Last week I got into a disagreement with a long-time friend. While this in of itself was not unexpected, we’ve gone through periods of breaks before, the vitriol was. I realize that by now, we’re all crawling out of our skin. With the lockdowns, COVID, human rights activism, elections, non-stop lies from the former guy, insurrections, epic failures by public leaders (I’m looking at you, Texas), these last 12 months have been a whirlwind of chaos. Is it any wonder we’re all feeling on edge?

On top of all the political and social issues, who hasn’t had personal problems surface like the infamous tribbles? I often feel like my friends and I are having two different conversations. Their responses don’t even make sense in the context I am attempting to communicate. Is this an issue with my communications skills or their reception? I don’t know, but I often feel lost, alone and invisible, and when I express these feelings, I am told I am wrong.

So what is one to do? Most people realize it is not your friend’s responsibility to make you happy, but wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you’re part of a tribe? A community in which your thoughts and beliefs are shared? One in which you are not constantly biting your tongue to keep the peace? Where you’re not the outlier and your accomplishments are recognized and celebrated?

Sometimes I feel like I am screaming in the middle of a crowded room, yet no one hears me. My words are snatched from my lips by the breeze as soon as they’re uttered. They swirl in the wind, carried further and further away, ensuring that no one will ever hear, no one will ever understand. Eventually, they’re gone, my cries for help unnoticed while everyone continues about their lives as if nothing has happened. They say one should always reach out for help, but in my experience, when people don’t know how to help you, they’d rather pretend you said nothing. Move along, my darling, nothing to see here.

I really don’t want to go into a lot of detail here, but my friend and I had one of those instances where we weren’t having the same conversation. I attempted to clear up the misunderstanding, but this only made her more irate. She said some really horrible and vial things to me. Words I’ve only used in regards to my worse enemies. I blocked her while she was still typing. It was best to end that conversation there. She did apologize a few days later, yet, I wonder if this was a terminus point in the relationship. My life has been significantly impacted by a lack of trust and respect and I don’t feel I need to permit such things any longer.

For instance, in my last relationship, I was never allowed to express how I felt. Oh, I might get one or two words in, but then the other person would get defensive and never let me finish my thought. He would talk over me and say things like, “I’m allowed,” “if you don’t like it, you can bounce,” “Yup, I was frustrated because you didn’t XYZ.” I learned to stop expressing my feelings, to fear his reaction (never physical). I became skilled at blaming my feelings on something else, which was really only a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things.

I mean, yes, I have happy memories; it is the first relationship in my life where I can actually say that! But the Jeckel and Hyde feeling left me confused, lost, and feeling so broken; some days, I don’t think I will ever find the real me again. I don’t understand how you can treat someone you say you love and respect with such indifference and then lay the blame entirely at their feet. Gaslighting at its finest!

And this has to lead me to an important realization. If you don’t have people in your life who share your passions, people who don’t try to change you or impose their beliefs on you, you will lose yourself. You’re going to question everything you think or believe. You’re going to wonder if their insults, their observations about you are true. My children’s father once told me, “If everyone else is the problem, then you’re the problem.” In a sense, perhaps he was right. I am the problem because I allow other people to tell me who I am.

I am me! And if you don’t like me as I am, you can bounce.

I want to live in a world where people love and respect each other, where you feel safe walking down the street. Where you know, the people around you will have your back and aren’t afraid they’ll throw you under the bus. And when you tell me not to speak of things I am passionate about (because you don’t want to talk politics), you’re telling me to suppress who I am so you might accept me.

No more. I’m bouncing. Bye.

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