No Man Is An Island

How do we reconcile shortcomings in others with our boundaries? What’s the line between forgiveness and finally expecting our worth to be reflected in the way we’re treated? Unless I accept my people as they are, I’m not going to have any friends left! My circle is getting very small indeed.

I told my friend I was hurt when she and her husband rode Zafod’s art car after what happened to me at Burning Man. I hadn’t planned to. “She’s my friend,” I decided. “I can’t hold her as close as I once did, and I love her. Not every wound needs redress.”

I gave it real thought. I knew that either way, I would continue to spend time and be her friend. I’d been hurt, and it was done. I harbored nothing. Not the end of the world; certainly not intentional. I knew that.

I know, too, that it’s unfair to demand the same expression of camaraderie that I offer. I see something in my friend now that’s hard to know. It’s still friendship.

But… We were hanging out yesterday. She wondered why I had stormed off one night at the burn. I hadn’t, but I understood why it seemed like I had. In truth, some plastic women boarded an art car we were on and threw shade at me. (I have no objection to cosmetic work, incidentally, until they look freakish. Even then, knock yourself out. But silicone, starved, filled, frozen, Botoxed, and bitchy? ‘Bye.)

I hadn’t worn makeup all week, until burn night. That’s normal for the day. (Sunglasses hide many sins.) You might think the face of a middle-aged redhead with faded eyebrows would be especially bleached-out and colorless in the bright sun. In fact, I look more washed out at night. Featureless, pallid, even sickly.

I didn’t care. I wore my cute outfits, but I was all about comfort this burn. I couldn’t be bothered with makeup. I will again. I love turning it out. This year, when evening rolled around, it just felt like a chore. I didn’t wanna.

It was similar to my first burn, when I hadn’t known to bring all my fabulous gear and wore gym shorts and tennis shoes the whole time! (Why I didn’t Google it when my boyfriend told me playa would ruin all my nice things is beyond me, haha!) In 2007, I was intimidated and uncomfortable. Slacks at a black-tie affair.

What I gained was the experience, for the first time in my life, of disappearing. No one noticed me! It was discombobulating at first. Then, it felt like a secret superpower. If I had a meaningful conversation, it was a meeting of people, not finery. Yeah, I was snubbed, but those I spoke with mattered in a new way. No angle.

Showing up with only myself was a humbling, powerful lesson that I cherish. (The next year, I’d already learned it. I brought the glamour.)

This year was like the first. The difference was I chose it, and this time I needed nothing from those who overlooked me. Twelve years ago, disdain knocked me back. It took work to bring myself up when someone looked down on me. Now I’m bored of people who tear others down, so when those derisive bitches sized me up, I was out. (One sneered, audibly.) I wasn’t mad, not rattled, not interested.

“Do I look like I’m dying of cancer?” I asked my friend.

She said yes! I needed eyebrows.

I knew. If I cared, I’d have drawn them on.

I sat it out for a minute or two, but I don’t like mean girls. Those chicks changed the vibe for me, so I left. Simple. (We were just sitting anyway, and I wanted to move! Ecstatic dance is something I only find at Burning Man. Wordless conversation is magical, especially for one so blessed and cursed with words. I had an awesome night.

Oh, what was the name that camp? Multi-level dance floors and mini-trampolines! Anyway, the beats were going off at some unicorny location and I danced deeep for hours, woke up sore. “Ooh, I’m getting my legs on now!”

Ecstatic dance needs another name.)

Back at home, my friend told me that she and her husband determined then that I must have been offended. Reasonable. Wrong.

“That being said,” I teased her, “when your friend asks if she looks like she’s dying of cancer, the answer is always no!”

“No,” she disagreed. “I don’t want anyone lying to me. Be straight!”

“No, man! There are certain things the answer is always no! ‘Does this dress make me look fat?’ NO! ‘Do I look like I’m dying of cancer?” Always no!”

We drank for a couple of hours. I don’t know if that opened the door to the truth. I wasn’t so drunk, but maybe it emboldened me to confess what I was wrestling with.

What difference does it make? I asked again and again.

Be straight with me, I heard again and again.

