Tag Archives: relationships

What A History Of Broken Friendships Taught Me

If you’re anything like me, than you have had a handful of friendships take a sudden left turn after going really well. The beginning is almost always the same – an immediate, spark-like connection. We have a lot in common emotionally, even if our backgrounds are different. It feels easy to talk about anything, and like we’ve known each other our whole lives.

I used to believe that these connections were brought into my path by God, but now, I know it’s not that simple. One friendship ended after she moved away suddenly without telling me, while another friend who moved changed all her contact information and I had no way to contact her. I’ve had friends suddenly become emotional abusive, cuss me out, or ghost me for no apparent reason. Every time it happens, I tell myself, “Never again,” and build up my walls by another brick. At the same time, though, I’m always ready to be vulnerable and listen to my “gut.” However, after this past weekend, I’m just really tired.

This most recent friendship probably took the quickest turn I’ve experienced, which makes it all the more jarring. I was left gasping, shaking, bewildered, and outraged. I’ve thrown up once every night since. After talking to others about the situation, a mix of those who know and don’t know the person, I know that it wasn’t my fault. Still, I find that I blame myself for taking yet another chance on a connection that had all the signs of a disaster just biding its time. I keep asking God, “Why, why, why.” Why do these people keep crossing my path?

I don’t have a lot of answers or “lessons.” The one thing that all these experiences have taught me though, is that good friendships don’t always begin with a spark. If my track record is any indication, if they do, they’re destined to explode. The friendships that are more likely to succeed are the ones that take work. A lot of awkward silences. A lot of me asking myself, “Do I keep trying?” I’m someone who likes to rush into deep, personal conversations, but most people aren’t, so I’ve learned to be patient. Somewhat. It’s a work in progress.

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small group

So we started our own small group. I talked about it in a past post, and now we actually did it. It wasn’t that hard to outline what we wanted. I have more “must’s,” than Chris, of course, but we both wanted the group to be a community that wasn’t about a church. It wouldn’t be based around all going to the same church, or going to church at all. We both wanted there to be openness and honesty. We didn’t want to be the “leaders,” and always responsible for content. I made a Meetup. com profile, and created an event. It didn’t take long for lots of people to “join.”

I knew right away that most of the people joining wouldn’t actually be in the group. I sent out an email that explained again that the group wasn’t just for socializing, and that we really wanted people who were committed to each other. I only got a few emails back. We ended up meeting with three people, and they were all a great fit. I also posted on Craigslist, and within 20 minutes, got an email from a couple who wanted to join.

We have our first official meeting on Friday, though we’ll just be having dinner, doing some ice-breakers, and talking about what we’re going to be studying. “The Bible” and how we read it comes first, and then prayer, and then some other essential faith tenet. I think sticking to the basics gives us a lot of breathing room and doesn’t lock us into something too narrow.

Chris and I feel really good about all this. The time was right, and God really showed up.

processing thoughts on girls

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My sexuality goes through phases. Since acknowledging that I was bisexual about five years ago or so, I’ve noticed that I go through times when I feel more into women than men. That usually happens when I don’t feel as close emotionally to Chris, so I don’t explore it at all or look at it as anything more than just a passing thing. My interest is also always on a celebrity or other person who I don’t actually know, so there’s never any temptation to act on anything.

Lately though, the “gay phase” has lasted longer than usual. I’ve been confused by it. Chris and I have been very emotionally close lately, we’ve been through pretty intense counseling, worked very intentionally on communication, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in the romantic area of my life. What’s the deal?

Yesterday, as I was watching interviews with my latest celebrity obsession, I realized that none of my thoughts were sexual. I was honestly just daydreaming about hanging out, having tea with this person, being gal pals. Okay…so this really doesn’t have anything to do with being bisexual. This is something else.

Studies have shown women are “hard-wired” for friendship. When women become stressed, their instinct is to seek out other women because of biological factors like hormones and oxytocin. They don’t seek out men because men’s brains handle stress differently. Harvard Medical School even showed that women with a close group of female friends develop less physical impairments as they get older. Not having friends is bad for your health, and can have a similar effect on the body as smoking.

