Hello, old friend

I’m going through a somewhat strange phase. One could say my old friend, loneliness, has been visiting. But one could also say that I’m getting better at entertaining him. Yes it’s a him. And by “entertaining,” I mean that I don’t lose my shit when he arrives, instead open the door, look at him and say, “oh, it’s you again (fuckme),” without the urge to shut the door on him. Except this time I’m also not wanting to throw my arms around him in a welcoming embrace, not wanting to roll out the red carpet and offer him snacks and drink and a comfortable spot to settle into. I just feel very, “meh, you again? Oh well.” And I go about my life. His hanging around is hard to ignore so there is a definite pall of gloom, but it’s just there and life goes on. Albeit shaded a slightly different hue or blue.

He comes bearing old reminders and new lessons. Old triggers. New perspectives. Old stories I’ve told myself. New reckoning of how much I’m not willing to tell myself those stories anymore.

He comes with a punch to the gut. As per usual. But I’ve been working on my core strength so it hurts. But it hits differently. It hurts less. I don’t fall down. I notice the pain. And sometimes I even smile. Because it reminds me of how far I’ve come.

Punch.

Does that hurt? YES.

Do I want to give up? NO.

Am I better with the pain? YES.

Am I “over it”? NO.

All the statements above are 100% true.

This time the trigger was different too. A visceral reminder of people who were once in my life, that couldn’t handle who I was, who I was becoming and what that made them feel. (Heh. Incredible how entitled people can feel about others having to manage the feelings they can’t handle themselves. Ridiculous how I mistook that for presence, empathy and friendship.)

One person, when they couldn’t handle my drawing a boundary and how I was changing, told me blatantly, “you haven’t changed, you do the same thing over and over again, this is who you are,” about my need to move on from people when they didn’t understand me. It only affirmed my belief that they indeed didn’t understand me. It was deeply painful, but I had to let it go.

Another one, whose fondness and intimacy I couldn’t reciprocate because they stifled me with their strangely aggressive display of love, told me the distance I needed “felt like a breakup.” That stifled me even more. I hadn’t signed up for a relationship that deep and I felt I was being manipulated into staying. And so I shut it down and bolted.

Recently, as recent as one year ago, I got told my brush with success made a friend jealous. That it was too much for them to take. That my doing well made them unhappy. I have worked through this one, but I am not over it. It still stings when I recall that conversation.

And there was the other one, who when we began to drift, said they would visit me and talk it out in person. That was over three years ago and the more they seemed incapable of walking the talk, the less I trusted them about how close they claimed they actually felt towards me This too, was prompted by an instance of me changing in a very fundamental way. In a way that made me behave a little differently. In a way that was too much for them to take I suppose.

I’m not waiting any longer. But it’s hard not to be triggered when there are reminders of that intimacy we once shared, and worse, reminders of how it couldn’t grow and change along with how we were changing as people.

But to even just see it as this, articulate it and sit with the pain rather than immediately say “I’m fine, I don’t need anyone” is a big deal, for me.

I miss these people. I feel heartbroken that I changed or grew in ways that they couldn’t stomach. It reminds me of how much I have played small and stayed small to keep relationships intact. And how once I began to not do that anymore, people began to drop off from my life like flies. Which brings me to where I’m at today.

A vast famine in terms of honest relationships of equals. The only person I truly have this with is my husband. And it hurts that I can’t free him from that burden of carrying the husband as well as best friend mantle. I’m grateful for him, and yet I wish there were another outlet.

I’m at that point though where feeling the hurt is about just that: just feeling the hurt. Not fixing it. Not moving on from it. Not letting it go. Just standing here and feeling it.

And when enough of the feeling is done, I always come out knowing I am better for it. Better for growing. Better for not shrinking. For learning who to trust. For wanting better.

For waiting. Even if it means standing in the desolate loneliness for a bit.

I still hurt. But these instances of seeing and feeling the hurt help to remind me that I will not be loved wholly by everyone alike. That truth lands different these days. It doesn’t cripple me. It hurts. But the pain sits happily side by side with the gooey part that is loving myself that is always ready these days, to take over and coat everything around it in that peaceful, quiet acceptance.

It sits side by side with the part of me that knows in a bone-deep way, that I am enough. I don’t need to play small. I don’t need to be polite to keep the status quo going. I don’t need to tolerate excessive niceness to stay in spaces that don’t feel right. My success isn’t too much. My happiness isn’t too much. My growth and love isn’t too much.

Loving myself is a powerful thing.

Sometimes I have these epiphanies on Whatsapp.

One year ago: Lightness
Two years ago: Not my country
Three years ago: Pretend like there’s no world outside

3 thoughts on “Hello, old friend

  1. Chintu,

    This post resonates with me on every level, but thing with friendship is not everyone is looking for a meaningful friendship. Most of the time, people don’t even have a meaningful and honest relationship of equals with their own spouse, so they feel absurd to look for that in a friendship. For most people, it’s about just having a bunch of people to dine out or party with. I had to learn this truth, but I still try to be honest friend and not to expect that in return.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Anusha

    I relate to this so much. In a similar situation. Kept catering to people to keep relationships in tact and 2020 just… dismantled everything in a good way. Right now, I’m dealing with lingering feelings. All the time that would go into spending with them, I have to myself and I’m making use of it. But there is also a pang at the lack of friends and closeness and camaraderie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I so resonate with what you’ve shared. The freedom and the pangs that come together. I think nobody tells us this, and we end up learning it anyway, that both feelings can coexist :)

      Liked by 1 person

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