Stories from my past, along with whatever random musings I feel compelled to write. Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What I Was Thinking About Last Week

Sorry I didn't post anything last week; I've been sifting my way through a lot lately, a good portion of which I think comes out in this rant. 

I don’t think it’s that unusual that I have a little voice in my head. I don’t mean the kind of voice that tells you to kill people or anything. I just have a little internal monologue, offering mental commentary on things I say or do. I’ve gotten to a point where I can make it through my day to day life without this little narrator interrupting things too badly. He almost never has anything positive to say because of my lingering self-loathing issues, but I’ve gotten to a point where I realize I need to tune out the negatives in order to function well.

This last week, though, he’s been getting clever, finding ways around my defenses by attacking areas I didn’t realize were vulnerable. It all started innocently enough; one of my best friends, whom I’ve known since forever, told me some guy at work had asked her out.

Of course, I was ecstatic for her, because she’s been wrestling with some image issues of her own for a while, and it was nice for her to finally be seeing that she was awesome, deserved a chance to be happy, and would be getting these chances.

A while later, as I was walking home from her house (walking motivated by the combination of me needing exercise and not having a car of my own), I started to feel a bit ill. I didn’t really know why, so I slowed down and started trying to figure out what was wrong.

Having known this friend since forever, we’d kind of grown dependent on each other. While a lot of our friends had started dating, and a few had even found long-term relationships, we’d been each other’s first choice for complaining about how much it sucked being Forever Alone. We’d each insist the other wasn’t actually doomed to a life of solitude, and at first I thought that’s what it was.

I’ve always really thought that this friend was way too great to actually end up alone, but as far as we could tell, this was where we were going to be stuck. Now, seeing her getting a chance to break out of that, I thought maybe my problem was that I was jealous, that I didn’t really want her to find that if I couldn’t. Of course, my inner heckler jumped on this, and I started to feel like I was the worst friend in the world for thinking this, even though I was actually happy for her.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that wasn’t accurate. I didn’t feel any negative emotions directed at her. I just felt bad about the whole situation, how we had come to rely on each other for this, and now she didn’t need me anymore.

Suddenly, I realized. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t finding love and everyone else was, or anything like that. The problem was, and continues to be, that people keep finding that they don’t need me anymore.

Once I reached that conclusion, I almost immediately saw how far-reaching it was in my own life. In most of my friendships, I try to keep the focus on the other person. If we’re going to talk about personal problems, I’d much rather it be me trying to help someone else with theirs.
That’s motivated largely by my having a very difficult time feeling like I should feel bad about things in my own life. I always feel that while my problems are big in my life, in the grand scheme of things and in comparison to those of others they’re really not that big a deal. I can’t help having issues though, and this leads to me hating myself for feeling bad, which then makes me hate myself for hating myself, and so on into infinity.

Since I’m really interested in trying to help other people solve problems or, failing that, at least sharing their burdens, and also went to high school, where everyone makes everyone else feel awful, I’d become kind of a trusted confidant for a few of my friends. Now, we’d gotten older, and people were starting to branch out. Over the past few years since graduating, people have started finding others to rely on, which is of course really good for them and probably for the best, and I support these endeavors wholeheartedly.

Still, it’s hard for me. The people who used to rely on me were finding other people to lean on, and it was starting to take its toll on me. This seems kind of dumb to me as I reread it, but this needing to feel useful is kind of one of my driving motivations in life. It’s led me to feel like I constantly have to work in order to keep my friends, in order to be deserving of being around them. It’s why, when I’m at home, I almost always try to borrow the family van when people need rides somewhere. Wanting to feel needed is the reason I’m almost always the one who organizes trips, movie nights, and the like, even though the stress of trying to make everyone happy is overwhelming, because it’s less awful to me than the empty feeling I get when I’m not helping people. It’s why, when a friend asks me to help them find something, I drop what I’m doing and divert all my resources to finding it until I succeed.

