One of the most disturbing things I’ve realized about myself over the past few months is how very few close personal relationships I have anymore. In the past few years, I’ve let a lot of very important friendships just sort of slip away and I’ve become more and more isolated. And that’s a little scary, especially when I recently realized that I very much needed some friends.
I’ve never been a social butterfly. It takes a lot for me to consider someone a friend. I don’t like having a big entourage and I’m not comfortable at parties and in large groups. But I’ve always had a few very close friends I stayed in touch with on a pretty regular basis. I have a lot less of that now, particularly locally. I don’t think it has much to do with geography because it was happening even before the great move of 2005, although I did leave some very close friends in SF. And the big issue is not that I’m not making new friends, which is frankly a fairly common thing among people in my demographic, but that I’ve let so much of my existing social network slip away over the past few years. That’s the part that really concerns me. I’m not sure exactly how it happened.
OK, I do sort of know how it happened. A little of it has to do with being in a relationship. A lot of it has to do with pure selfishness and laziness.
I’m a person who needs a lot of time to myself. Upon entering a relationship, I found myself with much less of that. And I began preserving as much as I could at the expense of other friendships and relationships. It started innocently enough, an unreturned email message here, an avoided phone call there, and before I knew it, there were incredibly important people in my life that I was never really talking to. Eventually, I found that I wasn’t getting in touch when they had important things going on, wasn’t keeping up with their lives, and generally wasn’t “being there” for them. These friends would still keep up with my life, and they’d reach out to me. And I’d respond by making apologies and vague unfulfilled promises to stay in touch. And at some point, I realized I’d lost touch with a lot of people who had really cared about me (and the feeling was mutual, despite my behavior) and that I was suddenly without much of a social support network.
But I did have all the precious solitude I needed. I probably still had the friends, too, but I was reluctant to reach out in my time of need when I’d been so unavailable to them in the past.
And here I am. The way my life has evolved over the past few months has forced me to examine almost every aspect of the way I deal with other people and relationships, and I’ve found some things that are seriously lacking. As I try to reassemble my life, fixing these things, being more available to the people I love, and doing the work necessary to keep these friendships alive are big priorities for me now.
I am never going to be a terribly social person. Misanthropy is still very appealing to me as a lifestyle choice, and “community” remains a term I’m very wary of. But I don’t want to be completely alone, either. And I want to try to be a little more giving toward the few people I really love. I have given up on or otherwise frittered away too many important relationships in my life. Fortunately, a few of my closest friends have stuck with me no matter how little I may have deserved it, and I’m determined not to lose any of these few I have left. And I’m going to work on rebuilding some (if maybe not all) of the ones I abandoned.
Yes, I understand that it looks like I’m broadcasting things I should be saying to people face to face. I do that sometimes, but this time it’s because I thought this one was worth publishing. And because I’d like to be called on it if I don’t deliver.