If this sat on my heart unsaid, it was between us. I needed to share my feelings with someone I’ve considered a close friend for five years.

Did I, though? Do we have to get everything off our chests? If I don’t need her to answer for it, do I need to offload something that won’t stop me being a friend?

But isn’t that making allowances for people who don’t value me? I hoped she’d care, and we could close the first gap our friendship has known. I had to say it, or the new distance between us might grow.

Did I? Or was I merely acting out a childhood scream for ownership that no one took?

I’m asking. What do healthy people do?

I want authentic connections, not acquaintances and drinking buddies. I spoke my truth. I didn’t accuse or attack. I owned my feelings.

“I was hurt when you rode the art car after what Zafod did to me.”

“When?” she asked.

“Anytime after he kicked me out.” What did that matter? 

It devolved from there. She was defensive, deflecting. It didn’t happen to them. (It’s inconsequential, then, that he endangered me in middle of the desert after harassing, deceiving, fondling, violating, and ejecting me.)

Wow. Compassion matters to me, and that’s the definition of its lack. No amount of explanation could communicate why the lack of solidarity might hurt.

In the end, “If the tables were turned…” was all I could say, over and over.

She came back every time with bewilderment and no feeling. It didn’t involve them. Why should that have anything to do with me?

Now I’m screwed. Now I know. The obstacle is real, and growing. Empathy’s important to me. Recognition of unintended injury. Basic concern for friend. “I can see how you feel. I’m sorry.” They’re not. They don’t.

I want a little loyalty. All I got was discomfort, hers. She was in trouble.

“I’m not mad,” I told her. “I just wanted you to know how I felt. I haven’t blamed you or yelled. I shared my feelings.”

“But you’re the one who got fooled,” she shot back.

Oh. My. God.

I gasped and walked away. “Oh! I’m getting mad now.

“That is victim blaming!” I turned back. “I didn’t do this. He did this. It was traumatic and scary, and it hurts that my friends don’t care.”

It didn’t happen to her, and I’m the idiot.

You think I don’t already feel stupid enough? Every victim of sexual assault hates themselves for it! Not an ounce of concern. Not a moment’s consideration. Not even his mugshot was enough to convince her. He’s a serial predator, but I’m an idiot.

I paused in the kitchen, grabbed a drink, and went back. We were going in circles. “I know this has been hard to hear,” I sympathized, “but I wanted you to know how I felt and you said you wanted it straight. Maybe it’s the beer,” I shrugged.

I get that others haven’t spent 30 years in therapy. I get that others haven’t had to focus their whole lives on restructuring healthy relationships, and learning effective, loving communication. But void of empathy? For a friend?

Today, I’m anxious. “Are we good?” I want to text. “Thank you for hearing me.”

But she didn’t, really, and I think, why am I worried about a friend I rarely see anymore, who’s married and doesn’t need relationships outside of her husband and her twin, and openly rejects the concept of caring about others?

Is that a friend?

She did say in the end, “I feel guilty,” and she actually said the words, “I’m sorry.”

“Please don’t,” I rushed to her. “That’s all I wanted, for you to understand and care how I felt. I know you didn’t mean it. I feel closer if we can be honest about the hard stuff.”

Apologies matter to me. Not everyone will give that, so I respect it. Still, I’m sad and worried. No matter how fairly I handled a challenging conflict, now my theatrics are personal. They think feelings and drama are synonymous. I don’t. I can work with differences. Disregard for the pain of a friend, not so much.

I don’t think it’s drama to ask a friend to care. They don’t want to be bothered.

My heart hurts. I can’t help that my regard changes, knowing this. They’ve stated their boundary. “What I do has nothing to do with you, and keep your shit to yourself.”

They can’t halt unintended consequences. Our choices affect others, and I can’t feel closer than I do to people who don’t care. I’ll enjoy their company  – can’t help that either; I like them – but I no longer feel close. I don’t feel esteemed.

I’ll be happy soon that I expressed difficult emotions successfully. I was afraid of the possibility that we wouldn’t reach my desired outcome, and we didn’t. It’s the first time I’ve failed to get eye to eye and not forced it. I accepted it and closed the conversation. It was relatively brief. I remained level, respectful, and earnest throughout. I’m getting better at this. I’m pleased with that, but today my heart hurts.

