Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I get it

My husband had lunch with a friend yesterday who was talking to him about a situation she's come up against with a couple of other friends.  Basically, she and her husband are friends with two couples and have been for years.  Since high school.  Everyone in that group of six used to get along just fine, but there was an incident that fractured the relationship between two of the couples, leaving my husband's friend and her husband sort of caught in the middle.  It sounds as if the end of the friendship between two of the couples was ugly and people who had been friends for a really long time said some pretty harsh things.  In the end, one of the people in the situation ended up being told he was basically a piece of garbage and no one had ever liked him.  Ouch.

Now, my husband's friend and her spouse are sort of caught between the two.  They hang out with one couple more often than the other (the one who was most hurt in the situation) and the more injured of the two parties takes it very personally.  He gets upset, and he becomes sort of needy because he gets less time with these friends than the other couple.  My husband's friend finds it frustrating, because it's not intentional that one couple is getting more time than the other, but this friend seems to feel as if it is.

After hearing this story relayed back to me, my initial reaction was to say "Well, he's really making something out of nothing", but on further reflection, I feel very sad for this person.  I think I feel sad because I get it.  I get that hurt, and that feeling of insecurity that comes from it.  I've been that person who was told they were a piece of garbage.  I've been that person who thought they were close to someone only to have it all fall apart.  And I've been that person who watches everyone else get along just fine with those people and it can be hard.  It can be hard to always wonder if those people are poisoning everyone else against you, or to wonder if people saying something isn't intentional is entirely honest.  It's hard to know that you lost people you really cared about and see that other people are seemingly becoming closer to those people, because you wonder if the others are next.  You get put in a space of always waiting for the next shoe to drop.  You question everything.  You read too much into everything.  You become more afraid than you ever really knew you could be, because you just feel like you can't lose one more thing without going a little mad.  It's particularly hard when the assessment is that you're garbage, or you're the entire problem, when in reality all parties probably own some responsibility.  It's easy to feel like these other people are all hanging out without you, so your other friends are choosing sides and they didn't choose you.  I realized, the more I thought about it, that I really got where this person was coming from.

My husband told his friend that she had to understand where this person was coming from as well, and that he's been there and he gets it and it's ugly and hard and she said "Well, it's pretty exhausting to deal with" and his response was "Sometimes being a good friend is exhausting".

And it is.  Sometimes I think it's more exhausting than people want to put up with, so they don't.  They walk away because it's easier, and that exacerbates the problem.  I think for those who are used to being told how terrible they are, walking away just reinforces the message.  In the end, I hope my husband's friend finds some understanding and compassion for this friend of hers, and I hope her friend finds some love and loyalty where they need it.  But, in the meantime, I get it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beyond 100 days

Earlier today I was reading this article after it was posted by a blogger I follow on Facebook, and as I sat there reading it and feeling like none of it really applied to me too much, I got to a couple of sentences, or part of a couple of sentences, that hit me right between the eyes:

"The loneliness that hits at random times..."
" have to figure out how you fit in this world again."

Whoa.  Like a punch to the gut.  What followed or preceded either of those snippets didn't feel like it applied to me, necessarily.  I don't feel like my life went through 100 days of darkness after my daughter was born.  There were rough patches, to be sure, but I know for sure that I was never stumbling through the grocery store like a zombie who hadn't even looked at herself in the mirror before leaving the house.  I didn't have days where I couldn't eat, sleep, or shower.  Often I didn't feel like I was able to get enough sleep, but I was always able to get enough to be able to function and take care of myself and my daughter just fine.  I wasn't anxiously waiting at the door for my husband to come home so I could hand her off just to regain some sanity.  At least not most days.  My marriage didn't take a hit from trying to balance baby care and our relationship.  We actually weathered that storm just fine.  We hardly fought.  I had one night where I cried because I felt like we hadn't gone to bed at the same time in weeks and I just missed being able to cuddle up to each other as we fell asleep, but that was the worst of it.

Those two sentence snippets, though.  Those I know all too well.  And they don't end after that 100 days of darkness the article references.  Those keep going, all the time.  Those evenings when you just feel terribly lonely and miss friends.  The moments when you want to send a text message to someone just to have some interaction, but you don't have anything to talk about because you don't DO anything anymore and you don't want to just resort to talking about your kid, so instead you do nothing.  Those times when your kid does something you're really excited about, but you realize as you scroll your phone that there isn't one person you can tell who would really care.  That loneliness goes bone deep, and it hits you hard when it happens.  You usually don't see it coming either, but it's a reminder of how isolated you can feel.

