And we're off!
Goodbye '11, hello '12.
I'm not a big New Year's Eve/Day person. I firmly believe that if you want to change something, resolve something, then there's no time like the present, regardless of what the calendar says. I know people who make resolutions every year and stick to them. And I know more people who make resolutions every year and don't stick to them. I mean I get it, out with the old, in with the new. New year, fresh start, all that. But let's say it's August and you decide you want to quit smoking. Why wait five months to start saving your lungs and life?
Anyway. If you're hoping to resolve something this year, yay you, good luck, you can do it!
This year is a little different for me. New Year's Eve coincided with an event that was the culmination of a resolution I've been working on for a long time.
After HWNMNBS dumped me some people I knew, "friends," were really harsh to me. Not blaming me, but saying things like, "I'm not surprised, I didn't think he'd go through with it," and "you need to get out and find a different kind of man, you were all wrong for him, you need a man who can't get any woman he wants, you know, someone who will be happy just to be with a woman and will appreciate your personality." Those are actual quotes. From people who were my friends.
Yes. With friends like that...I did some soul searching.
I think they were trying to be "helpful" or "honest." And I do appreciate candor. And I know I'm chopped liver. And I knew HWNMNBS deserved someone far prettier than me. Which is why I really did not need my friends to tell me what I already knew, especially since it was so harsh and hurtful and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Shy of head to toe plastic surgery there was nothing I could do to change into the woman he wanted. So my friends' candid and honest assessments were not in any way helpful, only hurtful. Salt in an already painful wound.
I chose to use that experience as a valuable lesson about the sort of people I had in my life. It became obvious that I had a lot of people, friends, who were not really friends. I realized I knew a lot of people like HWNMNBS. People who value appearances and things equally (or more) than personality and intrinsic values. I was surprised to discover this because I'm not that sort of person and never have been. I was really surprised to realize how many people, friends, I had who were really superficial, shallow, arrogant, status-seeking jerks. Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. But. Not in every case. And yes, I knew some of them were arrogant jerks, but, I thought they had redeeming qualities. Up to that point in my life I thought it was good to have lots of different types of friends. A rich and colorful tapestry of relationships is healthy, right? Well...yes...and no.
And that was my "epiphany." 1) I'm too forgiving and too quick to only see the good in people. 2) Seeing the good in people, accepting and looking past their faults and flaws and focusing on their good qualities, doesn't mean you have to be friends with them.
I resolved to limit or even eliminate negative people in my life. It's been a process, not an event. I let some friendships fade and I have been very careful about the type of people I let into my inner friendship circle.
Which hasn't been difficult because the older I get, the more difficult it is to cultivate new friendships. People my age are married and have young children...I have almost nothing in common with most people my age. Once you're over the age of 33 it's difficult to find a peer group of never married, childless people who aren't GLBT. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) And when I include, "not a shallow, negative, self-involved, jerk" into the demographic the odds of finding even one peer, let alone an entire peer group, is next to impossible. Believe me, I've tried. I'm the woman who placed a personal ad looking for friends, remember?
Along with resolving to eliminate or at least distance myself from the negative people in my life, I resolved to be a better friend to the people who really mattered to me. And to cultivate friendships with people who are, you know, nice. Sincere, genuine, nonjudgmental, decent human beings. That, too, has been a process not an event. I'm surprised how judgmental people there are. Finding and making new friends who are positive and sincere is a lot more difficult than I ever imagined.
So I thought, "Wow, I'm lucky I already have some really good friends, good people in my life, otherwise I'd be really lonely."
Yadda yadda yadda, the last of my friends got married, babies started arriving, houses in suburbs were bought, jobs were quit...and those good friends, the positive ones I was so lucky to have, started to have a lot less time for me. We had less and less in common and the conversations became strained. By simply not doing what they were doing, I became a negative person in their lives.
And then I got laid-off and I became a leper to most of my friends.
And then, a few months ago, one of my friends called to inform me that she was re-enacting her wedding and since I was in her wedding I was expected to give a command performance of my bridesmaid role
. This particular friend and I go waaaaaay back. I mean way, way, way back. As in, I know things about her no one else knows. Embarrassing things. And she knows a few embarrassing things about me, too. If she wanted to resort to blackmail to get me to attend her wedding re-enactment, she had plenty of material from which to choose. But because I'm still in that, "cherish and strengthen friendships with people who really matter" mentality, I bit the bullet and agreed to spend New Year's Eve 2011 re-enacting my friends wedding.