Murky Full Moon

I still feel spun near the center of a Universal smack-down, but I’m ebbing out of the survival zone. Last month’s eclipse is still with me and hurting, specifically because my ability to have fun with it made it all the more bittersweet. Sometimes it makes me sad to see how good I am at making the best of a bad situation. I don’t know how to explain that, except to say that the little girl growing up beaten, abandoned, furious, and scared to death just figured out how. And this middle-aged gal still has it. How can that be sad?

It’s bittersweet, too, because though I was able to make a joyous occasion of it, I could simply have gone home and enjoyed my family, the spectacular countryside, and the magic. I chose instead to scrape out another miracle of mood-alteration. I guess I needed to believe I still could. Nice it didn’t take drugs, like the old party girl would.

I hope in the second half of my life, I’ll finally let go the need to prove myself to myself. It’s like the first half was so hard, especially the nascent beginning, that I simply refuse to believe that anything is real or solid or sticking around if it doesn’t just suck.

Thing is, that’s childish, and I’m the only one who can grow up, or refuse to. I’m in danger of not doing it at all if I don’t get this shit behind me, like, yesterday. I’m 44.

Christie, trust that the skills are in there to enjoy and appreciate magic and beauty every day. They don’t disappear or stop coming if you know that. Expecting miracles is different from taking them for granted. They’re your right and your routine.

I suspect that they’ll become more powerful if I let them in every day, rather than needing each one to be epic. It’s just the way it is. I’m connected and I know it. So are we all. Nothing special, just a walking marvel, ‘s all.

So, here I am in full moon energy during the day, a red-gray sun snuffed by wildfires severe enough to cause evacuations in northern Utah. It’s bad. The throat and eyes sting, mountain beauty’s blotted out, and the whole damned planet is burning or flooding or turning night at midday, just 2-odd weeks ago. It’s eerie and spooky, and everyday run-of-the-mill. It all is, and I’m busy cleaning up the mess I’ve made, of my life, my family, my namesake, my most important friendship, and my last relationship.

****

Today, this memory popped up on Facebook. It seemed especially poignant and timely, so I’m marking it here to make myself accountable. Of the memory, I wrote:

“Two years ago, the last of my 3 best girlfriends left Salt Lake City. At that time, I began planning my move, too, to the next phase/location of my adventure, but found continued wonderful reasons to stay, as one does. The last month+ has got me asking the Universe, sincerely, “Is Utah kicking me out?” I’m anchored through November with a passion project 24 years in the making, which would make any big transitions impossible until the end of whatever lease I’m able to come up with next month, which tells me: ONE YEAR. My life purpose for one year is to look at 20 years in the Promised Land and squeeze in all the personal goals I meant to reach but didn’t, face character deficits I ignored or pretended away, and set myself up for the second half of my life. I don’t want to leave next year, but I’ll have a picture of and real progress toward a clear 5-yr intention, with no particular destination in mind. What’s next? It’s terrifying, exciting, bittersweet. It’s time.”

jojo's good-bye

Jojo’s good-bye… Germany, here she comes! Aug. 29, 2015

 

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I confess I find myself in a malaise this 3rd WordPress anniversary.

I’m struck by thoughts of “Too late, ” “What’s the point?” and, generally, “Meh.” I catch myself in fantasies of my 20s, thinking what I might have done if I knew then what I know now. It’s such a useless enterprise, and yet I find myself perpetually there.

I think, “Well, start now!” See above.

This “blah” has been sitting on me all year. I was waiting to get depressed. When that didn’t happen, I waited to snap out of it. Neither so far.

I’ve tried 3 times now to write something meaningful or interesting in any particular on this blogiversary. The truth will have to suffice.

Having said that, I am looking forward to Hottie Hoop Camp next month. I thrive in the classroom, and I’m excited about the possibility of unlocking this brainfreeze I’ve been stuck in (for years) with my hooping. I’m so ready for a lengthy visit with my best friend. She moved last summer, and I really feel the lack of her in this blasé phasé.

