12 August 2010

Truth

"It's not always all about you, Stacey."

I can't get those words out of my head.

**********************************

On Saturday, the Saturday just over a week ago, the twins and I headed north. We spent three nights on Hood Canal in Washington, a canal that is actually a fjord, a stunningly beautiful site with a rocky, oyster-covered beach. Every year since graduation, with only a couple of exceptions, a group of friends from my undergraduate years has gone on a long weekend trip together, usually to the Oregon coast but sometimes elsewhere. The trips have changed over the years from fairly wild booze-fests to family-friendly escapes. It's a tradition I've been amazed that we've been able to continue.

For the past few years, I've declined to attend. The year John and I got married, we spent an afternoon with my friends as part of our post-wedding getaway.* The next year, John was sick and I don't think I went but I actually can't remember. Then the next year the twins were just born, and we didn't go. Then John was dead, and we didn't go. Then last year, I went for one night, without the kids. This year, the kids were more grown up and I was more emotionally stable/mature/something and the setting was more conducive to families, and so we went.

I was filled with trepidation. There were logistical reasons I had not attended the trip for the past years, but the truth is that a lot of the reason was my emotional state. The year after John's diagnosis, there was no way I could have handled being around couples and families when I felt like life was cheating me out of much of the good in that experience. After John's death, I felt the same. It seemed beyond unappealing to me to be surrounded by families, dealing with the twins, surrounded by reminders of my loss.

I'm not saying this is all rational, and I'm certainly not saying that coupled life is all unicorns and rainbows and single parenting is all drudgery and despair. But I knew myself and my triggers well enough to know that I would not have enjoyed those trips at those times, and so I stayed home and that was all well and good.

This year felt different, though. I felt ready. I was ready. Overall, things went well. My friends were kind and generous with their help, allowing me to go on a run one day and a walk on another. I was actually able to help out with cooking and cleaning because Maddie and Riley were often off cavorting with the other kids in the attic or backyard, sometimes under the watchful eye of another adult, sometimes on their own; they are growing up. I was able to visit with my friends and relax. I got quite a bit of one-on-one time with both Maddie and Riley, which was rewarding for all of us. Maddie and Riley had a blast, and have been asking to go back ever since. Success!

These trips, though, never go off without some drama. You put that many people in that small a space with that much history, add in a lack of sleep and an extra glass of wine, and something's gotta give. And it did.

A tip: having six kids ages four and under share a bedroom is not actually that big a deal once they are all asleep. Getting them to sleep can be tough, and then disparate morning wakeup times can cause stress, but the hours in-between are surprisingly peaceful.

Let's get back to those going to sleep hours, shall we? Monday night, things got a bit rough. Long story (not very) short, I asked a friend if she could take her baby out of the room for a bit to allow Riley to go back to sleep. I could have offered to take Riley out of the room instead, or I could have just explained to Riley that he needed to wait a few minutes for the baby (who was making happy sounds, just loud ones) to settle down, but that's not what occurred to me in the moment. My request was met with some tension, and I reciprocated with some tension, and then the baby was fetched and things felt kind of unsettled and weird.

Some fairly short time later, I saw my friend outside on the porch swing with the baby, and I thought I'd go hang out with her. I was surprised to find her with tears in her eyes.

"I'm sorry if I upset you," I said.

And her reply was the quote that started this post: "It's not always all about you, Stacey."

I was totally caught off guard. And I was really hurt, and angry. My first reaction was to storm off. But then I turned around, because this person who said this to me, this is my best friend. She's really nonconfrontational. And if she was saying this to me, it needed to be addressed.

I don't know what to say about the conversation, really. The most tidy summary of the end result is that we're both too busy to help each other in the way we'd like. That's my biggest takeaway, in any case. I think it was important for my friend to have me acknowledge that I'm not the only one whose life has challenges, that we all struggle and that we all need a hand, that tragedy does not mean that I always get my way.

What made this conversation so difficult for me was this idea that she could truly be harboring this feeling that I think and act as though it is all about me. I have moments of self-pity, it's true, and I suffer a lot of raging jealousy about the logistical simplicity that the presence of another adult would lend to my life (yes, I know, with attending complications, too). And my loneliness of late is well documented. But I am quick, I think, I hope, to acknowledge the much that is good in my life and I try not to make comparisons and I try to be supportive and helpful and a kind friend.

