I’m a lucky girl. I know, I know…I’m a grown woman and should refer to myself as such. But fuck it. Today I’m a girl, and a lucky one.
You may ask how. Or why. Why do I think I’m so damn lucky?
It’s spring 2020, and most of NJ is under a stay-at-home order. And for a semi-social person like me (who happens to live alone), it’s difficult at times. I’ve been working from home. My gym and the yoga studio are closed. I miss my friends. Loved ones and I have been hit by losses, and we cannot comfort each other. And if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know my struggles. There’s no need to reiterate them here.
Yet I’m smiling as I write this. The sun is out. The ocean is a block away. Summer is imminent. I have a job, decent health, food, a roof…yadda yadda yadda. And I have friends who are my family and who love me. And who I love right back.
You know what else makes me lucky?
I’ve gotten several. A big one in 1994. Others through various times in my life. And that’s what this is about.
I have to get real, and to do that I need to be honest about myself. I was not always a great friend. I probably still am not a great friend at times; the difference now is I’m more aware and I try harder. If the connection has value to me, I’m going to do the work to keep the friendship. I’m going to talk about the difficult things, and be there when it isn’t easy. But I wasn’t always this way. I found it almost impossible to connect to others. I felt like I had things to hide. I also felt I didn’t have much to offer anyone as a friend. Sure I can laugh at your jokes, let a double entendre fly, inject some witty observation into almost any situation…but when shit got real? When disagreements happened? When life got in the way? Or, when I needed to face some part of myself I couldn’t or wouldn’t face in order to maintain the friendship? Nope. I was out. Usually without a word. These days, it’s called ghosting.
People don’t always give you a second chance when you behave this way.
When I returned to New Jersey in the summer of 1998, I was likely suffering from PTSD or C-PTSD. The stigma surrounding mental health (or lack thereof) coupled with my own pride/shame/fear kept me from seeking the help I needed. I came home thinking I’d slip right back into my old life, and that my old friends would be overjoyed to see me. I thought I’d be “OK;” I’d somehow magically be whole again.
Some of my friends were glad to see me. Some weren’t sure how to take me, I think. They kind of…well, did a “me” and nope’d out when I wasn’t quite my old self. I vividly remember being asked how married life was, and when I explained I was in the midst of a divorce, the look of shock I received surprised me. The response was something like, “wow, you kinda lapped us all…divorced at 26…some of us haven’t even gotten MARRIED yet!” That stung, a lot in fact. I wondered if that’s why I had a tough time reconnecting with people-the whole “divorced at 26” thing. Logically-probably not. But I have no way of knowing. I only knew that I felt different when I came home; I knew I was not the same. I longed to be the “same” young woman I was before the abuse.
I was thankful to the small group of classmates who just about treated me the same when I returned. They didn’t remark too much on the divorce, they didn’t ask too many prying questions. They accepted me back, and I was grateful. I offered the bare minimum of details, which seemed to satisfy them. I didn’t have to delve into specifics and, even better, I didn’t have to talk about what was going on while I lived at my parents’ house those few months. This is where I circle back to “nope’ing out” on friends. As happens during the course of friendship, boundaries were crossed, things were said, promises made and broken. Shit got real, and life got in the way. And because I’d so recently chucked everything and it seemed to work (it actually didn’t, but that’s another piece of writing for another time), I did it again. I turned my back on those friends. I fulfilled the remaining social obligations I had with them, and then just dropped out. Didn’t return calls, ignored emails, and avoided places I knew they might be. And when social media showed up a few years later and they found me…well, I hid. Or I tried to.
It’s only been the last few years I knew that I would never be exactly the same-and I was determined to be better. I spent many years looking in the mirror for that girl who entered college with enthusiasm and big dreams. I caught glimpses of her as I opened up and worked on healing. And when I stopped running from my demons and turned around to face them, she came roaring back. I felt her. I saw her. She was me, and I was her once again. Under the laugh lines, the crow’s feet, and beneath the gray hair-there she was. That energetic, sarcastic girl who loved her college classes, adored the TV station she helped start, and could be found laughing with her friends.
But this is about second chances, and I’m getting there. I knew that I would have to, at some point, make amends to people I hurt by ghosting. I knew I couldn’t hide forever.
Probably the greatest compliment I received was after reconnecting with an old friend I’d literally hidden from. I knew that the circumstances surrounding the hiatus in our friendship, and my ‘disappearance’ were going to come up. I let their friend request sit for quite some time as I asked myself if I was ready to talk about it. Was I ready to face it, and ready to admit that I’d been wrong? This is where the blog comes in handy. It’s already been written, it’s all laid out, and I don’t have to say a word. So when we reconnected, and the time came, I merely spoke about my blog, and warned them it was graphic. I’d had numerous classes with them in college, and as I suspected, they had no earthly idea what was going on back then.
The compliment? It was something along the lines of, “Even though we haven’t talked in 20 years, you’re still LJG….it seems like no time has passed…you’re still you.” I’m not gonna lie…I got teary over those words. Maybe I am not 100% the same, but the big things, the inside stuff…the things that make me fundamentally who I am…well it seems my core is unshaken and unsullied. And THAT is why I am a lucky girl. Lucky to have a second chance in so many things, lucky to have a good life, and lucky that I’ve found “myself” again.