Tag Archive | social life

Social Seasons


It is my social springtime. I know the world is still fully frozen outside here. We had another 8 inches of snow dumped on us last us. Another snow day with kids home from school. More days in brutal skin killing negative temps. But that doesn’t matter. It is my social springtime and time to come out of this self enforced cave.

I know myself well enough to know that I retreat into a deep dark winter of my soul each year. Winter is a perfect way to describe it, as I freeze up, and freeze everyone out. I hibernate. I withdraw so far inside myself that I can no longer be a social being. Not that I’m a party animal now…but this is extreme even for me. I slow down all emails and texting and blogging and chatting online in the fall, usually ceasing completely mid December. I rarely do phone calls anyway, but forget it during this time period, not going to happen. I look at a ringing phone like a torture device if I acknowledge it exists at all. Meetings at school? No. Talk to cashiers? No. Eye contact? No. Snuggle time? No. I shut down completely and become an empty shell going through the motions of life.

Somehow I survive this way. get through the holidays, and begin waking up around the end of January and start doing some clean up. Do I have any friends left? I start reading old unanswered texts and emails. I start replying and responding. Some people are angry. Some people don’t understand. Actually most don’t understand. I’ve lost many connections with otherwise good people that could not handle my radio silence. (It’s been a month girl and I’m supposed to just start talking to you again now? Its too weird, too rude, I thought you were angry with me, what did I do wrong…I’ve heard it all)

I’ve managed to find a few online friends that accept this quality in me. They are still there when I return, and I’m so relieved. The others…I add to my pile of casualties. It hurts, but I have to let them go.

I will never understand how a switch seems to flip deep inside me that I either need to speak to someone NOW or the loneliness will swallow me whole – or – I want nothing to do with humanity and I isolate myself as far away as possible with no feelings of loneliness, only relief when left alone. This is partially a form of seasonal depression, but more likely triggered by PTSD with too many emotions to handle regarding holidays and memories of that season. But If I can’t fully understand this switch, I certainly can’t expect others to understand it. I have accepted it though, and I am grateful for those in my life that have accepted it also.

Those friends have not my blog. I have chosen to keep the nitty gritty details private for my new friends. It is simply too much for anyone to handle. I do tell them vague bits, that I was abused and enough to be authentic, but not enough to overwhelm and frighten them away. I think I finally found the balance that works to form connections and start feeling human. So yay for that.

I’d still give my left kidney to have a real life friend to meet in person some day…but I’ll be patient. The universe will provide that once its ready I suppose. Or maybe I don’t get one in this lifetime. I’ve accepted, well come on, sorta accepted, that may be my truth.

Anyone else notice ebbs and flows where you can’t socialize at all or where you need people desperately? I’m curious

How do hermits make friends?

How to increase your support network?

How to come out of hiding?

How to find people to trust, people to like, people to talk to?

How to find people who care?

How to find people willing to help?

I have all of these questions lately. It has become painfully clear to me that one of my largest issues and reasons I continually slip down the rabbit hole of despair is that I have no one to talk to. That’s why I started this blog actually, so many years ago, and it has helped, but it isn’t the same as seeing and hearing people in real life, in real time.

This point was hammered home to me repeatedly in classes in the psych ward stay – they gave us worksheets to fill out with 10 blanks to list all the people in our lives we trust, talk to, interact with on a daily basis, that know us and could help us.

Mine was blank. I sat there staring at a blank paper and holding back tears as everyone else listed “my mother, my dad, my sister, my brother, my friend Joe, my neighbor Mary, my friend, my friend, my friend…..”

My world is so small and my isolation is enormous.

I had people that I went out with, that we performed together, laughed and had fun together, but we never talked. My family is so painfully dysfunctional I had given up on sharing anything or remotely relying on them. Hubby’s family is emotionally repressed or explosive and not people I can open up to. All my high school and college friends drifted away from me and it hurt too much to keep trying to find friends. I gave up decades ago.