The End
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Post-Birthday Post-Script

maybe more later, maybe not. probably. i’m still processing just how meaningful the day was and just how profound it is that my life-altering epiphany occurred on the actual day of my birth… and you know how much i have to write when i’m working through “it.” suffice that my birthday was the best day of my life. truly! THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE thus far. i think i had to be old enough to be present enough to recognize it as such. and it wasn’t cuz i jumped out of an airplane or drank so well i don’t remember how it ended, haha! it was a blessing, and i knew it when it happened. i’ll tell ya if i tell ya. 😉

“GRAVITY HAS A WAY OF ALWAYS WINNING IN THE LONG RUN,” he said to her on her fortieth birthday. “So you might as well jump out of an airplane!” she said back.

[to facebook] April 27, 2013: “i have to say i’m a little disappointed in my birthday so far. i LANDED after jumping out of an airplane. let’s be honest: i never meant to decline into mid-life and old age. FIT FORTY FABULOUS! and flying!”

today: “i’d like to give a quick shout to all the good people who made my day so special. if you weren’t able to make it, no worries. it was good to ‘look forward’ to you and to have you in my thoughts as i celebrated this landmark passage. those of you who were able to attend made me feel so blessed, so happy, and so utterly, deliciously WORTHY. it was a true “aha!” moment to love myself as much as i love all of you, and you gave me that. ON my actual day! i’m so grateful… to be alive, to muddle through another day, and to be surrounded by such insightful, intelligent, strange, extraordinary people, to call you community and family. i love my life. i must be really kickass to warrant your friendship. i love you all.”
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Reframing

I came into this life keenly aware of what I didn’t get in the roulette and randomness of birth. I don’t necessarily remember feeling like I was owed bounty and ease, but I certainly recognized that I didn’t have it. What that created in me was a curiosity about those who did. That interest grew into entitlement. Resentment. I don’t know that I was jealous, quite, but it was inequitable to have been born a Have Not, and I knew it.

Today over lunch, I mentioned to a friend how I was always aware, even very young, that I had been robbed. I made it a joke over the years. “I must have been royalty in another life,” I’d say. “I was born to have a staff.”

Somewhere, that “lack” switched.

“Lucky me!” I said today. “For the last few years I’ve noticed how odd it is that I have so little, yet I always have enough. I have what I need, when I need it. Isn’t that lucky?”

“Well, you did that,” she insisted.

“How do you mean?”

“You’re always talking about how best to view things, the gift in this, the lesson in that.”

“I guess I do,” I remembered. “No wonder you call me PollyAnna.”

“No,” she corrected me. “I call you F***ing PollyAnna. I wouldn’t want to piss you off.”

“That’s wise” I agreed. “I do have edge.”

Then, neither of our cards worked to pay the bill. No, really.

I love good friends. I’M RICH.

Cheffrey

I’d gone a year without knowing where he died. A couple of weeks afterwards, I did go into the convenience store I suspected and asked if a man OD’d in their restroom, but I felt so gross as the words came out that I ran away. “Nevermind! I’m sorry!”

(“I don’t need to know where it happened,” I chided myself. “It certainly doesn’t matter to him. And why would I wish to put that picture in someone else’s head?” I felt disgusting and morbid for wanting to know.)

Around the anniversary mark Christine told me where he died, a few blocks east of the store I imagined. “I sit at the bus stop across the street every morning!” I exclaimed, delighted for reasons I don’t understand. “They’re tearing it down!”

“Oh, no,” she lamented.

“Are you kidding? Good riddance. He LIVED!”

The next day, I arrived early and wrote his name on the not-yet-demolished building, plus hearts and smiley faces. “Hi, honey!” I said to him every morning thereafter. “We always did share a twisted sense of humor. Why not greet each other here?”

Today, I lunched with friends kitty-corner from that place. When I drove by, I dismissed my intuition. “You’re just thinking of him because of the corner, Christie, not because he’s with you every time he crosses your mind.” But then I passed a license plate that read, “Chef On,” and if you’ve read other posts about Jeffrey, you know my culinary friend talks to us through license plates, too.

“Oh, alright then,” I teased us both. “Hi, honey!”