*None of this is to say that men don’t need friendships. The studies are also obviously pretty black-and-white in terms of gender, which gender is not, but I think the point is true: humans need friendships. I’m just especially interested in the girl-girl dynamic, because I’m cis, and that’s what I know and experience.*

None of this is surprising to me. When I was in counseling and struggling with my sexuality, one of my counselors suggested it was just because I didn’t have girl friends, so I had started seeing them like I did boys, as unfamiliar, and that triggered my brain to believe it was a sexual thing. I know that wasn’t what it was, but I’m sure it was part of it. I’ve always been more interested in girls than boys; most of my crushes have been girls. I’m sure some of it was sexual, and some of it was just wanting that close friendship.

I think that need for female energy and company has become especially strong because I’m pretty isolated here. I work from home. I’m building friendships from scratch. I have one close girl friend here, but one person can’t be everything, and I have a lot of close girl friends who are further away who I miss a lot. The last few attempts I’ve made to make more friends have not been successful. I think I’m discouraged. So I turn to interviews and TV and movies and music to hear female voices that I like, watch interesting women and imagine they’re talking to me. It sounds really pathetic when I write it out, but it hasn’t been a conscious thing, so there’s not much I can do about it.

Eh. This was a really personal post, and maybe no one else feels this way, but I wanted to put it out there, mostly to process. Thanks for reading.

Here’s Where I Admit I Don’t Know What The Hell I’m Talking About

I wrote a book about how to deal with mental illness. It says things like, “Don’t isolate yourself,” “Find a community,” and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, I’m coming off of probably the worst few weeks in a long time, where I had to force myself to brush my teeth, showered maybe every four days, and sometimes slept all day. I also feel like a fraud. I wait to blog until I have something positive to say at the end of the post. Well, I don’t this time. Even writing this is hard work, but it’s important, because it’s important for you all to see the really bad parts, too.

These are the times when it’s nearly impossible to be coherent, when people ask how you are, and you open your mouth, and no words come out. It’s partly because I don’t want to be a downer, and partly because I don’t know how to explain what walking death really feels like. Usually, the best I can do is, “Merrg.”

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be around people. I really want to be around people, because it forces me to pretend to be a human instead of a husk. I’m performing, and if I do it long enough, maybe it’ll rub off. On the other hand, I’m left feeling empty when they leave, because I want to talk to somebody about the mess I really am, and I’m disappointed and angry and guilty. As hours pass, I start looking out the window, waiting for Chris, like a dog. When he comes and asks how I am, I want to just shake that part off, and move on. Can I press fast-forward on this part? Or will I just be skipping ahead forever?

With Unexpected Speed

I did not expect to be dealing with all this so soon.

I had recently passed my two-year anniversary and was looking out the car window at the blur of fields and barns. Occasionally we would pass clumps of trees, but they would fly by so fast, it was like they had never been there at all. When I tried to focus on a small detail like a single branch or house in the distance, it would immediately bleed into the oddly-linear hues of gray, green, yellow, brown, and blue. My mind was wandering. It had only been two years since I signed a piece of paper, said goodbye to my dog as he left for his new home with my in-laws, and woke up a married woman. In a lot of ways, it seemed like yesterday. However, it also seemed like forever ago. In those two years, me and my husband have dealt with mental breakdowns, horrendous medication withdrawals, a crisis of faith (ongoing), employment turmoil, sexual identity questions, loneliness, relationship doubts, and looming financial challenges. I was not naive when I got married. I knew all this and more was part of the deal; I just didn’t expect it all to happen so soon and so quickly.

Isn’t marriage supposed to have a honeymoon period? You know, that brief time when everything is rose-colored and you’re just happy to wake up next to your person every morning? I’m not saying I’m unhappy to be waking up with my person, but there was never a time when that happiness wasn’t mixed with anxiety and questions chewing on my brain like termites.

Is my unemployment a burden to this clear-eyed, optimistic, occasionally goofball-ish man I’ve yoked myself to?

Will the pharmacy screw up my medication again and disrupt my entire week with crippling muscle pain, headaches, and frantic doubts about everything? Are those bone-shaking doubts just symptoms of an unstable mind, or legitimate concerns I should be listening to?