Perhaps I am failing, or at least failing this particular friend. I've been turning it around and around since Monday, wondering if I really am so focused on me, so quick to compare the perceived relative simplicity of my friends' family life, too quick to judge others to have more global happiness than I do. Is that the impression I leave with those close to me? If so, I have a lot of personal work to do.

Over the past few years, I have not been the kind of friend I'd like to be, that much I know to be true. I'm not the kind of parent I'd like to be, either. After lots of talking on the porch, many nose-wipes on shirts and eyes wiped with hands, it was painful for me to acknowledge that doing my best still leaves some people in my life with times of discomfort in my presence, with a sense that my pain trumps anything that might be going on in their lives.

I keep typing away at this post, trying to express what happened during that conversation—a conversation that left me feeling better by its end, in that cathartic, let-it-all-out kind of way. There was no clear resolution to what we discussed, no specific changes to be made. But it's certainly given me food for thought on my behavior and actions. It's made me think quite a bit about asking for help, and the line between asking for help and being selfish. I try to be willing to take one for the team when need be. I have always tried not to wear out my welcome in terms of asking for help. I try to think of others. I do try.

Maybe I need to try harder.

*I realize that this is typically called a honeymoon, but we took what we call our honeymoon trip months after our actual wedding.

40 comments:

C said...

You know what? You HEARD her and took it in and examined your behavior. And to me? That means, even if you were making it all about you (and who knows? probably not), you aren't now and you didn't then when you turned around and went back to talk to her.

I have a friend whose husband has an illness that will eventually take his life. We're about 4 years into the 9-10 year lifespan. And I often feel like the worst friend in the world because sometimes? I want to scream that it's not all about her. My life has become quite challenging with my marriage on the rocks and issues with depression and yet, we only talk about her, her problems and what she needs. I have been wondering lately how much longer I can do this. But. I have to be there for her. If I pull away, that makes me a horrible friend who made it all about me. Ugh. Life is so hard, isn't it?
Thanks for such a wonderful post that really spoke to me.

liz said...

(((Stacey)))

Anonymous said...

Do you think it may also be that people feel bad/embarassed/etc complaining to you about their own lives and problems, knowing your life is much harder for much harder reasons?

Possibly your friend feels trivialized by her own problems, which are valid and real to her, but feels she cannot express herself because of what happened to John and what your life is like as a result?

It's like you hold the Trump card for whatever could possibly ail someone else.
You did not want this card, you dont want it now, but you still have it.
I know I would feel bad complaining about my everyday problems, which still need venting, to someone who has been through and is still going through so much more than what I am.

django's mommy said...

I definitely struggle with this dynamic with friends.

Previously, I was the one who had it relatively easy, the one who listened to all my friends, the "giver". Now, although I have definitely shifted away from those early days (read: first year) where I DID make it all about me, because that was all I could do to help me put one foot in front of the other and be a reasonable single parent... now, I still struggle. I am just more aware, I think, of holding that "trump card" whether or not I play it, whether or not I even acknowledge it... and like anon said, just the awareness of having it changes things I think.

I think I may have more to say about this, but need to think it through, instead of just verbally vomiting all over your comments.

Snickollet said...

Anon and Django's Mommy:

First of all, Django's Mommy, feel free to verbally vomit on my comments. This post felt really unformed to me, like there's something here I couldn't quite get to and I want to explore. Your comment and the other comments are helping me to get there.

OK, now I think you're both on to something here. While I certainly have taken more than I've given over the past few years, I also think that part of this issue is one of perception and comparison.

Everyone feels his or her own problems and struggles in an acute way. I try to remember this. It's a waste of time to compare who is struggling "more" or "less." Relative to what? If you hurt, you hurt, right?

And so I try not to compare. Emotionally, I think I do a pretty good job of this. I feel like I've been able to listen to "smaller" problems that people discuss with me--without trivializing them!--but only when they bring them to me or I am perceptive enough to ask about them. And if people are feeling stifled about talking about their problems with me because they perceive that in comparison their problems are trivial, well, I guess I need to be better about asking and being more active in showing that I give a damn.

