Today, I feel like I’m battling a hangover, even though I’m totally not. it might be residual exhaustion from yesterday’s 32-mile bike ride. My head hurts, I’m tired, and I feel a little bit like I’m in a mental fog. I’m pretty sure I look like shit, too. I’m also feeling down – a bit depressed, I guess. I want to go home and just hide my head under the covers. Seeing a few friends’ adorable wedding photos on social media this morning put me into a little emotional tailspin again. Sometimes it’s a little hard to control when I already feel sensitive to the world around me – like today, after going to sleep last night wishing my boyfriend would turn around and put his arm over me, or kiss me, and waking up with this headache and physical exhaustion. Today is Monday and I feel like shit.
This past Saturday, we went to a going-away party for a friend’s girlfriend. She’s going to Luxembourg for 6+ months. At the party, there were at least 30 people, if not more, who all came out to wish her well and say goodbye. Of course, as I was standing there, unsure of who to talk to, I started to get in my own head, and I wondered, “who would show up for me if I were leaving the country?”
I’ve had this problem for, well, a while now. I struggle to feel like I’m part of any real strong group of friends… really, I’m not. I have close friends who are literally scattered around the country – the globe, even. And even that number of close friends is starting to shrink. It sucks. This past year, for my 27th birthday, I tried to organize a party for people to come out and go brewery-hopping in downtown with me. Two of my own friends showed up – the rest were friends of my boyfriend. And I get it, you know – I get that people are busy. That other things come up and plans change. I understand.
But I felt sad. I felt sad when nobody showed up until 45 minutes after the start of the event, and then when they left early. As I sat there at the table with my boyfriend and my beer, waiting for someone – anyone – to show up, I felt all the anxiety from birthday parties past, where friends failed to show up and I was left sitting with just a couple of people who showed up to be nice.
When people finally started showing up, half of them sat around playing Pokemon Go at the table. I tried to keep my cool, but on the inside, I just felt like throwing a tantrum. Really mature, I know.
Suffice it to say, I kind of hate throwing parties.
And that question still pops up in my mind every so often: “Who would show up for me?”
The answer I come up with is kind of depressing.
I think part of the reason is that over the past decade, I’ve gotten really good at leaving. I’ve left friendships, apartments, cities, jobs, relationships, etc., all with the belief that it was to “better” myself. In some instances, I did end up bettering myself. In others, I was simply walking away because I thought maybe something better was on the other side. I’ve failed to stay close with friends who mattered most to me. I’ve failed to let new friendships flourish. In a lot of instances, I’ve relied on significant others to help me build a social network, but then watched those new friendships disappear when the relationship ended.
And it’s on days like today that I ask myself, who would show up for me?
A few people I know for sure: parents, step parents, brother. Boyfriend, some of his close friends. A few other friends here and there. But 30+ people? No way. Maybe 10, with half of them being family.
Right now, were it not for my boyfriend, the number of times I would go out to see friends and spend time socializing each month would probably be around… hmm… once. Maybe twice. I go out and do a lot of things on my own, true, but the number of times I call someone for coffee, or someone calls me for coffee, is embarrassingly slim.
I like to tell myself sometimes that this is yet another in-between phase of my life, as I slowly but surely step away from the “past me” and work my way into the new, re-energized, intentional, purpose-driven me. Although I stopped associating with stereotypical “drinking buddies” quite a long time ago, there are a lot of friends and social contacts from my drinking days who I’ve since left in friendship limbo, who I honestly don’t know where they fit into my life now. I don’t want to lose more friends than I already have, but I feel like I’ve been waiting for these long-lost friendships to have new life breathed into them for so long that I failed to recognize that, this whole time, I was the one holding my breath… and that it might just be too late to save those friendships now.
That’s one thing my therapist recognized almost immediately in me: that I need community. Real life people who I can hang out with and feel connected to, in person. Someone I can call for coffee on a random Tuesday and they’ll say, “heck yeah, where do you want to go?” Someone who I can turn to when I’ve got questions about the merits of continued living, or who can be a shoulder to cry on when I otherwise feel alone. Someone for whom I can also do these things, and more.
I crave these things, and I know that a close relationship like that doesn’t happen like magic. There is no formula to follow to ensure yourself a best friend, or a close group of people who you know will always have your back. It just takes time, and trust in the process. It takes continued effort, and even rejection. Not everyone is going to want to be a friend, or acquire new friends. Not everyone will feel a sense of commitment to making a friendship work. And that goes both ways – I can’t expect others to want to maintain a friendship with me if I’m not willing to reach out, as well. As the old adage goes, you get what you give.
I guess I need to start giving more of my heart, my compassion, and my companionship. Throw in a little time and effort and maybe something good will happen, something lasting and meaningful. Until then, I’ll just have to be patient, and I’ll just have to keep showing up for others – even if they don’t show up for me in return. It’s all part of the process.