On bad days I count friends. On really bad days I compare and covet.
On a bad night like last night I lay awake and wonder why no-one invites me over. I mentally flip back through the last 6 months of the dayplanner and can find just one single invitation - for a river walk. Family dinner invitations: zero. Let's grab a quick coffee after school drop off: nada. Let's go for a beer, exercise, camping, yoga, movie, reno project, dance class, birthday celebration... not a one.
Then I really rub it in by comparing - a lifelong ego-crushing bad habit. After morning drop-off in the school parking lot I see other parents going off together to the coffee shop or for a power walk. I hear of other families involved in monthly gatherings and circles and traditions and annual camping trips, or even just a simple Friday night dinner. I watch my wife go out on intimate dates and fun gatherings with her girlfriends. The more beautiful the connection I witness, the louder I hear my phone not ringing, and the more alone and unwanted I feel .
It isn't for lack of trying. It's not a case of never reaching out then wondering why no-one reaches toward me. I do regularly invite friends out, set up group hikes, host dinner parties, arrange playdates. These initiatives are well-received and result in lovely, meaningful social interactions; they just aren't reciprocated.
On the worst days I look for the fault in myself that drives people away. Am I just too loud and overbearing? Do my public ponderings and strivings set up a holier-than-thou syndrome - either a misperception that I think I'm on higher ground than others, or a truly out-of-whack misperception that I actually am? Does my general merriment and confidence make me look overpopular and unavailable - the classic case of a beautiful woman who never gets asked out on a date? Do I try too hard and drive people away - the other classic case of a boy so eager for a girlfriend that he comes across as desperate and therefore unattractive. Does my living outside the norms make me a great freak show rather than an interesting friend? Am I friendly with so many people that no-one takes it personally? Am I so happy and loud and exuberant that no-one could trust me to be quiet and sensitive and soul-connected?
After this spiral of negative theories my left brain tries to come to the rescue, generating excuses and rationalizations. People are genuinely busy. Friendship networks existed years before we arrived. The gender barrier is real and impersonal. Guys don't reach out to other guys. And the biggest one - it's dangerously easy to overestimate the number of friends and social engagements that other people have.
My left brain does believe each and every one of these concepts. And most of me doesn't really believe the personal-fault theories. But beliefs don't always help feelings.
I could make this easier to read by ending with all the good connections I feel, the web of love that envelops me. Sarah will read this then somewhat berate me for dwelling on the negative when there are so many positives to hold onto. That positivity is real, and what I genuinely live in almost all the time. I'll write about that another day, probably soon.
But that's not what I want to share today. Today's writing is about last night's darkness. It's about a real shadow that most people may not guess is inside. It's sharing a base sadness and emptiness I feel on the bad nights when I count and compare.
Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...