A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Five days ago I celebrated eight years of sobriety. If I’d known eight years ago that my life—more importantly my outlook—could change so dramatically I wouldn’t have believed you. That being said, I’ve been feeling down lately. A lot of different things have been going on, and even before all this happened I was feeling blah for no discernible reason. Last night after class I wanted to cry, and I wanted to cry again when my friend Kevin came over and joked about how long dinner was taking me to cook. Let me rephrase that: I didn’t want to cry so I held it in. Not healthy but I just didn’t feel like it, not in front of anyone.

Class yesterday left me with an old feeling of deep-rooted insignificance. Invisibility, without a voice, unimportant, unheard, silenced. It probably wasn’t my classmates’ intention—certainly it wasn’t Rochelle’s, because she’s the sweetest, most compassionate student in the class, and I don’t know the other guy in my group very well but he seems nice—yet I felt… swept aside. We had to do a case study together on a guy who sounded just like my dad, so I felt like I knew just what to do with this guy. My group had a different, more extreme approach, so my suggestion was outvoted. I just don’t think you can take a person who’s used to eating Philly cheesesteaks every day and tell him he can no longer eat any bread, sugar, fast food, or processed and refined or packaged foods on Day One. The person they described is a heavy drinker with type 2 diabetes. Yet when I suggested abstinence for the client’s third month, the guy in my group was like, Whoa there. Let the guy have his drink. He’s human. The health problems that this guy had, and the effect of alcohol on someone with diabetes—it’s just dangerous. And the way in which this client drinks coupled with the fact that he has a family history of alcoholism suggests he’s a problem drinker, possibly an alcoholic himself. As medical professionals we have a responsibility to tell someone their drinking is dangerous to their health, and that if they’re having trouble drinking they should consider treatment. It pisses me off when students gloss over someone’s drinking because of how acceptable—and not only acceptable but encouraged—drinking is in this country. To have one or two drinks is one thing, but when a person drinks so much their judgment is impaired and they’re causing damage to their health, taking dangerous actions, driving drunk, destroying relationships… Ugh! I just want to scream! I know. I have been that person.

But it’s such a touchy subject, especially as someone in AA. It’s not my job to preach to the world about how they should all be abstinent. For one, most people don’t need to quit entirely. For another, most people—especially those who have a problem—don’t want to quit. But would you tell someone who’s a hundred pounds overweight with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar that it’s okay for them to continue eating fast food? Would you tell someone who’s allergic to bees that it’s okay if they stand next to a beehive as long as they only do it once a day?

The thing is, if a person has a problem, they’ll quit when they’re ready. No one can make them quit. To harass that person about it won’t help, and in fact can cause more damage. But what you can do, as a medical practitioner is inform them that their drinking habits are unhealthy, dangerous even, and suggest that they cut back, and if they can’t cut back, then suggest that they consider treatment. Then it’s up to them to decide what to do with it. And if you’re a friend or a family member of someone who drinks too much, let them know you’re worried about them and suggest they try cutting back, and if they can’t but want to, then suggest treatment. If they don’t want to, that’s on them.

Enough on that soapbox! Thanks for letting me share. Lol.

The thing is, I felt ignored yesterday. I suggested what I wanted to do for a diet plan with this client, and my classmates were like, Well this is what we’re gonna do. It touched a nerve, because the one guy in my group was informed about what deficiencies the client had based on his symptoms, rattled off something about the different metabolic pathways, remembered a bunch of science-y stuff from biochemistry, and my fear is that I won’t retain this information nor will I remember it if I do.

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The day before I’d gone on a date with a guy working on his PhD in molecular biology working on cancer research. I didn’t understood much of what he said when he discussed his work, and when I’d mentioned a few things about nutrition, he replied with his point of view as if they were facts, as if he’s the one not just studying nutrition, but having already studied it and become the expert. He mentioned he’d been commissioned as an officer, and I had no idea what that meant. Turns out he’s in the Commission Corps, which I didn’t know existed. All of it left me feeling small, stupid. Apart from his work he didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, and afterwards he sent me a text telling me I’m beautiful and sexy, and has since sent me several texts referring in some way to sex. He’s 33 years old and told me he likes older women because they’re better in bed. I told him the same is true of older men.

I’ve decided not to reply any more to him or the guy I had a date with after class yesterday. That guy was nice but something about him came off as inauthentic. He was almost too nice. His mom died about 10 years ago of cancer, and the conversation about our mothers’ deaths didn’t go in a way that felt right to me. In other words, I am following my gut feeling and leaving these two guys alone.

