I’m an introvert. I treasure my quiet time alone, especially after a busy day at work. But I’ve had a lot of quiet time in the last few weeks, since my surgery. And late last week, with so many pain management problems, I started to wish for a little more company to distract me. It would be great to have someone come over for half an hour and talk to me, tell me something interesting, make me laugh maybe.
A couple of my friends asked me earlier this week, what can I do for you? Come visit, I said. I will! they replied. One texted to say maybe she could come over on May 2–essentially two weeks from her text.I haven’t heard anything back from the other one.
I live 800 miles away from my sisters, unfortunately. It would be great to have them around. I sent them a long email on Friday afternoon, hoping them could call or email me back. One texted to say she was in Santa Fe and would call me next week. Nothing from other one.
Shit! I hate to reach out to people and ask them for something, and this is exactly why. The lack of response makes me think I don’t matter, no one sees, or no one is interested. They all have better things to do. I’m a drag to be around. It hits on all the familiar fears. No wonder when I feel bad, I just curl up by myself in my little Pain Cave. It’s better than knowing people are out there wishing I would leave them alone.
Ugh, but these are old ways of thinking. They are based on my childhood experiences, my sense from my family that there’s nothing really wrong and I shouldn’t bother anyone and what I want isn’t important. I’m trying to change those ways of thinking. I don’t want to be stuck in the same place forever. I just don’t know what to do in the moment, when current life echoes past life.
Late Friday evening, I ask E. to call me (something I’ve only asked once before, so that is hard, too). I am so longing for a feeling of connection. E. texts on Saturday morning that she’ll call at 3:00 that afternoon. She texts at 3:20 to say she is running late and will 4:00 be okay? No, it will not be okay! my offended younger self thinks. If you are too busy at the time you picked, then never mind.
I don’t even answer for a while. Then I text, never mind, we don’t need to talk. Of course, in good therapist fashion, she doesn’t really react to that, just texts that it’s up to me and she’s happy to talk to me at 4:00; she’d like to know how I’m doing. I don’t answer that text. At 4:00, she texts me to say she made it home through bad traffic and is available to talk in the afternoon or evening.
My indignation that she wasn’t there at 3:00 and my longing to connect with her do battle for a while, but eventually I text her around 5:30. I admit I felt abandoned: why doesn’t anyone want to visit or care for me? And I write that it is very embarrassing to admit that because it seems too childish and not even true–my husband has been doing a lot of kind caring for me. He just doesn’t not sit and chat with me the way women friends and sisters do.
I tell her I tried to reach out, to my sisters, to my supposed best friend in Chicago, to the couple of friends who asked what they could do. And I said reaching out sucks. When she texts back, she doesn’t pretend it’s all fine, and they are just busy. I appreciate that.
I’m so sad to hear that. Not sure what to say. Must feel lousy.
I don’t want to even want them. I feel pathetic and needy. Yes, it does feel lousy. I am not asking them again.
As I text, I can feel myself pouting like a twelve-year-old, like when I heard my friend Renee say something mean about me. She hurt my feelings, and I’m not going to sit with her in Spanish class tomorrow, so there.
Maybe they need an easier task, like 1) pray for me or 2) send me a card or 3) call me every couple of days or 4) um… something else. Sounds like better friends might be in order. Not an easy task though.
Maybe it’s me. No, really. I’m not doing it right. I don’t know how.
Hard to be good at something if you don’t practice often.
I don’t want to practice. I think it’s better if I deal with things alone. I can read books if I want to know about people. I don’t want to reach out. It’s too vulnerable and feels risky and doesn’t pay off. I’m not doing it anymore. Probably I’m being petulant but… so what.
I know I’m being unreasonable and should give her a break. There is literally nothing she can write that is going to satisfy me right now. So I move away from my “I’m never going to ask anything of anyone again” stance, and then I’m surprised how she responds.