I knew it was going to be awful on a lot of levels, but this person, my friend, matters to me and I'm a good sport. And she knows things about me. Damaging things. Scary things.
The first problem was logistics. I had to get to the event. It was held 2,000 miles away. My friend offered to give me her husband's air miles to purchase a plane ticket to the party. I still had enough air miles to get a ticket, but, it was New Year's Eve. A holiday. Blackout dates. I thought, "Yay! Perfect excuse to not attend!!!" I called my friend and said, "Sorry, friend, but I tried to use air miles to get a plane ticket, and with the holiday on a weekend this year the blackout days are extended...I just can't get there. I'm really sorry."
Two days later I got an email confirmation for a plane ticket. My friend bought me a plane ticket to attend her wedding re-enactment.
Great. Well. That's that. So much for poverty as an excuse to not attend.
I now had to tackle the second problem. I didn't keep the bridesmaid dress I wore in her wedding. Apparently the other bridesmaids kept theirs and were re-configuring them to wear to the re-enactment. Even if I still had the dress, it would be impossible to reconfigure it to fit me now. I was still anorexic at the original wedding. Well, I was working on not being anorexic, I was eating at least one full meal a day, but the thought of being in her wedding with the other bridesmaids who were all under 5'5" and reed thin was so daunting that I relapsed six weeks prior to the weeding and was at least 35 pounds under weight when we walked down the aisle on her wedding day. I'm healthy, now, and a long, long, long way from that body. And I wouldn't want to go back to that weight. Or fit in that dress. Moot points, though, because I don't have the dress. I finally confessed to my friend that I didn't keep the dress. She said that was okay, I could find something in the same color and "just wear that." Yeah. I'm unemployed, in foreclosure, selling or donating everything I own and she wants me to find something the color of the bridesmaid dress and "just wear that" to her wedding re-enactment. Let me refresh your memory about that bridesmaid dress. It was made from special order imported fabric in a bizarre share of blue-red-purple and of such as odd fabric composition that I (and the other bridesmaids) broke out in a rash that started during the nuptials and lasted a full 10 days after the wedding.
I pulled out a plain dress from the few clothes I kept when I boxed up the last of my possessions. And then, while the rest of the Western world was out shopping for holiday presents, I scoured what seemed like every fabric store in the Midwest to find fabric similar to the original bridesmaid dress. I was thinking I could fashion a belt or sash or shawl or something to match the bridesmaid dresses. No luck. Finally, on Christmas Eve, a package from one of the other bridesmaids arrived at my mother's house. She had fabric left from her dress reconfiguration and she generously sent me the remnants of her dress to me so I could whip up something to wear at the vows renewal. It was a Christmas fabric miracle. The fabric was even worse than I remembered it, which is saying a lot because I remembered it being horrific.
There I was with no excuses left. I was given a plane ticket and some leftover fabric. My choices were: A) Be a good friend, honor my friend's wishes, get on the plane, put on the shawly thing I made, paste on a smile and help her re-enact her wedding. B) Not attend.
The day before I was supposed to leave I had talked myself into plan B. It would be the death knell to our friendship, but, do we really have a friendship anyway? What did I have to lose by losing her as a friend? I haven't heard from her in year, and then she only called to ask me to be part of her vows renewal ceremony because I was in her original wedding. Had she not wanted to recreate her original wedding I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been invited or even told about her New Year's Eve party. But she's a stickler for details and I was in the original bridesmaid lineup, so, in her mind she had no choice but to
drag invite me to her vows renewal. If I didn't get on that plane she'd be furious at me and that would be the end of our friendship. I thought maybe that would be good. No more pretending we're friends when we both know we have nothing in common and don't even know enough about each other anymore to know if we even still like each other. She's not necessarily a negative person, but, the fact that our friendship has changed from symbiotic confidants to whatever you call the emotional distance and lack of support and communication we now have has negatively impacted my life. I miss her. But. She's evolved, and yes, changed, and even if we were in more regular communication I would still miss the old her.
That's the thing they don't tell you about friendships. Life is a process, not an event, we're all moving targets who connect at points during our processes. And then the process continues, life evolves, people evolve, priorities change, people adapt to their personal evolution and friendships fade. That's one of the reasons I believe in marriage. When it's done "right," you have a partner with whom you go through the process of life. When friendships fade you still have someone with you, your spouse, who's at the same point of the process as you. I know, I know, the divorce rate, it doesn't always work out that way, spouses change but not in sync or harmony, marriage can be lonely, I know, I know all of that. But. In theory, marriage is a good tool for coping with life.
