Friday, February 12

Relationships on Holiday

I have sat down to write on this particular topic several times, sat in silence staring at the screen, and then just as silently closed the blog, shut down the computer and walked slowly away. It is perhaps one of the darkest feelings that I have, about my lack of ability to maintain deep and lasting relationships. The skill of long-term interdependent friendships is not a genetic one, it is not something to be inherited, but I believe it is affected by your circumstances as you grow up: nurture, rather than nature...
Even now I get up, make myself some coffee, look out the window, check on my daughter; anything to prevent the truth. As far as I know, Truth about oneself usually presents itself in a sick dark feeling inside one's self, usually felt in your belly.
There have been many labels for the type of life I grew up with - the most popular term is Third Culture Person, or TCP. It means you grow up in a country that is not your country of origin, but you also are seperate from your original country. Hard to explain I know. My example: I was born in New Zealand, grew up in Thailand, went to boarding school in Malaysia, and am 'at home' in none of the above. For whatever reason that a TCP is in that situation, it is not a crime against children, or a 'bad' thing to do to them: we have opportunities and experiences that can never be repeated, that hardly anyone we know experienced, we mature rapidly as we deal with the different circumstances we find ourselves in, and learn how to be a minority - and thus how to better empathize with minorities around us. TCP's, as children, do not on the whole struggle with their lives while they are overseas - if you don't know any different, there is no issue.
Issues usually start to arise once a TCP must be integrated into their original culture. I'm making this sound like a disease: it's not at all. It's just a different way of growing up. Some TCP's have, by adulthood, successfully blended into one culture - perhaps reinventing themselves, often adapting their accent quickly, and they learn to SHUT UP pretty quick about their background: normal people are easily bored and put off by your lengthy soliloquies on your 'home' in the jungle.
Even among TCP's, I feel unusual and out of place. Girls that I went to boarding school with in Malaysia then continued onto a second senior boarding school in Thailand, whilst we went 'home' to New Zealand, and are best friends still as adults. So perhaps it is a special 'me' thing. Coming back at the age of 11 was incredibly hard and miserable for many years. Friendships at school had already been made, and I found myself struggling to understand the key of friend etiquette. I still struggle with it. TCP's seem to skip to a certain depth of friendship quite quickly, and then plateau - simply reaching a level of relationship that is really quite shallow, and finding it impossible to move further. We hurry to make plans, pressure friends to do things together that seem to be 'cornerstones' of relationships: from looking after each others children to daydreaming of weekends away, when our new friend of one or two years is not ready for such a jump. Thus we reach an impasse. It is very similar to the stereotypical desperate girl who starts to try out her married name and design wedding dresses if a male picks up a book for her. The 'new' friend(to a TCP, one or two years is a very deep friendship indeed) starts to feel uncomfortable with the pressure, and wonder why we seem so high maintenance. They start to distance themselves. And in response, the TCP feels confused, angry, let down and bewildered. It is somewhat helpful to know what is wrong - but it is not easily mended.
As an adult I find myself desperate for relationship, community and belonging. I struggle to find contentment in my small nuclear family, longing for a life full of engagements and commitments and people - lots of people. I know that I need to be content. I have an amazing husband, who is my best friend in the world. I have two beautiful children who fill with my wonder and laughter. I have a friend who I have known for fifteen years. The fact that she is still my friend BLOWS my mind, and I take care not to lose her: she is a precious commodity. Even amongst my siblings I feel jealousy or disappointment, upset when they meet up without me, or make plans together, I try to make plans - short and long term with them(as I do with my 'close friends') - this makes me feel like there is some security in our future. However they are more normal than me, and I often have to scold myself for expecting too much from them.
We are encouraged, especially in a religious setting such as church, to help each other and in turn depend on one another. We are taught that we are a 'family' under God, and we are to act as one. For me I find this challenging. I certainly know that if I were to suddenly come into a difficult situation: a very sick child, a death or divorce, a car accident etc; I would have the support of a 'church'. People would come with food, and love, and help to care for my children. I would feel very nurtured. But when life is just carrying on as usual, there seems to be no need or place to demand such love from others. I do not wish to receive charity friendship, and have often been hurt by people who have remained close by side when I needed help, when they felt there was something to be fixed, only to be deserted once things became shiny again. As a person who suffers from depression, I do not just want people who are there for me to hold me and wipe away my tears and pray for me when I am black, I actually want people who enjoy my company when I am well, who rejoice in my healthy happiness, and seek to spend time with me despite me feeling fine.
I know what my problem is, I just do not know how to even start fixing it. And no, therapy has not helped that area! I believe that I am a good friend to people, but I do not know how to take short term relationships to the next level. I feel impatient, I cannot wait for several years until a deeper feeling is reached. I want bosom buddies, kindred spirits and best friends, and I want them NOW. Tell me, interwebs, what can I do to make people love me more?
My greatest fear in all the world is to be forgettable - invisible and easily forgotten. This is my deep dark Truth, the one that makes me feel sick in my stomach. This is what takes me right to the very edge, to the brink of my particular brand of darkness.

1 comment:

whatthesquirrel said...

i don't think that the way you feel is all that different from the way others feel. it's just that everyone else is just as desperate to cover up their loneliness and their dread of being thought of as inconsequential or forgettable.
i think that everybody sees the so-called 'black dog', but yours is perhaps a bit bigger than most, and it visits more often.