Friends like broccoli

Five minutes of anxiety. Thats all I felt on the way to party. Getting ready I felt annoyed with myself because my favorite denim shirt was not where I thought it was and my flannels are way too casual and too warm for the evening.  And all of my other tops have become alarmingly tight around my middle – damn dryer. Hubby helped me look through the sorted but not yet put away laundry baskets.

He found the shirt!

He was my hero for a shiny yet brief moment of time until I noticed the time and felt the all too familiar tugs of guilt and shame as my inner voice whispered “you don’t deserve to go to a party if you can’t get there on time. Are you seriously late because you got so fat that you only fit into 1 decent top? You lazy pig, just stop eating already”.

I swallowed that message and headed out the door. We still needed to get something to take. Some drinks and maybe a dessert I was thinking.

My head was in full on assault now. “You’ve known about this party for weeks, how on earth is it that you are now 15 min after the party started and just now thinking of what to bring? Seriously, for shame, you don’t deserve to go to a party. How rude to be so late! What if the food is cold when you get there? What if they all wait on you, watching while the food gets cold? What if we all have to eat reheated food all because of you? You are so selfish. It’s no wonder you don’t really have friends. They only invited you to be polite and you can’t even be polite enough to get there on time.”

I knew enough to simply ignore my head at this point. Like a toddler in full on temper tantrum, I was spewing out irrationality left and right. I recognized this and grabbed the cookies and drinks and headed to the check out all while no one seemed to know there was a meltdown of epic toddler proportions beneath my calm looking smile.

Rush back to the car, and start driving. Drive for about 15 minutes when Hubby says “where does this friend live?” I look around and try to figure out where I am going. I had been so happy to start driving that I was on auto-pilot and not actually headed to a destination. oops. (yes I actually yelled fuck and rolled my eyes at myself in the mirror, but oops sounds so much cuter)

OK, a quick survey, we weren’t too far off course, only added about 5 minutes if I took the next exit. My head almost started in on me about being late and now being later because I’m too stupid to remember how to get from point A to point B and actually remember how to drive – but I squashed it again and turned on the radio. But I felt my heart racing and sweat  brewing.

We made it, and I actually laughed when I saw we were guest # 2, not even close to the latest. I stuck out my mental tongue at my inner toddler as I was greeted with warm hugs and smiles and directed towards the appetizer table. As I filled my plate and grabbed a beer – I felt happy. I did it. Again. I have found that getting through the pre-social anxiety is the worst part, surviving the evening is usually easy after that, just have to get out the door and into the next. We all laughed and ate and had a nice time telling stories, some new, some we’d heard a hundred times over but still laugh at the good parts.

And then a friend left early with her new partner. And all the good feelings were gone in a flash. the mood went from relaxed and joyful to dreadfully concerned and downright pissed. See, this friend is newly divorced, ending a 30 year marriage full of anger and control. 3 months ago she started dating, and 2 months ago she moved in with this new person. And this new person appears to be just as controlling as her ex. The inner circle is pissed. We all see the changes and have tried to warn this friend, but she says she is fine, we are over-reacting. It’s no big deal this person makes her sleep on the couch as punishment when she forgets to take out the trash. No big deal she gave up her puppy because this person doesn’t care for dogs. No big deal that this person makes her go home early every time now, even though she used to be a ‘last call’ kind of girl.

I nodded my head as my friends shared their concern and discussed ways to ‘save’ this friend. I learned the new person came from an abusive relationship and apparently my friend thinks she can counsel and make this person change – if she is patient. It isn’t this new person’s fault, been through so much. Our friend says she is fine. She wanted to go home early. She says she can’t hang out with us so much because this new person feels threatened by us. She says  she can’t call or text us so much because this new person gets angry and jealous and it’s just easier if she plays it cool. No big deal.

This was all way too triggering to think of someone in this relationship, and so deep in the muck that she can’t see the signs. And way too uncomfortable to learn all of this about someone I only see every few months. I wasn’t sure my opinion was worth much, but I could see our friends were truly concerned. I listened and gave my support as best I could, but stood up, getting ready to make my escape as soon as I thought I could.

And then, it got really awkward as I realized that I too must have been the topic of these heated conversations 2 years ago when I was miserable and thought I could hide it. These friends knew, and reached out to me, and pulled me in. A major turning point in my life was when they all ganged up on me, hugged me and said, “You know we love you right? We’re here for you. We mean it.” They offered couches, safe havens, drinks, hugs, and shoulders to cry on. I took them up on each one at some point as I figured out who I was and reformatted my marriage, rebooted my life. I had been stuck for so long, it took these amazing friends to see my sadness – and for them NOT to look away. They could not tolerate my suffering.

And that’s what it is for this other friend now, they can’t tolerate her pain. They know they can only do so much, but believe me, if something needs doing, they will all be there to get it done. and then, once the injured lamb is restored to the fold, we will all go back to talking about nothing and sharing silly stories. I guess maybe they understand that life is serious enough, so we should only be serious when we need to be. No one here talks about work and the boring suckiness that fills all of our lives – when we get together it is all about sharing the joy.

“You look tired – everything ok?” “Well I had a really bad day at work, and a tough week actually” “Yes me too” “Yup” “Me too” “Work sucks” “Fuck it” “Yup” “Yeah it sucked but we’re here now” “yes” “Alright” “Awesome” “who needs a drink?” “I love this song” “Remember when we heard this song and we were driving to . . .”

And that’s it, the work week melts away and the stories begin.

I don’t know. So I guess I had a good time, mostly. I definitely had a time. I experienced a bit of life that would have gone on without me, but since I got off my couch, it went on with me. My inner toddler felt dragged along and confused at times, but went home dazzled by the experience and slept soundly from all that excitement. Those tantrums passed and once I did what I thought I couldn’t or didn’t want to do, I found out it was good for me after all and no where near as bad as I expected. Like broccoli.

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4 thoughts on “Friends like broccoli

  1. You know you’d never let your friends talk to themselves that way. Having stated the obvious 🙄 it reminds me of my performance nerves. Anytime I’m set to attend an event, I end up with stage fright manifesting as — I really like your toddler tantrum visual. It works.

    You have wonderful, amazing friends. Bless them.

    • You’re so right. I can’t stop the thoughts from forming, but I have learned to ignore and redirect so they don’t take hold of me. Interesting, social anxiety really is similar to performance nerves. I always feel as if I am on an improve stage when meeting with friends, like I’m supposed to say something on cue and I’m so afraid to miss the cue. And then the focus goes elsewhere and when we’re all talking at once and laughing the stage disappears, or perhaps the script appears, not sure which, but there’s always a point where the panic fades and the fun begins.

      I do, don’t I? I’m glad you think so. A group of free spirits that band together. I still wonder at times how I got included in this group, but if I think hard enough I can see I really do fit in here. Just so hard to own that statement still. I still want to keep myself on the outside looking in. But I figure its ok to feel that way as long as I don’t actually withdraw and keep myself on the outside. I let them in, and they let me in, and it’s scary yet wonderful.

  2. This, this is what friendship is. It is fine that maybe once you were the topic of conversation. So what? You were also the recipient of their care, concern and love. Now you can be part of the other side of that equation. This, this is what friendship is all about. It is fine to see how it works from both sides.

    As for being late or early, so what. Tell that inner voice, “So What!”

    • yes that was my realization and amazement – seeing how it works from both sides. Really this friend stuff is new to me. and people actually caring about others – just because – is new to me as well. I’m working on the “so what”. Still in the “shut up – I can’t hear you, nanny nanny boo” stage right. “So what” takes much more confidence.

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