It’s Not Worth It

They sat across from each other in the booth – I brought the coffee over and sat next to her.  I was a little stunned – I did not expect him to be there.  She didn’t say that he’d be there; I expected it to be just us.  I don’t know how I looked to them – I didn’t have the strength to feign gladness, and used what little energy I had to keep my mouth shut.  She rubbed my shoulder, and it felt good – but it didn’t light me up like it usually did.  I had a “good angry” going on, and I wasn’t about to let it go.

For the next hour they talked as if I wasn’t there.  I managed to chat a bit about an introvert/extrovert question from work that day:  “You have a birthday coming up, and you have an unlimited amount of funds.  How would you like to celebrate it and how many people would you like to be there with you?”

I answered, “Out to dinner with one friend” – which may sound sad to all you extroverts out there, but is in fact one of the more pleasurable things in this introvert’s life.  He thought it was a sad answer – there was genuine pity in his heart.  I didn’t expect either one of them to get it – by this time I really only had two clear thoughts:  1) why the fuck is he here? and 2) why the fuck am I here?  I don’t know why I didn’t get up and walk away.

The arrangement was so uneven that it wasn’t worth being friends.  I listened to her way more than she listened to me.  And it wasn’t just the time – it was the content, too.  I don’t know if she’s a superficial person, but there were definite limits to what could and could not be discussed.  When I was hurting, I wasn’t in a position to talk to her about it.  That isn’t who she is.  And that made my hurt that much worse.

From her point of view, people should keep their feelings to themselves.  Public displays of affection are verboten.  It explains why I didn’t have any “deep” emotional conversations with her – she may have been feeling lots of things, but they were private matters.  You might argue that our friendship lacked the trust it needed to share those kinds of things – and you’d be right.

Marc Maron says something like “you don’t really know whether you’re in a relationship until someone gets hurt.”  Because it’s exactly those moments when you realize that the relationship you have with someone is not a casual thing.  We were friends – emphasis on the lowercase “f.”  Now I’m looking for someone who isn’t afraid, not just of my feelings, but even more importantly, of showing and sharing theirs with me.

This is Why People Don’t Talk to Me

Some time ago a student of mine wrote me with a request to respond to a personal survey.  They were upset that “someone” they cared about had called them vain, conceited and self-centered, so they sent a short survey to a few people whose honest feedback they could trust.  The survey asked, “Am I vain?  Am I conceited?  Am I self-centered?” – with a request to answer yes or no to each of these questions.  Ever my philosophical self, I replied:

“It’s not clear to me how the results of your survey will help improve your relationship with this other person.  Keep in mind, I don’t have clue one about who this “someone” is – and I prefer not to know! – so that my remarks can at least attempt to be as objective as possible.  Whoever this someone is, ask yourself:  “Will this survey and its results improve my relationship with this person?  Will it help bring us closer together?  Or will this survey only worsen that relationship?  Will it only drive us further apart?”  The kind of relationship YOU want to have with this person has everything to do what your survey means for that relationship.

“To be human is to be vain, self-centered, conceited, spiteful, nasty, mean, ruthless, disgusting, ignorant and rude.  To be human is also to be valuable, nurturing, humble, just, pleasant, joyful, caring, appealing, curious and polite.  And to be human is to be all of this, a walking, incomprehensible bundle of contradictions, and much more besides.  If we are human, we have to keep in mind that the shadows of our existence highlight, emphasize, and “make stand out” what is truly outstanding about this same existence.  In other words, until we can acknowledge and accept the failings and frailties of being human, we can never appreciate how human beings manage to overcome such obstacles again and again.  Our efforts, our struggles to prevail, give meaning to our lives and make them worth living.

“Clearly being out of the classroom for so long has caused me to preach endlessly!  Thanks for letting me ramble on.  As always, know that you have my care, concern, and support.  I look forward to hearing from you.”

I never heard back from them.