I couldn't sleep tonight, despite my best efforts (sans pills). So for the past few hours, I lay around with my eyes closed, thinking about life and relationships... just the usual universal topics that come to mind at 2am.
At my age, I don't feel the incredible hunger of loneliness the way that I did when I was younger. Was it the FOMO engendered by social media that made me feel left out? Was it the fact that I tried to make myself a home and community out of a place where I knew no one? I frequently wondered what my life would have been like if I had stayed in California. I would have been closer to friends and family, but my career would have been so incredibly different... as would have I. There were things that I needed to learn on my own, toughing it out here without anyone to rely on.
But the way people deeply yearn for children, or a white-picket fence, a certain way of life? My incredible yawning desire was for a small circle of lifelong friendships. People I'd have a history with – could vacation with, share memories and inside jokes, trust to be there like family, grow old with, for all of life. Every time I expressed this, the general sentiment was that in a world of transplants and transitions, friendships need to be seen as phases. Get used to people coming and going, and be thankful that they even are able to share your path for a short time.
I'm much more accepting of this now, and I don't know why. At a younger age, my hunger for that kinship put me in abusive situations where I was easily taken advantage of, or had to walk on eggshells to manage. I hid myself, learned to feign apathy a little better, and more critically, learned to entertain myself and live a solitary life as much as possible. Inevitably when the abusive friendship burst into flames, I was all too happy to walk away and not have to deal with those individuals again. But that yearning never really found much respite.
I thought about this, because the friends I have in my life now are much more mature, more willing to call out bullshit, and one of the first things they confronted me over was the negatively skewed self perception I had... painted in part by the abusive friendships from my past. In some ways, the remnants and the wounds of my loneliness are still there – I realize that I have a very limited energy capacity for social time, because I never had much of a chance to develop it. I only recently taught myself how to graciously decline, or to explain my hesitancy or thought process when invited to events I wasn't excited about. I'm learning the importance of connection and staying present even in the fissures. I'm still learning what it means to show up and let my friends see all of me, even the weird shit. I'm still learning that people are more perceptive than I give them credit for – and that it's our social constructs that can make it seem otherwise.
A therapist once explained that these are all things that people learn at a much younger age, but that my isolation and loner in high school had stunted the growth of my social skills. And it's funny that I equate even this to martial arts training: at least it's never to late to learn new things. The truth is, I still do love people. But I've also come to accept that my solitary life, built up during my years of loneliness to mask that loneliness, has truly become one that I enjoy. On a recent group trip to the beach, I made lots of memories with friends, eating out and dancing and partying... but I equally enjoyed (if not moreso) my alone time on the beach, swimming in the waves by myself and falling asleep in the sun. I went back that night to a bedroom of my own – falling asleep to music, drinking my herbal tea, all-in-all acting like a solitary cat lady.
I train a lot. I experiment a lot. I maintain friendships for the most part in the digital realm. I have a dog and a husband. I have enough to be generous, and enough self-respect not to be when that makes sense. My most exciting lives these days are in my own mind, and not everyone is going to understand or want to share that with me.
But unlike my younger self, I can finally say that I'm happy I've got it that way.
Blessings to count:
1. I went on a nice run today, and got rained on. It was nice.
2. Made a ginger garlic sauce. It was yum.
3. Applied for a customer service job. Decided not to file for unemployment.
4. Excited to make it back to California soon (knock on wood).