Friendship and faux pas

I hurt a friend’s feelings the other day.I was surprised, given the wonderful, enlightened, I-am-conscious-and aware-being that I imagine myself to be, that I could hurt someone so callously and unthinkingly as I did. But I did. I did it by not telling the truth. And they busted me on it.I value closeness. You would know that if you know me, or if you read my personal blog.  I value deep sharing. I value truth-telling. And yet, in every relationship–even when am deeply connected–I reach a point where I exit being fully in a relationship and enter judgement about the relationship. And if it goes on long enough, the relationship becomes stale and inauthentic.While I am in judgement I tell myself that the other person will not able to hear what I have to say.  I censor myself, and think of dozens of reasons why it is inappropriate to bring up what I am thinking. If any of those reasons are true, they are only partly true. Underneath them, I think I am a little chicken.

The split that prompted this blog post was preceded by dozens of small moments when I never conveyed my discomfort or dislike of what was happening between us. Little signals for me to speak up, say difficult things. At the moment that I exit relationship and enter judgment, my feelings have reached full boil. That’s when I split. I go to a more superficial level of communication and stay there wearing a mask on that says “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”–or to the girl behind the mask.

I am right in one sense to not dump my shit on someone else and not have a full-scale rant when I am at my most angry or distressed.  But there are times when this plan goes awry: I fester.

I think I enjoy this program called festering– going into the soupy morass of emotionality that is been part of my psyche since I was old enough to realize that I was feeling. Inside this soup are sharp, pointy sticks, handy tools I can use to poke myself or others in the heart and head. I remember every embarrassing, inappropriate thing ever done or said, every faux pas, every unjust action, every negative remark, every cruel action.

There are also stones in that soup.  Some stones sit on my thinking function and keep me from looking at the facts ma’am, just the facts. Some stones sit on my heart and deaden my feeling of connection, remove me from the humanness that connects us both. Some stones are meant for throwing and some for hiding behind.

Each situation that warrants my exit strategy fits into an ugly rationale bordered with sticks and stones. If I let the heat of the moment cool off and do not move forward to re-engage, these emotions can freeze in place. The icy feeling lets me feel righteous. So righteous, that I remain RIGHT and the other is WRONG. Yay!

Looks good, right? I mean it looks good if being right is more important than being real. Little Zorina, age 2-6, might be right to feel that way. She might not be able to handle complex feelings, or have the language skills to be able to hold up her end of a conversation about what wasn’t right in her emotional world. But, I am not Little Zorina anymore, even though parts of me now are as sensitive as me then.

Festering is a lazy habit.  Lazy and self-indulgent, self-protective and safe. A misguided sense of rightness, bolstered by the sound of repeated pre-recorded self-talk and unaffected by the accompanying smell of old garbage.

When my friend busted me for not showing up in our relationship, I had to look the festering mechanism in the eye and see how much I rely on it.

Years ago I read this: “Would you rather be right or happy? “ What’s the big deal? Of course I would rather be right! I shared this insight with a friend who cracked. “You are so funny!”, she said.  “What?” I asked. “What’s so funny? “

Yes, dear readers, that is the tip of the filtering iceberg.

I would rather be right than anything.  Rather right than happy is only part of the equation. I’d rather be right than logical; or rather be right than pretty; or rather be right than–what else ?? What is the purpose of my rathering to be right?

Being right protects me. It might even make me invulnerable. I can duck behind rightness and lob icy snowballs of brilliant, emotional congruence at you. Aren’t you lucky that I am so right?

Until something happens like my friend busting me. Then I see the paper walls, houses of cards I’ve built. The jig is up! It’s an illusion!

So, what can I do? Apologizing is an option. Oh, it is an appropriate response, but doesn’t cover the reality of what needs to be done. Neither does sackcloth and ashes.

Instead, I have to sit and witness myself.  And damn– it’s uncomfortable. It’s a balancing act–I must neither defend nor blame anyone or anything. Just sit still. Nothing happens, yet it can be excruciating to see that I don’t always know how to do this thing call relationship; to see the good things I bring to the table; to see the large elephants that I walk around; to see the areas that I don’t know how to navigate through.

How do you know that my relationships can hold up to scrutiny?
How do I know when to speak and when to shut up?
How do I know that the other can hear what I say?

I don’t . That’s just a messy stuff that is part of life.

But if I don’t try to bring all of myself to the table with the people who matter, relationship won’t happen. I have to keep reminding myself “Those that matter won’t mind; and those that mind don’t matter.”  It give me solace as I hold myself in the moment.