Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sin of the week, 2/10/08

Forget for a moment that I spent enough money on the upper regions of my head this week to provide food, shelter, and medical care to a child in a third world country for five years.

Forget also that I picked my cuticles and thought about football in church and that I neglected my job and, oh, bought a computer two times more expensive than was strictly necessary.

This week's crime is nothing new. It is a pernicious and well-worn habit. It is the worst thing about me.

Reader, I am a terrible friend. Sounds really un-sexy, as crimes go, doesn't it? Well. I suppose it is. But if you knew the extent to which I am guilty of this, you'd be rightly disgusted.

On the right, you'll find Newsy on my friends bar. We met nineteen years ago in college and have been friends all of those years, but for one thing: I never, ever call her. In fact, at this very moment, I owe her at least twenty phone calls. That's right: twenty. I am pretty sure that her mom had surgery for breast cancer recently. Her father has been in poor health for years and she has the same tiresome problems that I have. Except that she is about 1000000% times more busy than I am. And yet she still calls me and makes the train of our friendship run without my help. I have no idea why she bothers because if it were up to me, we would have lost touch years ago.

Then we have Skate. We have been friends since just about the moment I moved to New York. He is a lovely guy and one of the more fun people I have ever known in my entire life. He's also wicked smart and did I mention the fun? Well. Skate has been trying to get me to go ice skating with him all winter. Winter is almost over. Last week he sent me an IM saying "I hate it when you drop me like this. Maybe one day when you decide you like me again, I just won't be here. How would that be?"

Did I answer? No. The scary thing is that when I finally get back to him, he'll forget my neglect without a grumble. Then he'll take me out for sushi and hold my hand for hours while I talk about my issues. He has been doing this for years.

This behavior drove my friend Lola so crazy that I am sure it is part of the reason she is no longer speaking to me. (Of course, she is not speaking to anyone and aside from a coded message left in comments on my birthday, I would be pretty sure she was dead).

Oh, and Jib? Oh my God. Six solid months of emails, phone calls and text messages. That I have not answered.

So why am I such an ass hole? I am sure you know there is no excuse. As I sit here, I realize that coming up with a decent explanation is pretty much impossible, too.


OK, I'll try.

I love people. I really do. The problem is that my relationship to the outer world is very different from that of regular people. I am so introverted that I am pretty sure I could successfully wall myself up in a cave with a life time supply of batteries and a laptop and never feel the loss of other carbon-based life forms. OK, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but not an extreme one. I love people. I like them, too. If you've been reading for more than a few weeks, you know that my family is pretty much the whole show for me.

My bad behavior, then, is driven by the fact that while I love people, I don't need them. If that disgusts you, I can understand why. But love doesn't beget need. Need begets love, perhaps, or children wouldn't grow up to love their parents. (Good thing, that, right? But I digress).

I love people. But I don't need them, and if you give me other items, issues, activities and obsessions...


A dash of drama in my family, three times more work than I can handle, a little narcissistic self-absorption, daily cookie resistance and some really filthy floors- and then get me to thinking about myself or drawing pictures for my blog - and my emotional resources fall below levels required for basic decency.

It is no mystery to me why I behave this way. The real mystery is why I have so many wonderful people - people who would drop everything to help me if I asked - people who would walk a mile on their hands just to amuse me, some who have stood by me for half my life - given my life-long neglect of them. All I can tell you is that Merry knows I have this issue and has chosen to roll with it. Pax has this issue herself and so she can roll with it too. Bibi and Sri absolutely hate it and seriously, they'd kick me to the curb if I were not so obsequious and pathetic when I finally call them back. The rest of y'all? I don't know how you put up with it. I don't know why you do, either. I don't deserve you.

So when someone asked me last week what I was "doing" for Lent, the answer was "calling people." Seems an odd way of practicing repentance and abstinence and humility, doesn't it? Well for me, it means I have to apologize to about fifteen people and it means I have to abstain from my shabby, delusional self-sufficiency and it means I have to be humble enough to admit that I cannot, in fact, make it all alone in a cave, however much my disordered brain thinks it would very much like to do so. I have not even mentioned yet that my neglect hurts people. It would be good if I could stop doing that and try to meet other people's needs instead of being satisfied that mine are being met because I have convinced myself that I don't have any.

