Today I need to talk about friendship. I don’t want to, though. Not at all. Because having friends, real friends who know your demons and love you anyway, and trust you to love them anyway, that terrifies me more than *not* having friends ever could. I used to think I was a good friend. I was always there for whoever needed me, listening, giving up my time and energy, and sometimes cookies. But it’s not so simple. And I think, looking back, that I was as much interested in being perceived as wonderful as I was in actually being that way, maybe more. Well these days I’m over giving a crap about that sort of thing, mostly, but I’m having trouble figuring it out from here.
I took a little time-out last week to shut out all the white noise of life and Facebook feeds. And I liked it. In fact I’m still mostly doing it. Then my counselor said yesterday that that was good and all, but I also need to be sure I keep the connections, the friends, that matter. I need a tether to the world, she said, and she was right, and terrifying at the same time. My god, I thought, she can actually tell that I’m so content in my own little bubble of weird that I really will just fly into orbit at any second and never even consider coming back down to earth. She also asked me to tell her about the friends I have who get me. And I couldn’t stop those little leaky tears, or the erupting lump in my throat, through which I forced my answer. Nobody gets me¹. I don’t know how to let them do that. How to give them that…
Part of the problem is that most of my “now” friends are people I met during the wild phase of my divorce. You know, the dance like you just turned 21, drink like you haven’t turned 21 yet so you better make the most of it before you get caught sort of thing. They know a side of me that hadn’t existed until we invented it together. And really for my own health, I’ve mostly let that side fade into memory through benign neglect for years now. To be fair, I was a lot of fun back then, and now I’m not so much. I feel like I’ve broken the promise of who I was to those friends, and like there’s not much else there to offer, and really it’s not like we remember most of the stories we told each other over shots and beers. Most of them have changed too, because we’re all growing up in one way or another. It’s not surprising things have gotten a little awkward, I mean, a lot of us are friends because we just happened to fall apart at the same time. Left with just Facebook updates to go on, I struggle, and I imagine so do they, with what we still have in common.
But also, that’s kind of a bullshit excuse, because I just detach sometimes. It’s one of my more asshat-ish qualities. In the past, I’ve let some amazing friendships die because of where my head was, mostly because of depression. I was so busy falling, I didn’t notice I was hurting other people by letting them go. Some I lost during the divorce, because that is well and truly what happens during divorce. Sometimes I just felt… too much. And needed to think before I said anything. For like twenty years or so. Sometimes I just moved away and gave up.
The best friends I’ve had in life have always been misfits and thinkers, and there are some I miss terribly even after decades. And at one time or another, I let all of these friends down. I let that connection fizzle, or die, or fade into Christmas card status, but then I never send those anyway, I just fill them out and wait until it’s too late to mail them (am I the only one?). Most times when I dropped friends, it was at a time when I could most have used a friend. Something in me just stopped. It wasn’t lack of affection, I love these people to this day. It was something I’m missing, and I don’t know how to get it. I’m missing that piece where maybe I allow myself to be selfish and needy and weak and ugly and unworthy but still able to trust someone to love me. And I don’t. I don’t trust anyone to do that, and I don’t know yet how to make that happen.
Trust. I suppose I have trust issues because I’ve also been a magnet for broken people who wanted me to save them so they didn’t have to do it themselves, and I threw myself into these “relationships” with the fervor I’ve always had for saving puppies and lost souls. I was so busy trying to control everything for them that I didn’t notice I was drowning, and so were they, and even then I still cared more about “saving” them than myself. I guess I thought being utterly selfless was next to godliness. Honestly though, it’s shit. You can’t live that way, it’s bad for the other people, and it will make you crazy if you weren’t already there, and here we have that whole egg/chicken thing, so it’s best to just let that one sit there leaking on the counter. (The egg. The egg came first. And yeah, you have to be a little broken yourself to be that attractive to broken people, you just do.)
Ahem… Anyway. I do have “writing” friends, whom I adore but never see in real life because they’re mostly bunches of floating pixels of fairy light for whom I have to make up voices because, hello Internet. And some local writers who seem amazing but are busy and productive and slightly terrifying to me because I could actually meet up with them in person at some point, and even though I’m a “social introvert” I avoid writing meetups that I really want to attend because I’m scared of being seen. I am the queen of saying Maybe when I mean No but wish I meant Yes. But I want to want to go. I really do. Except I don’t…
Making friends at any age is scary. Making friends in your (very) (no, seriously, VERY) late forties feels even sillier than dating (not that *you’re* silly for dating, this is a me thing, I swear), because somehow you think your life story really should all just be on a resume somewhere so people can screen one another without too much wasted time. This would also help you walk away from the ones that just won’t work without hurt feelings. (Yes, I’ve made friends with people I didn’t like much to avoid hurting their feelings, don’t judge me – I said I’m not good at this for Pete’s sake, what were you expecting?) Anyway at this age, you also think you should already have all the friends you need. I mean, you may say out loud to yourself “Hey self, what sort of person gets to this age and doesn’t have proper best friends? Loser.” Yeah, I’m kind of an ass to myself, obviously. But I do feel a bit old to be telling stories about how I picked my favorite color and otherwise romancing potential besties.
And so here I am, wondering how do I begin, and where, to make a friend or two? And my brain jumps in with: Why, in the laboratory, of course! We shall harvest bits of the finest mostly-dead artists and weird people and create cool and awesome Franken-friends with whom to frolic! We shall share wine and various craft projects while telling tales of derring-do and plotting to take over the world! Muahahahaha.
And that sort of thing may be why I don’t have any friends that get me¹.
¹ Okay, to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of brave souls who are in danger of getting me and are trying much harder to be my friends than I probably deserve, and I love them and they terrify me, so much that I won’t say their names because what if they don’t know how important they are? Good lord, I don’t even really get myself, now that I think about it.