which is something that I've been thinking a lot about over the last month. And it's not just titles. (Poetry, Prose...doesn't matter. I'm terrible at them...) I've been thinking about all the things I'm bad at and wondering a lot about what makes me bad at those things.
Specifically, relationships. Why am I so abysmally bad at making and maintaining friendships and relationships?
Now granted, I will confess my marriage (which I talk very little about, in general not because I'm unhappy in it, but because it seems to be the one consistently positive thing in my life) is wonderful. My husband and I have our disagreements and our troubles - and yes, sometimes they're over huge stuff, but more often they're over stupid shit - but we always seem to pull through them stronger than we were before. We've managed to recover from every problem that's been hurled at us for the last eight years, in fact.
However, the same doesn't hold true for my friendships and relationships with just about anyone else, including some family. Especially friendships.
The pattern seems to go something like this:
1) I meet someone at work or at school and, through some random sequence of events, we become friends. Generally it's the other person's idea. I can say that with complete honesty, because I don't seek friendships with people. I won't talk to people who don't talk to me first, as a general rule.
2) I spend a series of months or years seriously emotionally investing in the relationship. Every crisis, no matter how "big" or "small" (which are relative terms, since I firmly believe that everyone's problems are very huge to them) if the other person needs me, I'm there. No matter what plans I'm breaking to help talk them though their problems, I'm there. In the middle of the night, even. Over the course of the friendship, of course I open up and talk. A lot, probably. (My husband accuses me of talking constantly. I'm always bringing up a news story, something I read, something I saw, a video game I've been playing, etc. He says it's the reason he's comfortable with me, actually. Because he doesn't have to talk very much. He's not much of a talker.) But that being the case, I also listen, a lot. I offer advice where I can. A shoulder where I can't.
3) Something huge comes up in my own life (again, relative) that makes it almost impossible for me to get through the day without having a nervous breakdown. A death in the family. A rejection from someone I'm close to. A health complication with my disabled child. Issues with my ex. When this stuff crops up, this "friend," no matter how long I've known them or how "close" we've gotten, is nowhere to be found. They're "too busy," "have other plans," etc.
Now if this had only happened with one person, then it would hardly be a pattern, would it? But no, this has happened repeatedly over the years, for just about as long as I can remember, and with a (what seems to me) long stretch of friends dating way back.
So I'm beginning to wonder, is it me?
The only answer I can come up with, at least on my own, is "yes and no." I think it's not just that I'm failing as a friend, but also that I'm attracting the kind of person who expects me to be strong and upbeat all the time. And let's face it - is that even possible for most people?
People sometimes mistake my openness for my being stressed beyond belief or crippling sadness, but it's not. My willingness to talk about things - or write about things - is no reflection on my emotional state of mind at the time. It's really when I clam up that alarm bells should go off. Few people are really capable of being positive all the time. I am not one of them.
But I don't expect that from others. No one should have to be upbeat all the time. It's fake. It's not real. I'm not interested in befriending or staying friends with fake people. I want to associate with people who aren't afraid to be real when they're around me. Warts and all. (My husband actually has several of those. Literally.)
So why do I always seem to end up friends with people who can't handle looking at my warts? Oh, they might be okay with one or two, as long as they're in a non-conspicuous spot. Say...my foot. Safely away from their line of vision, rarely talked about. The ones they're not forced to look at. But as soon as I get one (or two, sometimes three...) on my face it becomes a constant case of "holy shit, I never saw anyone run that fast." Because those are the ones you can't avoid looking at without just avoiding the person entirely.
So I've come to the conclusion that I'm done being friends with fake people, particularly those who are this kind of fake.
I'm perfectly happy to listen to your troubles, be a shoulder when you need one, and love you with openness and honesty, warts and all (even when it's a full-blown case, all over your face and your own mother might cringe to look at you).
But don't expect me to play the one-sided maintenance man to our friendship when my warts pop up and you're nowhere in sight.
Because I've determined that's not friendship. That's me being your doormat, and I'm through with that. My PawPaw didn't raise me to lie down and take a beating. Be fake all you like, but go slap someone else with your faux pearls.
A poet I recently found online, Leah Angstman, said it best, I think, when she writes: "sometimes we have to / get up off our knees / fold our hands from prayers to fists / take what we're dealt / and not / even think / about / forgiving it."
I'm done forgiving people for making me their bitch.