I can give emotionally. Where I often end up feeling the pinch is logistically. I am frequently asking people to help me with the kids, with appointments, with picking things up, etc., and I have virtually no resources to give back in this regard. I am a logistical black hole. I keep my life together by a thread, and I need a lot of help to do just that. So this is an area where I wish I could help out more and where I feel like it's all about me and where I don't know how to make that better.

Anonymous said...

I commend you for such an honest post that did not put you in the best light. Strong post and we all can improve so give youself a bit of a break :)

Anonymous said...

Although it's a trivial example, I'll throw in a similar experience I had. My BFF through college (and matron of honor when I got married) is a teeny tiny skinny thing. I, most assuredly am not. I slimmed down to a size 12 for my wedding, which is very nice to do when you are normally bordering on a size 16. She complained that ever since she had kids, she's gone from a size 2 to a size 6. Well, let me tell you, I'd LOVE to be able to complain about a size 6, and said something snotty to her about it, totally uncalled for. She looked me right in the eye and said, "No one likes to go up two dress sizes. I'm allowed to complain about that!" And she was right.

It took me months to tell her that she was right, however. And there were many tense moments and acrimony before I could. I'm glad that you are wiser than I am to realize that sometimes you do have to look at yourself first and ask if others perceive your actions the way you intend. Kudos to you for getting past the initial sting of her words and using them to make things better.

Liz 2 said...

I don't think your comment "was all about you" or had anything to do with your loss. If the baby was mine and older children were having trouble falling asleep because of my child, I would have taken them out of the room. Maybe too simplistic of an answer but there it is.

ashleyjnc said...

I think you are beating yourself up over an incident that is not your fault.. older kids are harder to get to sleep than an infant, period. But it really wasn't about that, it was only a good straw to add to the camel's back apparently. I think you are not in a position that you did anything wrong, I think this friend is expecting just a little too much from you. Your life has been HARD... there is not a soul that would WANT to have went down the path you were forced to take. You handled it with grace, poise & finesse that very few people could. I think the comment has upset you mostly because you hate to burden people, ask for help, and say "I can't do this, PLEASE HELP!" (I used to hate to ask for help too!) So her comment most likely played in to your sensitivities and weaknesses and feeling like you have somehow imposed. In your friends' case it was probably the real drivel of her life that was catching up with her over some random event. Kind of like crying over spilled milk.... the spilled milk isn't that big of a deal but when your car had a flat, and your kids are sick and so cranky you can't stand it, and the furnace broke down and the electric bill is late the milk is just the catalyst for the tears... of saying "I hate my life, why is this happening to me?" But you got caught in the "lash-out" effect of someone conveinent being there to blame for the spilled milk instead of realizing the misery of just plain life at times! At least that is what I think. You are a good friend, you may not be able to give her what she needs, but that's okay... I'm sure when you were at your lowest you weren't given what you need by every friend. I really wouldn't let it bother me. Anyway there is my two cents :)

OTRgirl said...

I appreciate how you're trying to sort out what happened and what you're feeling about it as well as what you might need to change in your behavior. I think you're right in your comment response. People probably feel bad telling you their 'trivial' pain, but you're so right that pain is pain.

It's hard when you are juggling so much to focus on drawing someone else out to tell you what's hard in their lives. I commend you for being willing to try.

Maura said...

I agree with what C said... the fact that you are examining your behavior shows a lot of character and strength. Also, being clear about what you need and want from people does not necessarily make it all about you. If you kept it all inside and didn't ask for help then people would probably not instinctively know what to do to lend a hand.

This article made me think of you today after reading this post yesterday.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/health/views/17essa.html?pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me

Angela said...

I really admire you for taking the time to actually talk it out with your friend, I would probably have reacted badly and felt very hurt and angry and would have left feeling insulted. As you say, it's very complicated, and as she is your best friend, you needed to talk through this and see if what she says is valid or not. Only you can truly know.
About the logistical things where you ask for help, (picking the kids up, etc) frankly, if I was your friend, those are the things where I feel I was actually being useful and helpful. And, I wouldn't feel shortchanged in any way if you weren't able to reciprocate. Though if you think you're asking too much of your friends, ask them how they're feeling, maybe it will help you feel less guilty. It always helps to step away and view things from a different perspective, it's not always fun and it can be painful but I think we always learn something more about ourselves.

django's mommy said...

