Normally Fucked Up

Jan 5, 2014 by

“Sometimes, I think the ‘normal’ people are just people you don’t know well enough yet.”

Jessica Walsh of 40 Days of Dating


          I hit the floor today. It’s been a long time (circa March 2013) since my hair has swept those bathroom tiles as I sob into nothingness. Clenching the ground to stop my body from shaking, clothed only by my underwear, I thought about how fucked up I am. Olivia had just reminded me so the night before. I thought about how vindictive I am. More of Olivia’s words were echoing through my mind. I thought about how hurtful I am. You see, according to Olivia, that’s the difference between she and I: I intend to cause pain; she does not. Right. I’m sure her spite flows from her mouth by accident. How could she possibly know that telling me she hates me, whether she meant it or not, would inflict as much damage upon me as I had caused her by bringing up the past and submitting our vacancy notice to our landlords minutes later? (Yeah, I really know how to add salt to a wound.) How silly of me to expect her to be able to imagine how her words or actions might feel to someone else. She never did quite grasp the concept of empathy. No, the difference between Olivia and I is not one of intent; it is one of ownership: I admit to my wrong doings; she does not.

          Over five years ago, Olivia abandoned our friendship for six months in pursuit of an interest she had developed that did not involve me. I was supportive of this interest until she allowed it to take over her life, made evident by vast changes to her personality, clothes, and friends. Though I was willing to be her cheerleader, I was not as exciting to her as the new friends that shared her interest, leading her to disregard me. Consequently, despite living together, we barely saw each other for the near entirety of our second year of university. This happened to coincide with a difficult time in my life that she wasn’t around to support me through, after I had spent my first year of university as her emotional clutch in support of a struggle in her life. I felt betrayed and discriminated against. If I named this interest that I speak of (I still have the sliver of respect for her required not to specify), you would likely agree that my feeling of discrimination was just. Broken trust, an obvious result of what happened, is hard enough to attempt to fix. (It never did get fixed.) Being discriminated against by my best friend is a far bigger issue. That best friend arguing that what she did was not discriminatory because she didn’t intend for it to be is the most insulting piece of all. Lack of intent does not excuse actions, especially actions that were repeated after their consequences had been brought to her attention. I don’t know what infuriates me more: her past actions themselves or her refusal to acknowledge them for what they were.

          More than half a decade later, I have not forgiven her. How can I forgive her for something she can’t even be sorry for, given that she’s deluded herself into believing it never happened? She’s told me that she’s sorry for not being there for me when I needed her, which I appreciate, but her apologies have always stopped there. I needed more than that. I needed her to admit that she set me aside because of different interests (for lack of a better way to phrase the situation without exposing her personal life), and I needed her to stop blaming our second-year battle on my jealousy of her new friends. (I admit that I was jealous. She was always with them, and I couldn’t compete because I didn’t belong. While that bothered me at the time, it is not the reason behind my years of anger toward her.) I needed that confession to give me a reason why I was so easy to toss aside. I am now accepting the fact that that closure will never come. It has occurred to me that Olivia genuinely believes she did not act in a discriminatory manner, while I truly feel that she did.

          There is nothing left to do but agree to disagree. She can look back on the fall of our friendship as she perceives it, and I will do the same. Regardless, we both know that our second year of university was the beginning of the end of our friendship. Any terrible things that I have said or done since – and I have said and done terrible, terrible things – were moves of retaliation. That doesn’t justify them. I could have proceeded as a good person by being better to her than she was to me. Instead, I used her actions as my permission to punish her. I chose to be vengeful. I decided to get her back. Spoiler alert: Revenge does not lead to happiness.

          Thankfully, I have learned from the experience. All new friendships that I’ve fostered or old friendships that I’ve revived since beginning The Happiness Experiment are healthy ones. I have more realistic expectations of friends now. I recognize that no single friend can be the be-all and end-all of my social life, nor do I want anyone to be. No one friend can support me through everything; but, collectively, my friends wholly support me by playing their individual strengths. To illustrate, some friends are great at dishing out sex tips, but are not so good at giving dating advice. That’s okay! I have other friends to fill the gap. In turn, I play my own unique role in my friends’ social circles. For example, I’m fairly good at reviewing written communication (texts to guys, emails to managers, etc) for tone, but I am definitely not the optimal friend choice for shopping sprees. As my social life has expanded, I’ve learned not to expect anybody to fulfill all of my needs. Furthermore, I’ve learned to let friends’ little mistakes go. If someone cancels on me without a valid reason (which I hate) once or twice, would I rather get pissed off or reschedule? Reschedule. The end. Moving on! With these reasonable expectations and a newfound ability to stop grudges before they happen, I’ve grown into a good friend, which represents something positive that came out of the lessons I’ve learned from my years-long war with Olivia.

