Monday, July 1, 2019

Focus on My Mental Health - pt. 18 - The Best Friend Equation

     Even after some forty years and a few days on this earth, I realize that there are some things that never change about me.  Maybe the way I handle them changes, but the basic, deep down issues that affected me thirty years ago, bothered me twenty, ten, and even now.  I think we all have problems that we must handle at some times in our lives over and over again, and sometimes we don't know even know they're popping up again until you can do that 20/20 look back thing and realize, "oh crap, it was THAT again".
     Today on my long ride home from the dentist (thank goodness my husband could put me on some of his insurance even though neither of us wanted him to put me on his normal healthcare, I will survive) I started thinking about the people that I talk to and the friends that I've had over the years.  
     I might be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that most humans have a need for close human relationships, and even if we get very overwhelmed by some of them (like those of us who are introverts and need to refill our emotional bank accounts from time to time) we still need that human interaction.  In order to get that interaction we look for people who are typically like us enough that they don't drain us mentally (or physically) and we can stand to be around for more than a few minutes at a time.
     Children, when they are introverted like I was, tend to be seen as "shy" around other children.  Over the years I've realized that I was never shy, I actually craved to be around people.  But I wanted to be around different people.  These friends this day, this friend this day, this group the next, and I could handle it and I fed off of that need.  But just like an extrovert, if I had too many days by myself I would spiral into depression and self-pity and misery.  The only reason I knew that I was more introverted though (as my mom would tell everyone "she never used to be this shy") I was just as likely to sit and read a book by myself in school and I could deal with being completely alone and not reaching out to anyone.  I never got bored of activities by myself, so long as I got over the hump of depression that came from having plans cancelled on me.
     So, as children, we start looking for those people who we can depend on being around on a regular basis.  We find a neighbor we can knock on a door, or see out in their backyards.  We find school friends who will always be in the class the next day and maybe they'll come to your birthday party.  We start looking for the "best friend" because those are the people you can come to depend on being there when you most need them to get over that introverted streak, and they're also those people who will sit there reading in the quiet when you need that as well.  (Unless you're outgoing and you have a different set of criteria, but you're still looking for someone who fills your check boxes.)

     When we get older, obviously our lives get in the way, but we all look for that one person (or people) who is there for you all the time, you can call your "best friend" and in the teenage years it's most likely a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, whatever you want out of your life, they're there to fill it.  Sometimes you marry, sometimes you live together, sometimes you only talk to them online, whatever it might be, you need that emotional connection to a single person (or perhaps a few if you're really lucky) to just feel whole.

     Here's where things get tricky, and this is where the title comes in "the best friend equation" is that even after we find a lot of friends, we still think about one over everyone else.  And that person we call our "best friend" and it's usually the person you're married to, living with, etc etc.  But I think once you've been comfortable in that relationship for a long time your brain might still want another connection with someone else.  Someone you can talk to about all of the things you do with that person in your life.  After all, your husband/wife/partner/etc knows everything about you already.  They're always there experiencing the same things you do, so you don't need to tell them about what you did earlier that day while driving home.
     There's a weirdness to it, and this is why I'm bringing up the fact that even though I am happily married and I feel like my husband is indeed my best friend, I also sorta want a best friend who is a female in my life.  Someone I can talk to about girly things that might make my husband a bit uncomfortable.  Or maybe we don't need to talk about those things but sometimes I just want to share little quirks about my husband without sounding like I'm nagging about him, and for that I'd like someone (besides my mom, because that's even kind of embarrassing for me at times) to be that "best friend" as well.
     I've been this way for over thirty years, maybe longer (I'm not sure when I picked my first best friend, maybe when I was five?) and I doubt it will ever completely fade because I recognize this need and urge to have someone important in my life.

     The friends I have in my life though, even though they are all terrific and I love them all dearly, all have "best friends" of their own.  But I do feel like sometimes even they want me to be their best friend only, even as they call someone else their best friend.  I don't mind, and that's something I've had to realize about myself is that you can be friends with someone without being their only friend, and accept that they aren't telling you about their deepest, darkest secrets because someone else is getting to hear all of that - and it's OKAY.

     It's OKAY to not be someone's best friend.

     It's NOT OKAY for you to expect to be someone's best friend when you yourself consider someone else your best friend.  But it's a damn well hard thing to accomplish because you become super possessive of these friends because you love them and you want what's best for them.  And maybe you believe that YOU are what's best for them, and it's really hard to just let it go.

     And that's where the best friend equation fits in.  You most certainly can be a best friend to someone else but also not be their best friend.  You can be a really great friend to a bunch of people but when they go home at night they're not thinking about you.  You might be thinking about them non-stop (like most of us anxious types are... I still think about almost every person who called me a best friend, it's like a non-stop wheel of - what did I do wrong, why aren't we friends anymore???) but they don't have to be thinking about you.  Maybe they do, maybe they send you a message or text, maybe they send you a meme online, but the rest of the time they're busy thinking about other people.

     I thought about these things on the way home today because I have a couple of friends who were both trying to get me to work with them, and I'd love to work with either (I loved it even more when I got to work with both of them!  But we can't have everything all the time.)  And I thought about how I felt like I was betraying one by applying to one job, and then betraying the other when I didn't get that job and applied at the other one.  They both have their own sets of best friends so I've never gotten super duper close to either, but the thought crept into my head - would they feel betrayed, or sad because I worked with one and not the other?  Would they feel like I was less of a friend to them then to the other?  
     I don't know.  And then it occurred to me that this is the weirdest thing to be thinking about at forty years old.  By this age we all should be secure in our friendships enough to handle it, so why was I bothered by something that a ten year old would be obsessed over?

     Because we don't change.  We always want close relationships.

     And that's what I'm dealing with today as I cross my fingers I can get a job somewhere with someone before my birth control pills run out and I need health insurance again.

     I think I still have a long way to grow still.

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