Thursday, May 05, 2005

The rise and fall

Okay, the blast from the past will have to wait. I forgot to look for the RQ diary... will put that on The List.

The library has been quiet today. It's exam week, and students are mostly studying madly and don't need much help from us. Boy, does that take me back. Gearing up-- and surviving-- exam week felt like climbing Mount Everest. Except that while I imagine I would not like to climb Mount Everest (mostly because I can't stand to be cold), I strangely did enjoy the chaos of final exams. The Sanka! The lack of sleep! The holing yourself away in the remotest of library stacks, furtively highlighting and scribbling flash cards and sneaking fistfuls of Golden Grahams cereal to subsist. Ahh, I loved it. And if I was one of the lucky ones to have 3 or 4 exams in one day? God, the adrenaline rush!

Funny thing about getting older. Self-censorship dimishes significantly as the years go on. Yes, I can openly admit now that I was a Nerd who loved a good 8-hour study marathon. Openly admit it in my anonymous blog...

SO... what to do when managing your best friendship gets to feeling like gearing up for exam week? (here's where you all fill in for my journal/husband)

My last post was about a fight I had with my BFF. Lesson Learned: calling someone in the middle of the night after your anger has been simmering for a good 4-5 hours and dumping on her, then saying goodnight and hanging up, will only come back to bite you in the ass.

BFF and I had decided last year to take a vacation together. I think the idea first sprouted at least a couple of years ago, but she had some personal goals she wanted to reach beforehand to make it a celebratory event. When I got the green light from her, we started planning.

So we went on our vacation in April. A cruise to the Bahamas. We couldn't wait, and as we were riding the bus to Port Canaveral I realized how good it felt to be excited and happy together. Excited and happy about the same thing. And because that felt striking, I realized that the feeling must have been missing for a while.

I admit I was anxious before the cruise. I made the stakes high. I wanted this to be a trip that would be fabulous and remembered as this great thing we had done when we were young. I was hoping BFF's frustration tolerance would be higher, that she wouldn't sigh or snap or get upset, so that I wouldn't have to feel angry/sad/bad and figure out how to deal with it.

Things went very, very well for the first 3 days. On day 4, there were some Minor Incidents. Including one where she got frustrated with me and stalked off to another part of the room. When I followed her and asked, "Did I do something?" she said that it was because we were being too indecisive and going back and forth with "What do you want to do?" "Well, whatever you want to do..."

Another time, we were going to hang out by the pool. She'd said she wanted to find some chairs poolside, so we went a-hunting. All of them were taken, so we went to the upper deck and found two together. I pointed out that we could turn the chairs so that they were facing the lower pool deck, rather than the ocean. She said no, that's ok. A few minutes later she asked, "Well, do you want to turn the chairs around?" I said no, I just suggested it because I thought she was upset that there hadn't been anything down by the pool. She bellowed, "I was not upset!!"

"Okay!" I said. "I'm sorry!"

Sheesh.

Anyhow, a few of these incidents peppered our last two vacation days.

On the last day we get to the Orlando airport, where we were prepared to spend a couple hours waiting for our flight. BFF suggested checking on an earlier flight, which seemed like a great idea. But then I realized that my hubby, who was to be our ride home, would not be home from work yet. We discussed finding another ride, but realized that even if we got to my house, we didn't have keys to get inside.

BFF asked if my husband could leave work earlier, if maybe my mom could come get us. I said that maybe, but I didn't really want to ask them to change their schedules around. BFF was not happy about this. She didn't really say anything, but I could tell that she thought I was Wrong. Standing to the side, sighing, pursing her lips, not looking at me. So, I borrowed her cell phone and started dialing.

Turns out that hubby could not get out early enough to pick us up, but he could meet us at the house and let us in. Turns out that my mom, who had the day off, was willing to pick us up. Problem solved.

But I was mad. If I don't want to ask my husband to miss meetings and change appointments at work, then I shouldn't feel pressured to do so. And if I don't want to ask my mom to drive for essentially 2 hours (to the airport, to my house, back to her house), then ditto. BFF's explanation was, well, that's what friends and family are for. You ask when you need a favor. My feeling is, when what you're asking will cause inconvenience, and you know the people will feel badly about saying no, then you don't ask. Especially if the only difference is waiting for a couple of hours in an airport. It's fine with me if BFF wants to, but she can do that with her own family members. Let me approach mine (or not) in the way I feel is best.