On the plane trip to the wedding re-enactment I toyed with the idea of composing a toast along those lines for my friend's vows renewal but thought better of it. Best to keep the whole thing light and convivial.
Yes. I decided to go. My friend thought enough of me to buy me a plane ticket, and the other bridesmaid thought enough of me, and our mutual friend, to send me enough fabric from her reconfigured dress to fashion a shawly thing. I'm obviously the charity case of the wedding party, but it's just as obvious that they wanted me there. Regardless of her motivations, be it her compulsive need to adhere to details or that she honestly wanted me - her friend - there, in the end I thought attending her party was the right thing to do. Grace, dignity, loyalty, whatever.
And it was a lovely party. With the exception of the bridesmaids' dresses, the addition of their children in the bridal party and different guests, the vows renewal was an exact replica of their original wedding.
The officiant spoke of change and deepening bonds and enduring love. The husband and wife spoke of changes and deepening commitment. Toasts were made about many of the highlights of their married life. I learned a lot about my friend in those toasts. She's been living a life, doing things, going places, having mishaps and adventures I know nothing about. I know nothing about them because she doesn't tell me about anything going on in her life. She seems to have a happy life with a lot of good, happy, successful friends. And that's all anyone can want for someone they care about so I'm happy for her.
Never mind that I had nothing in common with anyone at that party. I really tried to mingle and socialize, but it became clear I was odd one out at this party. With the exception of the children and a few widows, I was the only single person there. Okay, that's not unusual for me, I'm used to dealing with that situation. But. After a while it's difficult to sustain conversations with good friends who've drifted from your life. We spent a couple sentences "catching up" on their lives, spouse, children, house, vacations, and from there we couldn't sustain a conversation of more than three sentences, and those sentences all started with, "Remember the time we..." and it starts to feel like a pathetic pastiche of Glory Days. Further deepening the social complexity of the situation is that they all still have loads in common, they're all still closed friends, intimately involved in each others' lives, evolving together. I realized if I hadn't attended, if I'd chosen to not get on that plane, I wouldn't be missed, or, at best, I'd be a sidebar in small conversations. "Remember the time we went to see that awful ska band and you had that old car that broke down in the middle of nowhere and Trillian was the only one sober enough to figure out we were out of gas? Man, I wonder whatever happened to Trillian."
"I heard she's unemployed."
"Bummer. Did she ever get married?"
"Don't think so."
"Heh. Did you try those salmon puffs? They're amazing."
But now, there I was in the flesh, no need to speculate. It was sad, though, to see these people, especially the women who used to be my friends, with no, or very few, discernible traces of who they used to be. It's sad because they used to be interesting people. They used to venture out to the middle of nowhere to see a ska band. They used to not care about what other people think of them. They used to have career goals. They used to fantasize about changing the world, or at least their part of it. They used to be fun. They used to be interesting. They used to be able to form and articulate their own opinions.
I'm pretty sure they've conveniently forgotten that we used to spend evenings devoted to out-Bowie-ing each other, the true test being the best, most impassioned and affected rendition of Life on Mars. My friend, the "bride," could out-Bowie all of us with one glittery platform boot tied behind her back. It was truly uncanny. And glorious. She did a better Bowie than Bowie. It's sad that her children don't know this about her. I thought about enlightening them, but I'm pretty sure they don't know who Bowie is. And I'm pretty sure my friend doesn't want her children knowing that she spent booze soaked nights at parties imitating David Bowie so loudly that neighbors threatened to call the police. Or that, sometimes, out of nowhere, when the others least expected it, one of us would utter a sentence in an exaggerated Bowie voice. Which was always met with those deep belly inside joke kind of laughs. I toyed with the idea of saying something to my friend in my Bowie voice, but it just seemed lame, now, and I already looked and felt lame, in my bridesmaid dress-come-shawly thing, so I didn't. And besides, my forté was always Robert Plant. Ramble on.
The polite small talk became painful. Eventually I just stopped trying and retreated to the bar and talked to the bar tendress. And then I found out even she was married and itching for the party to wrap up so she could get home to her husband.
So I just sat at my assigned seat at a table that was empty most of the time. I sat there watching the party, occasionally smiling and nodding and making perfunctory small talk.