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Ditto for the guy I had a phone conversation with last week. I also met him through Match, and he was funny, but I just had this gut feeling something wasn’t right. He seemed like someone I’d have drank with back in the day. And that’s a red flag.

A couple of weeks ago my closest guy friend “in AA,” Spencer, decided he couldn’t talk to me anymore because he wants more than a friendship. I use “in AA” in quotes because he doesn’t really practice the program or go to meetings that much, and although I’m bummed, it’s a relief too. For one, it’s difficult to try to be a flotation device for someone who’s drowning, particularly when you aren’t the best swimmer yourself. And another, maybe it’s just not right to be friends with someone who wants more. This was one reason I didn’t have close male friends before Spencer and my other friend Kevin. Kevin also wants more, but says he’s okay with just being friends. I don’t want to cut off the friendship because he’s a good friend but at the same time, am I doing him a disservice? If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t even hang around a guy who I liked for more who didn’t reciprocate the feeling. This is why it’s best for us girls to just stick together.

Kevin hurt my feelings last night, joking about how long it was taking me to cook dinner, as we often do with each other. We always joke in that mean sort of way, like the characters on “It’s Always Sunny,” or my dad and his friends, insulting each other, and while this wouldn’t work with my female friends, or maybe it would now depending on what and how it was done, it’s hilarious to us. Until last night when I thought he was for real. I was already feeling sensitive, wanting to cry, but I didn’t want to cry in front of him because I just didn’t feel like going there. The problem with that is this is how you develop closer friendships. By opening up and letting yourself be vulnerable. I don’t know if that’s a good idea with Kevin given that he’s interested in dating me, so I’ll let myself off the hook.

Another mental note I made for myself was the two times I went out with the two aforementioned guys, I was in an awkward position of saying yes because it’s my default reaction to be a people-pleaser. The PhD guy asked at the end of the date if we could go out again and I just said yes. How does one say no in that situation? Then the second guy asked if I wanted to continue the coffee date by going somewhere else to eat, and I said yes even though I didn’t want to. I decided if these kind of situations come up again I’ll say, “I really had a good time but I’d like to talk to you on the phone a couple more times first,” or “I have other plans,” or “I’ll be in rehab for the next year,” etc. Anything. I could tell the guy I’m alcoholic and I’m twice divorced. That I have explosive diarrhea and need to go home immediately. Lessons to be learned, my friends. Note to self: be prepared to say no.

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To top it all off, as soon as this semester ends I’ll be flying to Georgia to take my 95-year-old whippersnapper of a grandmother to Albuquerque to see my sister and her kids. Y’all, this trip is gonna be like an updated version of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (by Flannery O’Connor) except hopefully no shooters (didn’t the Misfit have a gun?). Hence, I am stressing.

Also, my ex-husband texted to say he’s in DC this week for work and wanted to know if I wanted to hook up with him. Lord help us all. There’s a man out there who I will love and who also loves me for me and doesn’t think of me as a good piece of ass. I just haven’t met him yet.

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St. Patrick’s Day has had me thinking about the last time I drank, in Savannah with my second husband and his parents, when I got so drunk I felt like I’d die the next day. I’m so glad those days are behind me.

Off to work now but first I want to say that I’m grateful for the life I have today. I’m glad to be sober, to be dating, to be attractive to guys, to be able to choose, to have an opportunity to take my grandma to New Mexico.

Peace and love,

TCH

Being Real… Which Sometimes Means Being Gross

So the basketball-player-size guy I wrote about last time, Mark, asked me on a second date, which we’re going on this weekend. He’s the one I felt chemistry with on the first date, but I want to be careful because I realize that chemistry could be just infatuation, and I’d also gone on another date with another guy the day before, who I didn’t feel instant chemistry with, but who I feel like I have a lot in common with, and who seems interesting. So we need to go on one or two more dates to see if any chemistry sparks up… though I must admit I’ve been thinking about Mark non-stop since our date.

Here’s what I like about him: he seems like the kind of guy who everyone likes, who everyone feels comfortable around, who doesn’t throw around judgments about everyone all the time. He seems like the kind of guy you could make fart jokes with and it be funny and okay. Not that I’m one for scatological humor, but think about it. One day it’s probably going to happen. And then what are you going to do? My ex and I didn’t acknowledge our bodily functions whatsoever. I’d prefer that every man in the world believe I’ve never had any digestive functions in any way, or if I did, that my shit don’t stink. But let’s be real here.

