Today was a forced interaction day, but it also made me think. And me being me, I write it out.
I spent time with an old friend. Not that I couldn’t say no, but there was pressure from both her and her mother to stop by for months now. Without giving too much away, it was a meeting I was dreading for a variety of reasons. We no longer have things in common even though we are the same age. We’re at different stages in life with different priorities, it was awkward.
Realizing I can’t just be myself was the hardest part. She knows me as the good Christian girl who used to be involved in all things church. I’m not that person anymore and I feel like it’s a specter every time I’m home. I have friends who are fully aware of my kink life and real life, that I don’t have to hide or pretend with and it’s amazing. I’d almost rather deal with a stranger who I don’t have to pretend with then this weird space I feel I’m in with friends from home. The older I get, the harder it is to have friends who I don’t feel comfortable showing all myself to.
Why did I get together with someone I no longer feel comfortable with? Me knee jerk response is “fuck if I know.” The deeper answer is obligation. It’s an old friendship that, while not what it used to be, is still one I’ve had for a long time. It also leads to the other thought I had after the visit.
The other thing that hovered at the back of mine was how desperate for interaction she appeared to be. She’s almost a shut in, rarely leaving or involved in much beyond church. In the past, I was the one who always reached out to her, who included her in things, who made sure she was never left behind. My mother said I should try to reach out to her and invite her to things when I’m in. My response was, “I’m doing good to get up and get dressed everyday. I don’t have the energy to help someone when I’m barely helping myself.” I find it difficult to be that for someone else. It’s a lot on a good day, but lately? It’s real fucking hard.
It made me think about my obligation to others. Am I obligated to reach out? When I was younger and deeply spiritual, my answer would’ve been yes. I have a godly responsibility to bring others in to the light, to help others, to be a joy to others. Now? I’m not so sure about that answer.
This is about emotional labor, isn’t it? You want to do right by others, but not at the expense of yourself.
I sound like a dick and maybe I am. The world can’t become a better place if I’m not willing to do right by my fellow man when I can. And some days I got the spoons for it. I can make the time, donate the money, or phone the friend. But how do you help someone through their difficulty when you’re doing good to get out of the bed everyday? I know there isn’t a formula or right answer for this, and sometimes the answer is you do it anyway. I’m just being honest when I say I can’t always get my shit together well enough to do it anyway. Maybe I’m part of the problem and I own that I need to do better.
It makes me think of at what point you stop putting in the labor when it no longer does you any good to do so? I’ve ended friendships that I’ve held on to too long because they were manipulators and users. At what point is it perfectly okay to say, “neither of us is getting anything from trying to pretend our friendship is built on anything other than nostalgia”? I don’t have to hang on to everything. Letting shit go can be healthy.
Will I see her the next time I’m in after this visit? Maybe. That part of me that comes to the rescue will probably do it. I’m a helper, nurturer, the absorber of emotions. It’s what I do even when it destroys me in the process. So I’ve gotta make sure I’m doing right by me too.