Stacey-
I think I'm going to have to find a way to incorporate the phrase 'logistical black hole' into my vernacular. :) Yeah, I totally feel that in my life as well, and I've only got the one child... What I've tried to do to "compensate" for all the help I receive from friends are things like having a friend's child over, paying for a babysitter, and then the friend and I go out to brunch, or go for a run [okay, not really, it just sounds like something I *should* want to do], or go shopping. Or offer to pick up their kids from school (same one as my son), things like that. It doesn't often work out, but I try to offer when I can. But yeah, bottom line is that we're single parents and we're limited in terms of logistical help we can give others.

But back to your friend-- of course I wasn't there, but it does sound from your description that even though the event was about logistics that there *was* a huge emotional component surrounding it. Like you, I try hard to acknowledge the 'pain is pain' mentality and to listen and ask about the day to day banalities that drive us ALL nuts, regardless of situation. But... there *is* that difference there, and I don't know that it's possible to "get past" it in a way. Like if I whine to my friend who has a special needs child. She may be gracious, and she doesn't trivialize, but I am cognizant of the fact that she would LOVE to have a child who doesn't give me a moment's peace b/c of all his questions. It just IS. I really think the best we can do is be upfront, acknowledge, discuss, and move past it. There is always going to be friend drama and relationship issues, regardless of whether or not we're widowed. It's just a matter of the content.

Lauren

Katie said...

I don't know all the subtext but I can guess. The years immediately following the birth of a child are so hard on marriages and relationships. I bet your friend struggles with sleep & her baby and she was hoping to get away with friends and not worry about it. But her sleep struggles (which lead to sleep deprivation and a general sense that every part of your life is falling apart) slammed smack dab into your bedtime routine. Add in a layer of survivor guilt (I bet her husband is alive and their relationship has struggled since having kids) and there you have it. I commend you for taking up the issue with her and I commend her for starting a dialogue (although she could've done it in a less hostile way). Too many of us allow passive aggressive b.s. to taint our relationships and it's refreshing to hear of friends that can cry together and snot on each other and not necessarily solve everything but at least get some catharsis and human connection. And one final observation: I don't know how you can do what you have done for the last few years without having it appear to be "all about you." It is all about you. Getting through it...which is what you're doing.

todd said...

what ashleync said.

Sadia said...

My situation is different. My husband is home every other year or so. Still, early on, I found that friends tiptoed around me when it came to discussing their parenting or marital woes.

I've had essentially the same conversation with each of these friends, and my side goes something like this: "We all have our challenges. They may be objectively bigger or smaller than someone else's, or bigger or smaller than challenges during other periods in our own lives. However, they are real. It's okay to reach out."

Now, those very same friends have started to come to me for advice, and sometimes even help, when their husbands or partners leave for a week or two.

I've had to go through my friends, one by one, and say, "Yes, I'm a working army wife with twins, but that doesn't mean I can't give as much as I take." It's a reminder to me, as well as an invitation to them.

Clearly, you recognize this big bag of complicated already, or you wouldn't have written about it.

Anonymous said...

Hm.

I always find there's this dialectic in my life. My life is really amazingly good in nearly all respects. However, as someone else mentioned, even amazingly good lives can be stressful. As a psychologist, I know that little stresses can add up until, altogether, they can weigh almost as much as a "big" stress. E.g., this past winter I was working full-time and part-time (because our pipes were about to go out in our bathroom and we needed to get the whole damn thing redone, ergo, needed extra money), with a 3 year old and an infant who were sick, literally, every other week for months, necessitating endless "rock-paper-scissors" battles as to who would stay home with the sick kid that day. My husband and I were also sick mulitple times, including a his-and-hers stomach flu episode that I'd really rather forget. My work was extremely stressful at the time, with several kids I worked with suicidal, manic, schizophrenic, etc. The weather sucked.

We had absolutely no life-threatening emergencies, no huge financial problems, no natural disasters. But I was hanging on by my very last thread. And while I obviously would not have traded my host of little stresses for one major one such as a severe injury or death in the family, what I have noticed is that other people are not usually willing to cut you much slack when you have multiple little ones, even though, collectively, they can be backbreaking. For example, I still had to meet work deadlines, child-care situations, shopping for and feeding my family, cleaning my house, etc., etc., with no extra help.

I guess this is an extremely long-winded way of saying that I wonder if this is somewhat how your friend was feeling when she made that comment on your trip.

Soon, Then said...