Should I have gotten married when I did? Am I too young and immature? 

Will I ever be in a place to have kids? Do I even want kids? What happens to us if I don’t want kids? 

Even before we got married, we were faced with having to give up our dog Yoshi and the distinct possibility he would never be adopted. Thankfully, Chris’ parents took him back to Indiana with them, but that raises its own issues, like feeling the self-inflicted internal pressure to make enough money to get a place where we can take him back.

Do other married people have these problems? I’m sure they do. And I’m positive that couples have faced worse unemployment, worse debt, worse mental illness, and so on. I want to always be aware of the privilege I have, but I’m selfish and self-pitying. I see other couples with Instagram-perfect lives and go between feeling glad I’m not a fraud, and then furious that we’re not them. I see other couples having or planning babies, and I’m flabbergasted that they aren’t freaking the f*** out every minute of every day. I envy identity/orientation confidence. I envy white-picket fences and Tuesday date nights and dishwashers. But mostly, I fear.

I fear I will never be happy at the same church as my husband.
I fear 9-5 jobs and “work shoes” and imperfect bosses.
I fear eternal debt.
I fear little pink capsules and inefficient pharmacies.
I fear loneliness because I don’t dare get close to other women.

I fear God and His timing, which is so unlike our own, that to Him nothing is “unexpected, “too soon,” or “too late.” 

Realizing You Were Wrong

It’s kind of jolting to realize when you’re wrong about something. And not just like one thing, but “something” as in a whole pattern of behavior. It’s even more disturbing to realize that the pattern probably cost you a few relationships and a whole lot of time wasted.

Early in college, there was a weird situation with some friends and a bunch of people got hurt and things got complicated, and it just wasn’t pretty. For years, I was convinced I hadn’t done very much wrong, or that I had good intentions, or whatever, but within the last two years, being given a lot of space from the situation, I realized I was totally wrong.

I was controlling, manipulative, and judgmental. I spent a lot of energy involving myself in things that were none of my damn business. I was a bad friend and just all-around, not a great person. Even worse, I actually believed that what I was doing and thinking was right and that God had led me to it. Sure, I acknowledged some imperfections, I wasn’t that delusional, but I always made excuses for myself:

“I just care too much.”

“It’s coming from a good place.”

“I’m a good person for knowing when I’m wrong about things.”

“I get so obsessed because of the anxiety/depression.”

Note to the world: having depression or anxiety does not excuse you from being a bad friend or a bad person. It can explain some of it, i.e. with the level of anxiety I had, it was very difficult to not freak out about things I saw as dangerous behavior in friends, but it does not excuse the fact that I became very judgmental or reacted poorly. My mental illness does not control me or how I handle my relationships or hard situations.

It’s difficult to know what to do after you realize you screwed up, and screwed up bad. Is there any way to come back from that, with the person involved? Or is it one of those things you just have to let go of and never really resolve? I’m not good with non-resolutions. I’ve already had one major relationship in my life that ended pretty strangely and the lack of concrete resolution still haunts me. But then I stop and think about it, and realize this is all still about me, isn’t it? How feel and how want to feel better about myself by being apologetic and humble. Ultimately, it seems like it’s about power and control, I don’t like feeling like someone else has some kind of power over me. By getting a resolution, I am claiming control over the situation, and if I don’t get it, it drives me crazy. By saying “I was wrong” to someone, I’m still the one in control. That’s not really a great motivation for trying to reconnect with someone.

So…what is a good motivation? What should I be striving for? And even thinking that makes all this still about control! By not knowing, I feel powerless. Maybe I just need to chill. Stop questioning myself so much. I don’t know though. By not questioning myself, I managed to go years believing I was totally in the right when I was really totally in the wrong. This is all very complicated and confusing.

Community

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I’ve always had trouble finding a “group.” In middle school and high school, I lamented not having people I could just call up and go hang out with. Even in a tiny school, cliques form, and I somehow ended up on the outside of the “popular” one right at the beginning of my high school career. By the end, things were better and my graduating class was very close, but as time passed, it was clear that closeness was because of survival. If I had had a choice, certain actions would have been a deal breaker for me, but that was not a good idea when you had to see them every single day. I definitely still have friends from high school, but not a “group.”

