Monday, July 25, 2016

When friends let you down

Four months ago, we had a pretty big life change. One that will ultimately work out for the positive, but is temporarily really tough.

We are currently living apart due to some work circumstances. And not just "away during the week and home on the weekends" type of living apart. He gets to come home for a weekend or occasionally a week about every 4-6 weeks.

6 weeks is a long time. It's really long when you have two small children, a job, and a huge house to clean and maintain. It's long when you don't get a break from parenting aside from being at work, and you are dealing with all the ins and outs of daily life by yourself when you have a lifestyle that was set up for two people to equally share the work.

We have amazing help and support from our parents. They provide childcare when I am at work, have us over for dinner, wash my van and drag my garbage cans in from the street before I get home from work. They have let me cry on them, listened to me complain, and helped me with my furnace. I am so grateful for them.

But I feel like they are all that I have.

Before my husband moved away, we had a tight knit group of friends. We had the type of friendship where we took turns helping each other out, walking through life's struggles together, and celebrating life's highs. We have knocked down walls together, painted rooms, stacked firewood, painted furniture, finished sewing projects. Listened to each other, prayed for each other, offered parenting advice and free babysitting back and forth. We have cried together, prayed together. Walked through parents' divorces, deaths, miscarriages, money troubles.

But ever since my husband moved it feels like that group friendship has slowly started to close over, and that we are already on the outside.

And I feel so selfish even saying that.

I know that in an emergency, any of them would be at my house in a heartbeat. One of them babysat my daughter just last week!

I guess I just thought it would be different. I thought it would be our turn to have the group pray over us and our big life change. I thought we would have a turn to have a few meals delivered to us, or a goodbye party for my husband. Or something.

I don't know what I thought, aside from that I thought there would be a sense of support, a feeling that these other families would be walking through this with us, supporting us and praying for us. Filling in the some of the gaping hole left by my husband's absence. Some texts checking in on how I am doing, or reminders that they are praying for us.

It hasn't  been like that at all. In fact, I find more and more than whenever I socialize with my friends that I am spending the whole time listening to their problems and complaints, trying to be understanding but feeling like their problem is so small and I long for the days when all I had to complain about was my husband working late or some comment my rude aunt made. It is exhaughsting trying to be interested in things that just seem not to matter at all to me anymore. It's hard to listen to someone's problems over and over, when you also have some big life struggles and not one person has even checked in with you to ask how it is going.

I know friendship goes both ways. I can't expect to just wrap myself in a blanket of "Help me I'm sad" and expect a constant parade of head pats and "poor you's". I know that. And I also know that one of the best ways to feel better is to help somebody else, to get your mind off your problems and do good.

I can sit with them, and spend 2 hours talking. Not once will anyone ask how my husband is doing. How I am doing, or how my kids are. I have mentioned that they are having anxiety. They know we moved the girls into a shared bedroom due to how upset and anxious they have been since Daddy left. They have seen my 2 year old freak out over nothing and be extra clingy. They just carry on talking about their things and I try to listen and be kind and gentle with my answers. I try not to be angry inside.

And I go home tired. It's hard work pretending to care about trivial things when you feel like the weight of the world is on you. It's hard to pretend to be interested in funny things kids say, or the latest Pinterest project when you haven't seen your husband in a month and you feel so lonely, overworked, and stressed.

I feel like friendship is draining. There is no encouragement or life in it for me. And I know friendship is not just about me. It's give and take, it's being there for them. Encouraging them. Listening to them.

But I have spent 4 months doing this. I have tried to be a sweet, kind friend all the while feeling invisible and forgotten. Hurt. Insignificant in their eyes. After 4 months I feel done. I feel like I have done all the things I should, and it still hasn't yielded any sort of return even though I am making genuine effort to invest in it. I have brought a friend meals who had a baby. Helped a friend scrape wallpaper. Babysat for another. Bought a birthday cake and showed up at one's house with a gift in hand to celebrate a milestone birthday for her.

I dread social things. It is so tiring. It's hard to fake it all the time and feel yet again like no one cares enough about your life to even ask after you.

I feel stressed when I get asked to do something with friends. The invitations are pretty sparse - I guess they know we are moving and have already started to exclude me. And I guess despite my efforts, I am probably not the cheeriest person to be around.

I thought they would think I was worth the effort though. That they would understand why I might be quieter than usual. I thought I would matter enough for them to still want to spend time with me, even on days when I can't stop crying or I am miserably grumpy. I thought they would know how hard life is for me and surround me in prayer, encouraging me and offering to help share my load.

Is something wrong with me? Are they glad to be getting rid of me soon? Am I annoying and a Debbie Downer even though I am trying really hard not to talk about my problems and be extra cheerful on the outside? Am I not important to them?

My heart hurts.

I feel alone.I need a friend who will just show up with some chocolate and say "Want to talk?"  I need a friend who will say "I know you haven't seen your husband in a month, so I'd really like to take your kids for an hour so you can go grocery shopping alone." I need a friend who texts "I'm praying for you today!" or "How are you doing this week?"

I have tried so hard to be this for them. I am sure there have been times when I have dropped the ball. When I haven't been as supportive as I could have been, or my prayers have been short and not very regular. But at the same time, I KNOW. I KNOW I have been there for them in many ways. I have been at the hospital with them. Delivered meals, bought gifts, written those exact sorts of texts I listed above. Maybe I should have done it more. But I did do those things. I still do.

I don't know where I am going with this. My heart hurts. It feels raw and the slightest thing just seems to hurt more than usual. I am sensitive. Lonely. Lost. Scared. Feeling less than. Feeling forgotten.

And I think I feel used.

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