There's been a longer silence on this channel than I'd hoped. To be honest, I haven't felt much like writing. For a writer, that's a dangerous feeling. It's even worse when the thoughts pile up, and you have these great topics you want to explore (and believe me, there are things I want to explore in future posts, for some neat things and neat experiences have come my way), but you just don't feel communicative. You can't work up the effort to get them out.
Some of this is due to the day job. I'm in another cycle where I'm up before dawn, in well before my first class (which starts at 8 am), and the next several hours are intense. Frequently, there are meetings, and I have to stay late for those. Sometimes the meetings come on the days I'd scheduled to have for myself. Some of those meetings, and some of the duties I have, are in regards to things that are Very Serious. I've also taken on an additional teaching duty this semester that has been a challenge, and I'll leave it at that, but at least it's resulted in a little extra pay. Not enough to fully compensate me for the additional headaches, but it's still extra pay.
But not all of it has been vocational. The last several months have been a journey. Some of it has had to do with sorting through the recurrence of my anxiety issues. Much of it has had to do with the aftermath of being let go by a friend over the summer. It's taken me a long time, many tears, and many entries in my private journal to reach some sort of peace about it.
There is a special kind of pain you can feel only when something involves a person in whom you've made a deep emotional investment. It's even worse when that emotional investment has lasted years and years, and when you've shared an intense level of emotional candor with one other, trusted each other with confidences, shared hopes and dreams, celebrated successes, commiserated over heartaches and setbacks, sought each other's counsel. You can't do that without a conscious choice to trust someone. And you can't make that choice without having thought it through. That means when it takes a bad turn, there are few things that feel so awful. You're left not only nursing a broken heart, but with your faith in others shaken.
Though we'd corresponded for most of a decade, shared so much with each other, it wasn't until June that we finally met. We spent most of a week together. I had a seriously wonderful time. We did some really cool things, everything from exploring her hometown to taking a day trip to New York City. We had some terrific food; our last dinner together was on her back porch, on a perfect summer evening, sharing homemade pizza and a great bottle of wine. So much of the whole week was just so perfect, I felt.
Better than that, I enjoyed our conversations. I loved getting to know her as an actual human being, not as a concept expressed through e-mail or Facebook postings, but hearing her in her own voice and sharing her company. I appreciated her willingness to share her world with me, to show me the places she'd told me about all these years. I had hoped this visit would be the first of many. I had looked forward to welcoming her to my world someday soon, sharing things I'd told her about and taking her to places I enjoy. I felt genuine sadness when we said goodbye at the airport. I looked forward to what the future held.
But the future had something different in mind. And since the evening late July when the notice came, I've spent so much time and effort trying to kill the ache.
Some days were better than others. I've noticed my happiness does tend to run in cycles. There are times I'm very happy, and then the wave crests (usually when something bad happens) and I feel things going downhill. It's never enough to impair my function or my judgment or my primal instinct for self-preservation, or my interactions with others. Most people can't realize there's anything going on. But in moments when I can let my guard down, or when I'm alone, the sadness can be profound.
Normally that'll last several days, and then I'll start to lift out of it. I know myself well enough, and I've lived with this long enough, to know it'll pass. But after I was let go, the ache was too much; it was a constant, gloomy companion. Sure, sometimes it would lift for a while, but it was never that far away, and would often return at the drop of a hat. I'd wonder why this was happening, and was convinced it was because I'd done something wrong.
When something goes wrong, I get very analytical and self-critical. And this time was no different; an intense post-mortem ensued. I kept thinking back to that week we spent together, for that was the event that led to the eventual parting of ways, and there had been no sign anything was amiss. I kept asking myself, over and over: Did I do something wrong? Was it me? I must have done something terribly wrong, and I'm too much of a blockhead to figure out what I did. I'm a schmuck and I screwed something up. I know it. Over and over and over again. My self-critical nature channeled Jim Garrison replaying the Zapruder film again and again, looking for anything and everything it could find to indict me in the demise of the relationship. Investigative committees should have the fine-tooth comb I use on myself in these situations.
But one day a couple weeks back, it came to me: I should stop beating myself up. I did the best I could.
Sure, I can look back on the time we spent together and there are a few little things I'd have played differently. But in the main, I acted in good faith and did the best I knew how. I tried my best to be courteous and thoughtful and respectful. I did my best to listen and relate. I tried to be the best friend I could be, to treat her the way I'd want her to treat me. Was I perfect? No. Did I commit a faux pas or two? Yes, but everyone will. It's part of being human. You can learn from it, but it's nowhere near as awful as you think. There was no malice intended or implied. Let it go. You did the best you knew how, given the circumstances of any particular moment.
It was amazing: the moment I let myself absorb that realization, the gloom lifted. The peace came in, and I haven't felt the ache since.
Anyone who wants to truly know me has to realize I am emotionally incapable of being anyone but myself. I've never been able to fool myself into thinking I'm anyone else, or to make myself feel an emotion I don't truly believe. I'd make a lousy card player. I'd love to do some acting but I would never let myself truly get into character, and it's for that very reason. I just can't be anyone but myself. I can't put up a front. I can't, period.
With that comes a series of admissions: my goofy and obscure sense of humor, my love for arcana and inability to shut up about it sometimes, the anxieties I must keep at bay, and some other things. But I've come to accept that those things are real, and they are part of me, and I must deal with them appropriately. Some of them I've kept in decent check; others, I'm improving. But I've come to realize it's all a part of who I am, and that they're not necessarily bad things, and the people who stay in my circle know those things are all part of me, and they love me just the same, and they don't try to change me. They just know it's a part of me.
I've found some of the most rewarding and lasting relationships in my life really had nothing to do with how we met, or interests we shared (if any we did). That's all circumstantial. What keeps us together is that same kind of honesty. It means we respect each other for who we are and don't try to change each other. We trust one another, and we know our relationship will survive whatever life throws at it. It means in times good and bad, we hold together like family (again, I'm of the firm belief that true friends are family). It means not hesitating to call the other out when a line gets crossed. It means there's no tolerance for baloney, but instead you get to the point. And it means statements like "I love you" or "I'm glad you're in my life" are absolute facts with profound resonance.
It's a very mature concept of friendship. But, the older I get, the more it's the only kind of friendship I have any interest in. Those who are willing to give me that, who can understand that concept, are the ones who get my friendship, who become virtual family to me, for whom I'll do anything. The rest...well, they are at best good acquaintances. I change who I am for no one except myself, because I can't. With me, there's no front; what you get is the real thing. It's the only way I know. If I can't convince myself, then how can I convince you? It's so much easier to just be honest.
I mourn what happened to the friendship I had. I won't lie about it: sometimes I miss her, and sometimes I think about how much fun our time together was. But I've done something I thought I couldn't do, and that's let it go. It happened, and I gave it my best, but I can do nothing about what has happened. So, instead of grieving, I'm appreciating what I do have. And I'm seeing light again, a light I haven't seen in a while. There's too much that's too good about this life I have. There's too many second chances I've been given at life for me to mourn the losses; they'll happen.
Instead, look ahead at the new dawn. There's always another one.