This post is in two acts (yes, that is a nod to This American Life). It’s about contemplating and wanting to improve some aspects of my non-familial relationships.
Partially it’s hormones. At least that’s what I tell myself. More likely, it’s something to do with my personality. What am I talking (er, writing) about? My apparent need to have one conflict going at any time. Not ever single day, mind you, but frequently enough to form a noticeable, and somewhat disturbing, pattern. It’s almost like a compulsion. Like eating that extra brownie (or three) even though you know you’re going to feel icky afterwards.
On the bright side, I guess it means that I don’t have any trouble serious enough in my life to distract me from these petty grievances. Thankfully. However, it’s tiring to regularly have something dramatic occupying my mind and emotions. It typically manifests with someone who’s not a friend, but that I interact with recurrently, and have at least one common character trait. I think that’s the main thing. The person who I’m clashing with I clash with because I’m reminded of myself in some way which I don’t enjoy.
Why? Why does this crop up on such a regular basis? Am I that bored? Do I really need something negatively charged to focus on? Also, why does it bother me so much? After all, it’s normal to have interpersonal conflicts. Look at how many different categories there are. Perhaps it’s naive to think that I’ll get along with everyone all the time. But, there’s my idealism and perfectionism rearing their heads, as they often do. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want to curb this habit.
So, why does it occur? Because I let it. When something starts to get under my skin, I obsess over it. In incredible detail I rehash the offensive interaction, usually focusing on how ridiculous the other person’s behavior is (because I’m obviously perfect, without any fault whatsoever).
What to do? Rather than becoming obsessive when I begin to feel these emotions arise, I should flip my focus to myself. See how I am contributing to the conflict. Then, when I know I’m going to be in a situation with the person of interest, I need to prep myself for the encounter and have a mantra like, “Don’t be diabolical.” Also, I was thinking that if I spend less time inbibing pop culture (cough cough Hulu) and more time immersing myself in good hashgafa (ahem, Mesilas Yesharim), maybe I can slant myself towards a more favorable reaction when I’m in trying situations.
Here’s something which I occasionally see as a flaw, and occasionally could care less about. This regret is the regret of feeling like I’m not a great friend. What? Yeah. Why? Mainly because for most of my life I’ve spent time initiating new friendships rather than maintaining old ones. Also because I want to be friends (or at least liked) by everyone and therefore feel like I don’t get to develop deeper relationships.
Sometimes I think it’s because we moved around a lot when I was a child (yes, the ever-popular blame-it-on-my-childhood approach), which resulted in cultivating good friend-maker skills. It really hasn’t changed much as I’ve grown older. In college I bounced around a lot, traveled abroad, switched social circles at least a couple times. Then, after college I became frum, so again I changed circles. Then I went to Israel for a year. Then I got married moved to my husband’s city, and then moved again five months later. Now we’re in a semi-transition mode. We know we’ll be here for three years, but don’t know if we’ll have to move again once my husband’s residency is finished.
There were people in each place and time who I genuinely liked and would love to be in touch with. But I’m not. There are a few people who I’m still in touch with, but I have to say I don’t make a lot of effort. If I’m picking up the phone, I’m usually calling my mom.
Maybe because now I’m more immersed with my husband, my baby, and that, as stated, the person I call the most is my mother, so I don’t make as much time for friends. I still wish I did. I’ve heard that really all a person needs is one close friend. But if I have to make a new close friend every two years, am I even capable of having a truly close friendship? And there are so many likable people around that I want to spend time with.
Honestly, most of the time this doesn’t bother me. I’m happy, and I like the friends I have and the friends I’m still in touch with. What triggered this regret was seeing some posts between friends on Facebook. Posts between people I wish I had been closer to, that I wish I could be more in touch with. Posts sharing inside jokes, sharing pleasant memories, sharing warm fuzzies. I felt out of the loop. And I want to be in every loop!
So, that’s the rub. It’s impossible to be in every loop. If I take it personally that I’m not everyone’s best friend, well, that’s just ridiculous.
That’s the gist of it. Relating to people is an important part of living, and wanting to do it better is a worthwhile endeavor. It takes effort, of course, but it’s totally gratifying. Now I just have to remember and attempt to improve.