As a blogger, it’s my job to write about my emotions. Strike that, blogging isn’t a job, I don’t get paid… anything. It’s my responsibility, an expectation that I tell you how I feel. What would be the point of a blog of introspection if it didn’t capture the rawness, agitation and truth that accompanies self-exploration? Few topics leave me splayed open, vulnerable and exposed like death. Some of my past posts on death are among my best:
On Death and Living and Running (Written after a terrible week)
Death and the Blogger (Death of my first contemporary)
Pornography (Surprisingly, about my mother’s death)
About Death (More on my mother—Part II, if you will—but it’s better than that)
A couple others, not my best, but they’re OK:
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post called Pray for Mike. Synopsis: College buddy, best friend, we grew up and grew apart, lost touch, Mike’s hospitalized, me left analyzing my feelings. Pretty standard stuff. Today, Mike died. Or he’s dying, I’m not sure. They were taking him off life support this morning. This didn’t surprise me; he seemed unbelievably ill. I’ve checked Facebook twenty times a day for the past two weeks expecting this news.
I’ve also spent the past two weeks days in my head, thinking about my past and thinking about my future. There’s nothing like a dying friend to put your life in focus. My friendships have been failing for a long time. Once, I was quite popular. I had a huge group of friends. We rented a large house at the beach every summer; we took over bars; we fielded soccer teams; we were in constant contact (even without cell phones). In the days before email, the receptionist at work funneled a steady stream of calls to my office on Friday afternoons as my friends and I planned our night.
This changed. Now my only friends are Susan and my kids. I’m sure there are plenty of people who still consider me their friend, but they’re simply carrying over memories from the past. We don’t communicate except for random and intermittent comments on Facebook. We don’t get together or even make plans to get together. I’m isolated from social interaction.
Mike is a good example. I saw him less and less. The last time I spoke or wrote to him was eight years ago. The other day I messaged his wife, asked if Mike could have visitors. She said I was too late. I missed my chance. She didn’t actually say that, she said he’s unconscious and weak, but what I heard was “you’re too late, you missed your chance.”
So, why did my friendships tank so dramatically when I used to be so popular? I have multiple theories:
- I left town for a four-month solo cross-country bike trip. I came back a different person. I became a loner.
- I was hit by a car, sustained a massive traumatic brain injury. It changed my personality.
- My Tourette Syndrome symptoms came back. I did this weird rolling/darting thing with my eyes. It’s hard for people to look at.
- I went from a lush to a moderate drinker. Alcohol fueled my social comfort.
For years I watched my friendships strain and fall apart. I talked to therapists about it, I talked with Susan. I made vows to do better. I set up strategies to rebuild relationships, to keep in touch. Nothing stuck. The death knell was when I quit drinking altogether. It’s not that people didn’t want to be around me anymore; I didn’t want to be around them. So, it’s Susan and my kids.
Remembering my friendship with Mike brought this into focus. I saw Facebook posts with names I haven’t considered in years. Last week Brian called out of the blue. He went to college with Mike and me. He must have seen my name of some of those Facebook posts. Brian used to work hard to sustain our friendship—calling periodically to catch up, suggesting times to get together. Something I don’t understand caused me to pull away. I was curt during our phone calls. I never made plans to see him, or when I did I cancelled. Eventually Brian gave up. At the end of our last phone call he said “I don’t know what to do with our friendship. His absence left a hole.
Brian and I made plans to meet for dinner next week. Losing my opportunity to reconnect with Mike makes me want to connect with others. I’m sure Brian suspects that I’ll cancel at the last minute like I have so many times before. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Something feels different in me. Today at work I found myself chatting with my coworkers. I don’t chat. I sit in my office. If I need a break from working, I read a blog.
I don’t want to read too much into this because I’ve made and broken so many resolutions before, but at least I’m hopeful. On Halloween, my coworker Vicki gave me a “spooky scratch off lottery ticket.” It was called Mummy Money, or something like that. I had a chance to win five thousand bucks. I held the card for a while, not scratching. I was soaking in some hope.
P.S. Read those posts on death.