I can’t believe I’m writing about poo. This is what happens when you get old. I always swore I’d never be like my grandmother when I got old, talking about bowel movements. Yet here I am, writing a blog about it. But this is also what happens when you study nutrition, or become a nutritionist. I’ve heard more about people’s poo than I’ve ever cared for, and I’m not even practicing yet. That’s just from working in the supplements department of an organic grocery store. You wouldn’t believe how many constipated people there are out there. Let me tell you: there’s a LOT. Hell, you might be one of them.

What I’m trying to say here is, Mark seems like the kind of guy who, if you accidentally passed gas, he’d just laugh and tease you. Or if you fell down in your six-inch platforms that you bought so you wouldn’t be 14 inches shorter than him, he’d laugh at you. He’d help you up, but he’d tease you. Which might make him sound like he’s real mature, I know, but what I mean is, he seems very real. And familiar. Which I like. I’d much rather someone just laugh, with me, than both of us stare red-faced into the distance pretending like we’re both robots.

Seriously, I don’t know what’s gotten into me. It could be the conversation that popped up out of nowhere when I was out with my friends a couple of weeks ago, in which Spencer confessed an old drinking story in which he accidentally had diarrhea that got all over his white pants while he was in the bathroom peeing the morning after a night of drunken sex with a one-night-stand he’d met when he’d lived back in LA. It was a story he told us in painstaking detail, that had us all in uproarious laughter, of how he tried to hide it but of course could not, followed by another story of explosive diarrhea he’d had on a hangover morning at a baseball game in some horseshoe stadium where there were only two bathrooms on each end of the horseshoe, in the stall of which there was no toilet paper, which he didn’t realize until after he’d emptied the contents of his guts into the toilet.

For some reason this struck us, possibly because it’s not a conversation I’ve ever had before—certainly not with any guys. It’s that unspoken topic of what happens when you’re a riproaring alcoholic, deep in the throes of your disease, when the most embarrassing of human bodily functions happens, in public no doubt. Anyone who’s an alcoholic knows what it’s like to wake up with a hangover that makes you wish you had never woken up, when your head feels like it’s been beaten with a hammer, and your belly’s on fire, but you have to go to work anyway. Most days I downed gallons of Gatorade, Pedialyte, and Alka Seltzer, and prayed for the best, and if it was really bad, I stayed in bed and begged my ex-husband to take me to detox, which he refused to do.

I don’t miss those days one bit.

The way we alcoholics look at it is you have to laugh at all the mishaps, the embarrassing moments of when your (my) stomach would not stop gurgling throughout the entire meeting with your boss, who’s finally like, Are you okay? and you pretend like you didn’t just guzzle down two bottles of wine the night before, just like the night before that, and so many before that you can’t remember the last night you did not drink, and you have no idea that you reek of alcohol every day you go into work. Like when I went into work on a Tuesday and casually mentioned to my co-worker friend that I had a massive hangover, to which she looked puzzled. That was when I realized not everyone got drunk every night after work like I did, and that some things are better left unsaid.

My intention was not for this to be about diarrhea or alcoholism, but to write about what’s been on my mind, which is Mark. Before I went on the date my friends asked me what my safe word was, and I told them not to worry, I’d just tell him I had explosive diarrhea if the date wasn’t going well. Spencer argued that “explosive diarrhea” was redundant, that diarrhea by its very nature is already explosive. Mike maintained that one must include “explosive” for emphasis. Kathy, Freyja, and I just laughed so loud we must’ve had everyone else in the bar (yes, we went to a bar/restaurant) wondering what we’d had to drink. Just water. We were just high on life. That’s one of those phrases I used to hate, before I understood what it meant, and that it’s really possible.

That’s why I love hanging out with my friends so much. They make me belly-laugh.

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(The above image was taken from Pinterest via the Positivity Note Facebook page.)

And that’s what I’m looking for in a partner. I figure if a guy can seem like the kind of guy you can make poop jokes with—well, that’s a real friend. Rather, if he’s the kind of guy you can be vulnerable with, who you can feel comfortable with, then that’s the guy for me. I don’t know if that’s really this particular guy or not, but I do know there’s chemistry, and that’s one thing that no amount or decree of motorcycles, boats, PhDs, or job titles can compete with. I don’t care how sophisticated-yet-outdoorsy the guy is—though that helps, don’t get me wrong—but nothing can compete with the connection you feel from another human being that you just cannot manufacture or explain.