I just like you. I like your imperfectness and your willingness to look at it and analyze it and try to see whats really going on and what you might be able to let go of, or take on and address. That, my dear friend, is what life is all about. And you live yours with integrity and honesty and an openness that many will never achieve.
Thanks for letting us all see you in action.

Anonymous said...

what todd and ashleync said

carosgram said...

I had two children I raised by myself - a 4 year old and a nine month old. I had to go back to school and work at the same time to gain a career that allowed me to support them. I understand how hard it is both emotionally and logistically. However, I was still able to babysit for my friends, get groceries for them on occasion, do their dishes, etc. You suffered a terrible loss but it is a permanent loss and you need to plan your life without feeling it is unfair for you to raise your children alone. Of course it is unfair but looking at your life that way makes it seem as if you think you deserve special consideration from others, a 'break' that families with two adults don't get. If your child is having trouble sleeping then you need to attend to your child, not ask someone else to solve the problem for you. As you said, her child was not crying just making happy sounds before falling to sleep. The person having a problem was you and you needed to solve it yourself. The more you accept that you need to solve your problems yourself, the more you will do so and the more you will realize you can handle it all by yourself. It isn't always fun but it can be done successfully. You just need to see yourself as strong and capable and you will find that you are both. I don't mean to be harsh but sometimes you need to hear it the ways others may see the situation. Thinking of you and wishing you the best.

Nina said...

This post was really brave and I admire you for being able to examine yourself and try to see where your friend was coming from and what it means about you as a friend and a person, especially in a more "public" space (i.e. outside of your head, where most of my self-examination goes on).

I think the fact that you can do this, that you walked back to your friend in such a difficult moment, speaks LOADS about your character.

I would be willing to guess that a lot of it really isn't about you at all, and perhaps that's somewhat ironic given your friend's comment to you. What anon and django said makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, I think it's valuable that she was able to say that to you, to express her anger/hurt (which probably had very little to do with what happened with the baby and Riley) because I know you want friendships that are open and honest, even about the things that are hard and ugly.

What a good friend you are, because of and despite everything.

Amy said...

You sound too self-reflective to be a self-centered person. However, I do get the sense from your posts that you feel isolated from the rest of humanity by losing John and all the challenges that have come out of that. It's as if you feel set apart (against your will) from all the people who have more textbook, seemingly easier lives. That has to be a burden to you. And maybe it's a burden to your friends, too. Which is not your intention, of course. And that's different from being selfish.

One thing I have learned: Over the course of our lives, we will *all* be terribly unlucky in ways and terribly lucky in others, if we live long enough. I know of very few people who make it through life unscathed. Your time came early. That made you different from your peers. Maybe there will be more bad times ahead (I really hope not). But for now, your children are healthy. They're developing normally. You have a family that loves you, a good job in the city where you want to live. Now that you're out of the worst of the trauma, maybe it would be a worthwhile exercise to try to lessen your isolation. To see yourself as more a part of the larger human community again.

The irony is it seems like you're already starting to do that on your own. Just going on the trip was a step. No fair that you had to get called out just when you were making an effort! And I think your friend mislabeled it. It's not really selfishness.

Laurel said...

What Todd and therefore ashleyjnc said.

I only know of you what a person can know about someone from their blog, but although I understand you're an imperfect person, I don't get the sense at all that you have a significant blind spot around making it "all about you."

I wonder if, despite your followup conversation, there's a possibility that you misinterpreted her comment "It's not all about you" to, well, be about you :) She might have been saying, in effect, what ashleyjnc said. That she's just having a rough day and your bedtime/kids spat was just the tipping point; that it wasn't really you who caused her tears.

Anonymous said...

That you are mulling over the incident, your behavior and your friend's comment is testament to your integrity and character.

I agree with carosgram. Riley's inability to sleep was your problem. By asking your friend to take her baby out, you were essentially asking your friend to give up her "me" time, and possibly unsettle her baby thus putting her in the position you didn't want to be in with a kid who couldn't sleep. You were asking her to solve your problem.

I think the way you handled the sleep/baby issue was also overindulging Riley a bit. Sometimes kids need to just deal with something (minor) that they find isn't ideal, on their own. It helps them become more independent. Knowing you will always step in and resolve the problem only keeps Riley more dependent on you which, in turn, probably contributes to your sense of feeling overwhelmed. It might've been more helpful to tell Riley that you know the baby's noise is bothering him but he needs to just try to go to sleep and if he can't, he needs to lie there and wait because the baby will quiet down soon. Sometimes an "oh well" attitude from a parent is called for and beneficial.

