On Friendship During Times Of Chaos

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ripple effects of my social anxieties and my friendships during what I call the “social agoraphobia” years. The years 2004-2010 were marked trying to have kids an experiencing a lot of loss, combined with successes that had me exhausted from taking care of small children and exhausted from trying to have small children. Then in 2009, soon after having Wes but still hoping for one more child, my Dad died so I got to add grief on top of all of the other shit making me see myself as a “terrible friend.” I just disconnected from what few friends I had during that time in 100 different ways and my social anxieties made me feel like everything was too awkward. I didn’t even like to leave the house for family gatherings or events Donnie wanted to take me to…I have very vivid memories of being riddled with anxiety even over minor social interactions. I was scared to leave for anything social. It was rough.

I’m thinking about this a lot because I’m missing my friends now. I’m missing my book club, I’m missing my running buddies (who have all offered to walk with me any time), I’m missing my get-a-beer friends, I’m missing my yoga friends, I’m missing my take-a-walk friends, I’m missing my hang-out-by-the-pool friends…I’m missing everyone. But the other part of me also knows that right now, I’m scattered AF and the friends that have tried to reach out I’m just barely responding to and so I find myself wondering…when this is all over and it’s safe to socialize again…will my insecurities and social anxieties kick back in like in the days 2003-2010? When I never did anything social? Will I be able to reach out to anyone in those groups or will I be crippled with anxiety over everyone hating me even thought I NEVER HATE ANYONE.

I have this weird disconnect/range of perspectives on friendship in my head and in my heart. The range exists in extremes based on whether I’m looking at my insecurities or my friend’s insecurities. Like…on one side is me convinced that I’m the type of friend that people disconnect themselves from intentionally because I’m too much work for not enough return on investment. Then, on the other side of the spectrum I’m constantly worried that people think I might be upset about missed contact or meetings or calls. Like…I want all of my friends to understand that there is NO PART OF ME that harbors negative feelings towards them no matter how many balls they’ve dropped in our contact. And yet…I assume EVERYONE harbors negative feelings to me for that stuff.

See? A very wide disconnect.

I think the disconnect comes from the difference on paper and in reality. On paper I see why you should disconnect from someone who never meets you when you invite them or who forgets to respond to messages or who ignores your attempts at contact. If I read about that behavior I’m like: STOP INVESTING TIME ON THAT FRIEND!

But then I have someone respond to me and say something like, “I’m so sorry I forgot that thing,” and I’m sincerely responding: “Girl, life is crazy, I do not want my friendship to be a burden that causes you more stress. Just know I’m here and if I reach out it’s just to remind you of that, I don’t expect anything in return.”

So, if someone disconnects from me because I’m a mess and scattered and distracted and overwhelmed…I TOTALLY GET IT. But if someone thinks I’m doing that to them I’m like: DUDE, I AM SCATTERED TOO PLEASE DO NOT FEEL BAD.

Between the pandemic and home schooling and caring for my Mom (who is still in the hospital, BTW) I’m just dropping balls left and right and I do not want my anxieties to lock me in my home again when all of the chaos settles. I’m trying to tell myself that I don’t have to invest tons of energy into maintaining contact. The friends who know me know that my life is crazy and aren’t expecting anything from me, like I don’t expect anything from them. So, to easy Future Kim’s anxieties I’m trying to A) overreact if I see a friend in the real world like hollering “I LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU!” from a car window at a red light and B) send simple texts when I’m thinking about someone. Just a “thinking about you” type of message so my anxieties won’t get the best of me when this is all said and done.

What about you? Do you have any energy to keep relationships active during this stressful time? What are you doing?

4 thoughts on “On Friendship During Times Of Chaos”

  1. I feel like I should tell you this:

    “Girl, life is crazy, I do not want my friendship to be a burden that causes you more stress. Just know I’m here and if I reach out it’s just to remind you of that, I don’t expect anything in return.”

    P.S. I thought about you this morning. I have the We Can Do It pin you gave me sitting on my desk at work. This morning I noticed it. It made me think about you and the phrase: “WE CAN DO IT”. Keep persevering my friend. You can do it!

  2. I have energy to keep relationships active, but I don’t really do it. Outside of my immediate family and my husband, I don’t really maintain long-term friendships, from both lack of know-how and lack of desire. I feel somewhat guilty about this, so I’ve tried copying what I see other people do in friendships but it often feels forced and unnatural, and never works long-term. Social relationships are just incredibly hard and confusing to me. I’m still trying to convince myself I can be a good person without having “friends” in the normal sense, through making people’s lives better in my work/career.

  3. To clarify – I have lots of people I like to be friendly and catch up with through work and school, but none of the close hangout-regularly, call-and-check-up-on kinds of girlfriends.

  4. You have just described my relationship to friends. I feel like an anthropologist watching to see what people do rather than just doing it naturally.

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