31 August 2014

Friendship and Addiction

It's interesting where you can find answers to unspoken questions. Buffy and Oz both spoke to me last night. Not the characters, the shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Oz, that prison show about Emerald City; Augustus spouting off in his spinning wheelchair. ...not Seth Green's Oz, though he has some great lines.

I lost a lot of online friends recently when I left Preemie Pen Pals, a group I've written about on here. I founded it exactly three years ago on 25 August, according to Google and open internet boards. That's probably why it's been on my mind even more over the last few days. Each year I'd post a Happy Anniversary and we'd all reminisce about how far our preemies have come - as well as us.

We talked about being friends forever and growing old together. I believed it. However behind the scenes I had a conflict and rather than calling this person/s out I decided to move on. Was that the right choice? That's the thing about life - there is no right choice. If you've ever seen the indie movie Sliding Doors, I often compare it to that. You have to make choices and live with the consequences and wonder what would have happened if you had moved a little faster that morning and caught the train instead of missing it?

It's like moving. Something I've done too much of. It was a method I picked up in my teens and carried on until settling down in Philadelphia six years ago. I don't know if this will be our forever home, but I know we won't be running away from something if we move - we'll be running to something. Reasons.

When I first moved it was in high school. I was 14 and had lived in the same house for as long as I could remember, watching the sunset behind the palm trees from the hilltop never considering it could change. I was happy in that world with the lemon tree out my window delivering enough lumpy fruit to leave me not wanting lemons. Violets under my feet. Hummingbirds in the trees.

I'd known the same faces since preschool even if we weren't friends anymore...we were still acquaintances. I drifted from group to group but in junior high found a core group of friends that I'm still in touch with today even if it's brief interactions and glances online.

Friends change...rearrange.

What keeps a friendship together and how do you know a real friendship from an acquaintance? Does it matter? ...how can you recognize the overlap between the two? I always found out who my real friends were by moving. They were the people that circumstances didn't dictate. But as humans we find comfort in relating to others if even in the moment...and that's what I've been pondering lately: why was I upset to lose friends who were merely acquaintances/time-period pals/circumstantial buddies? Why did it hurt so badly to make a choice that was truest to myself?

Then last night as I was working and listening to Buffy, just like every night, I picked up on a conversation between Willow and this wretched guy sweet Buffy hooks up with in college thinking it was something it wasn't (because all she'd known was sincerity and love in Angel). But, in part of his explanation to Willow, I thought, that's it! That is the answer!

Some relationships center on a deep emotional tie or…a loyal friendship or something.
But most are just two people passing through life, enriching or aggravating each other’s lives briefly.

So that explains that. I got a lot from them, they probably got something from me...and whatever, it's done. I shouldn't care about the girl who I first met in real life, the one who works in the same city. If I run into her I don't have to acknowledge her because I don't know her anymore. She became nothing. For a while she stayed at home with her son and we hung out and what I'm saying doesn't negate those fun times. She went back to work and it literally took her almost a year to respond to a text message. I'm not sure how that happened but it bugged me. Sometimes you'll miss something, but for a year? Why, then, was I so hurt when she decided not to listen to my side of the story? She found the time to send me a rude text and then radio silence.

Let's turn to prison for the answer to that one, readers. Because life, and life in prison, have more similarities than we might think. The group had become a prison. Be this and do that or step down or do more time...this clique that clique this person leaks information to another and this one likes to take screen shots and another will be nice to your face. Being a moderator is like being a warden. You know what's up and watch for signs that it's getting out of hand. I set up an island, an Alcatraz, a bomb shelter. I'm not one to conform so I knew shrapnel would fly and I'd need to swim.

If you were stranded on an island what would you bring? I've always said lip balm and I stand by that answer. I certainly wouldn't take people who seemed happy and content on the mainland. Prison isn't always bad and I don't mean to compare it to just that. We'd jokingly referred to it as a sorority with hazing, secrets, and bylaws. It's a club; a "group."

Building an island wasn't meant as malicious. I was actually at my most selfish and just wanted to keep my own head above water. Not cry over the internet in front of my husband and son or in privacy; I didn't want to cry anymore and have migraines. If you cry over the internet it's time to sit in the corner. Step away.

But let's not leave Augustus Hill swinging in his wheelchair any longer. Let's bring him into the room to join the mean-to-Buffy boy and expand on life's idiosyncrasies and figure out why ultimately I cared.

You take a drug, right. The chemicals, they rush through your body, rush through your brain. And the sensations, you want the sensations again and again and again. But let me tell you, you can also get addicted to grief, to guilt, to hate. Cause, when you feel dead inside, even bad sensations make you feel like you're alive.

Oh, Augustus. Your writer was so wise...it might not be drugs. It might be emotional codependency, the need to be right, selfishness, greed, pride, higher education or getting the last word. You don't have to be totally dead inside, I don't think that's what he means. We all have holes (personality flaws) that feed off of whatever that addiction is.

Often women become addicted to the need to share all their thoughts with others. We just want someone to listen and nod - sometimes even tell us we're right, even if we aren't. It's another dead hole that needs to be fed. The internet gives a false sense of comfort, like shouting into a canyon to hear an echo. You can't see who's out there but get a response saying exactly what you want to hear. ...a pong to your ping.

That doesn't mean that real, valid, deep forever friendships won't form, it's just easier to forget the ones you don't connect with and say much to. It's easier to depersonalize. Like when I called someone who was sending me PM's. "We don't talk on the phone," was her response to me. So let me get this straight - online, we share our entire life, we've met in real life, but if I pick up the phone to say what I think, that is crossing a line? That's fine. Poof. You were never real...but for the record you're addicted to always being right.

When someone tells you you're a certain way enough times - or you hear it from enough people chances are they're seeing something you aren't. Investigate that information.

Sometimes they're hiding in plain sight. You know how they say your biggest strengths are often your worst flaws? I'm kind, but I'm also selfish. I'm patient, but I can be cold and mean. I have hurt people I care about and I hate that most of all.

I have an addiction to guilt. I feel badly over both over things that were my fault or weren't at all...I'll feel wretched over it all. This goes for things I've done in the past, present, or have yet to do. This goes for stories I hear on the news about people I will never know. It goes for testing on animals and eating meat. I hate that I hurt good people by a choice I made or their own misunderstanding of my reasons.

Guilt is my biggest addiction...

and writing is my confession booth.

What's yours?

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