Anonymous said...

Remember when your kids were making happy sounds in their cribs and you had alone time and could finally relax by yourself. How quickly we forget.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about this and I am so impressed that you actually posted this because it is hard to hear (never mind tell the world) that you are told "it is not all about you". It is like slapping your own face! Powerful. While I dont think you go around acting like it is all about you and I think you have had a hell of a few years (that no one would wish on anyone) I think that if I had a baby who was finally quiet and in bed and happy and I had a momemt to myself the LAST thing I would want to do would be to pull that kid out of the crib. I would want you to either talk to your child or pull your child out of the room since they are older. I guess I can see both sides. The truth is it is exausting having babies/toddlers and we are all JUST DONE by the end of the day. I would imagine the best answer is that kids should sleep in their parents room. At any rate, kudos to you for examining yourself. Sometimes that is really hard.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you dealt well with similar bedtime logistics when you were sharing your home with another mom and child, but you and your friend found yourself suddenly in this position, so it brought some underlying issues to the surface. Perhaps this particular conflict would have been best settled in conversation together. E.g., "I know that the baby is happy and Riley is the one having trouble sleeping, but it seems to me easier to take the baby out to fall asleep. What do you think?" might have been preferable to requesting that she do what you preferred.

Of course, these issues would have come out regardless. E.g., "I think you are being selfish. I just had a baby and I need some me time. Can't you take Rily out of the room or tell him to lie quietly until the baby falls asleep?" "My goodness. I didn't realize you were struggling so. Have I been caught up in my own world?"

The answer is, if you have been, who can blame you? You have to do what you have to do and make no excuses. This doesn't isolate you or make you a social nightmare. This seems to be about the dynamic of one old, close relationship -- not the way you are or are perceived by everyone.

I'm glad you and your friend are talking about it.

Kris said...

I agree with so much that has been said. First, I commend you as have others on your honesty and willingness to reflect on what you consider potential self flaws. If only everyone took the time to reflect on how we can grow and better ourselves. I think you're taking the steps to be the best friend possible and this should be appreciated.

Second, I find myself leaning towards the "side" that thinks you may have (and possibly totally accidentally) added a bourdon to your friend by asking her to remove the baby in order to accommodate Riley. Maybe she was just having a rough time of things, but being asked by you to accommodate your needs may have pushed her a little over the edge. It sounds like she thought, here we go again, we all have to do whatever Stacey says because she's has it so hard. An over reaction on her part, sure, but who isn’t capable of loosing our cool when we feel like we’ve just had it.

Lastly, I agree with others that you shouldn't be so hard on yourself about this. You sat, you listened, and you're working on you. That's all anyone can ask. It's ok that you didn't walk away from the talk knowing everything was fixed. Sometimes things take time.

Alison said...

I am a frequent reader but rarely comment. Since my partner's death I have, like you, struggled with the feeling that no one else really knows what it is like to become a single parent in that way. And I have grown much closer to a friend who has had the same experience - the fact is that she does just 'get' it in a way that no one else does. I agree with all those who say that we all have terrible experiences at some point - impossible to argue with - but the relentlessness of single parenting and grieving? It's pretty extreme.

Sure, your friend may have felt deprived of her me-time when you asked her to move her baby. I go on holiday with friends with younger kids and we have had some tense moments when one kid has woken all the others or is being otherwise disruptive. But - and it is a big but - she would probably get some me-time everyday, in a small way, just because her baby's other parent will do at least a little bit of the stuff that is needed at the coalface. If you have never done it all - from minor tasks to big decisions - all on your own, for week and months and years, then you really cannot imagine what that experience feels like.

I do have some sympathy for your friend, but this post and all your others indicate that you are not a self-centred person. I can imagine that a reality check from friends might help during those periods of grief and misery when we can all get lost in self-pity. but I think her words were harsh, that you should treat them as a starting point for self examination rather than a judgment to be accepted without analysis.

Don't judge yourself too much. Life for people in our particular shoes is plenty hard enough.

