.journal 2001.01.21
Losing friendships.

Now listening to: 808 State, 808:88:98
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Exquisite Corpse
Now playing: Final Fantasy VIII (Playstation)

Well, I gave myself the afternoon off Tuesday to recover from what I was sure would be a traumatic dental experience, and guess what? There was nothing traumatic about it at all. Of course, that's because Dr. Fudge didn't do the filling on the spot like I expected, and I have to head back there early next month to take care of it. So it's not over yet.

Actually, in a way it is, because my experience with Dr. Fudge was about two hundred billion times better than I expected. I don't want to badmouth my old dentist because he was a true professional, and certainly knew what he was doing, but as I said before, he didn't exactly have that great a bedside manner. And when I developed my fear of the dentist late in life, that really bothered me. But Dr. Fudge really helped me feel at ease with myself, and while I can think of much more pleasurable ways to spend an hour than getting cavities filled, I'm not going to be afraid of this next session.

There was one thing I didn't realize about my old dentist, though, until my visit to Dr. Fudge's office: my old dentist, I don't think, ever upgraded his equipment in the twenty years I remember going there. Dr. Fudge's offices were, to borrow a phrase from Björk, thoroughly modern, and that also helped me feel easier while I was visiting him. The same cleaning that took my old dentist about fifteen minutes took Dr. Fudge all of two. And for the first time I can remember, I left the dentist without tasting blood in my mouth. (I realize my goth friends may not like the fact that I consider the taste of blood in my mouth gross, but, well, I do.)

So that's one crisis out of the way, mostly. Unfortunately, in the days leading up to the dentist appointment, I had another crisis overtake my fear of the dentist as the big gorilla in my mind, and that problem has yet to be resolved. And so I'm not really doing any better than I was before the dentist appointment.

In my last journal update I wrote that I was having difficulties with a friend, but that I was hoping they would be resolved soon. Well, they haven't been resolved yet, and with every day that passes without the two of us speaking to each other, I begin to fear that I have lost her friendship. And that really hurts me, not only because she was one of the closer friends I had, but I've lost too many friends recently.

Of course, I made a conscious decision to separate myself from those friends I recently lost, but really I didn't have a choice in the matter. As I've written about repeatedly, Julia Cameron's The Artists' Way has been the guidebook to my creative recovery these past several months, and one of the things Julia is adamant about is evaluating the relationships you're in, and distancing yourself from bad relationships. It took me a few months after reading that to have it sink in, but once I realized what that meant, I came to the painful realization that about 80-90% of the friendships I was keeping were bad for me.

It's not just a matter of my creativity that was being affected by these bad friendships, it was my ability to function as a person. Bad relationships do that to you, they make you put your own concerns and well-being on the shelf for others' needs or desires. It's easy to misconstrue such behaviour as the normal way of "being a friend," but in a lot of cases what is going on goes above and beyond that, and it isn't good for either person in the relationship.

In my case, I was putting up with a lot of abuse for the sake of my friends. In the beginning I had really placed myself into the situation, because for a while there the abuse was at least at tolerable levels, something that I had expected but could put up with because the good of the situation outweighed the bad. But for a real long time there, the bad of the situation was outweighing the good, sometimes enormously so, and under normal circumstances I probably would have left months earlier than I did.

But I continued on, because my friends had heaped this responsibility onto me, and as a friend I thought I should tolerate the abuse for their sake. There really wasn't any kind of two-way street here whereby they were reciprocating my sacrifice, but that didn't bother me because I'm that kind of person. It's a flaw, I know, but at least I can say I'm getting better at it. My point being, I stuck around because that was what I thought I should do as a friend.

Near the end, though, the pieces started coming together for me. At first it was the simple realization that too much of my time was being taken up with what I was doing with these friends, and how much better I'd feel if I spent that time on more enjoyable things, namely my artistic pursuits. Then Julia's advice started to sink in, and when I took a look at each relationship I had with these friends, I began to see how flawed each one was, how I was just doing all of these things for them and they weren't even thinking about doing anything in return for me. I wasn't a friend to them, I was a tool, something to be used. And friendships aren't about using people. So when the abuse began to pick up, I just finally had enough of everything and left.

