Special Occasions

I am not too fond of most special occasions. I do not enjoy dressing up, I struggle with noises and crowds, and I find it hard to make small talk. Yet, I find myself going to almost every wedding reception, party, or other event to which I am invited. I have even traveled as much as 8 hours in one day just to attend an event for a few minutes.

It may seem strange to most people that I would dedicate so much time to one event, but it’s important to me that my friends know I value what is important to them. A wedding reception is not my version of a good time, but I know that I would want to see my friends at my wedding reception, so I go to every reception I can reasonably attend.

For many years, I have vehemently expressed my distaste for birthdays. I do not have many fond memories of birthdays, and I always struggle to find joy in the days leading up to my birthday. Despite all of this, I have always felt that birthdays are extremely special and even sacred events. A day set aside to celebrate the existence of someone has to have special meaning and value.

So, as hard as it is, I continue to go to special events, travel to see friends on special occasions, and try to get through the things that are hard for me because if it’s important to my friends, it’s important to me.

Talking about special occasions, today is my 7 year anniversary of starting this blog!

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Friendship is Complicated

Friendship is complicated. There is so much more to relationships than what is on the surface. I have never had a close, lasting relationship with zero conflict. I think that surviving conflict is what builds relationships, but I do love the ease of my friendships that do not have conflict. They are simple, easy to understand, and take little work on my part, but these relationships are mostly superficial. You can spend time with a friend and have fun, but it is staying after the fun is over, when you are not feeling well or are going through difficulties, that friendship really starts to mean more.

I did not have many friends growing up. My first friendships as a young child did not survive their first conflict. I look back now and think of how I could have handled the situation better, how I could have salvaged my friendships, but at the time I had no real experience in handling conflict. I did not know how to talk through feelings and emotions. So, at age 8, I decided to try to make my first friends on my own. I knew every trouble maker and loner at the school. These were my friends because they seemed to have just as many troubles as I did. When we weren’t sitting on the benches, we were the outcasts that no one else would talk to. Looking back now, I wonder if I failed to do my homework on purpose because it was too hard to brave the large playground full of children on my own.¬†Making friends is easier now than it was then, but it can be easy to feel like a little girl again on a playground that is far too large for me.

The other thing that can be difficult is learning to manage conflict with the friends I do have. Indecisiveness makes me anxious, which can be a problem when my best friends do not like to make decisions. They tend to be people pleasers that want to make sure everyone is comfortable with whatever is decided. I would rather go along with a less favorable choice than spend half an hour trying to decide on something that everyone agrees on. Sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me, and I become frustrated and push people away. This causes a whole new level of conflict because my friends don’t understand why I am responding in this way.

Friendship is complicated, and we don’t always know what to do to solve conflicts. As I grow to trust others more, I have learned to simply ask about things I do not understand. I have learned to ask for reassurance when I do not know how a recent conflict has affected a relationship. I have learned to ask what I can do better and how I can make things right with someone. They say it takes courage to apologize to someone, but not apologizing is so much harder for me. I need to know my status with someone, even if it is negative, I just need to know what to expect from them. I think that it must get tiring for my friends to constantly deal with my questions and insecurities, but I am so grateful that they are patient with my shortcomings because friendship really is complicated for me.

Grief is Love

Sometimes you have to tell a story to get it out of you. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. It seems like everything hits me harder now that he’s gone. I see these movies and just think of everything that has happened in the last few months.

I remember waking up that morning like any other morning. I had slept in a bit, which was not unusual for me at that time. I went downstairs and my little niece looked at me and said, “Mommy is sad. The baby won’t wake up.” I went to my brother’s room and my sister-in-law went past me, crying, “he won’t wake up… I don’t know what to do.” My brother was in the room trying to do CPR on his little body. I asked what they had tried to do, gave some suggestions, nothing of substance. I don’t think it was really real for me at that point.

The police arrived a few minutes later. I went to keep the children away from the situation while the parents talked to the police and paramedics and firemen and anyone else who came. After a while, I took the children into their room and asked them to pray for their brother. My brother and sister-in-law went to the hospital. He wasn’t responsive at that point, but he wasn’t gone yet. We still had a glimmer of hope that he would survive, that he would come back, that he would be okay.

I remember the call… “He’s gone…” My little nephew was in the middle of a bite of pizza when I explained that his baby brother would not be coming back and that we had to go to the hospital to see him one last time. This amazing little 5 year old just started crying and didn’t want to finish his food, but we did. We finished our little lunch and headed to the hospital to say our goodbyes. I tried to get everything ready. I threw a bunch of candy and snacks in my bag to help console the children while we waited to see the lifeless body of my less than 2 month old nephew.