So I’ve only had my counselor. That’s it. One trusted confidante that I have to pay and schedule a 1 hour visit.

All those online dating sites – are there any for friendships? Seeking intelligent, open minded women ready for deep philosophical discussions involving the latest neuroscience and psychology too. Seeking honest, yet gentle and non-judging, opinions and guidance. Seeking warm shoulders to cry on occasionally. Seeking happy voices to share funny stories. Seeking women who don’t mind that I only have 1 pair of sandals each summer, that my nails are never painted, that my house is a mess, that my garden is dead and full of weeds, that my tired eyes show a persistent sadness if you look too closely, but my soul shows a persistent humor and style if you don’t scare it into hiding.

Otherwise, I am seriously looking for suggestions on how to get back into the world and create authentic connections and start letting people know the real me. maybe.

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.

Dose of Social Life

I’m going to a dinner party tonight, at a friend’s house. She invited me and Hubby, and about 10 other people. Big enough to be fun, but not so big I drift off and get lost in the corner alone.

I just realized I am looking forward to this party.

I just realized I have no panic or anxiety related to this party.

I know it starts at 6pm but that no one would care if I showed up at 8pm, they’d be happy to see me no matter what.

I’m not going to spend much prep time on hair or clothes, it is just my friend’s house – come as you are.

I’m so happy hubby gets to come too, kids are at grandma’s. So if I need to drift away from the conversation with the group, I have him there to exchange glances and inside jokes. My friends are becoming his friends.

I am ready to laugh. I am prepared to have fun. I don’t how it will start, but someone will get us all laughing so hard it hurts.

I no longer feel like an outsider – but if I look closely, I do feel like I’m on the outside compared to the others in the group. Like a few key members make up the core and I orbit around the extremities. Why? why do I feel like this? Partly because I am invited to about 1/4 of their get togethers. It is apparent that they see and talk to each other daily. They all live within minutes of each other and text constantly. I live nearly 30 min from them, next city over. And I don’t want people calling and texting me nonstop. I’m sure if I were responsive when they do text that I could be in that inner circle. But I like it out here.

I like it a lot. In fact it is perfect. I get exactly the right dose of social life this way – not always alone at home, and not always in the middle of their business. I enjoy catching up with them and learning what I missed. They enjoy sharing stories with me that they can’t share with the inner group because they all already know them.

Such a transformation if you read my earliest blogs in here when I never to spoke to ANYONE. Wow. And how did this happen? I made it happen.

Even though it was terrifying – I put myself out there and made myself vulnerable, and made myself smile, and said ‘yes’ a few times. I searched out people with similar passions – artists, dancers, musicians – and struck gold. We work together to make the arts more accessible to the community, and when we’re done working, we play together too.


wise hermit, or hermit crab

English: Caribbean hermit crab (Coenobita clyp...

is my role to be a wise hermit or just a hermit crab, only time will tell(Coenobita clypeatus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday’s poem was in response to my thought process as I pre-worry about social events (casual family events, not black tie or huge crowds or anything crazy like that) and try to make the best choices. I am new to this notion of even having a choice, and I struggle with the process, struggle with pros and cons, and lasting effects.

The one I am pre-worrying about is my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday party. It will be fairly small, just her kids and grandkids. About 12 people total. I know everyone really well. And although she has done so much for me over the years, helping to watch kids and help with household chores, she causes me great stress. Hubby’s whole family is a high energy – and way too often it is a high negative energy – bunch. They are strongly opinionated and express those opinions loudly.

They all have good hearts, and I care about each one, but all of their energies in one room gets to be a bit too much for me every time. every word is something complaining or arguing, and they yell, have quick tempers, and fuss and nit-pick. I know it will be just a few hours but it will take me a day to recover. So I never know if causing them concern over me not being there, or all of the questions and having to re-explain why I am not without being hurtful,  is worth it or not. Plus, I do care about her and do want to see her enjoy her birthday. So I will probably go, and join in for well wishes, and then isolate myself with a book and pretend I can’t hear the conversations around me. Or if I am up to it, I may try to join the kids and play games, avoiding the adults. But then I don’t want to seem like a party pooper or like I don’t care about them. If they needed something, and it was something I could do, I would be there in an instant. And maybe that is part of the trouble, is I have a difficult time discerning real troubles from their long list of complaints. Are they asking for help? Just venting? Or is this their party persona speaking?

