May 7, 2009

Big ol' bucket of dysfunction.

Lately I've been feeling out of sorts and out of sync with the world and just generally out of it. I was finally able to put a name to it thanks to J. Po, with whom I spoke into the wee hours last night. A big old bucket of dysfunction is what I am, and while a few of my friends are actively avoiding me, Jon Potter understood completely because we happen to be victims of the same kind of crazy. When stressed, we hunker down like cats hiding under the couch until a scary stranger leaves, and wonder what in the world we did to deserve this invasion.

When I had the financial luxury, I saw a shrink from time to time. (I figure if everyone could pay someone to listen to them bitch, there would be far fewer blogs.) He told me I viewed friendship as some sort of bank account, where I built up my balance by doing nice things for people. Then when I needed it, I felt less uncomfortable asking for help, because hey, look at all I've done for you. But friendship doesn't work that way, nor should it. For one thing, healthy people tend to live in the moment, and make decisions based on what's going on in their head now. Also, apparently the vast majority of people feel perfectly comfortable saying "no." The end result is that even though I've given a friend rides to the airport or babysat their child/cat/dog or thrown them a party or let them crash at my house or run errands when they were sick or offered to donate a kidney, I shouldn't ask a favor as though I'm asking for something in return, because it's just not fair. Friendship is a two-way street, but not something to be nurtured by keeping score. Duly noted.

I remember at the time what a glorious revelation this was. I let myself say no when I felt overwhelmed, and when someone said no to me, I didn't take it personally. I lost a couple of friends who didn't like this new arrangement; it didn't come as a surprise. Now, however, I realize I've been saying no to everything and pointing to the stress in my family's life as an excuse. I got away with it for a while, but I'm at a point where I need to pull my head out of my ass and take notice of something painfully clear: everyone is under stress. Suck it up and deal with it, Laurel.

A friend once told me that she had made a mistake at work and was lamenting to her boss that everyone would blame her. Her boss turned to her and said, "Honey, no one is thinking about you." I will never forget that. At times, when I'm feeling guilty for not calling someone in a while or worrying about a stupid remark I made, I hear those words and they are comforting. At other times, when I've stretched a relationship to the limit by pulling my little turtle head and tail under my shell and refusing to come out, I think of those words and they are terrifying. Most of my friends will cut me slack indefinitely; this is the favor I am asking and they are saying yes. But I'm afraid some will just stop trying, and it will be my loss.

So I am going to try to climb out of my bucket of dysfunction and get back out into the world. It's friggin' boring in here, anyway.


Peggy said...

Stumbled on your site via a comment you made on Dooce. Just ordered your book & look forward to diving into it.

Girlbert said...

Wow. Same as above. I bookmarked you, and haven't been for a while. Something told me to check out your site today, though!

I really enjoy your writing and I especially needed to hear this today. Thanks!