Sorry. Thanks for being nice to me. I just don’t know what to do with this right now. I can turn this very quickly to “I’m not worthy” of care, friendship, etc. but I don’t want to do that. And I don’t see anywhere else to go a the moment, so I will try to put it aside for a while and see if I can simply distract myself.
Oh, dear Q. This is such a wise awareness. Not that you should stop reaching out to others! NO, not that part. The part about your observation of your reaction to the “data” of your life. Your reaction is one of your best teachers IF you can just observe it, notice it without judgment, be curious, and trust that your goodness is trying to work out a plan for a good life. That “other” path will reveal itself, if you stay at the crossroads and do go down the familiar path of “I’m not worthy.” We already know where that one goes! Distract, come back, ponder, look, soothe, be curious, be grateful for the awareness that allows you not run to the familiar. Admire your courage and willingness to enter the unknown, blah blah blah… you know, all that therapy talk!
I REALLY love watching you unfold into your beautiful self. Thanks for letting me witness. And, you’re welcome (she says preemptively) for the support along the way.
Thank you, she says, refusing to be preempted.
Her words warm me even though, in a way, I don’t see any beautiful self unfolding. I’m just trying to hold the hurt, lonely feelings in check and not bludgeon myself with them.
So there I am, doing my best to avoid the “I’m not worthy” path, when my son texts me. He received the brownies, texted a short thanks, and then went off on a rant. I’d let him down by not giving him money, and also back in high school I hadn’t met his needs because I worked too much and never had time for him and even though my job was important, I should have made family more important because that is really the most valuable thing and I didn’t have my values straight.
Ah, dear son, you have impeccable timing.
It does feel lousy when it seems no one has time for you. I’m sorry.
I’m really glad you have E. I do agree with her that you are unfolding into this wise, beautiful, self aware person.
I think she may be right that asking for something specific may help. I hope if you choose to reach out again, it is with better results. I know, for me, telling close friends that if they can’t do what I ask for when I reach out, I really need reassurance that it is not about them not caring for me.
Your son does have some kind of timing. I don’t even know what to say. Our kids always seem to have the power to reopen old hurts and the deepest wounds we have.
Please be gentle with yourself. Read your books, let hubby care for you, and allow E to support you. Xx💟
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As it turns out, I have been too impatient. I really wanted (needed) some contact last Thursday and Friday, and there were no responses to my attempts to reach out, so I felt very abandoned by Saturday. As of yesterday (Tuesday, following week), I have a friend coming over tomorrow morning and another on Sunday afternoon. Both my sisters have called. So they all did respond, just not as quickly as I wished. This gives me something to think about–how do I meet my needs when they feel “urgent” to me but others are busy?
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I’m so glad they did respond. Xx
You’re not petulant, others failed you. You really know who your friends are in times of need. And one of the jokers should have showed up. Jerks.
Thanks for this response – reading it makes me reel like I have a loyal supporter by my side!
As I just wrote to Alice (see response above), in the end people did respond, just much more slowly than I wished. And of course, they do have lives of their own! I am happy that I will be seeing them. And I also realize that if I am going to protect and care for my easily (re-) wounded younger self, I will need to find ways to help her when she is sad and lonely.
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It is really difficult to reach out… umm major understatement! I am glad that you did. I don’t know why they aren’t there for you in the way you need right now. I don’t think it’s because of you though. Being an introvert myself, I think I have encouraged others to leave me alone so maybe if you are anything like me, they just aren’t used to be there for you in that way? At any rate, I’m still imessed you reached out and that you are tryinga new path. I like how you put indignation vs longing as a battle. it really is. As for your son, I am glad he said thanks. The rest is manipulative. I’m sure you know that, but figured it wouldn’t hut to say. Hope you are feeling better today.
Hi e., thanks for your reply, and yes, better today. Partly because (as I noted to Alice & Patricia, above), I am getting visitors, just a lot later than when I was wishing for them! Still, I’m very happy they will be coming over. I’m still not so sure about that reaching out business though. In the short run, it increased rather than decreased my distress. I’ll need to think about that more.
