Tuesday, January 13, 2015
I'm a Closed Book
So, it's just occurring to me that in the last few years I've gotten myself into a little bit of a pickle.
This came to light the other day when I was attending one of my (many) therapy sessions (I gave myself the gift of mental health this year for Christmas. And for my birthday. And Easter. And Flag Day. Mental health is pricey).
"Who do you talk to about your day?" my therapist asked me several weeks ago.
I thought about that for a while.
"If it's going to take you that long to answer...that's not a good thing," she said.
It's been a gradual thing, this slow move into isolation. I believe that it began a few months after Brad died when I was positive that no one wanted to hear me say the same damn thing - "I'm sad because he's gone. My life has completely fallen apart." - yet again. So I began practicing the fine art of the nod and the smile, saving my dark thoughts for someone I paid to listen to me.
But that quiet has stuck with me - not that I'm a quiet person. I'm betting if you ask most of my friends they'll tell you I'm a talker. But not about the stuff that matters.
A while back, I wrote a blog about the importance of someone asking about your day every day; someone who really cares to hear all of the ins and outs. Many people related to it and I do think that it is actually so much more important than we realize, this daily download of everything that happens. It's immediate and probably releases the pressure valve we all have, thereby avoiding the big explosion (ummmm...anxiety anyone?). It was a good blog and you know what? It meant so much to me that I didn't do a damn thing about it.
"Why don't you talk to your friends?" my therapist asked during that session.
And that answer was simple.
"Because I don't want to be a burden to anyone."
"But don't you see that if you opened yourself up...you might actually be doing someone else a favor? You might be giving them permission to talk about themselves when they were also afraid of asking for help."
That stuck with me. I absolutely hate asking for help of any kind if I can avoid it (my neighbor's husband might tell you a different story after being at my house for an hour one night trying to figure out an electrical problem. Yeah...forgot to pay my bill). But if it's more of a give and take and I can be of help to someone else in some way...I'm all for it.
In the last few weeks, I've been really trying. I've made a point of making plans with friends and really opening up. And every single time they have done the same...and looked relieved in the process. My discussions these days, over seven years into widowhood, are not usually centered around loss (although it does come up), but more where I am as a woman. And although all of our circumstances are never the same, many of us are feeling lost, confused, worried, and usually guilty about something.
The common theme throughout all of these conversations is that we're all lonely. Whether my friend is married or not, nothing replaces the need for a good girlfriend you can really talk to. And when I've confessed how I feel like I've lost a true connection with people, I have heard the same thing from every friend I've talked to.
It's amazing how powerful that phrase is. For so long, I have kept the deepest part of me to myself, positive that I was crazy, incompetent (that electric bill didn't help), and generally high maintenance because of all of the things I feel on a daily basis. I was positive that no one wanted to hear it. But when I confess these things to a friend, I almost always hear that they feel the same way. That for whatever reason, things aren't as they pictured they would be at this stage in their lives. That they're questioning decisions they've made. That they're scared. And they feel lost.
Again, no matter what circumstance brought us all to where we are...it really doesn't matter. If we can connect and understand - that's what makes the difference. Even though I've never been divorced, I can sympathize with you. I've never struggled with illness, but I can cry with you. In fact, sometimes it's almost better when our situations are so different - I won't jump in with my own take on it because I've been there. What I can do is listen.
Just like you're listening to me.
So, be warned. If you see my phone number pop up on your caller ID, know that I'm ready to talk and dig deep. You might not need it and that's okay. But if you do, clear a day on your calendar for a nice, long lunch (and possibly a cab ride home if lunch turns into happy hour).
We've got a lot of territory to cover.