My last real community was church. I haven’t realized until recently how much that meant to be. Being involved in youth group gave me a place where I felt needed and that I needed. Then it was over, and then it was gone. Lots of people left the church altogether, the youth group got smaller, the leadership got shaken up and went in a direction where I didn’t fit anymore. It had happened kind of gradually, so I didn’t realize I was losing something so important to me. That’s a big reason why I haven’t found another church and why I’m so reluctant to even start trying.

I wanted college to be my community. I did make friends, some really close ones, and I don’t want it to sound like I’m minimizing their importance to me, but my experience has been so difficult that I can’t say that I feel like I belong at Macalester. I went to an English Department event and it just hit me. I didn’t know very many people and they certainly didn’t know me. I was supposed to graduate last year. When I finally do leave, it will have been six years since I started college at Northwestern. I’ve said it before, about how I need to let that go, the past is the past, yadda yadda. I’m not going to get a bunch of awards or have my name up on a plaque like my dad, or be a teacher’s assistant. Knowing something doesn’t make it any easier. It just makes it a lot more frustrating when you can’t get over it.

 

A Big Happy Family: The Rules and Rituals of Relationships at a Conservative Christian College

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Let’s go back to my freshman year of college at a conservative Christian institution.

That feeling of “not being good enough” haunted me, though it was more complicated than that. It wasn’t as if I devalued myself, that I thought I was worthless. I knew I was a good catch, but I just wasn’t the fish anyone wanted. Whenever a boy talked to me, threw a smile in my direction, I fell in love. I wrote lists of what I wanted in a guy, which included traits like “quirky,” “honest,” and “confident.” My fixation on a relationship filled me with guilt and my journal was interspersed with lists of valuable traits in a guy and hard-edged promises to focus on God and holiness. I was torn between a desire to be loved and a desire to be autonomous. My school taught me to find my satisfaction in Christ but also continuously shoveled teachings about marriage and gender roles at me, making it impossible to not be aware of how single I was.

I cast myself as some kind of long-suffering heroine in a tragedy. The different one. The one who waits and waits but no one comes. Some people pass by, fascinated, but they never stay. They care for a time, I know they do, but my problems don’t have an expiration date and people get tired. I get that. It hurt to think that people just stick around for as long as they do because they feel sorry for me. It’s pity. That’s the worst. It’s like a zoo exhibit for The Sad Girl. Please do not feed. You visit for a while, feel bad for the poor creature all locked up, but it’s getting late and it’s awkward to just stand around.

Paranoia believes that every kind word or encouragement is a forced gesture. Any sweetness became overbearing. I became angry with people who spouted their buzzwords and vague assertions about hope and pain. It was impossible to connect with someone who didn’t seem to have their feet planted. I just ended up kind of swatting at them, trying to get a grip, trying to cling to their stability. Maybe I scared them away. I wasn’t sure what to expect of people. This was a Christian college. We’re a big happy family, right? Not total strangers. That’s what they told us when we lined up in chapel and were told to sing with our hearts and clap with our hands. All in one room, me with hundreds of other kids, but I still felt like a bruised fruit in a perfect bowl.

On my floor, there was a group of students who were into a more radical form of Christianity, and being more familiar with that, I adjusted my spirituality to fit in more. I believed there was power in what we did, no appeal to God ever goes to waste, but nothing I did seemed to alleviate the depression or loneliness. I realized that I felt more fulfilled during a simple conversation with a person who seemed genuinely interested in me than with an hour-long prayer session. Eventually, I became exhausted with the hysterical spirituality I found myself involved with, but I still hung on the fringes, reluctant to sever the only connections I had.