I did not expect this after less than a year of being split up from what’s-his-face. What was his name?

Just kidding.

Of course I would not forget Steven, the guy who I once thought was the king of the multiverse, who awakened my heart then shattered it.

But I will tell you: this helps. It helps to know there are not just other fish, but some good-looking, hot-ass fish, bad-ass yet friendly and sexy uh-huh fish. Six foot six tall, big man fish. Light-hearted yet real fish.

Light-hearted yet real. Now there’s a goal. To feel light and love, to not be so heavy and serious all the time, yet to be genuine, authentic. I don’t know if that’s really how he is, but I know that’s how I want to be, and who I want to surround myself with.

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(The above image came from Pinterest via this page.)

Peace, love, light, namaste, all that hippie shit…Love you guys!

TCH

Rest in Peace, My Friend

Last week one of my good friends died suddenly. At first I was told it was an overdose, which was a shock to me, because she’d seemed fine when I saw her two weeks ago. She’d invited me to her crabfest party coming up, but instead I’ll be going to her funeral.

I’d been looking forward to meeting Michelle’s extended family at the party. I remember thinking how nice it was that I was getting closer to my friends, that I’d get a chance to meet her close-knit extended family. She was one of the few friends I bonded with over the past few years in my new sober life – I’ve made a lot of friends, but only a few that I’ve really connected with. And that has me thinking about my relationships and the ways in which I stay closed off from potential friends.

The last time I spent alone with Michelle was about a month ago to hang out with her while she did my nails because I couldn’t afford to get professional manicures anymore. That’s the kind of friend she was. She brought out her manicure supplies and the infrared light she’d gotten to save money to do her own gel nails, and she gave me a manicure. She’d told me that her 11-year-old daughter really took to me, which surprised me, because I hadn’t picked up on that. I’d stayed the night at her house one night last winter when I got stuck at work in the snow, and together the three of us shoveled snow from around our cars in the parking lot. Afterwards Michelle went inside while I stayed with her daughter outside to build a snowman that turned into a snow mountain. It rips my heart out that Michelle’s daughter has lost her mother. This was her first week of school, sixth grade.

A few months ago I’d gone to Michelle’s birthday party where I was surprised to see that I was her only sober friend there; everyone else was part of her old group of friends who drink normally: high school friends and the parents of her daughter’s friends. Michelle lived in a small community that she never left. That was just her life. It’s strange to me because all I’d ever wanted to do was move away from my hometown, and I had gotten close to only one of my high school friends. I burned bridges. When I left college I didn’t tell anyone I was moving and I never looked back.

I met Michelle over a year ago when she got sober. She had a tattoo on the base of her neck and the inside of her wrists, which seemed to me a bit gangster, slightly scary, and just generally badass to me. And that’s just the way that she was. She had a tough attitude that I found intimidating at first, so I ignored her, thinking I had nothing to offer, nothing in common with her, because I am not that tough, no matter how much I want to be. I can’t remember what made me decide to reach out to her, or if she was the one who’d reached out to me. I wish I could remember. But soon after we started talking, meeting for coffee, meeting at the gym, hanging out at her house. When I thought I was going to have to move into my mom’s house, I cried for hours, and she was there for me. My friends helped me, but not in the way she did. They helped me in the way I’d helped them: they showed up and helped me move for a few hours and then they went home. But she was there for me throughout the entire event, emotionally and physically. She not only helped me move, she rounded up some guys and orchestrated the entire event from start to finish like a drill sergeant. And then she texted and called me later to check on me. She treated me the way a real friend should, the way that I should treat my friends.

She’d almost died over a year ago, which was what brought her to sobriety again. I didn’t think she’d make it at first, having seen so many people relapse repeatedly over the years. But over time I came to believe she’d made it this time, as if sobriety is not a daily reprieve but something one eventually catches, and keeps. I thought that after nearly dying she’d stay sober for good, and maybe she would have had she lived. The thing is, we don’t know yet how she died. I find it hard to believe that she did it on purpose; I feel certain that it was a mistake. I’d be surprised to learn that she’d decided to use again, or that she’d committed suicide. She valued her life, her sobriety, and her family – especially her daughter – too much. Not that those who commit suicide don’t value their families, because depression is an isolating disease that blinds people, and I’ve sunken into those depths before myself. And I could be wrong because we can’t know what’s really going on with those who want to hide, but I believe that Michelle was not in that space at that point in her life.