So at some point I got fed up and exploded. I was sensing frustration coming from BFF and I finally exclaimed, "What?! What is your problem?" or something rude like that. She came back with, "I don't know what to do for you", and stalked off.

When we finally arrived at our gate, I was trembling, I was so angry. She kind of put her stuff down but didn't really look at me. She said she was going to get some coffee, did I want some? No.

Finally, when she came back and sat down, I waited for her to say something. When she didn't, I said, "Can we talk about this now?"

So... the talk. Hooooo boy, I was trying to stay calm and remember all those good communication techniques I learned in social work school.

Me: BFF, sometimes when we are together, I feel anxious when you get frustrated.

BFF: You perceive that I am frustrated!

Me: Well, if what you were showing wasn't frustration or being upset, I don't know what it could be.

BFF: Well, I'm not.

Me: Sometimes, when we're planning to get together, I'm even anxious in advance, worrying that something like this will happen.

BFF: Well, if you're so worried about something that hasn't even happened yet, maybe you're creating the thing you're anxious about!

Okay. So now we've established that what I'm observing and upset by is a product of my imagination and I've created it all myself.

It was excruciating. I wanted to be mature and communicate effectively, and most importantly, make it all okay. But sometimes I also wanted to yell, "Are you kidding me?! Listen to what you just said!"

So the midnight phone call came to bite. I can't remember what I said, but BFF exploded with,

"Well, what about you! You call me in the middle of the night and say something like that to me, and I don't know what you were thinking, that maybe you would get my voice mail or what!"

Me: I was so upset by that incident that I couldn't sleep. And I needed to tell you that.

BFF: So fine, you call and unload it on me and then I can't sleep all night!

Touche. That is a valid point. And looking back, I know she is right. That was a lousy thing to do. And very immature.

Me: Well how am I supposed to know that upset you so much! You just go on and pretend like everything is fine; how am I supposed to know if you don't say anything!


But the most interesting and disheartening thing to come out of this was the fact apparently BFF perceives that I think I am better than her. This just slipped out, and then she kind of pretended that she didn't say it. But I wasn't going to let that drift away. If she said it, then I needed to know what was backing it up.

Me: (incredulous) What have I ever done to make you feel like I think I'm better than you? What? Because I don't think that, and if I've made you feel that way, I need to know what I said or did.

Her eyes instantly teared up. She blamed it on allergies, but any time the topic of "I'm better" came up, the same thing happened.

BFF: I don't know. It's silly. I'm embarrassed to even bring it up.

I can't even remember now, but I think she finally admitted that she doesn't think that I have a superiority complex, that she thinks it's just her own insecurities coming into play. But she finally gave me an example of a time when she felt I was playing the better half.

BFF: Well, remember the time we went to Firefly after your conference?

Me: Yes...

BFF: And we ordered some kind of fish as an appetizer?

Me: Oh yeah, the tuna.

BFF: And you said that the tuna was sushi-grade...

Me: ?

BFF: ...as if, you know, "Since you don't go to restaurants like this, let me explain it all to you..."

Me: Well, I just thought it was an interesting fact... I rememberd the first time the waiter explained it to me, and I enjoyed knowing more about the food, so I thought you would, too..."

BFF: I mean, I'm not mad, I was even laughing about it the next day with a friend of mine. "She's explaining the tuna to me, and I'm like, 'I have had tuna before!', like 'I know I don't eat in nice restuarants a lot, but I have had tuna...'"

I know I was supposed to laugh with her, and be glad that she wasn't "mad" about the Tuna Incident, but I just felt... humiliated. We were on the plane by this time, so I kind of laughed and then turned to look out the tiny window so she wouldn't see my eyes filling.

I really felt cut to the bone, for a few reasons, I suppose. That she took something I said in a moment of passion and enjoyment and turned it into a commentary on her supposed lack of culinary experience. That the dinner at Firefly had burned in my memory as a really wonderful evening in the city with her, and then I found out that it wasn't. That she was making fun of me with a co-worker, laughing at something I had said with only the best of intentions.

I felt so foolish. And worst of all, I realized that there is some kind of infection in our friendship that is breeding bad feelings. The problem is, I don't know where it is or how it started. And I don't know how to heal it.

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