Thursday, May 07, 2009

All By Myself

One of the things I loved about being an only child was being alone.

I spent countless hours by myself - reading, playing, making up stories, and going on imaginary adventures. I learned a lot about myself during that time.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned was to like myself. In fact, I credit that alone time with teaching me to push myself to excel, to think things out thoroughly, and to accept myself.

Being an only child taught me so much.

I learned to enjoy both being by myself and with others. Only children are naturally thrust into social survival mode. We have to sink or swim when it comes to making friends. We can’t run back home and play with brother or sister if things don’t work out. There is no back-up plan.

Learning to be self-sufficient when it came to making friends was a huge life lesson. One I didn’t even realize I was learning until later.

Whether I was sitting in an unfamiliar classroom in a Rock Valley College Whiz Kids writing class, holding a tennis racket and surrounded by strangers at the Park District’s summer program, or finding a friendly face during a babysitting CPR class at the Rockford Library, I became adept at making friends.

I’m not saying I was the life of the party. In fact, I was usually pretty quiet until I could pinpoint the person I thought would be most receptive to my advances.

Then, I would move in, wait for the opportune moment – you know, the one you eventually look back on as the moment your friendship cemented – and then I would crack the joke, give the sympathetic head nod, or just smile – and a new friendship would start to blossom.

God has been so good to me. In childhood, I easily made friends with the Dresden Avenue neighborhood kids. I also had the up-for-anything Boehm cousins as my personal buoys during those formative years.

During my school years, I had Tania, my steady rock and ray of constant sunshine. In college, I had three fantastic roommates and a whole floor of wonderful women who stood in as my family. Post-college, I’ve had co-workers who make me laugh, and church sisters who make me exceedingly glad to be a Christian.

There’s no need to say it, but I’ve been blessed.

So, why is it that a recent offhand comment sent me spiraling backwards?

I was having a conversation with someone the other day, and she said something that sent a cold spike down my back. Even though I know she didn’t mean anything by it, I suddenly felt extremely alone.

I said earlier I like being alone. But being alone and feeling alone are two VERY different things.

As my conversation partner reeled off her comment, I had a sudden sinking feeling. Realization dawned that not one “friend” had offered to do this special thing for me. In one fell swoop, my joy over being pregnant went flat and dark.

I found myself obsessing over the comment. I began to examine my friendships and felt a wash of self-pity as face after familiar face slid through my mind. These people were supposed to be my friends and not one of them had offered to do this thing.

Were they really my friends? I found myself questioning. I hated that my apparent lack of true friends was evident to the person who had mentioned the comment.

I felt exposed. I felt like I was back in school when Josh had made me repeat that I was fat, ugly, stupid, and no one would ever like me.

Was he simply prophetic?

My obsession began to take on gigantic proportions. I am a verbal person by nature, and so Brett had to listen to a litany of how I felt. I used better vocabulary, but the gist of my rant was “Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Guess I'll go eat worms.”

Complaining about a lack of friends to Brett is like someone who missed lunch grumbling to a starving Ethiopian.

My husband knows what it is like to be truly friendless, in a way I’ve never had to experience. In the whole of his life, he’s had maybe two good friends. One of whom betrayed him and caused immeasurable hurt and vulnerability that still manifests itself today.

When we were dating, Brett told me how much it meant to him to finally have someone "in his corner." I think the fact he knew I was his friend meant more to him than anything romantic or physical in our relationship.

Our marriage isn’t perfect by any means, but knowing he chose me to be the person standing in his corner still brings me great joy. I am swamped by love when I realize I’m the only person standing up for him.

Being Brett’s friend is a rich and rewarding experience - one that has compelled his love and friendship back to me with consistent devotion.

So, he listens patiently when I rave about how alone I feel. This happens more often than you would think. Brett has told me countless times he doesn’t understand the complex relationships that exist between women.

“It’s like you’re all from another planet,” he says truthfully.

He’s right, of course. There is such navigation, focus, and minesweeping that takes place in a good many female friendship.

After two hours of heaving epitaphs and slamming sarcasm, I was spent. I wearily climbed the stairs and sat on my bed munching on my discontent.

Finally, I called Mom.