Two weeks ago I saw her at a sober music festival where she’d volunteered to grill burgers. She’d just gotten a job after not having worked for several years due to what I believe involved tremendous fear and anxiety. For her to have gone back to work must’ve taken so much courage, but she did it. “We need the money,” she’d said. As I was walking away I remember thinking that the next time I saw her, I should ask her how she’s really doing. I didn’t think there wouldn’t be a next time.

All of this makes me think about what’s really important in life. What is really important? This moment is all we have, right now. What will we do with it? Will I love fully, with an open heart? Or will I be in a hurry to do the next thing? Will I embrace change, or will I continue to choose the same patterns out of a sense of comfortable familiarity? Will I do what I’m afraid to do because I know it’s the right thing to do, or will I run and hide in fear?

I feel so distracted right now. Unable to focus or concentrate. I just feel like I’m in a state of shock. I feel afraid that everyone close to me will die, and I’m especially scared that my boyfriend will die, because I love him so dearly. I’m afraid for what it will be like when my sisters and my mom die. How will I be able to handle that? I cannot imagine, and luckily at this moment I don’t have to imagine or live through that.

What I do have to learn to do is cope with the loss of my friend. I’m learning a lot about the ways people react. The first thing I’d heard was that she’d had an overdose, and everyone talked about how we never really know what someone’s going though when they want to hide it. People talked about how good at hiding things alcoholics/addicts can be, how this disease kills. Most people don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. That’s how I used to be. Inside my head I’m screaming: I just told you my friend died. How can anyone think about anything else right now?  I especially keep thinking about the way in which I was told, bluntly, by one of our mutual acquaintances, who seemed to have forgotten that she and I were friends. We may not have been best friends, but she was a good friend to me. She seemed to have a lot more friends than I do, so I don’t know where I fell on her list, but she was high on my list. For this mutual acquaintance of ours to tell me so casually and then change the subject really made me angry. I’m even angrier at how I tried to match his behavior and attitude rather than saying, with the strong emotion I felt, How can you walk in here and tell me that and then just change the subject like it’s nothing?  I did say, “I’m sorry but I’m having a hard time concentrating right now.” But I’m not sorry for that and shouldn’t have said so, nor will I again if a similar situation comes up again. But the truth is that no one knows what they’ll do when someone close to them dies, and none of us know what to say or how to tell others. There’s no manual on how to deal with it, and our culture doesn’t support grief. I learned to deal with sadness by pretending it’s not there, and that is just bullshit.

The obvious truth that strikes me about her death is that she is not replaceable. Sure, I’ve had other friends and I will make new friends in the future. But I don’t make friends easily, and it takes a long time for me to form a bond with someone. And no one will ever be like Michelle. She truly was a beautiful person, inside and out.

My chosen interpretation of this song is that it’s about having courage and perseverance in the face of hardships; it represents for me what Michelle will always represent: strength, courage, perseverance. I think Michelle would’ve liked this song, in spite of the quote from George Bush (“Regrettably, we now believe that only force will make him leave.”) The quote from George Bernard Shaw via Robert F. Kennedy is one I especially like, and I believe Michelle would’ve liked it, too: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

Here’s another video with the same song that I’m sharing because this dancer is amazing, and I know that Michelle would appreciate it. I’m amazed at what he’s done with the mirror, and how he looks into the camera via the mirror. Michelle was an artist; she appreciated beauty and I know she’d like this.

Rest in peace, Michelle. Your memory lives on.

Friends and Honesty and GLOW and Other Thoughts

Next week I’m visiting my mom in North Carolina, and my best friend from high school lives about an hour from my mom, so usually I visit her too. This time I’m not sure if I want to see my friend, who I’ll call Kim. The last few times I talked to Kim I opened up to tell her I felt judged when she told me her opinion about my latest career change idea. Her opinion usually was that she didn’t feel like whatever I chose was really “me.” She liked my idea to become a nutritionist, but had said that she didn’t believe I felt passionate enough about it, not as passionate as she felt about her career change to become an acupuncturist. After I told her I felt judged, she said that I shouldn’t be friends with her if I felt that way, and I responded that I had no intention of cutting out, that I’m committed to this friendship, because my past experience has always been to leave, and I can’t keep friends that way. She came back and told me again that I shouldn’t be friends with her if her honesty was that devastating to me. So at that time I thought, Fine. Have it your way. You don’t want to be my friend, then don’t. Her repeated suggestion to call it off, as she’s done at least twice before in the past 22 years of our friendship, seems to me like her own desire to abandon the friendship. And to that I say, You want to leave? Then fucking leave.