Which, by the way, is total bullshit. Anyone who knows me in real life - or who has read more than three entries on this here internet diary - knows just how much bullshit it is. (it's a lot).

If you, reader, are still talking to me after reading this, I have no idea why.* I am clearly the Worst Person in the World. Oh wait, that's Larry. Oh, what the hell. Since it's Lent and everything, let's say we get over all that and forgive ol' Larry. After all, he is spacefuck crazy and while is behavior is worse than mine, his challenges are far greater, too.

See you tomorrow. (That is if you are still talking to me). (Please still be talking to me).

*Oh don't forget that I love you. And that you are beautiful. I am sorry. I can't help myself...


cajunvegan said...

Nina, I am the worst friend ever too. I just got an email from a friend I have totally neglected for over a year. Her stepfather died yesterday. I did not even know he was that sick. I am adding to my be the change New Years Resolution to be a better friend. I have a love-hate relationship with people. I can go without speaking to friends for months (some years). I don't know why I do it either, but is it a sin for me? for you? for others? Who knows, but I too don't deserve my friends lately.

Em said...

I love how I learn new words when I read your blog. Pernicious. . .I like it. . .the word, I mean.

This post is very interesting, Nina. And very honest - two of the reasons I think people gravitate to you and want to stick around when they get there even if you are not as you say a "good friend". You're interesting, and honest, and funny.

I have friends that aren't good about keeping in touch or returning phone calls and emails. But this is something I'm willing to accept about these people because I don't need them to need me in order for me to want them in my life. I like them for what they are not for how much and how frequently they demonstrate their desire for friendship to me. That isn't to say I don't occasionally express irritation at the neglect, because I do, but ultimately it won't kill the friendship. Sounds to me like your friends feel the same way, so I'd just go with it if I were you.

Happy Lent! (Is Lent supposed to be happy?)

LizB said...

Nina, this is something we have in common. I enjoy people, and I do have friends, but I don't feel that I need people. Even worse :::gulp::: I hate it when they need me. Nothing makes me stop calling/writing/visiting faster than a friend who tells me how much they need me. It feels like a weight around my neck to be needed, and I'm sure my therapist and I could identify and categorize all the many reasons why. The fact remains; I hate to be needed by anyone other than the core family and those that are the closest to me. I am a teacher; I spend all day long with about 120 teenagers who need me. I'm a mom; I live with two teenagers who need me whether they think the do or not. I am a wife; yep, he needs me too. I need to carve out a little space to take care of my own needs, and that leaves very little left over for anyone else. At times, I feel a bit apologetic for my behavior, but the truth is, this is who I am. One of my friends, whom I do honestly care about, is now not speaking to me because I ignored her when she needed me. (I felt she was exaggerating her need and panicking for no reason, but that's beside the point.) I believe that, as Em said, the people who want you in their lives are going to keep you in their lives, even if you are not demonstrative with your affection for them.

I used the word I a lot in this response, but for me, after years of always giving my whole self away, it's not a bad thing to focus more attention on me. If this is a sin, I'm on the mourner's bench with you.

P said...

I have to put things in my Outlook calendar like "Call your fucking father, you fucking ingrate" and "Why can't you call your friend who had a baby and just get it over with?" Somehow, this helps me get off my ass and do it.

My Reflecting Pool said...

If you have friends who accept your issues without issue, you are not a bad friend. Cheers to good friends!

jen said...

This is my greatest sin as well.

But I don't even like people. I love the ones I never take the time to contact and I have a general disdain for everyone else.

iFriends not included in that list, of course. Because I can contact you in my pajamas and not really have anything important to say. A safe distance the computers provide.

utenzi said...