I am most afraid they will ask my opinion and I will actually give it. I don’t have much energy for a filter these days, and I’m honestly wondering if those social filters should even exist. I have worked so hard to be real with myself and Hubby and it seems hypocritical, and honestly quite triggering, to put on my happy happy pretend smile.

So I will spend the next few days worrying about the worst case scenario, and realize it won’t be THAT bad, try to focus on the good in each of these people. In reality life is hard for everyone and we all choose a path that seems to make sense at the time of choosing. Just because I am on this path, it doesn’t make it right for everyone. Some people don’t want to change, and I guess it isn’t my job to try to make them think about their choices.

Maybe I am like the wise old hermit up in the cave, that only helps those that come to him, because offering help to those that don’t want it is a frustrating and fruitless venture. Now I actually feel more like a hermit crab than anyone with wisdom to offer, but that’s a different point entirely.


If you’d like to learn more about the people who will be at this party, keep reading below for a short bio of each one.


His mom is a true matriarch, and has ruled on her throne for many years. She is strong and amazingly talented and creative. She has one of those voices that you can hear above everyone else. When meeting her at busy trade shows, one only has to listen to know where she is, because she is that loud, and always talking. Always. I have never seen that woman just sit and think. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen her just sit. She may actually have ADHD, at least compared to laid back me, she is like the Tasmanian devil swirling about me as I try to absorb what she is saying and find she has already moved onto something else. She is so busy, working on hundreds of things at once, remodeling her house, making products for her small business, gardening and landscaping (her yard is beautiful, acres of carefully planned flowers, trees, and veggies), and cleaning. Her knee replacement surgery hardly slowed her down at all.

Her oldest daughter, hubby’s sister, is very much like her, hard working, always busy, speed talking, and obsessed with material things, but lacking any confidence or decision making skills. She still calls her mom several times a day for advice, and calls me or her siblings if she can’t reach her mother. They spend so much time shopping and hunting for deals for the next time they go shopping. They buy things (imo) that they don’t need just because it was on sale. They never let coupons go to waste. I told them one time they would save more money by not buying anything in the first place, that 100% off was better than 50% off, and well, they did not like that. So usually I just listen and say how wonderful all their new things are. And then this gets tricky, because we do business with this sister and she often owes us money, but can’t pay, and has a million reasons why, but her new ipad/iphone/clothes/car/curtains/plane tickets/movies are never included in those reasons. It is hard to listen to all the nice things she has, when I have delayed paying my electric bill again this month. I know this is my choice not to use credit cards and only spend money I actually have and so I try not to judge others harshly for how they spend money. But when she owes me money, it is very difficult to listen with a smile.

Then there’s her daughter, my oldest niece on that side of the family, the most spoiled teenager ever created. Her parents divorced when she was 4, so for the last 10 years they have each bought her anything and everything to make up for splitting up the family. She is an only child, and gets everything: expensive clothes and haircuts, expensive private lessons for sports and music, expensive vacations (she is bored of Disneyworld, can’t we go somewhere else?). My daughter gets many of her hand-me-down outfits, and I am grateful for that. We also got her old ipod when she got a new one. And her bikes, because she had 3 at one point. This girl rarely smiles and still screams and stomps to ger what she wants, and it always works. The 2 of them live in a 5 bedroom house so full of stuff you would think a huge family lived there. I try not to be jealous when I think of my family crammed into our tiny house. Or deflect the sting when my kids ask why she has an imac/iphone/ds/trampoline/American girl dolls and every accessory/etc. I know my kids don’t need all of that, but it is hard for my kids to understand why this girl gets everything in the world.