Kim is my oldest friend. She was the first true friend I had after two years of spending time with girls who drank and drugged the way I did, who were impossible to have a real conversation with. We dressed in black, wore dark lipstick and eyeliner, stared straight ahead when walking because God forbid we make eye contact and connect with another human being. But Kim was different. Not different in the way that she wasn’t bitchy to the world, because it was the 90s and a surly attitude was just the teenage way, but she believed in connecting with her friends. She was the editor of the high school literary magazine, and I was in her creative writing class, and she loved my writing. It meant the world to me, and she was shocked that I cared because I carried an armor of apathy to shield me from the other high school students who really terrified me. I’d already nearly gotten my ass kicked in seventh grade by the leader of the trailer park GLOW girls, whose sidekick looked like Matilda the Hun, and so I spent the rest of my teenage years with what’s now known as “resting bitch face,” an expression whose owners claim is just their natural look, but I can assure you that it’s possible to put a pleasant expression on your face.

When I think of how I haven’t told Kim about my new love or my latest plan to return to school, my thoughts are followed by, You don’t get to know about my life anymore. I wonder if I want to call her and let her know I’m visiting, then I decide that no, she can fuck off.

What bothers me is that now she’s friends with my sister, who she’ll never be able to form a relationship as codependent with as she wants to, but it annoys me because I imagine the two of them judging me because I choose AA for my solution while they can stay sober without it. I suspect they think I judge them for not going to AA, or that Kim thinks I judge her for not going to AA, but I don’t think my sister does. I feel that for me, my recovery needs some kind of solution, and that solution can’t be just what I alone think is the right thing, because I’m not a higher power and I don’t know without help from a higher power which I find not just through prayer but also through other people. But not everyone needs AA, bottom line.

When I look back, our friendship has thrived when I was in a position to lean too heavily on her, which has been most of the time. When things are going “well” for me, she breaks up with me. When I went to London, she left me, saying I was a terrible friend because I’d bragged about going there on my own. When I got married to my first husband – and I hesitate to say that was a good time in my life – she left me, saying I wasn’t being true to myself, which was true.

Recently when I told her I’d enrolled in an online MBA program, back when I thought that was what I would do, she took a different tack and said, “As long as you’re happy,” and I know she meant it this time. She didn’t judge or criticize, although she did mention several times that I’d made a huge decision, and my translation, which may be untrue, is that she’d noticed I’d made a big life decision without confiding in her about it during or afterwards. She may have been hurt, which is not my intention, but what can she expect when, in the past she thought it necessary to tell me what she thinks I ought to do with my life?

Clearly my resentment is still present and in need of dissolving. Writing about it here is part of my way of doing that.

When a friend tells me she wants to make a change, I believe that my job as a friend is to support her and to tell her that, and that I believe she should do what she feels is right, even if I think it’s a dumb idea. Unless her plan is one that could be a danger to her or anyone else, I support my friend. I don’t compare my own similar life change and talk about how my own plan is better than hers. I don’t tell her I’m more passionate about my own career change. I don’t tell her that all of her ideas reflect that she’s not true to herself. I don’t tell her she ought to do something else. I don’t tell her she’s really a wonderful person but she just doesn’t know it herself. Because when someone tells me that, although I know it’s not true, it sounds to me like they’re saying I’m (permanently) incapable of reaching my true potential. It’s not a solution.

Maybe the lesson in this is that I need to learn forgiveness, but I’m not ready for that one.

What I’d like to know is just how honest does a friend need to be? Kim’s belief is that it’s her duty to be brutally honest, including informing me of her judgments and criticisms about my actions, thoughts, and feelings. My belief is that my friends live their own lives and make their own mistakes, and my opinion on that is none of their business. For example, one of my friends cheated on her husband just for sex because her husband didn’t want to have sex with her (and of course there are other problems). Is that my business? No. Is it my job to tell her I think that’s wrong and what she should do about it? No, especially if she doesn’t ask me. I can gently ask if they’ve considered counseling, or offer my experience with infidelity (because I happen to have had exactly that same experience), and that’s all a friend should do. Contributing to someone’s feelings of rejection, shame, and guilt is not something I want to do as a friend, or even as an enemy, because there’s no growth in that for anyone.