And then my friend's husband and his best man came over and said the thing that pushed me over the edge.
"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, eh Trill?!"
They thought this was hilarious. So hilarious that almost everyone at the party heard them laughing and repeating their hilariously ironic joke. The third time they repeated their joke the best man punctuated the "never a bride" part of the joke by fingering my shawly thing fashioned from the horrible bridesmaid dress fabric. I laughed along at their joke even though I was the butt of it. Everyone was looking at me and it wouldn't help my cause to get angry or upset. Smile though your heart is breaking. Something like that.
This is why they don't make sequels or "10/15/20 years later" versions of John Hughes movies. It's kind of cute when this sort of thing happens to teenagers. When the credits role you're smiling smug in the knowledge that the drunk asshole popular boy is peaking in high school and will become a pathetic used car salesman, while the quirky unpopular awkward nice girl they make fun of will turn into a successful swan. And fortunately that's often the reality. But. Sometimes it's not. And the real life sequel to those movies isn't what we want to see. Poetic justice doesn't always prevail. Sometimes asshole popular kids grow up to be asshole successful business people. And sometimes quirky unpopular awkward nice girls stay that way and eventually turn into quirky unpopular awkward nice spinsters. Cats optional.
You might think my friend would, you know, do or say something to support or at least console me. But no. She laughed, too. And not in a "I know I shouldn't laugh at this, she's my friend, but it is kind of funny and I can't help squeaking out a giggle that I'm trying to stifle" kind of way. She laughed in that, "OMG that's the funniest thing I've heard all night" kind of way. I don't "blame" her, but, it didn't bridge the gap between us and reignite our former friendship. My friend, the person she used to be, would have made some snappy comment in my defense. She would have dismissively cut them down to size and spent 15 minutes then rattling off every negative quality the guys possessed including assessment of their penis size. But my friend isn't like that anymore. Her loyalty is to her husband. And her husband is still close friends with the best man, and apparently, her loyalty to her husband extends to loyalty to his friend. I get it, I guess.
Eventually the joke got old and the guys moved on to another table where uproarious laughter could be heard.
I never really did see what she saw in him, but she fell deeply in love and she seems to still be in love and happy with him. And that's what matters.
The clock chimed midnight, I raised a glass in toast to the new year, the bride and groom and many happy more years of their marriage, and as soon as I could make a polite departure I went to the hotel room I was sharing with another bridesmaid and her family. I was bunking with the kids in the nanny anteroom of a huge suite. Yes. The woman who stays in a hotel suite that has a specified nanny anteroom is the same woman who struggled to get passing grades in college and came perilously close to not earning her degree, the woman who was notorious for drinking too much, passing out and waking up in unknown beds with unknown men and had the STDs to prove it, the woman who can belch the lyrics of German drinking songs, auf Deutsch, is now a woman who travels with a nanny and stays in hotel suites that come equipped with rooms for the children and an anteroom for the nanny. Not that I aspire to having a nanny, but, WTF? How does that happen?
I reasoned that I was feeling more sensitive because of the recent accidental reveal of some of my family's feelings about me
. That affected me a lot more deeply than I care to admit. It hurts. I'm trying to put a positive spin on it, trying to learn, glean some helpful lessons from what they said. If they feel that way about me, then maybe I can learn what I need to change about myself. Maybe there's some good advice to be harvested from their insults. But still. It hurts. The wound is still sore and then my friend's husband and his friend rubbed salt in it. The timing couldn't have been worse.
I'm used to being odd one out. But in my ongoing devotion to eliminate negative people from my life I'm pretty sure it's time to eliminate some, if not all of those friends. Let's be realistic: They make me feel bad about myself. Their lives are in such stark contrast to mine that it's almost impossible to fathom that we ever had anything in common, let alone be such close friends. They're happy. That's what matters. And my feelings, the way I feel around them, is my issue, my problem, not theirs. Sometimes, like now, I feel that at best I'm their charity case, at worst I'm the butt of their jokes. But I know that's my perspective on it, not their intentions.
I already miss my friend the bride. I have missed her for several years. It's not easy to meet and make good friends like that. The others, well, I mean, after several years of retrieving a bleary-eyed hungover (or still drunk) friend from some stranger's apartment, that relationship was strained. But my friend, the bride...we were such good friends. Really good friends. I keep thinking this era of her life is just a phase. The kids will grow up and she'll be less busy with them and we can reconvene and our friendship will resume. But now I'm not sure that's the healthiest course of action for me. And no, it's not because she didn't defend or console me when her husband made fun of me and made everyone laugh at me. Although that's not helping the case for maintaining the friendship.