When we arrived at the hospital, we waited outside with the children’s other aunt, and my aunt also came after a few minutes. As we sat and ate candy while waiting for everything to be ready for the children to come in, I knew the younger two might never understand. This didn’t seem to mean much to them, other than that the adults and their older brother were sad. They were still fighting over toys and wanting their treats. Even after we went in, my three year old niece was playing with the doctor’s face as he explained what would happen next. It was somewhat frustrating, but also comforting, to know that she wasn’t experiencing the grief the rest of us felt.

When it was my turn to hold my sweet nephew for the last time, the reality struck me that he was really gone. I had known he wasn’t going to come back or get better, but feeling his cold skin made my heart stop for a second. I would never hold him again in this life. I would never stroke his head as he slept in my lap or hold him as he looked with wide eyes around the room. This was goodbye.

The strange thing about faith is that it never really leaves, but sometimes you are not exactly sure what it means. Would I get to see him again? Would everything be okay? What would this mean for my family? I felt broken, but my faith told me that this was not the end. I believe that he is in heaven. I believe I will see him again. I believe that everything will be okay. I just do not know when that will happen. I do not know when I will be okay again.

Everything moved on. I still had classes that week. I still went to work. I still turned in homework assignments and helped around the house and did what was required, but something was missing. I lost a part of me that day that I do not think I will ever get back in this life. I broke that Friday. He passed away on Sunday and by Friday, I had tried so hard to be strong that I knew I needed help. I texted a few people I thought might be free, but by the time they responded, I was sliding quickly into severe depression. When none of them were available, I gave up and went to my room to cry. I have never cried so hard in my life. One person, who I hardly knew, insisted on coming over and sat in my room with me until I finished crying. That was the most desperate I have ever felt, and nothing has ever made me feel so hollow as crying for the loss of that little boy.

Since then, things have been hard. Most days are normal and everything goes on like before this happened, but other days, I feel the loss like it was just this morning. You can’t run from pain. You can’t escape death. No matter how far away you go or what you do, there are some things that just won’t leave your head. That’s what this has been. It’s a never ending stream of grief that is always there, though I notice it less sometimes than others.

But… there is also great hope. In the midst of the despair, there is faith and hope and love- pure, undaunted love that will not go away. I keep seeing this quote, “Grief is just love with no place to go.” That is what grief feels like to me. The love that was there for little Gabriel cannot go into him so it goes everywhere else instead. It goes into me and comes out in tears and hugs and long, drawn out conversations. The love fills the room where I sit down to write a letter or tell someone my thoughts. It spills out in lessons I teach in church where a few dozen women gather to talk about faith in God. And it is still there when I’m running transactions at the bank where I work or going grocery shopping or eating in a restaurant. Grief feels like love constantly spilling out of you in endless streams of emotion that make everything beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

Love.

I thought I understood what that meant over the last few years. When I gained a best friend, when I forgave someone who abused me as a child, when my heart felt healed, when I felt joy after helping someone, I thought I understood love. All these things over the past few years have been love, but losing someone has given love a whole new meaning. Love is everywhere, in everything, in everyone, and when you lose someone, that love either leaves you or becomes you.¬† You either push the love outside of you or you let it flow into you. For me, love is like the emotion that won’t let go. It is ever present. It is me, and I am love, because losing someone took everything away and gave it all back wrapped in beautiful, tear-jerking, never-ending love.

It Would Be Easy to Disappear

I moved to a new state about a month ago. It was a decision that was both sudden and a long time coming. I love the atmosphere here. It is a rural town with everything I need within a 5 minute drive from my place, but I can also drive for hours and see nothing but livestock and country. I live with one of my best friends and just a couple of minutes away from my other best friend, which is great, but it makes it tempting to disappear.

I dislike trying to make new friends. I have never been very good at it. People do not usually like me right away. I am intimidating. Even my best friends found me intimidating when they first met me. I do not tend to make good first impressions. And living with one of my friends makes it easy to not feel like I need others. Emotionally, I am an extrovert. I need people like I need to breathe. But I struggle when I have negative experiences with people.

Tonight was hard. I tried to go to an activity for my church group, but I could not find them at the park area where we were supposed to meet. I haven’t been there long enough to recognize faces in crowds, and there were a lot of other groups there tonight. I want to give up. I have friends. I live with a friend. Do I need to try to make more friends? Do I need to try to socialize here? Or can I just disappear? It would be easy to disappear.

Starting Over

I’m moving to a new place. I don’t know where or when, but I know that I am leaving this house very soon. I’ve been here for a little over four years, and I have loved it. I have loved living with my brother and being there for the birth of all my nieces and nephews. I have loved being a second mom to them and sharing my life with them. But when my little nephew died, I lost a part of me. And it became hard to be home. It hurt to be such a big part of this family.

Since that time, I have been thinking about moving. I have been considering getting my own apartment or moving into an apartment with other people. So when one of my friends had apartment problems, the thought came to me that I should find a place to live with them. I fought the thought at first because I enjoy living with my family and living with this particular friend could be overwhelming because we are very close and that could make it hard to get alone time. But it just seems like the right time and right thing to do.

I feel a deep desire to start over. I tend to become someone that people can count on wherever I go. My friends, my family, my work, and my church group, all know that I will be there when they need me. They trust in that consistency because that is what I have always and will always do. But sometimes when life gets complicated, I feel the need to pull away and go somewhere where people do not expect so much of me. I will always be who I am, but sometimes it is nice for people to not know who that is yet. And I think that my biggest struggle is finding someone I can count on.

I have been here for over four years, and in that time I have made many friends that have come and gone. I have developed relationships that dwindled when someone moved away or became married. And over and over, I am reminded that I am not the kind of person that people try to spend time with. I am the person people go to with problems. I am the person people go to when they need something. I am not the person people go to to have fun. So there seems little reason to not start over by moving away to a place where no one knows me. I have the hardest time making friends, but at this point it seems to not matter much because the friends I have made here are either gone or distant for the most part.

So I am starting over. I am moving and starting over. And hopefully this all works out for the best.

Best Friends

I was feeling lonely a few days ago because none of the things I was trying to do to spend time with people were working. I had invited people to a conference, movie night, game night, I even organized a committee meeting at church, but no one came to any of it. And I found myself in a lonely and vulnerable spot because I desperately need people, but I am terrible at figuring out how to spend time with them.

In my lowest moment of complete desperation, I got a message from someone thanking me for something I did for them. I broke down because I felt like I was doing everything I could, but I was still alone. And then, after a while, I felt the gentle reassurance that I was doing okay. I mean, I don’t have all the friends I want, and I wish I could spend more time with the friends I do have, but I have the friends I need.

When I was a kid, I prayed every day for a best friend, any friend. I prayed that someone would see me and like me and want to spend time with me. And I got some friends over the years. I only saw them at school or church or things like that, but it was something. And finally, at the age of 20, I got a friend that I could count on, that I felt like loved me, that I felt like wanted to be around me, and that I felt I wouldn’t ruin our friendship with my problems.

It was pretty amazing to feel loved, wanted, needed, important. For the first time since I was a little child, I felt whole. And then I became friends with the most wonderful person. And it was like every bad thing that ever happened to me was okay. I looked back at my life and saw hope in places I had previously seen pain. And it was life changing to feel safe with someone, to trust them with myself, to want to tell them everything. My best friend has been everything to me. She has had a healing impact on my life that I could not be more grateful for.

So, that night when I was feeling utterly alone, I remembered the little girl that just wanted one friend, and I thought, I have the most amazing friends I could ever ask for. I still get lonely. My best friends are farther away from me than I would like, but they still love me. I am still wanted, needed, loved, and safe with someone.

I heard about a school that was trying to ban best friends. They said that it was unfair to those who didn’t have a best friend. I grew up all through school with no best friends, with hardly any friends at all. I ate lunch alone and played alone, and when someone did talk to me, it was usually to get help with something. But I would go through that all again for a best friend. I don’t think you can truly ban best friends, but I would never want that for anyone anyway. As someone who knows what it is like to be jealous of other people’s friendships, I plead with you to never try to prevent a friendship. Teach inclusion, teach children that they do not have to only have one friend, teach children to make best friends with everyone, but don’t prevent that special bond with someone.

Having a best friend has changed my life. With each best friend I had, I became a little less broken, less lonely, less scared, more confident, more secure, more at peace. I think I will probably always have lonely moments. As an extrovert with autism, I simply do not have the capacity to create the friendships I want and participate in the amount of social activities I need to feel completely fulfilled, but I have the relationships I need. I have the friends I need to get through the lonely moments, and that is enough.

When Nothing is Okay

Sometimes I use this blog to vent. There is something about telling people how you feel, even if you know you probably won’t feel that way very long. I’ve been struggling for a few days with feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a lot going on with school and work and family and friends and other activities. I have felt like I was done for a few weeks now. Work has been draining, even though it is the same work as always. I haven’t really felt like doing homework or even school in general. Friends were about the only thing I had left that wasn’t hard. So, this past week when everything didn’t go perfectly with my friends, it broke what was left in me.

It wasn’t that things went horribly wrong so much as things have just been overwhelming lately. I feel more sensitive, more prone to taking things personally or blowing things out of proportion. So last night when I posted that I was done, it wasn’t so much that I was really done as that I wanted to be done. I wanted a break from the madness. It is difficult and confusing when nothing is wrong, and yet nothing feels okay- when you have everything under control, but feel like things are not going how they should- when you are completely fine, but yet, one step away from a total breakdown.

I am trying to figure out how to keep going when nothing is okay. People try to be understanding of everything going on, and they do help, but there are days when I am just not okay. Am I really done with helping people? No. But… maybe I’m just done with pretending to be okay for a while. Maybe I’m done with trying so hard to do everything when I feel like I don’t get as much back in return. Maybe I’m accepting that I’m not always going to be okay and that sometimes I just need to take a break from life and people and just be.