To those who have been following the journal of my latest relocation, integrating my life into the home of my oldest, best friend, I submit this latest recount of the process. To new, readers I present an object lesson, and to those who’ve figured life out, my apologies for the rant.
Throwing the Gauntlet
My presence in our new home brought change for Erin as much as for me. For many readers change is no big deal, but as we age – the longer we age – especially while working through mental health issues, we want to wrestle it, pin it to the mat. I understand this and had assumed Erin did too.
We had always stayed in touch, but we hadn’t lived together in over thirty years. A lot of water flowed beneath these two bridges. She lived alone for the past three years while I often longed to. I mostly enjoyed the three years I lived in my beautiful apartment – alone and lonely for my friends and family (who lived at least an hour away – too far for young families or my old truck to drive every week).
So, here’s these two old broads, best friends for over half a century, experiencing our first upset with each other in over thirty years.
For three months I had collected little straws, petty little things that bothered me and sometimes disrupted my routine. Thinking they were too insignificant to mention, before I realized it I began to feel like the haystack was going to break this camel’s back.
Now y’alls probably never do that, or if you did it happened once – just once. Doing it more than once is just stupid. As if three years of counselor training hadn’t taught me better, I had surrendered weeks of joy to frustration, and still I was reluctant to talk to Erin about it.
Growing up in a violent, dysfunctional family ingrains a reluctance to confront, or it encourages emotional bullies. I’m intimated by how easily I pivot toward both. So, I didn’t want to offend her – and then have to live with the repercussions.
I grew up with Erin’s family. Now as adults I recognize how she and her siblings bear crosses between them they have no business shouldering. I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t the first time I found some degree of comfort seeing her family is not perfect either. Now I realize they too sometimes transfer their feelings to each other or overlook their responsibilities for their choices occasionally. So, I held it all in, keeping my concerns to myself and carrying my burden alone.
Once I realized it was a big deal I started worrying the next straw would blow the roof off our home sweet home. I’d begun ranting to the cats when Erin was out of the house. Coco’s blinking at me dispassionately made me feel resentful (we’ll blame her – she doesn’t care). I was angry from ignoring all those sore little straw scrapes. That left me feeling frustrated, hopeless and ultimately fearful.
My moods weren’t lost on Erin either. Several evenings she came to my doorway asking, Do you feel any better yet? Are you angry at me? Are you still happy here? Because that was usually late for me I was tired
(so not entirely approachable) and I can be bitchy, I’d tell her everything’s fine. I lied.
My. First. Conviction.
With that I began to actually think. By not talking to Erin had I been packing casings with my issues, loading them into the .45, and then pointing it toward my foot?
At the peak of this madness sister Ellie called me, casually asking as she always does, “how you doin’.” It was a surface level, polite question. In my state of mind, I ass-umed she and Erin must have talked about my moods. But because I won’t talk to Ellie about Erin, I couldn’t honestly answer her. Instead, my dam broke and I cried. I told her I’ve been depressed and it had me worried.
After saying the “D” word aloud, I realized I had to buck up and somehow talk with Erin about what was troubling me. That started my second conviction: years of misdiagnosis and medication gorking me out unnecessarily proved I don’t suffer from depression. I know this, but each body ages differently. I lamely reasoned being sick seemed much more palatable than accepting I’d been cowardly. That bird didn’t fly far.
I was glad Erin spent the next few days at Keira’s, so I could think, play positive, encouraging music 24/7 pray (aloud) and fast. The cats disapproved, but quickly got over all the noise.
The night Erin returned home she came to my doorway (yeah, around ten p.m.). I’d just started to drift off to sleep, so I don’t remember what she asked me. Hopefully I mumbled something to the affect of Goodnight, but I heard her say as she walked away, “You didn’t answer me.” Exhausted and still reluctant, I let it go for the night.
The next morning I made Erin’s coffee, my double espresso latte and woke her early. I read to her from “The Love Chapter” of the Bible***. Then locking eyes with hers said, “I don’t have to remind you I love you. I’m not running. I’m not depressed, but I am sad and a little scared. We must hunt the elephants.”
We talked back and forth for hours, continuing the conversation on-and-off all day during my breaks. Sure it was a short work day. My writing probably took a few hits with the weeks of distractions, but today we’re both talking and feeling much better.
As we age changes, confusion, and some hard feelings are natural. This is particularly so for unmarried people, these feelings can escalate astoundingly quickly and easily develop into withdrawal, isolation and despondency. As we diligently invest in our relationships, the odds for problems decline significantly. In our house we chose to invest and accept deposits as well.
A fool would throw away a fifty-something-year-old friendship. I can be silly sometimes, but I’m no fool – not yet.
Erin has my six and I’m on her nine. To this she says, “Sure, point out my side’s bigger than your skinny, old side.” We enjoy the pun, even if nobody else does.
*** “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)