sick. So sorry. WTF, are you for real? Tell me the mature/adult way I should react. I was trying to analyze why these interactions annoy me. Um, to start: Lack of genuine concern, lack of initiative, and bullshit follow through. John reminds me: everyone is doing the best that they can. Your strengths of keeping in touch and checking in are not necessarily other people’s strengths. Pull back on how much you invest in others. Focus on what’s next for you. Translation: Suck it up and don’t care so much. You do you. Once again, more work for me, bc I’m the one with the problem.