Congratulations on being the second worst person in the world, Nina. I'm sure if you focus you can catch to Larry. There's little fame in being number 2. Ewwww. That's a gross thought.

That's a very original way to practice Lent, Nina. It's actually rather thoughtful-- which isn't going to help you catch up to Larry!

Tense Teacher said...

Lizb took the words right out of my mouth, nearly word for word, even. Wow.

Woodrow said...

That makes me feel special.

Finn said...

"while I love people, I don't need them."

That's so exactly it. I don't think I'm quite as bad as you are, but I'm not far behind. Not far at all...

Maggie said...

I gave up red meat and alcohol. And barrenness of the womb... I hope. This week is it, try #1, because I know you're wondering.

You do need people, and you know it, as you said. It is excellent that you're working on it, this is a great Lenten project.

Dude, call Jib, he deserves it. Go right now. See a movie with him, maybe something schmaltzy on Thursday.

And Skate? Send him up my way, we have a lovely skating pond in Boston and I too have not been able to get to it all winter.

By the way, it is sub-zero windchill up here today, so I wore your lovely Mittens version2 this morning for warmth. You are so beautiful, with all that richly tinted glowing hair, that I cannot help myself from reminding you that only a kind hearted giving and funny-in-a-wacky-sense person would make mittens for strangers.


nightfly said...

I tend to do this... maybe there's a support group for Friends who Forget to Call Friends. (Unfortunately nobody would ever arrange the meetings.)

Avitable said...

I have friends like you. I stick by them, though. I know they're always worth it in the long run.

Nina said...

cajunvegan, I don't deserve my friends. A few of them are not emailing me back because I have been such a jerk. I can't say I blame them.

Em. yeah it's a good thing there are people in the world like you. Or I would have no friends at all. Also, uh, Lent is sort of like happy but not really. It's not really the point but it can be happy. Like if you succeed in resisting cookies or something.

LixB, totally hear you. I am so completely drained just by doing what I do. It's less than you do, but it drains me. Completely. Nice bench, right?

P, I have tried putting things on my calendar but I find that calling and emailing people just leads to more calling and emailing and also seeing. I am powerfully lazy and super-introverted. I so need therapy. Why am I not in therapy?

Pool. cheers to good friends!

Jen, you are one of my favorite iFriends. I sent Julie your URL this afternoon and she IMed me a few minutes later and said "she is one of us." And I said, "yep. She is." You totally don't have to get out of your pajamas for me. Ever.

Utenzi, news from the Larry sector is light but I hear he is only sleeping with one person. That we know of. So I might be just about as bad as he is by now.

Tenseteacher, yeah she said it better than I did. Darn it.

Woodrow, you used to be special to me.

Finn, if you glance around this here comment board, you will see that pretty much everyone on here is like us. So we are not alone.

Maggie, so glad you got them and put them on! Oh and i hope your barrenness dissipates! And you are one of my favorite internet people! (Oh also whoever that was who offered to send you a straw of frozen sperm? He's not to be trusted. Believe me. I know).

Nightfly, yeah I would send out the email for that group and then go AWOL. It wouldn't work. But I did email four people I have been bad to today. I hope they have not given up on me.

Avitable, that's excellent news because I am pretty sure I'll be neglecting you very soon for absolutely no reason. Don't take it personally.

LAS said...

I'm getting to this post a little late - sorry! I'm still catching up from my hiatus of sorts (or freak out is a more appropropriate characterization). I just want to say that I understand - I relate. I often convince myself that I don't "need" people either, when in fact it isn't true. And there are certainly people that I have behaved similarly towards. I thought this was a well done post. It really made me think about this. I have said many times, literally said this out loud to people - anyone (and I do mean absolutely anyone) in my life could disappear without warning and I wouldn't care. How horrible is that? Well, I've grown closer to people over the past couple of years, but for me, manitaining a wall between myself and everyone else is just a defense mechanism. You know, a way to keep myself from being abandoned, i.e., I will abandon you before you have the chance to abandom me. Anyway, I think you are awesome!