Alison

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I am going to be difficult and say that I, too, have been a bad friend during my years of widowhood and I'm not proud of it. Good for you for hearing her, whatever the outcome.

You have nothing to be sorry for, just more data on this f'ed-up journey to reflect on and learn from.

Hugs, insights can hurt (not that she's right... not that you ARE a bad friend... but if it were me? It would be true. and I have totally NOT come to terms with it yet.).

X

Supa

mek said...

I've had a couple of those conversations with friends (well, with one friend) in the past 18 months. In my experiences, the actual precipitating situation seems not to really matter, but it is a kind of camel's back thing. And, usually, you (I) had no idea that the camel was having this problem! I have been so unnerved by this of late, and by the fact that it seems centered around differences in parenting styles. And while at the end of the conversations it seems to have been good to have them...I always wish we could have had them months earlier, before it got to the breaking point. But identifying someone else's breaking point can be really tough.

Anonymous said...

I like your post for many reasons. I have to say if your friend was in tears about having to take her loud baby out of a room of other children attempting to fall asleep, then perhaps it has become all about HER. I mean, please. It's called consideration. I don't think your request warranted such a reaction. She should have apologized to you for being inconsiderate and self absorbed.

Anonymous said...

Just to add something to my previous anonymous comment (9:31): your request was not about you at all. It was about the kids! I just don't see how that particular incident could cause your friend to lash out.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Very thoughtful post and while I don't have anything new to add, I do want to say that I think Katie hit the nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the incident was just a catalyst to discuss bigger issues, but just my 2 cents- I don't think asking someone to relocate their noisy baby from a room full of sleeping children is unreasonable. At all. I'm trying to imagine myself or anyone I know balking at that request, and it seems preposterous. ~Jess

Sugar said...

I just looked at it as poor, passive aggressive phrasing.
What she means is she is not upset because of you (meaning that asking her to take out the baby is the staw that broke the camel's back and not the full cause for her crying), but wants to phrase it in a nasty manner so that you feel bad.
You would probably be better off without this person in your life. Someone who is crying because of stressors in her own life and then says that to hurt you is a hateful person.

Anonymous said...

Stacey, relative to what C and django's mommy said - of course you're right, pain is pain, and nobody "wins" in comparisons. But even if YOU are really conscious of this and don't compare, people around you do - ergo you hold the "trump card" anyway.

One of my dearest friends has had a really rocky life path compared to mine - life-threatening illness, a bad marriage, infertility etc. etc. etc. - some of it was choices, but most of it was sheer luck. We've talked about it, which helps, but sometimes we both feel the pinch of caused by our differing circumstances, and try hard to be considerate of each others' feelings, and talk about it when the occasion demands it. That's really all you can do.

And it sounds like you did a great job of doing just that, acknowledging those feelings. Thanks for a great post.

Shelley

Fairlington Blade said...

I'll be a little circumspect as I know Snick offline and am pretty sure that I know the friend. It would be deeply unfair to characterize the friend as a hateful person. Has thrown an occasional sharp elbow, but far from hateful.

I read this post as someone taken aback by how someone reacted and thinking about deeper meaning. I've had my own comment to my beloved Keen blow up in my face. And blown up when I didn't have to. I don't think it makes me a hateful person, but one who has some issues and needs to work on them.

It's a tricky thing having a public blog. It's an interesting window into someone's life. There's my story, your story, and the truth. And I have doubts about the third item in that list. What is laudable is the willingness to think about it and not shut down. That way lies a true friend.

BB

Kate said...

I mean this as wry humor ... maybe that's also what Maddie was telling you about your interest in renaming her. (:

Friendships are hard. Parenting is hard. People who are unable to relate to others outside of their own filters -- or at least TRY -- are bound to lose some friends. I don't think you're doing that. You proved that you're not self-centered the moment you turned around and faced the confrontation.

Hope you can patch things up.

OTR sister said...

My best friend lost her mother suddenly a few years ago and then had a series of miscarriages. I became a shoulder to lean on and the friend that she could trust to still love her when she had to cancel on me. And she cancelled a lot.

A few months ago I felt enough time had passed to share with her that while I understood, it also frustrated me. I felt like a jerk to share this but she handled it well and we had a great talk.

Later that week her husband was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. And one of my thoughts in the midst of my pain and love for her was, "Well, there goes that."

How selfish and self-absorbed am I?