Being at a conservative religious school has made me disillusioned with Christian establishments. There were so many rules. We had to go to chapel five days a week; they scanned our ID cards and kept a record, so if we missed more than our allotted number of skips, we got fined. I didn’t even have people to complain to; everyone seemed to think it’s a reasonable thing to ask of students. Some girls said, “If you enjoy going to chapel and it makes your day a bit more Jesus-filled, what does it matter if it’s a requirement?” Except I didn’t enjoy it and it didn’t make my day more Jesus-filled. It was a bunch of announcements mostly, sometimes a special speaker, one who always seemed to talk about marriage.  One chapel in particular annoyed me so much that I live-blogged it to my brother. The speaker talked about how waiting for the right person was important and to enjoy being single, and then ended with a story about how when he accepted that about his life, he met his future wife two weeks later. How very convenient. At another smaller chapel I attended to try and avoid a fine, a young married couple took questions about how to live a Godly life as a single person. A young married couple. They were, I don’t know if I mentioned this, married. Everyone who talked about how to be single was married.

For a class, part of our homework was to keep a journal with a Bible verse each day. I couldn’t even be real about it, I had to turn it in as part of my grade, so it wasn’t even a real journal. It just made my skin crawl, turning worship and the Bible – the two main tenets of the Christian faith – into things that were scanned, measured, and graded. I felt like I was the only one who was really angry about all of this, like really, red-faced angry. It made me feel even more isolated and vulnerable to feeling like I was somehow “better” than other people because I was so aware of the injustices and hypocrisy bearing down on a rabble of young minds.

Was this narcissism? Believing in all of this? Even though being in pain sucked, it separated me from other people. It made me unique. I sat alone and wrote depressing poems, shaking my head at the nuzzling couples and giggling cliques. Oh, you foolish children. How could you understand the depth of life’s agony? And even if you do, you have a symphony of love around you to keep you from drowning. Unlike me. Poor, sad me. Trying to pull myself out of self-pity usually made it all worse. I was self-centered and angry for being self-centered. You. Stop. Stop being depressed and so full of yourself.

Mix Tape

One of the daily prompts on WordPress recently was to create a “mix tape” that represents me. Even with a list I developed, it still seems pretty impossible to really get my essence, since I have so much music that holds a significant place in my soul. Of course, everyone says that, so I’ll just leave it at that and move right along.

“So I Thought” – Flyleaf

This song was really important to me for a long time following my first relationship’s breakup. The lyrics, “A year goes by, and I can’t talk about it,” really struck home, since after a year, the wounds were still very frustratingly fresh. Even now, the line, “And I’m praying that we will see/Something there in between/Then and there that exceeds all we can dream/So we can talk about it,” feels relevant, since I did all of my processing/healing without the ex-boyfriend being involved at all. The final chorus, “And all these twisted thoughts I see/Jesus there, in between,” always brings me to my knees.

“When I Fall In Love” – Celine Dion and Clive Griffin

This is the cheesiest song that I love. It’s also the first song I gave to Chris. I love its optimism but also quiet hesitancy.

“You Belong Here” – Anberlin

The power of this song is in its simplicity. “You belong here/You were meant to be with me.” Most of my life, I’ve struggled with feeling like I belong anywhere. I would sing this song to myself at night, imagining all my loved ones, Chris, God, singing it back to me.

“The Worry List” – Blue October

Justin’s voice…it is my heartache’s voice. “I might have been gone, but I never walked out.” Take me off your worry list. It’s about picking myself up over and over again. Trying to ignore other people’s concern, and just being tired of people worrying. I’m fine, really, I’m fine.

“18th Floor Balcony” – Blue October

This was our first dance song at our wedding. It makes me feel such peace.

“Little Hell” – City & Colour

My little hell is my depression. This song perfectly expresses my fears: “What if everything’s just the way it will be/Could it be that I am meant to cause you all this grief?” and “There’s a degree of difficulty in dealing with me.”

“Wrapped in Your Arms” – Fireflight

I believe surrender is the hardest and most crucial part of being a follower of Jesus. Whenever I go through a period of struggle, I always end up in the same place but with deeper understanding.

Is this the whole picture
Or is it just the start?
Is this the way you love me?
You’re capturing my heart
I used to try and walk alone
But I’ve begun to grow
And when you tell me just to rest
I’m finally letting go
I let go