Let’s be honest, folks, today is Thursday, but whatever.
On Tuesday, I had just woken up and was probably about to do something productive with my last day off of my usual 3-day “weekend”, when I heard someone calling my name through my front door. At first I thought it was my neighbor, but then I realized it was my best friend, Madlen.
Madlen can be persistent when she wants to talk to me, and I’d had my phone off since I clocked out on Saturday, so I wasn’t that surprised that she didn’t take an off phone for an answer, and showed up at my door. It did surprise me when she immediately burst into tears when she saw me. The fact that she was already on the phone when she knocked on my door, is also pure Madlen.
Madlen is the most ADD conversationalist I’ve ever met. She’ll ask me an existential question and as I’m answering, she’ll text someone or answer a call. She has no problem interrupting a conversation she’s having with me to talk on the phone with someone else for 10 minutes, with me just sitting next to her, in her car, or at her house. She’ll call me, talk to me for 10 seconds, and then say, “I’m pulling into my parking garage. I’ll call you back in 5 minutes.” I’ve known her for 9 years, and she’s been like this from day one.
So on Tuesday, I let her in, and she had to use the bathroom, so she goes in and starts talking, and I was like, “I can’t hear you” and she said, “I wasn’t talking to you, I’m on the phone.” Oh, Madlen. Anyway, she was in crisis, so I spent all day helping her, spent the night at her place, and came home in time to shower and get ready for work on Wednesday.
It’s amazing how little time you have for your own sadness when you’re ensconced in someone else’s. It makes sense why people with chaotic childhoods tend to surround themselves with drama queens. It re-creates that chaos in adult life. I am not one of those people. I hate getting caught up in other peoples’ problems. I feel like I am struggling hard enough with my own, I can’t take on anyone else’s.
I tend to avoid people who are addicted to chaos, but I’ve known Madlen since before I had any kind of boundaries or any opinion about what I wanted in a friend. Back then, I had been working for 2 years after being agoraphobic for 10 years. When I decided to stop being agoraphobic, I made a rule to never turn down a social opportunity, so when Madlen wanted to hang out, I said yes. We were just VERY different people. I always liked her but she had a tendency to be a little bit superficial, and it’s probably been at least two years since I’ve voluntarily worn makeup. I’ve had the same bottle of hairspray for that long, too, and it’s mostly full.
She has a good heart, but after hanging out a couple of times, I think we both mutually decided that we probably wouldn’t hang out again. Then my mom died, and Madlen started calling me every day. I dreaded those phone calls. I wanted to die, and I very much resented being literally called back into the land of the living. I resented being asked (forced is too harsh of a word) to talk about my mom and how I was feeling, thinking that if I really unleashed what I was really thinking and feeling, she wouldn’t be able to handle it. But once in a while, I’d let her have it, and she would just let me yell at her. Then, whether we were on the phone or talking in person, she’d be silent for a minute or two, and then say, “Do you you feel better?”
I would say, “No,” although, honestly it was a relief to be able to say some of that stuff out loud. Then she’d tell me a joke in Armenian or Farsi, which I wouldn’t understand. Then she’d translate it, and it wouldn’t be funny which would make us both laugh. So, she’s a good kid. Big heart. And that is the ONLY thing we have in common.
I think our approaches to friendship are just different. I approach other people if I have something to offer them, otherwise, I tend to hang back. I will NEVER call a friend if I need emotional support. Madlen is someone who always reaches out when she needs support. I can’t remember ever just hanging out with her when she wasn’t in some sort of a crisis. It’s a puzzle-piece friendship, I need to have something to offer, and she needs to have at least one person in her life who accepts her the way she is (that’s usually the crisis).
I never say “no” to anyone who asks for help, but she asked so much that I had to start. I thought that that would be the end of our friendship (because that’s where my self-esteem is), but she actually took it pretty well. She credits learning to say “no” to other people from hearing it from me, which is so funny to me because I learned it by saying to it to her. I’ve also learned to reach out and ask for help when I need it because she did it so often, that it just rubbed off. So although I probably won’t call or text for help when I need it, now, I’ll answer someone honestly when they ask me how I’m doing. (I have to be REAL low to do that, though.)
One thing that she does is she demands that I say nice things to her. So, in the middle of the conversation, she’ll have an insecure moment and say, “Tell me something good about myself.” This used to infuriate me because it would never have occurred to me to accept a compliment, let alone demand one. But that has rubbed off, too. I still can’t demand a compliment, although I know that if I talk to my best friend Cheri, she’ll at some point just offer one (or two or three) up of her own volition. However, I have started to accept compliments — okay, not like internalizing it and believing it, more like accepting that the person complimenting me is delusional. Hey, it’s a start.
Anyway, it’s an unusual friendship and one that I’m frankly surprised has lasted this long, but I think that the one thing that we have in common is that we both walk through the world actively trying to figure out how to make it better. Both of us are perplexed by maliciousness in others because although we are both incredibly flawed, neither of us has an instinct to be actively cruel. The meanest things I’ve ever done have been out of a sense of self-preservation, warranted or not. And I still cringe at them.
I don’t know how to end this post, so I just will. Have a good day!