Thursday, February 14, 2008

Can You Just Walk Away?

This picture of the cat sort of reflects my mood today. So.

I decided to give myself a Valentine's Day break tonight by skipping Ashtanga class. I must have been more tired than I realise. I fell asleep on the bus. When I woke up I was three bus-stops from home and Tegan and Sara was playing on my earphones.

I haven't been reading much lately, although I like the two books I have been reading on my way to work: Shadow of the Silk Road and A Time To Keep Silence. Hopefully I have something to share when I finish them. I think I will read Herodotus this weekend though. And maybe catch Juno at the cinema.

I have an idea why I feel so sullen suddenly. It's something that has troubled me for a very long time, but I've simply avoided thinking about it. Yesterday the issue was thrusted back into my face in an ugly way, and I think I need to seriously consider what to do.

Did you ever think you could out-grow a friendship? Not because he or she has changed -- but because your priorities has changed?

I am not a sociable person. I keep to myself a lot, or else I tend to keep to the same small group of friends. As such, each time I lose someone, it feels like tearing a part of myself.

There is a friend I have known for many years. We have drifted apart the past few years. Our interests -- or rather mine -- has changed: I became interested in Buddhism. I took up yoga. I stopped eating meat. I became happier.

I thought being a happier person means you will automatically learn to be a better friend. But what if your friend actually prefers to be unhappy? What if the reason for your friendship was this shared unhappiness?

Something happened yesterday. I thought something my friend did was selfish, unprofessional -- even a little irresponsible. It wasn't so much what she did that bothered me. That she was unapologetic about it was what really made me consider the question: is this the kind of friendship I want in my life? The truth is, my friendship with her has been feeling pretty toxic for the past couple of years. She is insecure, like myself -- and often, her insecurities lead her to lash out unfairly at those around her. I speak to her about this, and often we argue, then she accuses me of acting superior now that I am Buddhist and "enlightened".

It smarts. I tried to speak to her about her impulse control issues not because I am better than her -- but because I have been there. And it has costed me so much. I have lost too many friends because I was angsty and angry, and I really don't want her to have to suffer the way I did. She is younger than me, and she reminds me of a younger version of myself -- the passionate, angsty, insecure girl who really just wants to be accepted. I see how her irrational anger has already alienated a lot of people -- it's just that they don't discuss it in front of her. They are afraid of her.

She told me many times, how she regrets never being able to keep any friends throughout her life. Somehow, she always end up losing them. I empathise with her, and it makes it difficult to walk away; I would be yet one more friend who failed her.

And because I see myself in her, to abandon her would mean betraying myself in a way. A lot of my friends left me from long ago, but some stayed -- and I love them for that. What kind of friend do I want to be? A quitter, or someone who stays? Or am I trying to justify staying in a friendship that is getting increasingly abusive?

I feel like I am caught in a hostage situation -- because I cannot accept the choices she makes that hurts others, or which involves stealing. She is not a bad person -- but she makes some really bad choices.

I cannot look away at the harm she is inflicting on herself and on others, just because she is my friend. But she accuses me of judging her by my "superior" standards -- standards and principles which she does not abide by. That is true, to a certain extent. There is something judgemental involved. I do not deny my own ego in this.

She is selfish, and greedy, and despicable, she tells me -- and if I am not happy with that, so be it, she tell me.

Last Christmas, she left me a present and a Christmas card. Inside the card she thanked me for my friendship all these years. I did not know how to respond, so I did nothing. How do I tell her that I feel stressed trying to be her friend? That while it would hurt me, I know I would be more relieved not to have to stay around for her drama anymore?

And if I am making the right decision -- why do I feel bad about it?

14 comments:

Doc Martian said...

here's something to perk you up.

http://www.overstock.com/Books-Movies-Music-Games/Various-Artists-The-Complete-Stax-Volt-Singles-1959-1968-Box/238778/product.html

its goin' out of print so you might wanna hustle, especially if yer a blues brother's fan. the drummer, the gitarist and the bassist all are featured in many cuts on the box set.

i just got it in combination with the 'atlantic rhythm & blues' box set. soulapalooza.

between the two? over 18 hours of awesome music.

Cheers!
Doc

Chris said...

I really do feel for you. This seems like such a difficult situation, with no easy answers. It seems like you are struggling with choosing between two things: to be friends or to dump her. But that may be too black-and-white ... is there some gray area available to you, like seeing each other a little less, or being acquaintances for a while, or some other middle ground?