          Sadly, the good-friend version of me has not extended to my relationship with my best friend. Our friendship has already declined beyond healing. My matured perspective of interpersonal relationships cannot elevate it. My relaxed it’s-natural-for-people-to-come-and-go mindset disappears in her presence. I have old expectations of her as my best friend that she doesn’t meet, and she has expectations of me that I won’t meet. The expectation of her that is of utmost importance to me is reliability. I wish that I could count on her. Since I’m wishing for the impossible, I’d also love if she could go back in time to second year in order to either erase it or accept me. (This is ironic, given that I no longer accept her for the person she is, because the person she is didn’t accept me. #immaturityatitsfinest) Meanwhile, she expects me to be involved in the aspect of her life that she shut me out of all those years ago. Not. Happening. She can’t dispose of my initial support like it was meaningless, throw me in the garbage for half a year, and then later demand my support back on the premise that I’m her best friend so I must display encouragement. That is not how taking something for granted works.

          According to Olivia, I should be over what happened in second year because it was a long time ago and her intent was not to hurt me. Since her first sorry-I-ditched-you-for-six-months (Sorry makes everything better. Didn’t you know?), I have had both of these arguments shoved in my face. Last night, I had enough. I was sick of being told that my feelings had an expiration date, so I crossed the line. I did it on purpose. I wanted to prove a point. I brought up something that I knew would cause her to spiral – something that someone did to her before our second year of university that she is still bothered by. (The thing about knowing someone as well as I know Olivia is that you know how to get them where it hurts. When you are ready to abuse that power, your relationship is in trouble.) I explained that, by her logic, she should be over her pain, because the cause of it was years ago. She is not. If she has the right to still be hurt by a long-ago event, I have the right to still be hurt by what happened in second year. I also forced her to consider that it probably wasn’t a big deal from the perspective of the person who wronged her, because that person may not have intended to hurt her. Regardless of intent, she was deeply hurt, making that person’s actions inexcusable, which is exactly my point. Olivia flipped her shit in response to my solid logic, so I clearly went about relaying my arguments the wrong way. Point proven? Maybe. I’m not sure which of my words she took in through her wanting to kill me. Worth it? No. Not at all. I cut her open. It felt vicious. I was disgusted with myself. Though she has pained me just as much by belittling second year, it was not moral of me to belittle her pain in order to be right.

          And so, I collapsed to the floor this morning, gasping for air to prevent myself from drowning in my own poison. As I stared at the bathroom ceiling from the ground, as I did so many times before The Happiness Experiment, I thought about how I haven’t moved – how I’m in the same spot that I laid in this time last year.

          No, I interrupted my thought process.

          No, I’m not.

          I’ve gotten up since then.

          I’ve found happiness since then.

          I’ve lived since then.

          All of that started with a moment not unlike this one, I reminded myself, a moment when I was sprawled across the same floor I’m laying on now. It was on this floor that I chose to save myself. With that recollection, returning to the floor was no longer a sign of failure, but a symbol of empowerment. I’ve been here less than ten minutes, I told myself. I recovered from over four years on the floor; ten minutes is nothing. Maria, you’ve got this, I talked myself up. Standing, I looked into the mirror and promised myself aloud that no one will ever again have the satisfaction of me stooping to the floor in fear of losing them. Fuck this friendship, I decided. I am not okay with being the person that it brings out of me. I am through.

          Oh, and if I’m fucked up, good. Everyone is exhausting themselves pretending not to be. I’m not going to follow suit, feigning perfection for a society with flawed expectations. Doing so does not make me happy. Like everyone else, I’m fucked up. I believe that makes me normal. Unlike everyone else, I’m not afraid to admit it. I believe that makes me different.

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  1. Selfish people have the tendency of not realizing how selfish they truly can be. Good on you for taking the step and saying ‘no.’

    • I think that my inability to come to terms with what Olivia did says a lot more about me than it says about her. She isn’t selfish. She did something that impacted someone else. I’ve done the same.

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