Maybe I’m not honest enough with my friends. Maybe I’m too passive. I just don’t know, because I’m used to keeping my feelings and opinions to myself. I have spent my life hiding when sometimes I just want to say, Get real! And maybe that’s one lesson for me to learn here.

As for the other lessons, I’m sure that more will be revealed.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip from a documentary about one of my favorite childhood television shows featuring role models for fifth grade girls everywhere – or at least in the Georgia town where I grew up during the late 80s. It goes without saying we also idolized all other big-boobed, scantily-clad sex symbols, including Barbie, Daisy Duke, Wonder Woman, and Dolly Parton, to name a few.

Besties

Historically my best friend and I have had the kind of friendship in which I’ve leaned too heavily on her at times, and in which she’s broken it off twice in the past twenty plus years we’ve been friends, and a couple of months ago it seemed as though we were heading for another falling out. The catalyst was a difficult conversation in which I changed my usual sweep-it-under-the-rug mode of communication by expressing my hurt feelings over her exclamation that she knew I couldn’t handle poverty after I conceded that I couldn’t. Poverty is not a romantic and cozy countryside cottage. It’s more like a drafty log cabin where plumbing doesn’t always work, and I haven’t adjusted to it that well.

In the beginning of this transition I thought I could live anywhere, do anything. The manual labor I performed at the grocery store in my mind warranted that I could get a job working on an organic farm, and live and work there. I’d be off the grid practically, and my dog could go with me. It would be rent-free, and I’d get a stipend for working the farm. What better way to live than off the land, working just for what I need? I didn’t need all of these extravagant extras. I could handle it because I’ve spent most of my life living with a low income, without luxury. I presented this epiphany to Kim, and her reaction was that she couldn’t see me doing that.

I’m the kind of woman who likes to get her nails done. I’m not frilly by any means, but I prefer not to leave the house without wearing make-up. When I travel, I take too much, including a different pair of shoes for every occasion. So it’s not a far reach for Kim to think I’m not exactly farmhand material.

But every time I’ve mentioned my career options to her, she’s had a similar reaction.

“I just don’t think that’s what you really want to do,” she’d said when I told her I was considering going to school to become a nutritionist. “You just don’t seem as excited about it as I am about my career change.” She’s studying to become an acupuncturist.

It was the same with my idea to become a personal trainer, which she couldn’t see me doing at all, which is understandable because when I lived near her in high school and college I spent my time drinking, doing drugs, and eating junk food. But I guess I thought she knew I worked out regularly and had my own personal trainer and thought it might be inspiring to help others, to show them they could turn around their lives too. Recently I’ve struggled to get a regular workout routine, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about borrowing more student loans to become a nutritionist, nor do I want to commit to a full year of farm work, which is what most farmers want. So Kim’s opinions aren’t incorrect. But does she have to be such a naysayer?

“I can’t handle poverty,” I told her.

“I KNEW you couldn’t,” she’d replied. My translation: You’re not strong enough. That’s not what she said, but it’s what I heard.

Upon my new decision to live a life of openness and honesty, I had decided to let Kim know that my feelings were hurt. This was over a phone call because she lives two states away from me. I can’t remember everything that was said, but I was careful about how I worded my feelings, in an attempt to avoid blame, using statements that begin with “I feel like.” Uncomfortable words were exchanged and I wish I could remember them but I can’t. A couple of days later (a couple of months ago) my dog was diagnosed with stage three kidney disease, so that occupied most of my head space, and I haven’t talked to Kim again since then.

In Kim’s opinion, friends should be open and honest with each other, and if I feel judged by her then I shouldn’t be her friend, which she wrote to me in an email afterwards. I replied that I was committed to the friendship, thinking at the time that I wanted to refrain from my usual cut and run attitude. She mentioned again that we shouldn’t be friends if I feel so shitty by the things she tells me, and asked if I really wanted a friend who’d just sit back and smile at everything. She said that I was playing the victim and that it was time I quit, and that she wasn’t going to take responsibility for something she didn’t do. She’d mentioned many times on the phone that she wasn’t going to take on what I’d told her, and internally my reaction was confusion. I wasn’t trying to make her take on anything, just trying to let her know my feelings. And she can go fuck herself. She’d also said she loved me and has seen me make so many breakthroughs, a statement that I found condescending. I think she’s trying to be supportive but there’s this part of me that feels like she uses it to gain control or power over me, some kind of way in which she’s placing herself above me, which could all be in my head, but I really don’t know.