Also, at the risk of going all Dr. Phil on you, are you too invested in her behavior? Are you judging? If so, do you know why?

Of course, things sometimes do get too toxic and you just have to let them go ... and it's not always easy knowing if that time has come. Good luck, and whatever happens, please be kind to yourself and your friend.

woyo chris

Dark Orpheus said...

okookDoc Martian Thanks - but I'm trying to save money these days.

WoYo Chris You are right - I am too invested in her behaviour, because I see how some of the things that have happened to me, is happening to her.

I see how some of our mutual friends have started shunning her - and she doesn't seem to realise it YET.

It's like I'm trying to resolve my own past issues through her.

And the problem is we are also colleagues. And too many times, being her friend meanings having to do damage-control for her. It's draining. And she doesn't seem to want to grow up because we're always around to help her. Maybe I just want to stop being so reliable.

jpderosnay said...

oh dear... that is such a difficult and complicated situation! i can really see why it has drained you so much...

i certainly won't give you any advice because friends fall through my fingers like sand!!

but, as your "internet" friend, i must say my personal reaction is that i don't like the way she treats you, saying that kind of stuff to you. and no amount of presents and occasional thoughtful sentiments can make up for it. at the very, very least (i feel) a friend should treat you well.

but yeah, you've said that isn't the only issue (and perhaps i've gotten the wrong impression of how she treats you) - its also the fact that your values have changed... and its weird, but that makes it so hard. we like to think that that doesn't mean one can't be friends and, even though one CAN be friends in spite of those differences, it still makes it very hard indeed.

oh dear... i hope things get better...

Nymeth said...

I think you feel bad because letting go of someone who once meant a lot to us (and still does in some ways) is always hard, even if it's the right thing to do.

I have been through a very similar situation. It took me years to part ways with a friend whose presence in my life was becoming increasingly toxic. And it felt bad to do so, but in the end, there was some relief too.

Like you I'm not very sociable, so to lose one of the few friends I do have is never an easy thing. But sometimes people just become too different to be able to be friends.

Dark Orpheus said...

JP Thank you.

But what do you mean "friends fall through your fingers like sand"? You seem like the sort of guy who have no problem making friends. Of course I don't know you "in life".

Maybe I'm just being busybody. So it's okay if you prefer not to answer this.

Nymeth Thank you. Each time a friend fall out of my life I wonder if it was me. I wonder if I had done something different I could have salvaged the friendship.

But right now, I am prepared to let things cool.

jpderosnay said...

thanks! well... i'm all right at making friends, i just seem to struggle to keep them really.

i'm not much of a group person and tend to be a bit too serious for most people. most people want to hang out and stuff, whereas when i socialise with people i mostly like to talk about stuff, and often quite seriously.

people generally don't seem to want to do that, and when they do with me i can sometimes offend them 'cause i say what i think, and don't think too much before i say it...

i'm also rather easily hurt, if the truth be told...

oh dear. this is a sad little story.

to look at it from another perspective, i guess i also don't easily find people i can be really good friends with, and so, i guess i don't always try that hard to hold on to the friends i've made as many of them don't become more than acquantances.

perhaps i expect too much from friendship? i dunno...

can you relate to any of this?

see how easily its all become about me ;)

Dark Orpheus said...

JP Actually, would you be surprised if I tell you I can relate to some of the things you wrote about yourself?

And I'm totally fine if you talk about yourself here. It' good to remind myself sometimes the world doesn't revolve around ME. :)

I'm not a group person. In fact, I'm an intense loner. I like my friends - the small group of them - but I prefer to hang out with them on my own terms.

But what you say you like to talk about stuff - what do you mean? Do you mean you don't do the superficial "how's the weather" talk or you only want to talk about politics, economics, the philosophy etc?

I act like I don't care, but I'm actually pretty sensitive. And easily hurted. Which is the real reason why I act like I'm invunerable all the time.

But then again, there are frequent and genuine moments when someone don't like me - and my response is an unapologetic, "So?"

But I get the difference between friends and acquaintance. I want friends - not the "kiss-and-bye" sort of superficiality that I see around me. But that takes time. And effort. And the right "fit" between different personalities. Not everyone is suited for friendship, and many are just going to stay acquaintance.

I am willing to spend the time and effort to cultivate friendship - but this means I have to prioritize and spend less time on acquaintance.

Now I sound like a snob.

Someone once told me, you have to start with "Hello" to make friends. All friends start from mere acquaintance, don't they?

jpderosnay said...

yeah, like you, i sometimes feel hurt and sometimes i'm like "so? their loss." but it does need to even out, for me. if it doesn't, if there is a whole sequence of upsets then i can't say "so" anymore.

you're definitely right about all friends starting with an aquantance... i can definitely work harder on that aspect.

and you're totally right about prioritizing, i feel. i don't think thats snobbish of you at all!

i mean, we only have so much time in our days. and also, its really draining if you put a lot of energy it these things and nothing comes of it.

and yeah, with regards to talking about stuff, and not just superficial stuff, it tends to be stuff like philosophy or all that. i mean, not just these big issue, but, like, i don't know. i like to delve into things.

i'm trying to think of how to explain what i mean. i think, basically, that i just find a lot of conversation too superficial to me. its purely phatic. in effect, one could anyone to have that conversation with, its got nothing to do with that actual person.

so what i tend to want from a conversation is either to get to know them, specifically better, or to talk about things in greater depth than just saying "that was cool" etc.

that said, though, the funny thing is that with my closest friends i feel much more comfortable to just talk superficially. as long as we have those times when we talk more deeply, though.

i can certainly relate to being more of a loner, though! :) to me, group conversation is generally boring (because its so superficial). it can be fun, of course, but i often get bored and just want to go.

out of curiosity, do people believe your invulnarable act? like, do you think it affects your ability to make friends? or do you think its a good screening system for avoiding people who wouldn't make good friends?

Dark Orpheus said...

JP I think I "get" what you mean by going beyond the superficial talk.

I guess with my friends, I just need to know we are on the same page on the important things. Once that's established, we can shoot the breeze and talk about the weather. The more heartfelt talks will happen when they happen.

Afterall, they say real connection is when you can just BE with someone without saying a word.

I want to converse with people on a real level too. Not just ask about their job, where they live, how much money they make a year. That seems to me to be VERY BORING.

With group conversation it can get distracting - because I want to listen to everyone, give everyone a chance to speak -- but usually there's too many people talking at the same time. It's stressful. One to one conversation is what I prefer -- where I can really listen to someone. And preferably somewhere quiet -- not in a pub -- where I can really listen.

One of my exes was in the fashion industry -- I attended a few of their fashion parties -- and the whole superficiality of those glamour parties was unbearable.

As for the Invunerability Act:
On more than a few occasions, when I tell my friends Person(s) X said something unkind about me, my friends have made comments like, "But you don't care!" "Oh, c'mon, as though you care what people think?" " "Do you care?"

Okay, I guess to a certain extent I can bluffer a lot of criticisms/bitchiness.

My invunerability is an armour - it's put on, but over the years I've come to rely on it. It keeps me from being known, and getting hurted. But it also keeps people from knowing me well enough to appreciate me.

It's a little sad when I think about it sometimes, but it also means the friends who can see beyond the invunerability act are special. They look a little deeper than most people -- and they deserve the best from me as a friend.

Does this answer your question?

jpderosnay said...

i was smiling when you described how you feel when you're in a group - i must say, you're very considerate.

that fashion industry speak must've been awful...!! i can definitely relate. i studies drama and while actors can sometimes be deeper than people in the fashion industry, they can just as often be equally shallow...

i can see how your armour works for you. it certainly seems to be a good screening or vetting process. 'cause, as you said, that way, the people that get through will then definitely appreciate you and understand you. and be able to look deeper.

jpderosnay said...

haha! i meant to say i studied drama...

Dark Orpheus said...

JP Thanks. Group talk are extremely stressful, unless the group is willing to listen.

As for fashion people - my ex's business acquaintance used to comment that I am very quiet. I just retort, "That's because I'm the only one who's listening!" And they really do a lot of air-kisses, and the bitching.

I guess for fashion people, parties=work. It's "net-working" So they spend a lot of the time talking about themselves, selling themselves.

Drama (or dramatic people) - one of my friend used to work in a local drama company (she does marketing). It was an odd blend of people -- and lots of egos that's easily bruised. Artists, I guess.

But sometimes when I listen to them talk about their work, it's inspiring. Drama don't pay a lot, so the people that are willing to do it full-time are either rich, or they come to it as a calling.

I guess for the actors especially, part of their job is to "market" themselves, like fashion people. Knowing you need to impress people all the time, you just put on an act all the time - which can seem shallow.

jpderosnay said...

you know, i hadn't actually thought about that, with regards to actors and people in fashion. i've always simply been critical about it - but you're right, they do have to sell themselves, thats a good point.