Yep its a bear to figure out. Perhaps being more explicit in the needs is helpful but it’s hard enough even doing these baby steps. Glad you are feeling better and that peeps stepped up.
This is such a hard problem to solve! Obviously people care about you, but when they’re not expressing it in the ways you wish they would it feels revealing of how much effort they’re really willing to put into your friendship. It’s okay to have friends that are only there when it’s convenient or easy, but it’s also okay to ask for things from friends who should do better for you.
It might be easier to say something like “hey i just rented this movie/saw that season X of ___ is on Netflix, wanna come over and order a pizza and watch it with me this week?” People seem to feel less on-the-spot if there’s a plan. Not saying this is a substitute for someone spontaneously dropping by just to have a gab sesh with you, but it might alleviate some of the pressure on both parties.
Thanks for commenting! You are right, there is a place for casual friends who are there when it’s easy and convenient for them. And then there are the very few who are there even if it is not. I moved to this city when I was already grown and had small children, so I don’t have childhood or college friends here. And when you are older and busy with work and children, it’s harder to make the kind of connections you made when you were younger and had more free/flexible time. So it’s taken me a long time, years, to feel like I had that. And when people didn’t respond promptly to my reaching out, I felt I had deceived myself–really NOBODY here cared. (I’m very quick to feel the pain of “nobody loves me,” whether it applies to real life today or not. Anyway, they took longer than I wished, but a couple of people I care about are going to come by, and that’s a comfort. I am looking forward to seeing them.
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What can I do for you? If there is something, I will. I’m very sorry they didn’t show up for you.
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You are so sweet! I think the blogging equivalent of visiting a real-life friend is making comments on posts. You do that regularly, and I am always happy when I see your name pop up in the comments section. It feels like you have come to visit me. Thank you!
It is okay to be unreasonable and push back at E, you are frustrated and upset and that is okay to let that out to her. She is a safe person to let see your unhappy and sad feelings. I’m sorry you haven’t had more support and feel isolated, that is such a painful experience.
It’s a little hard for me to be okay with being unreasonable with E. She is so understanding and supportive of me. It’s one thing to admit to her that I’m lonely, but it’s something else to be grumpy to her because she said she’d call at 3ish (she did say “ish) and then had to push the time back. And especially when I know exactly what is going on. I am already feeling lonely and like I am low priority to people, and then here she is, someone who matters to me a lot, and she is running behind schedule. So easy to turn that into more evidence that no one cares, which must be because I’m unlovable! But it’s so unfair to her. She didn’t even know why I asked her to call, which I could have given her, so no heads up that being late might mean anything to me on that given day.
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I totally hear you, it doesn’t feel good inside to be grumpy towards someone who is helping. And, I want to reiterate that those feelings of being upset with her are coming from a wounded place; that part of you who never got to express dissatisfaction with a caregiver, never had anyone listen, never had anyone pay such close attention to your needs. It hurts, it hurts a lot when she isn’t exactly what you need in the moment – it hurt the first time around and you didn’t get to be mad then. But she knows it isn’t personal, she knows why you get upset and are sensitive. And I think it is healthy to let those frustrations out so she can meet the need and reassure you and be there in ways no one else has been.
Reaching out for support can cause such intense vulnerability and can be so counterintuitive to do if your history taught you that reaching out is a negative experience. I never ever reached out, because I never really had much positive experience with it. It didn’t really occur to me to do. I’m glad that your friends and sisters did respond eventually (I would also be hurt and sad if it took a long time to hear a response). And it’s so understandable to feel hurt and unreasonable that E was running late. Even though you know and understand, it can still feel hurtful.
i hear how lonely your feeling. i understand we all want and need to feel and loved! you are trying to heal after surgery, a visit from friends would be nice, and cheer you up and comfort you. it is good you reached out to e. i am glad she responded and you were able to get some of your needs met in tha
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[…] about my other relationships? Although I fretted about being lonely and not having visitors earlier, that was a temporary problem. I have since had several visitors, and several longer phone […]