Father-in-law accepts his place as low on the totem pole. He seems happy and I often wonder how it can be so. MIL criticizes and publicly ridicules him, calling him an idiot and lazy in front of the grandkids. If anything goes wrong, you can bet it was Grandpa’s fault. MIL is never wrong, never late, never forgets, and never rests. But Grandpa seems to know Grandma needs him to have this role, and so he fills it without complaint. Usually. Every once in a while he will fight back, and then things get ugly. Name calling and yelling and slamming doors. But get Grandpa alone and he is gentle, has great stories, and great love for all of us. He seems to know and love that he lives with a wildebeest.

Hubby’s brother and wife are similar to us financially, having more kids than space, more bills than income. But they are caught up in the PTA and church world and continually trying to be more than they are. They drive their kids to a school in an upscale neighborhood and try to keep with the Joneses. Hubby’s brother is his identical twin, but they are worlds apart. My kids call him Uncle daddy which is so cute. He is a good guy, but it appears has followed in his dad’s footsteps and is ruled by his wife. A few years ago when my marriage was crumbling, I reached out to this SIL for support. She loved hearing about all the problems and shared similar issues with the brother. But we went to counseling, tried a healing separation, talked, worked and fought to get back to each other – and we did. I now have a partner, an equal. Well, she no longer wanted to listen to me, and I’m not sure why, other than misery loves company so it hurts to see us happy? I have tried over the years to be a friend to her, ask her to lunch or a movie, and the answer is no unless I want to go complain about husbands. She suffers from anxiety and panic, takes something occasionally. She is smarter and more talented than she’ll ever believe, her own dysfunctional childhood robbed her of that. So she does not try to better herself and accepted a job cleaning toilets even though she has a college degree. They made it through infertility, adopted 2 amazing kids, but I think she feels like something is missing, like it was her fault. But we can’tr discuss these things. She is a strong perfectionist, and I’m afraid I know the pain of trying to be perfect. I think she talks big and feels small. Her sister is the reason that the other SIL got divorced. A true family affair, despicable, and puts so much tension in the air, because she went to her sister’s wedding and supported her, not knowing what else to do. So I cringe any time she speaks about her or her parents, that knew about the affair and kept it secret. Her kids are the same ages as my kids, and the cousins always have a great time playing together. We don’t live that far from each other, but rarely get together.




Enhanced by Zemanta

Friends Don’t Have to Be Perfect

fugg and kobe

Friends don’t have to be alike (Photo credit: ChrisCarpenter)

On my journey to joining the social world, I have discovered something important for me. I have to drop the expectation that I can find friends that are a perfect match to me. I already found one of those, and married him! Everyone else in my life can have just bits or portions that match me. I don’t have to love or even accept every part of everyone else for them to be a friend.

Example: I was excited to get invited to a neighbor’s backyard bonfire. My kids play with their kids, but we are not friends, and don’t really talk other than arranging playdates. And the kids do most of the arranging, honestly. So it was a crisp fall evening, we all head over with camp chairs and marshmallow roasting sticks. The kids all invent night-time games instantly, chasing each other with lanterns, hide’n’seek in the dark, etc. And then all us parents sit around the fire for some thrilling conversation. “Hey.” “Yup, Hey.” We move on to discussing the kids, schools, and our jobs a bit, and then I find out the one dad is a hunter and I don’t like it. Many people are around here. And then he says how he takes his 5 year old hunting with him, and I don’t like it much more. But I don’t have to like it. Just because I think killing animals should be for when you are hungry, not for when you are bored, doesn’t mean my friends have to feel the same way. I don’t have to dislike this man just because I dislike what he does.