The problem with eliminating negative people, or people who make you feel bad about yourself, is that you end up without many friends, or at least without many people in your life. There aren't a lot of loyal, sincere, unconditionally supportive, positive people on this planet. And even though their successes make me feel worse about my failures, without them I'd feel even more alone and isolated...and more negative about myself.
I mused all of this while all the bridal party and their families were attending a very expensive New Year's Day brunch at the hotel where we stayed. I couldn't afford the brunch. My friend offered to pay my way, but I wasn't hungry and I'd had enough festivities. I just wanted to get to the airport and slip into the comfort of anonymity airports and airplanes provide.
We shared a ride to the airport, said good-byes and that was that.
I've decided I'm not going to force the friendship or do anything out of my way for it. Right now I desperately need to focus on myself and my life and my future. The depression and frustration and fear that I've been living with for the past two years is at a tipping point and I know my mental health is not good. I finally admitted to myself that I'm, well, fragile. Just typing that word is difficult for me. I'm in desperate need of a new mental health regime. And that means surrounding myself with positive influences. Which means saying no a lot more than I do. No more occasions attended solely out of a sense of loyalty or obligation. Fortunately I have a few really good friends but they're in far-flung locales. My new goal is to find ways to spend time with them. Not just maintain the friendships, but truly endeavor to focus on the positive people and influences in my life.
My family included. I can't "do" anything about "Snark" and the others who wrote the incriminating insults about me. They're family and that can't be changed. And I'm not looking to estrange myself from my family. That never solves anything. And of course I care about them, in spite of themselves. But. Forgiveness and acceptance doesn't mean being a doormat. It just means I don't dwell on their insults and don't seek retribution.
This year, now, I'm turning my devotion to accept, forgive, heal, peace, love inward. Accept myself. Forgive myself. Heal myself. Find peace within myself. The goal is to love myself.
That's not going to be easy. HWNMNBS spelled out (in great detail) all the valid reasons why I am unworthy and undeserving of love from anyone. My subsequent inability to attract a mate and maintain a romantic relationship only confirmed and cemented what HWNMNBS told me. "Snark" and my other family members' recent comments about me echoed HWNMNBS's insight about why I am undeserving and unworthy of love. The same flaws continue to be mentioned and highlighted as reasons why I am undeserving of love in the romantic sense and apparently from my family and friends, as well.
Insight from others can be helpful. It can also be demoralizing and fatal to self-esteem. Particularly when the flaws highlighted are mainly physical. Yes, it speaks to a shallowness on the part of the the accuser, ugly is as ugly does, but, appearance is a fact of life. And those of us who weren't dealt an appealing hand of DNA can't expect much from life, no matter how much we accept and love ourselves.
The conventional wisdom is that you can't love anyone until you love yourself. For me it's been backwards. I can love other people, unconditionally and with a loyalty that's unshakable, but I can't love myself. Let's face it, it's easier to love other people than it is to love yourself.
And, further, more to the salient point, I'm happy up on the shelf collecting dust. If I'm not looking for romantic love, why bother trying to love myself?
Well, for a start my self-esteem is nonexistent. Between HWNMNBS and the number he did on my heart and soul (and not finding anyone new) and being laid-off (and not finding a new job) and losing all my savings and my home I channeled every penny and every ounce of energy I had, wellllll, yeah, you get my point. My self-esteem has taken some brutal punches. I've known this and I've worked hard to overcome it, I was sort of doing okay focusing on my home and building equity to buy a bigger, child-friendly home and start the adoption process, feeling good about the future I was building and the goals I set, but when I was laid-off and those goals were dashed, well...that the last two years have been harder on my self-esteem and emotional health than I could ever begin to articulate. It's a hellish existence filled with a constant see-saw of trying to maintain genuine positive hope and confidence, putting myself out there for any job I can find...and being rejected for yet another job and edging one month closer to foreclosure. Living in constant fear, confusion, frustration and disappointment is an horrific existence. The things that does to your self-esteem are immeasurable and unfathomable.
So. Yeah. Loving myself when I'm in that condition is not going to be easy.
But. It's a challenge I'm issuing myself. If I can do it toward and for other people, I should be able to do it for myself. In theory, anyway. We'll see.
Happy 2012. I hope your trip around the Sun is a good one.
Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh.