Saturday, April 01, 2023

Temper, temper

I admit I'm pissed. Last week my oldest friend sent me a chatty, highly-superficial email about her life. Normally this wouldn't bother me. I know she's busy with her new beau and having a man in her life is very important to her. Plus I'm happy that she's interacting with someone who isn't her cousin or her daughter. She's been in California for a decade now and has made no friends, and that's just not healthy. I applaud this sprint to a wider, happier life. She's clever and funny and has so much to offer.

So, you're asking, why am I pissed? Two reasons:

1) Her email covered everything that we had talked about on the phone. She's apparently so heedless of our conversation that she didn't even remember.

2) She promised to call during the week and didn't. Too busy, I guess. Now her new fella still works, so I imagine her days are free. But I've been shunted to the back burner. 

I'd say I'm hurt by these two points but that's not true. I'm angry. Because I feel my oldest friend has been gaslighting me.

During my transition into retirement, she has insisted that her time in retirement has been the happiest of her life. I didn't believe her -- she had no friends, went nowhere* except here to Chicago for Beatlefest last August and her health is so problematic she spent one of her days here unable to get out of bed. She also tells me that her landlord is harassing her and wants her gone. Does this sound happy to you? Of course not.

But here's the thing: where's her empathy for me? My career was very important to me, and this transition has been difficult. Instead of drawing me out, or fuck, even acknowledging my issues, she went on about how happy she was. 

Now all of a sudden she tells me she's sick of "living like a shut in" and wants romance. Really? You were "living like a shut in?" You blathered that you were the happiest you have ever been and couldn't even fathom my struggles.

That's crappy. I deserve better.

I realize she has issues and allowances must be made. She has bipolar disorder. It's her body chemistry and she can't help it. I understand intellectually that her insistence that her solitary life of drinking coffee, vaping, and writing fan fiction about George Harrison (while living in an apartment where she isn't wanted) is glorious was likely bravado, the self-talk she needed to get through the day.

Because I understand that intellectually, I won't say to her what I've written here. That would be cruel.

But if I want to stay in this relationship -- and obviously I do -- I have to figure out where to put my anger. How to deal with it. 

I've read two books that have helped: Broken by Jenny Lawson and Friends, Lovers and the Big, Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry. Listening to two other people eloquently and candidly chronicle life with bigger emotional problems than mine has given me a peek into the world she's navigating.

I know what Topic A will be
And there's this: We've been friends since kindergarten. I'm not going to let her go. She can be so funny, so comfortable, and she knows where all my bodies are buried.

But I also know that she doesn't give me or my struggles anywhere near the attention I give hers. Perhaps that's because she simply doesn't have enough gas in the tank. How do you set boundaries with someone who is, in Jenny Lawson's term, "broken?"

I'm going to hold my tongue and temper until I can talk to my shrink on Tuesday.

*When I say "nowhere" that's exactly what I mean. She has everything delivered. She doesn't even go to the post office. Part of it is mobility issues (she needs a cane) and part of it is, I suspect, crippling depression.

Photo by Kateryna Hliznitsova on Unsplash