I had recently received an e-mail from a guy who was a friend at the place where I used to work. I was really kind of touched that he bothered to send me a short note…just asked how I was and if I was working again yet. I responded briefly (doing okay…not working yet…how are you doing?) and asked him if he would like to meet for coffee after church on the upcoming Sunday. Just to get caught up a bit. As I said, he was just a friend; nothing romantic going on. I thought it would be nice to see him, to find out how things were going for him under the new ownership (it had been touch and go for him at one time) and see what new things were going on in his life. I sent the e-mail on a Monday. When I hadn’t received a response by Friday, I sort of got the message. He wasn’t interested in getting together. Which is fine. Many times, work friends are just work friends. It doesn’t translate to an ongoing friendship once you are no longer working together. It kind of hurt a tiny little bit, but it wasn’t a major blip on the emotional radar. I had simply hoped that, since he reached out, he still wanted to maintain a casual friendship. Which would have been nice. But wasn’t necessary.
He did finally respond. At 10 a.m. Sunday morning, he called my cell and left a message. Imagine the most tortured, reluctant sounding tone of voice possible. “Hey, I GUESS we can get together for a few minutes today if you want. I get out at 12:30. Call me.” He guessed he could force himself. Just for a few minutes. If I wanted him to make that sacrifice. Seriously, it sounded like he was going to be submitting to torture rather than to a 30 minute coffee break with a friend. Suddenly it wasn’t such a minor little blip. Suddenly, it really hurt.
I had to think about the call for a bit before responding because it took me a little bit of time to sort out what I felt after listening to his message. About what he said and what he didn’t say, but what could so clearly be heard in his voice. I mean, I know I’m not the most wonderful, incredible, super-duper loveliest person on the planet. But am I so horrid that even the thought of meeting for a short time for a cup of coffee is TORTURE?
After much contemplation, I texted him and said, “Sorry I missed your call. I have other plans. Take care.”
It was a lie. I didn’t have other plans. But even I have limits. And I just couldn’t stoop low enough to make it okay to meet with this now ex-friend from work. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. Which is maybe an improvement for me. Considering how little I think of myself. Considering how disgusting I think I am.
The whole incident brought to the forefront a much bigger issue I seem struggle with. Friendship. Connections.
Although I am pitifully isolated, I do have a few people I consider friends. A few of those people I consider friends are even what I would call good friends. Not really close, but good. But the problem I seem to face in every single friendship is that those friends don’t really make space for me in their life…at least not very often. They are busy. They already have a full plate. They have families. Close friends. Church friends. Couple friends. These are the people they give the bulk of their time to. If they have any time left over, which is rare, they work me in. So I’m forever asking if there might be a time for us to get together for a cup of coffee and forever getting the answer that maybe they will have some time next week. I’m used to the rejection. I really, truly understand the time deficit most of us operate under. With work, family, relatives, close friends and church friends with whom we do the bulk of our extracurricular activities, there isn’t a whole lot of time left over.
I’m no ones priority. I don’t fit neatly into a convenient category. I’m a 5th wheel, to boot. I get it. I understand.
But when someone who is supposed to be a friend calls me at the last minute to respond to a request to get together and sounds as if I’ve asked him to stand before a firing squad where he is sure to meet his death, even I am a bit wounded. I understand I’m not a priority. I’m not a close friend. I’m not on the A list. Or the B list. Or even the C list. But spending 30 minutes with me over a cup of coffee to chat isn’t the same as facing a firing squad – it truly isn’t. And a person should be able to say yes or no without sounding like it’s the most distasteful thing they’ve ever been asked to do. I mean, really? Is it REALLY that bad? Am I really that bad? Would it really have been that horrid of a sacrifice?
He wasn’t a close friend. But my list of friends isn’t very long. And he was one of the rare unmarried few in my age bracket…not so many family things going on, no close relatives…so supposedly we could do a few things together to beat back the loneliness that so often haunts us single folks. Supposedly, he had a little more time to spare. Unlike all my other friends. Who are married. Who are crazy-busy.
I’m feeling rather despicable at the moment. To be fair, feel this way easily and frequently, even without such obvious rejection. But it’s still bothering me, days later, and I can’t quite get it out of my mind. I fight feelings of worthlessness on a daily basis. I struggle constantly with feeling that I have nothing worthwhile to offer. That I need to ask next to nothing of those who are unlucky enough to be a miniscule part of my life and be glad if I get anything at all at those times of great need. I feel like I need to be self-sufficient. I try very hard not to bother anyone at any time for any reason. Do I long for some human companionship? Oh, yes. I do. I’m so lonely, it physically hurts. But I work VERY hard to not be needy. To give way more than I ever take. To shut down my needs. Because it’s not acceptable to need anything from others…not for any reason.
I wasn’t asking anything of this supposed friend other than a half hour of time over a cup of coffee on a cold and rainy November afternoon. It was too much. If that is too much, what IS acceptable? He could have just said he was busy or that his daughter was coming over or that he had other plans. Why make it sound like it was such an ordeal…just the thought of meeting with me for a few minutes?
Why is it so hard for any of my friends to fit me in here and there? Always, always, I come back to the one thing that is a constant. Me. There must be something about me. And that’s why I feel so bad. And that’s why I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe he’s reacting the way everyone reacts to me. Because I’m me. And having to spend time with me is such a nightmare, people can’t make themselves do it very often. That’s my fear. What is it about me that makes being around me so horrible? And how can I need even less and give even more so it won’t be so painful for them?
Perhaps it’s best to stop reaching out. To spare them. To remain alone. I don’t know if this would hurt less…or more. But it would, at least, keep me from being a bother. And that would be a very good thing. Right?