The family just headed out for school and I'm here, alone, getting myself ready to head to work and then, later, to depart for Chicago. I'm feeling very sad right now. My daughter asked me to please not go -- she pretty much always says this when Christine or I are heading out on a trip without the rest of the family, but it still stings a bit to hear it again.
All the stress and nervousness about this weekend is having a pretty strange effect on me, socially. I've become really hypercritical about myself the last week or so. More specifically, I've become very focused on reading into the way other people are relating to, or reacting to, me. And never in a good way -- especially regarding the new friends I've made at the dojang. Training has opened me up to new friendships in ways I'd forgotten I could be. It occurred to me last week that it's been a solid 12 years since I really felt like trying to really connect with a new friend, to really work on forging a lasting friendship with someone I knew. I make social friendships all the time, work friendships even more often. I tend to be able to get along with just about anyone. But I haven't felt a desire to get close to someone else, or let anyone get particularly close to me, in almost a decade.
It wasn't really intentional, but I know when it started. The last really close friend I made was a guy named Mark, a roommate I had most of the way through college. We finished school, drifted for a while, but tried to stay close. At least, I tried. It became fairly obvious as the years passed that I was doing all the trying. He moved away, married a nasty harpy of a woman who began to successfully run his life the way his mother had done beforehand. We remained close, but I did all the work. And one day I'd had enough, went to visit him for a weekend, and when I left I said "I'm not calling you again. If you want to remain friends, you know how to reach me."
Well, he didn't call. And that was that. Since then I've made lots of friends, but nothing approaching the level of trust and closeness I have with friends I made "back then," many of whom I still remain very, very close with (Rich, Pat, Linda & Susan, Gregory chief among them). It hasn't been a conscious decision at all. But it's definitely true.
But oddly, something about training in Tang Soo Do seems to have shaken whatever resistance I put in place that kept me from wanting to make new, close friends away a bit. Perhaps it's a sign of my growing self-confidence, but I'm feeling a lot more open to getting close to friends again. Not just open to it, but eager for it. And not in some adolescent Best Friends Forever friend-crush way, but more in that I want to forge strong bonds with some of the new friends I've made, to become a part of their lives and make them part of mine, to build a lasting relationship that is based on more than just one common experience or aspect of my life (i.e. Job, Training, Kids, Church). I want to make an effort to ensure that these folks remain a part of my life, regardless of where my life takes me.
Of course, I'm also realizing the downside of this openness and remembering why I resisted making close friends in the first place, particularly in light of the current stress I'm feeling, socially, due to the Chicago trip. I'm overanalyzing everything, every sentence and pause and nervous laugh that occurs when I'm talking to people. I see an odd look cross someone's face, or sense a bit of tension during a conversation, and immediately I'm off in my head, examining what I've done, what I may have said, to prompt the reaction. And then it down the all-too familiar road of self-doubt and criticality. Am I blowing these new relationships? Are people just humoring me?
Sometimes I wish I could be like water, and simply flow and adjust and move around obstacles in my life or simply erode them slowly, over time. Instead, I'm like a hammer, banging away at whatever I come across until I either shape it into what I want or shatter it completely, destroying it in the process. I really want to try, but I just can't seem to get there, in my head. Yet. But maybe it would be more accurate and constructive to think of myself as ice. Frozen solid, but capable of becoming fluid given time and attention and warmth. Maybe this sense of renewed openness to new relationships is the first step in that process.
Now Playing: Liszt, "Hungarian Rhapsodies"