You got a friend in me?

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.


    1. Post
      Cara Thereon

      You’re right. I don’t know why I find it so hard to do that when it’s clear things aren’t good anymore. I’m a slow learner

  1. Jupiter Grant

    That final sentence – I’ve gotta make sure I’m doing right by me too- so, so true. This is what it comes down to. You can’t help others if you are shattered yourself and, as cold as I fear some may think I sound in saying this I totally believe that we have to make ourselves, our health, our number one priority.

  2. Mrs Fever

    I don’t have the patience for spending time or emotional energy on people or things that do not feed my well-being in positive ways or bring me joy. Living thousands of miles from my family has been a blessing in that way — geography creates obligation based on proximity, and childhood-friend/family history promotes concepts of Who You Are that, in actuality, you’ve long outgrown.

    It’s emotional labor — you’re absolutely right about that — but in the situation you describe, it’s not the kind of labor that leads to reward; it’s just the kind that leaves you depleted (and, perhaps, defeated).

    We do have obligations though. We put them on ourselves, really. No matter whether someone else has expectations of us that we dislike, it’s ultimately we who must decide to go forward with a thing…

    Or not.

    And when we do – even though we don’t *think* we want to – there’s some reason within us. Often one (or more) that we don’t want to acknowledge. (Maintaining an image, gaining some kind of pleasure from the discomfort, feeling “better-than” because we did The Right Thing, martyring ourselves in some way, emotional indebtedness. etc.)

    I’ve had to look at that a lot, especially in making decisions about who to include when it comes to sharing about my husband’s health stuff and who to deem “worth it” (it sounds harsh but it is what it is) when it comes to engaging in any kind of social way.

    All that to say: I get it.

    It isn’t easy and there are no good answers and I have zero to say in the way of (unsolicited) advice.

    But I get it.

    This is a completely relate-able struggle.


  3. Inigo More

    Very honest stuff. I think spirituality is a double-edged sword. It’s easily acquired and helps you cut through a lot of bad stuff, but it insinuates into everything. as an ex-Catholic (church school and monks-the whole thing) I sympathise with you. I’ve never quite shaken off the feeling of responsibility to others, even when it’s no longer actually relevant. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first, and that’s not wrong-it’s just not christian. eek. Old friends-such a tightrope .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *