You’ve Got a Friend in Me…Have I Got a Friend in You?

 

Friend is kind of a thorny word for me, because I lack so much confidence.  I’m not naturally confident anyway, most especially in social situations, and of course as a preteen I suffered some hard knocks as the unpopular kid.  Being the unpopular kid in a small school (my 6th grade class had 13 kids in it) is particuarly hard because it’s not like there are other outcasts you can hang out with.

I remedied this by going to a high school where I was no exceptional nerd–in fact I graduated dead middle of my class and was revered by it.  Of course THHS had its spectrum of cliques and social groups.  There were definitely ‘cool’ kids and ‘popular’ kids.  I don’t know how these kids would have fared in your standard 3,000 kid NYC public high school, but it didn’t matter.  What was nice is that there were very few outcasts, it felt like.  I was no longer the weird nerdy one.  My friends read just as much–or more–than me.  Several were smarter, which was kind of a nice feeling.  Even better, I found a group of friends who have been my friends for life–I have now known them more years than I’ve not known them.

In college I went back to being the nerdy kid, but this time I had a foundation of friendship and there was a larger student body, so I went on to make friends despite not being anything even close to popular.  I had a rocky start where I went on a trip to Europe with a bunch of kids who thought I was the teflon to cool, as in, it just slid off me, but when I got back I had friends waiting.

What amazed me was when actual cool people, or people I deemed cool, seemed to like me.  Even today, when they laugh at my jokes or want to talk to me, there’s a part of me that’s like ‘Wait–you do know I’m a giant nerd, right?  I mean, I sit around writing fan fiction, for God’s sake!’  I try not to let my freak flag fly, but I’m always afraid someone will discover it, and then judge.

In a weird way, I suppose this means a lack of trust in the people I call friends, and especially people in general.  Because a bunch of snotty 12 year olds walked away from me when I tried to talk to them, I think that everyone wants to do that on some level.  As I type this, I realise how dumb that sounds–aren’t we all at our worst at 12?  And maybe I’m not completely cool, but there are some things about me that are cool.  For example, people here really dig that I’m from NYC, even when I get itinerant about bagels and pizza.  And then I think about one of my coworkers too–he labels himself as awkward, but actually as I’ve talked to him, I’ve never really thought of him as awkward.

I did have a friend who I bared it all to.  We met on a Narnia fanfiction site, and not only was I able to completely geek out with her (although she wasn’t the first–I met some pretty awesome girls through Les Mis as well), we also forged a creative partnership.  And, looking back, her friendship was addictive.  She threw her all into it, and because of that I responded, and we were able to form this Sex and the City, gal pal friendship that you only see on tv.  We would send each other huge missives and talk to each other on MSN messenger virtually every night.  We swore we were best friends until the end.

Until…we weren’t.  The reason those sorts of friendships only exist on tv is that they’re unsustainable.  We sacrificed so much of our personal lives to be the very best of friends to each other.  I didn’t go out with my NYC friends, the aforementioned ones who I had been friends with since 14.  I didn’t try to go out on dates because I didn’t want to give up the close friendship we had.  She in turn let her marriage suffer and didn’t let her social circle expand.  And because we had given up so much for each other, we grew jealous of each other’s separate lives.  It didn’t help that she lived in England and I lived in NYC, so we could never really bring those social circles together.  When I made new friends and went out with them, she confessed her jealousy.  When she declared she wanted to rekindle her love of acting, I fretted about the loss of our creative partnership, even though that hadn’t actually happened yet.  It did eventually, but I think it was more self-fulfilling prophecy.

And so the friendship soured.  Her last great friend deed was to introduce me to my husband.  If you’ve so much as glanced at this blog, you know the end of that is me moving to England.  I thought we might feel better being able to have a more ‘normal’ friendship, not scheduling around time zones and work, but it wasn’t to be.  We became competitive with each other about parenting since we each made opposite choices: I would go back to work, she would stay at home. She was very much about child led parenting, I favoured sleep training and schedules.  She would post links to articles on facebook where people would rant about how sleep training is child abuse (what), and I would take it personally.    She started to go through post-natal depression and I only half recognised the signs, so instead of helping her and supporting her, I wound up criticising her for her lack of friendship.  (I have a whole lot of thoughts about friends with PND and what it means to witness it and how better to support it, but that’s another topic for another time).  She continued to act and I wasn’t very supportive.  I didn’t like the plays she was in for the most part, but instead of focusing on her performance and how she was, I focused on the play and my opinions of it.  Not v. supportive

A year ago we were still clinging on, and I went to see another friend who told me for what it’s worth, you can’t pick and choose things about your friends.  You either have to take all the crazy or none of it.  I thought about this and realised picking and choosing was exactly what I was trying to do, attempting to tailor make our friendship to what it used to be.  I thought perhaps we should redraw the boundaries of our friendship.  After all, the SATC thing was exhausting and not how functional adults behave.  That said, I had a number of highly successful friendships that meant the world to me.  And she did too, so maybe we ought to retry.

I don’t know where things went wrong.  I didn’t go to the play she was next in.  It was the day after I got back and although I love me some Arthur Miller, I was far too exhausted after traveling with a toddler to contemplate the deeper meaning of the American Dream.  Maybe that was the last straw for her.  Maybe she felt I couldn’t mean anything but criticism for her when I suggested we reevaluate things.  Maybe that phrase is scary.  All I know is that when I suggested a discussion and outlined why I wanted it, she unleashed a tirade.  She accused me of saying and thinking things I never meant–or said, or implied.  I guess she had a lot of anger, and it wound up getting released in a fireball of destruction.  I wound up saying she should contact me when she wanted to talk things over.  She unfriended me on Facebook and I haven’t heard from her since.

I don’t know now how I feel about all this.  I do often miss her.  But she seems to have replaced me with a new, intense best friendship.  She did help shape my life in some valuable ways, and it was at the very least flattering to have someone so devoted to me and our friendship.  In some ways it was even enriching, and it gave me confidence.  I could be the nerd and it didn’t matter.  Except I all the times she said she would always be there, no matter what, proved false, and in the Venn diagram of our social circles I see she has already replaced me with a new bff flavour of the month.  If it were not for her entrance into my life, I would not have met my husband.  Yet she completely ignored the birth of my second child–there aren’t many clearer messages than that.

I still struggle with the conclusions I should draw about all of this.  I know now that if a friend is all-consuming, that’s probably not a good idea.  However, that friendship did provide me with some valuable things and it’s sad to see it evaporate completely.  I know that high maintenance friendships are best left to tv shows where the characters only exist in very tiny spheres.  But do I see that friendship as a productive thing?  Would I be friends with her again?  Have I made peace with the experience?

Not yet.

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Source: Friend

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Flow

I’m not very good at going with the flow.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea of going with the flow.  When I was a kid, I really liked that song ‘Que Sera, Sera’.  And who doesn’t love a bit of Enya to zone out to?  I dare you to listen to this and not feel relaxed:  It’s like a musical spa day.  I also love spa days.

The point is, I know how to unwind and bliss out, but I can’t *stay* that way.  I always start stressing again if I don’t have closure or don’t know the answer.  One of my childhood friends is on Facebook touting the virtues of following your bliss after (from what I can put together from her posts) giving up her career as a lawyer to become a yoga instructor/ life coach.  Part of me wants to roll my eyes at this, but it’s hard when she seems so honestly happy and chilled about life.

I want to be like that.  At least, I think it would lead to a calmer existence.  After being married three years I’m not as tightly wound as I used to be (sharing your life with someone will do that), but I still want to know how things will end up so my imagination doesn’t run wild with all the possibilities of what *could* happen.  I’m very good at coming up with dramatic, though highly unlikely, possibilities.  For example: if I go to the town where my ex-best friend lives, will I see her?  Maybe there will be a confrontation!  Should I play it cool or giver her a piece of my mind because I still don’t have closure from our last fight?  I run the scenarios through my mind like stories.  The problem is, like many good stories, they are engrossing because they are so stressful.  It’s like when I stayed up all night one time to try to find a good pausing point in The Hunger Games.  Note: It took something like reading 200 pages until 4am and practically falling asleep before I could close the book.  This is how I get about life.

That’s why pregnancy is such a special challenge.  I’m now in my final few weeks of gestating #2 and I’m at the point now where I’m ready to have this kid.  Problem is, I don’t know when, or how it will happen and there are so many variables.  What will happen to my two year old daughter while I’m in labour?  Who will take care of her, and how?  My personal plan A got turned on its head for a variety of reasons, and that was the one I liked because it was most predictable: she’d stay with a relative she frequently stays with and who not only loves her, but is excellent at upholding her little routines.  With plan B, I’m not sure how she will react.  I kind of know, but I don’t *really* know.

Then there’s the method of delivery.  The Feliciraptor was a c section, which means I could, in theory, demand a c section this time.  But then I don’t know how I’ll cope with staples in my stomach when I’m trying to manage a two year old.  On the other hand, it is what I know.  I know what the recovery is like and what the pain will be like, and generally how everything will go. And if I schedule it, then I *know* what will happen, which is comforting.  But I wouldn’t be able to drive for a few weeks, which means being stuck at home with a tiny baby and a two year old, and last time I found that very hard.

And speaking of post delivery, what will having two be like?  I know what it’s like to take care of a tiny baby (simple, really, but pretty boring), but I don’t know what it will be like dealing with two children.  Probably fine–after all, this is something a lot of people do with a very high success rate.  But *I* don’t know, so my mind ticks over with possibilities.  Will Felicity provide me with some company while her brother develops a personality, or will she make my days more monotonous?  What is it like to handle two kids having meltdowns for completely different reasons?

Last night I thought I had the beginnings of labour, but no dice.  As we drove to the hospital, though, I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that this was it; things were finally decided.  Only they weren’t, and now I’m in limbo again and finding new things to angst about.  For example, at my last doctor’s visit he agreed that I shouldn’t be induced, but I get stressed about the idea of being induced and back in hospital again for ages–even though that’s not going to happen and I have the power to refuse induction.

I posted a similar anxiety-ridden post when I was very pregnant with Felicity.  Now that post seems kind of silly–I had a pretty traumatic labour in the end, but she’s fine and I’m fine–fine enough to try this all over again.  People were lovely–I had lots of messages reconnecting me with friends who all sent words of reassurance.  This, however, is where I think the idea of flow comes in–if a river flows around you and you’re standing resisting it, eventually it’s going to tip you over and carry you along anyway.  Either the flow was too strong for you to fight, or you just don’t have the strength to keep resisting.  The other option is to lie back and float and see where the river takes you.  I really need to get used to option B, because the river’s given me an interesting ride.  And when I get on the lazy river at a water park, I love it.  As for exactly how to lay back and enjoy it when I want to steer and impossible to steer inner tube, well, there’s the rub.  But maybe I should try.

 

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Source: Flow

The Doom Squad

The past month or so has been full of intense preparations for giving birth.  My nesting instincts kicked in, and I meticulously organized all the baby clothes and created a spreadsheet for all the things we need to buy.  MR and I attended a round of birthing classes, and I started hypnotherapy in an effort to calm down about the impending labor.  I have to say, the efforts have paid off well.  I was nervous about giving birth (honestly, who wouldn’t be?), but now I feel much more equipped for it.  Plus, the subsequent conversations with MR all this preparation inspired have made me feel even better.

By the time our last NCT class (or birthing class, for those of you in the States) rolled around, I was feeling downright cheerful about the whole thing.  I had labor in hand, I felt–I had an arsenal of pain relief techniques, and if those didn’t work, I had an epidural.  Whenever I went to appointments, the midwives always said I was doing really well, and I didn’t even have gestational diabetes, which I was sure I was going to get.  Things were going to be ok.

Except.

I’ve planned to breast feed for awhile, really for as long as I’ve been planning to have kids.  It just seemed like the best alternative.  I don’t pass any judgment at all on women who choose to bottle feed, but as they keep saying how breast milk is best, it’s something I thought I should do.  Also, nature seems to have over-endowed me in that area to the point where it’s a bit annoying, so I thought it would be nice to put the things to their natural use.

What I didn’t know was that apparently, it’s not as simple as it looks.  This seems a bit unfair as other milk producing mammals don’t seem to have issues.  Heck, humans make use of cow, sheep, and goat milk on a daily basis, which says they can produce enough milk for their offspring and then keep going.  As I learned more about breast feeding, though, I learned that humans, for some reason, don’t have it so easy.  On top of that, because we are self conscious, perhaps too much for our own good, there are all kinds of theories about it.  Science says ‘breast is best’ which makes sense, but then some people take it to a whole other level and say that those women who say they have production problems simply don’t want it enough.  That kind of language weirds me out, because it’s the kind of phrasing they use in the Olympics.  “She’s extraordinarily gifted, but you just don’t see her wanting it enough.”  But the last time I checked, there was no competition for breastfeeding, and it doesn’t get your face on a Wheaties box.  (Sidenote: Are Wheaties still around?  They tasted an awful lot like cardboard.)  So then there are all these levels of superiority, and judging, and the implication that women who breastfeed are better mothers and much closer to their babies.  It’s all a little too intense.

Admittedly, most of this I’m getting second hand, from a friend who struggled to feed and couldn’t manage it, and was subsequently subsumed by guilt and saw accusations towards bottle feeders everywhere, especially internet forums (never the place to go when you’re having a personal crisis).  I can’t say I blame her for getting upset over what she read and heard and perceived–this post is essentially the same thing.  Nonetheless, her reports were enough to start making me nervous, although I tried to say to myself that my experience may be very different, even when she was talking about how much you have to feed to keep your supply up.  Maybe I wouldn’t have issues with supply?

But then other reports started to come in.  Other women I knew who just had babies reported how hard and tiring breastfeeding could be.  Then our NCT classes confirmed: pretty much for the first twelve days, the baby wants to eat every two hours, and will take a long time to do so, so you barely get a break between feeds.  There are a vast number of scientific reasons for this: the baby is learning, the mother is learning, the milk supply has to balance out and meet the demand, but none of this reassured me.  Instead raw panic gripped me.  I was essentially going to be a cow, existing only to milk.  I couldn’t type on my computer, or sew, or crochet, or do anything but stare zombie-like at the television and hope to catch half an hour of shut-eye in between feeds.  Of all the things about motherhood, this is the one that actually terrified me.  MR said I was having an existential crisis about it, which I think is pretty accurate.  That description of barely sleeping and constant feeding made me feel like I would lose every ounce of who I am.  Maybe I would get it back as things started to even out, but a fortnight of losing all sense of self is a rather terrifying prospect.  For the first time I began to worry about getting post partum depression.

In thinking about it, I realized there’s a certain amount of betrayal in that description.  I need some hope at the moment, something to look forward to.  Labor is not an exciting prospect, however prepared I feel for it, and now that I’m counting down these last four weeks and three days, pregnancy is really getting old.  I’m constantly uncomfortable, and can’t really walk anywhere.  I’d like to be able to stand up without a monumental effort, or crouch down without my knees singing out in pain, or eat without having ferocious heartburn.  I can’t remember what it was like to have a normal body.  But the baby was going to be the payoff, and that was what I was hanging on to.  To hear that the first couple weeks with her will turn me into a zombie was crushing, especially as I do not like anything zombie related.  (No, I haven’t watched the Walking Dead, and I don’t plan to.  It’s really not my thing.)

MR has mentioned before how new parents *love* to give advice and get all wide eyed as they impart dire warnings of impending misery.  He also points out that despite this misery, people seem willing to subject themselves to parenthood multiple times over.  This is something of a paradox.  Except it’s not–people in general love to complain and feel uncomfortable gushing.  And so I don’t even know if ‘experienced’ parents realize what they’re doing to people who are about to become parents.  I mean, I know it’s not going to be a bed of roses.  I’m going to have to deal with a lot of crap, both literal and figurative in just over a month, and that will continue for the rest of my life.  But in a way, that’s kind of beautiful–this little person is coming into my life, and she’s never, ever going to leave it.  No matter what happens, no matter how much she or I screw up, I will always be her mother and she will always be my daughter.  It’s irrevocable.  Early adulthood is full of fragile human bonds that seem to break so easily–fights with friends, relationships ending, and there’s an amazing security of parenthood.

Which brings me to my point–this isn’t going to be a horror movie.  Yes, it will be hard.  I’ve never done anything like it before.  But I have been sleep deprived.  I’ve pulled all nighters to finish papers; I’ve been on many, many transatlantic flights where sleep was impossible.  And breast feeding is probably a lot easier to pull off on no sleep than making incisive points comparing the depiction of childhood in Dickens and Twain.  I just wish people would *say* that.  A little encouragement would go such a long way.  Not the grim “You’ll get through it” that people seem to espouse as some form of motivation.  It shouldn’t be that way.  Tell me it’s hard, that’s fine, but also tell me that there’s some magic in there, something good.  No, I may not be able to write, or do much of anything, but tell me that really seeing your baby’s face and seeing your own features or your partner’s reflected in it is incomparable.  Tell me how happy all the relatives will be to meet the baby.  Tell me that somehow it brings you and your partner closer.  Tell me something good, for Pete’s sake.  Don’t you think I need to hear it?

Ultimately it was MR who got me realizing that there would actually be good stuff in the midst of the two week haze.  He said that whenever he announced a happy change, it was always met with an exhale of air and some dire warning.  When he got engaged, everyone who was married said “There goes your independence.”  When we bought the house, all the homeowners said “There goes your money.”  I don’t know if this is a British thing, or just a people thing, but it made me realize–getting married was stressful (and was made more so by certain Departments of Immigration which may or may not be shut down by government crises at the moment), but even with all the planning and rushing around the two days before the wedding, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.  The best to date, really.  Moving house was again very stressful, and packing wasn’t much fun, but setting up our new house as distinctly ours was.  We bought all this great furniture and painted things how we liked them, and it felt really good to do that and build a home with someone.  And now I get to walk around the house and know that it’s *mine* (well, half of it anyway), and that I’m not answerable to any landlord.  So clearly the same is going to happen when we have this baby at last…isn’t it?  If you have any words of encouragement, I’d really like to hear them.

The new (royal) addition

Ok, I admit it.  I’m kind of interested in this royal baby stuff.

I choose my words carefully there.  Some people are enamored with the idea and going gaga.  MR was reading me posts off his decidedly more British Facebook feed where people were crying RULE BRITANNIA in all caps.  That’s not me.  Several of my British friends are taking a far more republican slant and expressing their disgust at the hullabaloo over the birth of a baby.   One is annoyed because she is on the verge of giving birth herself and is more focused on her own baby, yet everyone keeps texting her about the royal baby as if she cares.

I fall somewhere in between.  I am absolutely not a monarchist, but I do find all this interesting.  The birth of the prince is historic, because he’s not just another baby, important only to his parents.  One day he will be the King of the United Kingdom, and the remnants of the empire as represented by Commonwealth.  That’s rather a big deal.  This is an event that has been celebrated for centuries, and the lack of a son has caused war and unrest throughout England, brought in new dynasties, and, arguably, paved the way for women as rulers in the Anglo world.  It’s interesting.

I also feel a connection of sorts with Will and Kate.  Prince William is around my age, which is something I’ve always found cool.  I always looked for people who were my age in both life and fiction because it meant they were going through the same stages of life with me.  And indeed, this is certainly true for the Duke and Duchess.  They got married a year before me, and they’ve now had a baby just a few months before me.   Except everyone cares a lot more about what happens to them.

I watched the royal wedding, but this is not surprising, considering how much time I spend watching Say Yes to the Dress and other shows  in the TLC Friday wedding lineup.  Even after my marriage last year, I still get drawn in by the snarkiness of the UK version of Four Weddings (and think how my wedding is better) and the fun of Don’t Tell the Bride (and think how my husband had much better taste).  It follows naturally, then, that I should watch the royal wedding in all its panoply and fabulous dresses.  Seriously–a knockoff of Kate’s dress was second choice for my own wedding dress.

My husband, as I mentioned, is virulently of a different tack.  He posted about exactly how little he cares, and got rather ranty about it.  Last night we were talking and he mentioned that he realized through all of this that he was definitely a republican.  Not in the American sense of the GOP, but in the sense of res publica, a thing of the people, rather than a monarchist.  This got me thinking.  Perhaps I’m interested because I have the luxury of detached interest.  Yes, this is a chapter in history, yes the idea of actual princes and princesses is like a living story book, but this is not my future king.  I may live in the UK, but I’m still an American citizen.  The idea of royalty is the stuff of legends, not reality–all of my government is directly elected by the people.  This all sounds very high minded, and practice has shown that directly electing leaders does not necessarily guarantee better ones (*cough* Dubya *cough*).  On the flip side, the hereditary House of Lords often makes wiser decisions than the crazy-ass Senate.  In then end though, it means that I was raised very republican indeed, and I can’t imagine any other way of living.