I decided not to continue with the drama, the back and forth emails, and just didn’t reply to anything else. I thought, You want to end this friendship, then fine, let’s end it. I thought, I just don’t know what to say to you anymore. Maybe she was right and we should end the friendship. Because here’s the thing: I am tired. I find this friendship a lot of work, and none of my other friends are this intense. I want friends who support me in whatever I do, even if they think it doesn’t sound like me, because if that’s what I want to do, what the fuck do they know, and how is it their responsibility to tell me what they think is right for me? I can make my own mistakes, and I don’t know anyone who has listened to anything anyone else ever suggested unless it was something they’d already made up their minds to do anyway, because no one changes their mind after it’s been made. I felt like I was getting kicked when I was already down although of course I know that wasn’t her intention. She’d say she supported me, and I believe she thinks that, but the comments that she doesn’t see me doing that, and she doesn’t think that’s what I really want to do, these kinds of comments just add to my confusion, watering my own seeds of doubt. I’m not asking for someone to pretend everything’s great when it’s not. I’m asking for a friend who allows me to grow in my own way in my own time without negative input about how the paths I’m considering are so far off base.

In the process of trying to learn how to be more open, I’m not sure who to tell what, when, or where. I know not to talk to my mother or Kim about the men in my life because usually they have a negative opinion. When I break up with a guy, they tell me how wrong he was for me all along, confirming my suspicion that they didn’t approve, and when they don’t approve, I feel like I’m being judged. “You’re not being true to yourself,” is the message I hear, because deep down that’s how I feel, regardless of whether or not that’s what their intentions or opinions are. And while I feel that I’ve spent a lifetime of not being true to myself, I don’t know how to be different. I can’t change overnight, and find the right man and the right job. Of course I want very much to find the right man and the right job, but I can’t just be like poof! Here’s the most wonderful man in the world who I adore, and the fulfilling career. I am told that I don’t open up, that I hide, but when I talk about the men I’m dating or the jobs I’m considering, I feel like I get judged. My sponsor tells me differently, but it seems to me that no one ever says, “Wow, I can totally see you doing that! That’s so you!” I don’t hear anyone saying, “You two are perfect together—that makes so much sense!” I don’t feel like I get congratulated on my choices, and there’s a child inside me who wants those accolades, to get the gold star. Instead I get, “I can’t see you doing that.” At least from Kim. It’s fucking painful. To feel like nothing you do represents who you really are.

Because the thing is this: The choices I’ve made are the result of not knowing what the fuck else to do. It seems as though this is the path my higher power set for me, and I am just trying to stay open to that. I just try to do what’s in front of me. I can’t say that in my heart I know that it’s the right thing. I wish I could but I just can’t. Of course there’s still a child inside me who wants the world and wants it now, but at some point I have to grow up. I just don’t know exactly what that looks like.

Kim sent me an email a couple of weeks after the initial drama to say that she knew I might still be upset with her, but that she was thinking of me. It was a nice email, but I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know what else to say to her. I’d told her how I felt, she’d replied that I was playing victim. What else can I say to that without raging? I still don’t know what else to say. So I didn’t respond.

She called me a few days ago and while I wanted to ignore her I called her back a day or two later, grateful when her voice mail came on. What would we talk about when we talk? I’m not interested in arguing. I don’t feel like it’s fruitful to repeat the same opinions and feelings that we disagree over. I didn’t want to tell her that I’m now getting my MBA just to hear her shoot it down. Therefore I feel like we don’t have anything to talk about.

We finally got in touch yesterday and I ended up telling her I’m getting my MBA—technically I’m getting a dual degree: an MBA and a master’s in marketing. She’d asked right up front what I was up to and was I going back to school—I assume she’d seen my Facebook post asking about online MBAs. So I went ahead and told her in a way that I hope was without apology. I just told her that it seemed the next logical step as part of trying to stay open to what’s in front of me, that this seems to be my path so I’m embracing it. Period, end of story. She didn’t shoot it down, but instead said that as long as I was happy, and several times she said, “Wow, that’s huge. That’s a big decision,” a statement that I don’t know how to interpret, so I won’t. I just told her no, not really, just seemed like the next thing to do. The truth is that I’m just going to try it and see. I may not make it past the first class.

Our friendship is changing, and I don’t know if it can withstand this new dynamic, one in which I don’t apologize for my lifestyle or lament over my decisions, and I plan to practice honesty by voicing my opinions and feelings. Sometimes it seems like we don’t have much in common anymore. But I guess time will tell.