I think I used to have all these check boxes for people, and if I could not check them all off, I gave up being a friend to them. I see now that is judgmental and narrow minded. I used to have a check box for people who were  judgmental and narrow-minded, so I decided I need to stop that in myself. I could go in to other reasons here, like I had those check boxes as excuses, reason that I did not have friends, to justify my lonely existence. (But I don’t feel like thinking deeply today. It’s Monday morning for Pete’s sake, it’s a miracle I am awake and stringing words together at all. )

So I now know people that use recreational drugs, have been in rehab, teach belly dancing, go to extreme churches, don’t own televisions, homeschool their kids by letting the kids choose what to learn each day, used to be in prison, travel in bands, have more tattoos than skin showing, have more piercings than skin showing (ewww), have 12 kids, have 12 dogs, never graduated high school, have 2 PHDs, believe in arranged marriages, believe in no marriages, etc. This is not all the same person by the way, wouldn’t that be interesting! So I have expanded my world, and my view of “acceptable” to see that most people really are OK. We’re all getting through life on a different journey and it is a honor to meet them, even if I don’t agree with them. I can accept them as a person without accepting what they do. And I’m finding that they accept me too.

Even more than accepting, we do great things together to improve our world, through teaching, entertaining, promoting joy.

No Longer Invisible, My Path to Social Acceptance

What a difference a year makes! Nearly a year ago, I had a goal of getting out of the house and finding grown ups to socialize with to free me from my self-made housefrau hell.

Not only do I have regular ongoing activities full of grown-ups (by age only – we don’t always behave grown up), but I have a few ladies I would actually consider to be friends now. I just shake my head at how this happened, it was such an unbelievably hard thing to do, to put myself out there into a social world I know nothing about.

I have always felt like an outsider, in any group ever. As a child, I did not know why. As I got older and realized my family was different and had so many secrets to hide the abuse and trauma and drama. Then when the truth came out, all my high school friends abandoned me. Then in college, I carefully tried to make a few friends, but it seemed to never work out. But I was too busy to care much. And just kept myself busy to avoid caring. Then in my first job, my coworkers were not idealistic dreamers like me, they were mean. I could not stomach their cruelty and withdrew from them. And then so many years of depression kept me utterly alone. Just me and my babies, I did not feel like anyone loved me, my husband was so distant, and my babies so needy. It was draining.

So finally expressed all of these things to my therapist, years ago, and I took baby steps to get involved with the world. I joined groups. I volunteered in the community. I used my talents to help people. I found out people liked what I had to offer, and some people liked me even when I offered them nothing else but a smile. Those positive steps felt good, no great! And I wanted more. I joined another group as a musician, and now perform regularly with them. We started hanging out after performances, and I found out that grown ups are allowed to go out and drink and dance and laugh. I thought I was too old, and that “Good Moms” could not do that kind of stuff and still be a good mom. I came home high (on life, not drugs, though perhaps a bit tipsy on occasion) and kept adding more and more to my schedule until I now have something for me or the kids or both every night, every weekend. Always something to practice, something to look forward to. I love it.

And one of these friends gave the strength I needed to examine my marriage, months ago now. One particularly lovely lady saw my anguish, and told me I was loved. She told me I was one of the girls. I cried and cried and cried. That just felt so great. So I knew I at least had someone, and could take the risk of being honest with Hubby, and possibly losing him completely. Well, the honesty was exactly what our marriage needed, and jumpstarted our dying marriage. We are closer than we ever were, and I understand what marriage is for now. I’m starting to understand true love.

So it was with fear and excitement that I invited my new friends to a birthday gathering – for me. There were a few moments when I doubted anyone would show up – for me. But then they came in, one after the other, offering me hugs, squeals of happiness, birthday well wishes, and birthday gifts – for me. Then we proceeded to drink and dance until we could not dance any more, and our sides hurt from so much laughter. I did it. I have been accepted – and loved. I’m no longer invisible, no longer the black sheep. Now these friends do not know about my ugly past, but I no longer feel they need to know and accept my past to know and accept the real me. I don’t feel like I’m hiding, it just has never come up. I am not defined by my past, I am who I am, and apparently that is enough to be loved.And now I have to go cry out this joy, and thank God for my second chance in my life. Every little thing gonna be alright.