You know that life lesson that you are faced with again and again and again; that painful experiece that you keep reliving over and over; those karmic messages that you just don’t seem to get; the recurring themes of your life that make you bang your head against the wall screaming, “Fuck. Not again.”????
Mine is about feeling like an outsider in friendships, work relationships, family, social gatherings, sitting home alone.
My mom’s theory about why I am so different from the rest of the family is that I was hatched under a rock. It’s her loving way of saying “one of these things is not like the other.” I don’t mind when she says it – there is so much love attached and a little bit of humor on both of our parts.
I do mind that my brother thinks the same thought without the attached fondness.
Regardless, it was clear from the day that egg hatched that I was different
When I scour memories of my youth to try to understand this square peg feeling, I see the common thread winding its way from nursery school to today; I just don’t fit. Not quite.
From preschool to 8th grade, I attended the public school in our town. I had good friends. Monday through Friday.
My parents’ friends’ kids, who were the people we spent weekends and vacations with, received their educations elsewhere: first elite day school then off to boarding school. When they all were shipped off to the superior education centers of the Northeast, I went to an all-girls prep school.
I didn’t fit with those folks because I wasn’t sent away, I lost the closeness of my kindergarten friends because I was no longer in math class with them, and I never quite settled into my high school because of various reasons, one of the primary ones being that I didn’t play Lacrosse.
My attentions were spread out over varying groups of people. One way to view this was “How great, you have so many friends.” Another way, the way that it felt, was “You’re not quite one of us.”
Plus, although unable to put words to it in the moment, I was never destined to be a part of the elite.
Thank fucking God.
But I packed up this odd man out and brought her with me to Utah, California, and back to Colorado.
I remember a moment at Outward Bound, a meeting with many of the social misfits with whom I worked. There was a point in our conversation when I realized, “I have found my people.” These were the folks that, like me, weren’t mainstream “normal”; they thought outside of the box, they lived outside of the box. The weirdos, the quirky ones, the loners, the independent thinkers, the beat of their own drum marchers.
30 years later and I still feel a kinship with those friends that includes acceptance and understanding. I feel like I belong. And yet, those friends are scattered far and wide, leaving me forced to navigate relationships closer to home.
I’ve moved so often. I’ve changed jobs so often. I’ve led a transient lifestyle that isn’t conducive to long term comraderie. I am terrible about keeping in touch.
Although out of sight is never ever out of mind.
I was married to an abuser who cut me off from many people. Many people cut us out of society because no one liked him or wanted him around. I’ve been the gal who put a boy before her friends. I’ve held people to extremely high standards and cut people out because they didn’t live up to those standards.
Have I set the bar unreasonably high? Unrealistically high? Have I been unforgiving?
I don’t know.
Years ago I had a friend who sucked me dry. Our relationship became very one-sided and exhausting. Someone said to me, “If a friendship isn’t feeding you any more, it’s okay to let go.”
So I did. And it was a relief at the time. Now that friend is gone. There will be no opportunity to mend that relationship. And I have regrets. What did I miss out on? Did I cut off my nose to spite my face? And yet distance seemed imperative at the time.
In hindsight, did I do the right thing? Should I have had more compassion? Was I self-righteous or was I protecting my sanity?
Where are the lines between judgment, forgiveness, and healthy boundaries?
During the eruption of my world, I lost an entire group of “friends.” Some right away, some took me a lot longer to release. Much of it still pains me to think about.
I also had die-hards that came out of the woodwork to support me.
Much of the agony from that time stemmed from me trying to navigate the gray area between forgiveness and standards. I tried desperately to work around betrayal because I wondered if I had unrealistic ideals about what friendship means in the midst of turmoil in a small community.
When I returned to my values and let go of those relationships, it was ugly and icky and so so lonely. It has taken several years to feel solid in my stance, but solid I feel.
Does knowing I did the best thing for me ease the loneliness? Does it make me feel like less of an outsider since I am outside of a group of people who don’t move through the world with my idea of integrity?
Nope. I couldn’t have felt more lonley than I did in that aftermath. I still feel twinges of FOMO.
And because of immersing myself in that clique (I can now see that for what it was) I let other friendships become less of a priority. But, would I have let those wane if I’d already felt more of a sense of belonging.
Did I try to create a new posse because I felt outside of any and all others?
And now, I have no posse.
I have TAM and Elvis and Joey. I have a couple of loyal friends but they are not really connected to each other in many ways. I value these relationships more than you can imagine, but there is not a “them” of which I am one.
And maybe this is the way that I am destined to go through the world.
I do find that every time I try to fit into a group of people, a community of folks that are intimate, always on the invite list, and have pot-lucks, I end up getting hurt because I feel left out.
Do I create this because of my quirky, independent, introverted nature? Or, does this happen because I am quirky, independent, and introverted and therefore I don’t make it high on the priority-friendship list?
In high school I used to joke that I was often included in gatherings because of my entertainment value. It was an easy way to deflect the hurt that came with being on the fringe of the mainstream.
I can accept and feel a sense of pride that I am not cliquey; that I don’t ever want to be a part of a group that leaves others out. But there is a difference between a clique and a tight-knit group of people who love and care about each other and share values and laughs and love.
That is what is so elusive to me. It’s something that I see other people, my friends, create, maintain, and enjoy. From the outside looking in, it looks like so much fun, and yet, I can’t quite manage to create that for myself without discord and feelings of rejection.
And when I feel that, back into my lonely cave I crawl.
I know my introversion and my inability to answer the phone doesn’t help any situation, but I do have friends who know, love, and accept this about me. As much as I recognize that this is who I am, and I understand that sometimes this quality of mine can really impact the quality of a relationship, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want and need those relationships that include love, laughter, tears, and a sense of belonging.
So my dilemma is what do I do?
Do I truly want what I think I want? If I do, wouldn’t I have figured out a way to create that by the tender age of 55+50 weeks?
Maybe I’ll have an answer by the time I turn 56.