“Tell me I’m wrong to be mad about this,” I challenged, as I recounted my earlier conversation.

My mom, a saint in many ways, would have been well within her rights to say, “Yep, you’re wrong, kiddo,” and let it rest.

But instead, she listened to the whole story, and asked, “Has this been brewing all night?”

“Yes,” I hissed into the phone, as my anger rekindled.

It’s hard to be brutally honest with me. I get defensive, protective, and very, very sarcastic when called on the carpet.

But Mom is a brave soul, so she threw caution to the wind and barged right in. That’s what mothers are for, right?

“Honey,” she said in her calmest tone. “You know the Devil will try, in any way he can, to cause division. He wants to see our relationships crumble. He wants to see us struggle and fail. He wants us to give in to our human nature. He will do anything he can to get a foothold in our lives.”

I felt a tiny flush rush into my face. Was I that stupid?

I hadn’t just given the Devil a foothold. I’d presented him with a ladder, a map, and offered myself as his climbing partner.

I’d sacrificed my joy to this ridiculous fluff. I’d taken time out from my delight in feeling Sam kick. I’d allowed the miracle of my pregnancy to take a back seat to my own bitterness. I’d denigrated my friends; friends who have proven themselves over and over again. I’d been a complete and utter fool.

As I absorbed Mom’s take on the situation, I was ashamed of my earlier reaction. I’d given in, without a fight, to my own selfish human nature. I’d been drawn into a pity party where I was the only attendee. I had marched into Me Town and proclaimed myself President.

After figuring out a combat strategy with Mom, one that involved prayer and an unselfish spirit, I felt a million times better.

In the aftermath, I realized THIS was one of the reasons I have a blog. I looked back through my posts and saw entry after entry of how much God has blessed me – with good, kind, and caring friends.

I was reminded, by own words (one’s own words can sure sting when used in reproach), how greatly God has shed His grace on my life.

I spent the rest of the night by myself. Brett was busy downstairs, so I just stayed upstairs and reveled in the solitude.

I still like being alone. But, I was encouraged with the feeling that I’ve never felt less alone. God is good, and He’s surrounded me with people I know will be there for me when I need them.

So, today I’m just happy some people like me. Not everybody hates me.

And frankly, I’m just glad I won’t have to eat any worms.


Jennittia said...

Thank God for Godly mothers that lovingly put us in our place!!!

Yes, you are loved and appreciated probably far more that you will ever know. We friends have our short comings, but it does not diminish our love for you!

MommaHarms said...

I am more alone here in this town than I have ever been in my life, so I understand your feelings. You are blessed with a church family that seems to truly love one another. Cling to that when you feel lonely.

Juliet said...

Glad you phoned. As the saying goes, "This too shall pass."

Hang in there! MY ONE AND ONLY ONE!

Willand Family said...

Well I totally understand were you are coming from. I feel alone alot of the time. I long for the day when I can talk to my husband about everything I go through. I am so glad you can pick up the phone to call your mom. I miss that it will be 11 years next week that mom has been gone. I wish i still had my church family I just had to change churches long story it is hard really not having anyone. I love reading you blog it always encourages me. Have a great day!

Ann-Marie said...

Amy, your mom was such an amazing woman! I have so many wonderful memories of her. Remember those spectacular "box" brownies I couldn't stop raving about (or eating)? I was SO impressed!

Your mom had a great sense of humor, and I always remember laughing with you and her in the kitchen. She was so proud of you and loved both her girls so much.

I can't imagine how hard it is to lose your mom. I hope you know you will always be my friend. In fact, I think you are easily the friend I've known the longest!


Laura Brown said...

Hi Ann-Marie --

If the "thing" you're referring to is a baby shower, folks have probably got so used to people throwing those for themselves these days (which is wrong wrong wrong, according to the experts) that they've forgotten they are traditionally supposed to be arranged by a friend of the mother-to-be. Either that, or everyone is assuming that someone else is taking care of it. :-)

What I would suggest is, after Sam is born, invite everyone round for a reception to have some tea and cake and meet the baby -- you'll probably get as many presents as you would at a shower, and you'll hear fewer silly pregnancy jokes.

a joyful nusiance said...

I'm your friend, I don't hate you, and I wish we could actually see each other.