On some level, I’m sure this seems admirable, but all my helping is motivated by entirely selfish reasoning. If I help this friend that’s going through a rough patch, if I can make them feel better, then maybe they’ll continue to be willing to put up with all of my insecurity and personal unpleasantness. And my constant need for approval mixes with my fear of abandonment, and that concoction spills over to areas in which it’s no longer a positive.

Of course, given that I like all of my friends, I want them all to like each other and get along too. But sometimes, when I’ve introduced two friends and they’re getting along famously, that petty voice in the back of my head will chime in and make me feel regret or jealousy, because now I’m not going to get as much of a one-on-one connection with them. I know it’s selfish and makes me a worse person for thinking it, but sometimes I can’t help wishing that I had more exclusive time with some of my friends.

I feel awful for feeling that way, of course, but I’ve realized that it’s not all me wanting to make myself more of a necessity to those close to me. I think some small part of my wanting to spend more time with some individual people is that, after years of trying to focus only on others, I want to open up. This blog, of course, is proof that this wanting to be understood has become a common theme in my life.

But there’s more to it than that. I think it ties into my whole “nobody-wants-to-date-me-and-I’m-probably-going-to-be-alone-forever-boo-hoo-poor-me” thing I mentioned struggling with in one of my previous posts. The main factor behind my feeling that way is that, recently, I’ve found myself needing some kind of additional external validation. At this point, I’m able to function in society, and I’m realizing that I’m even able to present myself to people in such a way that my broken parts don’t really show through.

Talking to one of the few friends with whom I still have that confidant-type relationship, I found a better way to explain it. As I think about it, I feel like the brave little toaster in some ways, although I try not to think about that movie too much because the scene with the air conditioner is still one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Everyone around me is growing up, upgrading from having a close friend to confide in to finding someone they love to fill that role and others. I’m becoming obsolete. I’m trying to keep up, to find my own niche and someone I can fill that role for, but in the end I’m just that one waffle iron on the shelf in the thrift store. Maybe some people who come into the store will look at me and think “waffles are awesome.” At the end of the day, though, I’m still sitting on the shelf, because most of the people who thought about it decided they didn’t want waffles after all, or they decided they’d rather get a new one. There’s just too many broken pieces and bits of frayed wire to justify buying it, and some day in the future the people running the store are going to decide it’s not worth it to keep the waffle iron on the shelf and I’ll end up getting thrown out.

I’m greedy, though. That’s not enough. What drives my wanting to find love is my wanting to find someone who doesn’t only accept the façade I put forth when I’m out in public. I’m trying to get to the point where I can find people who know about my constant internal self-criticizing, my academic struggles, my total lack of self-confidence, and the many less-than-proud moments of my life (never being able meet my own expectations, coated with lying to and inadvertently hurting people I care about with a dash of failed first relationship which lasted all of a week and a half and left me uncertain I should even classify it as such thrown in for flavor), acknowledge all of it, not care, and still find that they want and/or need me around even with all of my baggage.

But then the insecurity kicks in again, that feeling that I don’t deserve to feel bad about things. Moments after I finished that last paragraph, I looked at it again, and immediately berated myself for leaving it in.  The paragraph before it I looked at again and thought, “I can’t even make myself a more appealing appliance than a goddamn waffle iron in my own metaphor?” Why am I putting all of my whiny bullshit out there for the general consumption when other people clearly have their own problems which are way more important and substantial than mine?

I don’t know, and I feel pretty certain that I’m going to regret complaining the moment I hit post. But I think the idea behind putting this generic, mildly depressing diatribe out there on the internet is me trying to make it that much easier for me to end up where I wanted to be in that extra-whiny bit a few paragraphs back. I feel like, if there is somebody out there who might actually accept my imperfections, cracks, and broken pieces outright, I want to do what I can to make sure they know what they’re getting into beforehand. And to make sure I know what they’re getting into, too.

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