I think that couples with figuring out how you fit into this world again, too.  It's a constant battle of trying to figure out how you can be you and still be mom.  How you can balance your career with being a good parent who is present and able to be present and give your kids the time they need and deserve.  Constantly having to choose between your needs and theirs (spoiler alert: yours always lose that battle) and having to figure out where you fit in your group of peers when all is said and done.  If you even fit at all.  Which, I think most often, you don't.  I feel like trying to stay true to who you are while also having this other piece of your life that takes your time and attention is a huge struggle that everyone faces.  I've tried to fight against expectations and keep things as normal as I can, to remain as true to myself as I can, and yet I still feel like I have no idea where I fit in this world anymore.  All of the things I once thought were solid simply aren't.  That's hard.  That's the piece I'm afraid I'll never figure out.  I don't fit with the mommies, but I don't seem to fit with my friends anymore either.  So that contributes to the loneliness.  But what if I never find that space that I fit into now with this new version of me?  That's terrifying.

I think a piece of me wishes those things had ended after those dark days the article was referencing.  But, I think those ones might linger.  Possibly forever.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Intentional Kindness

I've been thinking over the past week or so as lots of things have been evolving in my life.  I've been thinking a lot lately about intention.  Intention is an interesting idea, because it's so easy to assume that when someone hurts us, or someone does something that negatively affects our lives, that it's done with the intention of seeing that happen.  I've done it.  Everyone has done it.  The reality is that we are all made of flaws and mistakes.  We're all going to do something at some point that someone misinterprets or that somehow hurts someone and they will assume we intended for that to happen.  That causes a lot of discomfort in friendships or relationships or whatever.  Sometimes, it can end them all together.

There have been a few things that have come to light lately that make me question the intentions of other people.  Betrayal by a friend has me questioning whether they intended for the damage that the betrayal left in its wake to happen, or if that was just a side effect of the things they said.  I'm honestly not sure what the intention was, or what the motivation was for them to do what they did, but it's hard to address the situation because the hurt part of me says "Why did you want to hurt me?" while the rational part of me says I don't know that this person wanted to hurt me.  It makes things difficult, I guess, to have two parts of at odds over what to do.

Though all of this, though, I've been thinking about what I feel is missing a lot of the time in a lot of people's lives.  In the end, I think everyone could just use a lot more kindness.  I know I could.  I feel like I've been left out to dry by a lot of people I invested in, and that I've been made to feel like the person I am is just too much work for other people to be going on with.  And that's hard.  But, if I flip that around and ask myself whether those people feel that way because everything else in their lives is also too much work and I'm just one more thing to deal with, wouldn't they do well to experience a little bit of kindness?  And, moreover, maybe I should show some kindness even though they didn't show much to me.  Because maybe we're all fighting a mighty battle behind the scenes.

I've always tried to be there for people who need it, or to support people who need some support, but I've just sort of done it through saying "Let me know if you need anything" and there's no real intention behind that.  So, that's what I'm thinking about as we move into the next few months.  Showing kindness with intention.  Taking an extra step to do something without being asked.  To do something without putting the burden of naming what that particular "thing" is back on the person who needs the help.  Intentionally being kind just because I think most people don't see enough of it.  I started last week when two co-workers were having a really rough time.  I spent $10 and brought them each flowers one day, because I can't fix what happened but I can brighten a moment within the aftermath.  I guess, in some small way, I've been slowly working up to this for a while.  A few weeks ago I cooked a meal and took it to a friend who just had a baby, because I know how hard those first days are.  I have been dropping boxes of clothing and second hand baby gear off to a former co-worker who doesn't have much family in the area, because I know how daunting it can be to gather all of those things yourself and every little bit helps.  And here's the thing, I keep thinking about this more and more and I feel like this whole showing kindness thing isn't just for people you're really close to, or who you have really invested in their relationship with you.  I think it's for everyone you know, no matter how casual that relationship might be, because in some way you've touched their life at some point.  So, who cares if it was 10 years ago?  Who cares if you haven't talked to them in a long time?  That doesn't decrease their need to feel cared for or loved in some small way.  So, that's what I've been keeping in mind.  And sure, some gestures might cost me a bit of cash.  The flowers cost $10, but I got a bonus at work and there wasn't a better use for it in that moment.  Taking a meal to someone might cost me a few bucks and some time, but how wonderful is it for those people to not have to worry about food for an evening?  Churches do tithing where you give a portion of your income to the church to do good, so maybe I need to just think of this as tithing to the universe where I can do the good that needs done.  And, it doesn't always have to cost money, since handing down clothes is free, or sending a quick note is also free.  But the point is that I plan to be more intentional in these things.  Not because I want anything in return, truly I don't, but because I know a lot of that is missing in my life and I can't change how I've been treated, but I can change how other people feel about their lives and how much they feel like they matter.

So, I think that's going to be my focus for a while.  To be intentionally kind in the absence of kindness.  Who knows, maybe in the long run it'll make me a better person as well.