A few months prior to that, I'd had to distance myself from my childhood best friend because he had gotten so deep into LSD that I just couldn't bear to be with him anymore. I'd called off plenty of friendships as a child for various reasons, but when you're a kid you don't tend to think about those things too much. But this was someone who I'd known all my life, someone my sister used to babysit before I was even born, someone with whom I'd had all kinds of times, both good and bad. But I just can't stand to be around drug addicts, and so I had to walk away from all those times, for good, and that was hard for me.

While these most recent friendships I walked away from weren't anywhere as close as those I had with my childhood best friend, the sheer volume of them really ate away at me for a bit there. I've never been Miss Popular, but that didn't bother me so much because I always had at least some pocket of friends I associated with. Now I had to really go without a pocket there for the first time I could remember, and while I knew I always had L. and some other friends, it still wasn't the easiest thing for me to do. But I knew I had to do that, I couldn't make exceptions for anyone, I had to just up and leave. And I did.

I've written before about my feelings about friendship and how I don't really feel like I need that many friends to do what I want to do or to be happy, but nonetheless I'm aware that right now I'm operating with the smallest circle of friends I can ever remember having, even counting my hellish private school years. And so now that I feel like I'm losing one of those friends, the pain seems that much more magnified, and it seems that much more imperative that I do what I can to mend fences and try to keep the friendship.

The worst part is that the friendship appears to be dissolving because of something I said, but I don't know what it is. And she hasn't told me what it is yet, and I don't have any idea what it could have been. I know that I wouldn't ever do anything to hurt her, but I fear that she doesn't realize that, and thinks that I was trying to hurt her. I feel immensely sorry that I did hurt her, but without knowing what it is I said, I don't even know where to begin to try to heal the wounds.

I know I have a tendency of saying things that some people don't like, but that's part of who I am and I don't think I can change that. And I don't want to, either. I mean, it would be one thing if I were deliberately saying things with the intent of hurting others, but what always gets me in such trouble are my opinions, people finding my opinions offensive. And I can't apologize for that.

I kind of knew this all along, but it took The Artist's Way to really make me realize it, and that is that in everything I do, creative or otherwise, I have to be true to myself first. And along the way that's going to mean stepping on a few toes, and I wish it didn't have to be that way but I can't let that stop me from doing what I need to do. No matter what I do, from my music to my friendships to this journal, I have to respect myself, my rights and my desires. I'm sure that along the course of this journal I'll say something that's going to hurt someone, and I'm sorry, but I'm not writing this journal for other people, I'm writing this journal for myself. And that means talking about the things I feel like I need to talk about, whether other people like that or not.

That's really the hard part for me, though, because even now I still find myself doing some self-censoring trying to appease people with this journal. I mean, it's one thing when I choose not to espouse my political views, because quite frankly I don't like talking about politics, but when I like talking about something, when I feel compelled to talk about something, I should talk about it. That's one of the reasons I haven't been writing so much lately, is that I'll sit down to write and I'll find myself going, "Okay, what do I think my readers want me to write about," and that just sickens me because that's the worst approach to take. I took that approach to a lot of my creative work for a long time, and all it got me were headaches and work I wasn't happy with. I won't allow myself to do that anymore.

But to be honest, really these past few weeks the combination of the dental scare and this situation with my friend has been what's had me so down. Especially these past few days, as it feels like every day this friendship becomes less and less salvagable, it almost feels like I want to cry my eyes out, but I'm so miserable that the pain of it all has sapped away my strength to cry. And due to all the uncertainty about how things went awry, I find myself questioning and requestioning what went wrong, and though I know I'll never find the answer on my own I still can't help but do it anyway.

Things may get better, I know, but right now I just have so little faith in things that I can just barely function at all. Somewhere I have to find the strength to go on, but I don't know where that strength is going to come from. I guess writing this all out has helped a bit, but I'm not there yet. I probably need to do something totally self-indulgent here, something with no practical purpose whatsoever except to cheer me up, but I have no idea what. And it's hard to think about doing fun stuff when you just want to curl up in a little ball on your bed, and obsess over how bad a friend you've been to have lost someone who was so close to you.

Normally I try to end things on an optimistic note, but I just don't think I have it in me right now. I'm sure I'll see you all again soon, but right now I just feel like disappearing under my bucket hat again and shutting off the rest of the world until I get over this sadness. Wish me strength.

- Sean