- Politics and Social Issues
Being Un-Friended -- An Ongoing Injury
Overcoming the Stigma
At some time or another you have been "un-friended," and I'm not talking about the click of a mouse on Facebook or Twitter. Sure, being un-friended on a social Internet site can be painful, but there were (and are) existing methods for communicating the same message -- usually not with such precision or immediate comprehension.
My first experiences of being un-friended took place during 1-12 school years. Kids who I thought were at least casual friends would start to ignore me, cease to look me in the eye or utter a single word. To this day I do not understand why these circumstances occurred, but I attribute the "break-ups" to evolving social standards. While I was happy to talk to all echelons in my classroom, others began to make fine distinctions and begin a segregation promotion. Eventually, I caught on to the process, and reciprocated with an aloofness that rendered them all but invisible. It was a matter of survival.
I continued (and even reinforced) this feeling of separateness into my college years. Unless I received a rare nod or smile -- even with people with whom I had traveled through grammar school (or beyond), they'd get nothing in return. As a result I had very few acquaintances and a mere handful of actual friends.
I found it interesting that individuals who befriended me would, with the passage of time, turn distant and cold. For me, it was another unexplained mystery.
I do not think I was ever an easy person to get to know, and even a less easy person with whom to make a friend. I was introverted, lived primarily in my isolated world, and began to view cliques and other groups with a growing disdain. This "enforced" isolation helped carve out my personality. I became even more reclusive, unapproachable, detached and seemingly contemptuous of everyone I met.
I was blind-sided several times in my grammar school days. One day I was friends with a steady group of buds, and the next they were running away from me, snickering. Left alone, I began to read on my lunch breaks, and this actually turned out to be a bonus because I discovered the power of words and story telling.
The Next Test-Ground: The Workplace
In the work place, I made what I regarded as semi-friends, and this attitude served me well because the individuals I made an acquaintance with could seem like good chums until something turned them off. And I discount the idea that I was doing something to motivate their disconnection. If nothing else, for better or worse, my character was rock solid. I was faithful to a fault and did not suffer from wild mood swings. I considered my friends as equals and treated them as such. No, it was something in them that altered. Perhaps they found a more upbeat crowd, a more fun-loving group that provided them with laughs I couldn't provide (although I did not recognize it). Perhaps they just found another group to be more status-worthy.
Some friends simply moved away, and that was sad.
With the invention of email, I found that I could retain relationships that were destined to be separated by space. This form of communication has proven effective in the short run, but in the long haul, it's set up for failure. Although I've always responded to every email I've received, "friends" tended to trail off with their communications. I do not know what makes them do so. I am not sure if my messages contain too much negative information, or if they simply become lazy, or see no benefit in keeping up to contact.
The only time I can remember cutting off communication was when I told a close friend that I had cancer, and he had no response whatsoever.
Another friendship went on a long hiatus because the friend sided with my wife during a divorce. He later admitted (after getting to know my ex quite a bit better) that his approach was wrong. Thereafter, we reconciled and continue to send each other trivial emails. For whatever reason he cannot or will not delve into the more serious matters of life -- whether they concern my life or his, and this is unfortunate.
Given my present circumstances of being on disability and with no impetus to visit coffee houses looking for new pals, I see my chances of make new (close) friends as a thousand-and-one shot. And most of the time this doesn't perturb me because I've come to realize that friends are like a passing breeze -- they come and they go. I no longer put any "stock" into friendships because they are ephemeral, transitory and undependable.
People Who Need People
So, when Barbara Streisand sings "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world," I can only shake my head. I have a completely contrary point of view. My own standard is to be as self-sufficient as humanly possible. I find it much more satisfying to rely on my own strengths and fortitude than to look toward others (including relatives) for ... anything.
I have a wife, and even though I recognize an ongoing loneliness within myself, I "use" my spouse to unload a certain number of my inner-rumblings. I do not "unload" on her because I recognize she is carrying a weight of her own. And I let her unload on me. It is only fair. This should be the standard for anyone who is cohabitating.
Absorb The Pain
I substitute having a lot of friends to chat with by internalizing most of my suffering, uncertainty and other woes. I think that internalizing this negativity has made me much stronger in the long run. When something turns upside down, I do not go running toward my friends for empathy or stroking. I possess my fledgling belief in Buddhism, Taoism, a crappy belief in Christianity, along with the nothing-means-anything coda that brought me to modern science, and (as a last resort) my own moral code.
Isolation Without Despondency
I'm always open to a fresh friendship, but I would no longer be able to see it as a little treat along a road that is basically made up of utter isolation. This probably sounds sad (or maybe pathetic) but it isn't. There is really nothing dark or gloomy about isolation. When a person becomes comfortable with who they are, the isolation is nothing negative. After all, from birth to death we are in a state of isolation. Others can temporarily make us feel as if we belong in some small or vast grouping, but this is a convenient illusion. Real companionship would entail having someone occupy our mind simultaneously, and this is impossible. We all have separate minds, never to be paired with a single human being. Two minds in the same being would feel worse than sharing an apartment with your mother-in-law.
Alone Among Others
These realizations, which came about through a number of painful experiences, is good to know. Understanding the power and capability of the individual mind can enable an individual to transcend their reliance/dependency on others. Once free of these attachments/impediments, your true sense of being can start to flourish, the strength of individuality will gradually take shape, and you will understand the resilience of being your own person without buttresses. You can start to think of yourself as a tropical island, fully self-sustaining, within an archipelago.
People -- By Barbra Streisand
On the Wrong Train
An ironic way of looking at one's fate in life was captured brilliantly by Woody Allen in "Stardust Memories." In the opening scene of the movie, we find Woody on a train sparsely occupied by the most dour-looking people that could be rounded up.
The accompanying mood is depressing if not hopeless. Woody looks out his window, and finds that the train headed in the opposite direction is filed with happy, good-looking people in the midsts of a celebration. Unable to bear the contrasting worlds, Woody tries to flee the train car in which he occupies, but to no avail. There is no way out for him.
Sometimes a few of us must feel in a similar predicament -- knowing that one is headed in the wrong direction in life but cannot figure a way out. We all want to be on the happy train and enjoy life, but we seemed condemned to the train car with all the sullen passengers. The passengers represent aspects of ourselves that we'd happily avoid or do without.