Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thanks for the Memories

The clock says 8:44 a.m. Why am I awake? This could be a highly unusual day. I should be sleeping after roaming the land all night long. As vampires do.

That's what she said I am. A vampire. An Emotional Vampire, to be exact. Well, she didn't say it outright, but she sent me a link to an Internet quiz, exhorting me to read it and change my ways before I destroy my life any further. She said it with such genuine concern. Clearly it would behoove me to oblige her request.

"She" being an old friend of mine. We haven't spoken in well over a year, and our last interactions weren't much in the way of friendly. They weren't outwardly ugly either, but then, Ugly has never been a master of disguise. We haven't spoken because, according to her by way of an Internet quiz (and who doesn't believe Internet quizzes are accurate gauges of the human psyche?), EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT. According to the author of the quiz, if I answered yes to half or more of the questions, I better drop everything, read on, and learn how to stop being such a miserable piece of shit. (Full disclosure: I did not answer yes to half, and I did answer honestly.)

As I write today, I find myself buried in bull manure so deep that I'm struggling to find the proper syllables to begin digging myself out. Do I start by accusing my former friend of being a total jerk? Tempting, but least-common-denominator retorts aren't my thing. Do I list the ways in which I don't fit the criteria for emotional vampirism? Likely at some point, since I am prone to providing supporting evidence. Do I skip writing and instead search for an Internet personality quiz to send her? Or buy her a set of emotional bifocals? Man. The possibilities. 

Here's why I'm waving in public the smelly socks of my personal life: Self-awareness. Be aware that when something goes wrong in a relationship, there are two parties involved. Believe this: You contributed to the dissolution of the relationship.The divvying up of blame can lead to a degree of self-pity, but in the end, only the one who feels hurt will care. Life doesn't dole out results according to our individual senses of justice. 

To be fair, I have to reveal that Former Friend did throw in "We both failed each other." Magnanimous, right. To be even more fair, after reading her fake-earnest attempt at helping me cure myself of being myself—via the Internet personality quiz—I wasn't without the ability to see some remnants of myself in there, not specifically listed in said quiz but in an overall sense: I can be difficult to deal with. I'm not incapable of recognizing this. However, I abide by this revolutionary idea: I expect a true friend to deal with it. In Former Friend's world view, I am self-destructive. This assessment befuddles me in relation to how I see myself. Or maybe we have differing ideas of what self-destruction entails. To me, if a person isn't abusing others, smoking crack, trading sex for money, neglecting the well being of children, or suffering from an untreated mental disorder, they're doing okay in life. To do that confessional thing I like to do: I surely haven't led a drama-free life, have a habit of talking my feelings to death, have been financially irresponsible at times, and have dated four poor choices, give or take one. I also have difficulty with intimacy, both romantic and platonic. Uh oh--maybe it is because I suck, literally. I suck dry the emotional reserves of those I selfishly expect to love me unconditionally. Or this: I've spent a large amount of my adulthood living alone and being single--largely enjoying my solitude, by the way--and in that time I've come to discover a myriad of contributing factors to my troubles with other people, which cannot be neatly packaged into a box labeled "Emotional Vampire." 

While I've spent the bulk of this blog mocking the total-crap effort of Former Friend to address with kindness or compassion the rift in our friendship, beneath it all lies a lot of hurt. I loved her. She was the first friend I made in a new city, and we had great times together. She said she hopes that I don't believe those times were in vain. I don't, but that doesn't erase or address the latter part of our friendship. She is convinced that part is my fault, because I'm flawed. Because I possess a victim mentality. The inanity of that accusation shows an incredible lack of insight into the woman that is me. If anything, I'm given to inordinate amounts of self-blame, or, in an objective, healthy way, I attempt to uncover my part in whatever is happening in my world. In the event I conclude that someone else has done wrong to me—and—gasp!—this actually happens—it doesn't diminish my own self-awareness. I assume FF takes as gospel the word of Internet quiz-writer, who asserts that Emotional Vampires are responsible for how people react to them, that they cause people to hurt them. This is incredibly irresponsible and downright terrible advice. It's true that humans can possess qualities that other humans find impossible to tolerate. No one is required to remain in anyone's life, not for reasons of history or blood relation or legal certificates. This doesn't diminish a simple truth: One person is never responsible for another person's behavior. We are each individually responsible for how we treat others. 

I'm well aware of the picture of my life. I don't make traditional choices or take the easy or practical path. I see those aspects of my personality as ones that make my life as charming as it is complicated. Part of me would like to encourage FF to practice some self-awareness herself: Look back, my former dear, and consider that your attitude is not often kind, that your approach is not often conducive to productive discourse. Part of me knows it doesn't matter. Because people only discover themselves if and when they're ready.

Why am I wasting valuable time justifying my own existence to a callous, cold somebody? I'm not. Her mind is already made up. I'm sharing because I need to vent and because maybe someone else can benefit from hearing it. 

There is nothing in my life that has altered my perspective like motherhood. Not motherhood in particular, but single motherhood. And not single motherhood in particular, but a situation that compelled me to pick up my life in one state—a life that had finally started to fall together—and start anew elsewhere. My past few years have been rife with challenges. I've had my meltdowns and my triumphs. I've dodged quite a few daggers of judgment all along the way. We all judge, by the way. I'm no less guilty of it. When judgment is placed upon us, it naturally becomes personal and perplexing. Infuriating. Insulting. Through this journey of my past few years, my mind has been opened. My capacity for compassion has matured. 

There's one person I always think of when I talk about how people treat each other. A girl I knew many years ago in college and with whom I became very close. She led a troubled life, and for most of our relationship I was the only person who seemed to stick around for her. Our friendship was volatile, ending abruptly a few times. Two of those times, I let us both down. I said hurtful things, lashed out. It's been a few years since our last earthquake, and in that time I've felt a great deal of guilt. I don't regret my feelings or thoughts about her, and I think that's important to recognize. It's equally important to own my behavior, and I do wish I'd taken a kinder approach to handling our problems. So last year I wrote her a letter of apology. She never replied. Maybe she didn't get it. Maybe she didn't care. That bothers me, but I continually remind myself that an apology is meant to live alone, stand on its own with no external affirmation. 

In the spirit of equity, I'll add that above-mentioned friend didn't treat me well at times either, finding what I saw as a troubling sense of enjoyment in pushing my buttons and taking it upon herself to re-assess my beliefs for me. Here is the point where it gets tricky. It's okay—and necessary, I believe—to recognize how others treat (or mistreat) us. However, we have to remember to redirect our thoughts, lest we forget our own end of the teeter totter of relationships. My friend's unsavory behavior did not excuse mine. We each did what we did, and we each must reconcile ourselves with it. Such a pretty centerpiece, that last sentence there. In reality it's put together with great toil and up close you can see the duct tape and cracking glue. But that's okay as long as you make it and put it out there.

I lost a friend this week. She was already gone, really, but this week it became stamped and pressed onto a page in the history of my life. I don't get the feeling she mourns the loss. I do. As cliches and Internet memes and common sense urge me to do, I'll have to let it go. I don't like to harbor anger, but sometimes it's more productive than pain. If I stay mad at her, I won't miss her. If I keep inhaling the putridity of the assertion that I'm fatally flawed, I won't want her in my life. Flawed I am. Even messy at times. Emotional and impractical. An ultimate act of self-destruction I am not. 

If you believe in yourself, if you know there's a method to the madness of your existence despite whatever obstacles and objections remain, don't let anyone take that from you. 

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