Nope, I’m not imagining it. I’m pretty much dropped from local social life. You could blame my failure to reach out and make wellwishers feel comfortable. You could blame others’ own insecurities or insensitivites. At this point, I’ve stopped assigning blame. I’ve just been facing the fact that I’m treated differently. At first I felt the sting of exclusion, then after living with it for awhile, I felt alienated. Each time I’ve traveled this summer, I felt my heart sink upon returning to this town, where I am treated as a tragic figure, or a heroic mother, or a person who makes others uncomfortable. I can’t say what it is that runs through people’s heads when they run into me, or when they don’t invite me to parties. I just know that I feel objectified rather than a human being. I long to move to a new place, where I can start over, my past unknown, and just be treated as a person.
I can’t go anywhere, though, so here I stay. This got me into a funk, and I’ve been trying to fight it. A few weeks ago, when I started to feel the pangs of loneliness, I reached out to a few friends for coffee, or a movie, or a drink. That was nice, and that sustained me for a little longer.
Last week, when I returned from the utopia road trip, I wrote some cards to relatives and friends. I delivered some gift bags to local friends. I extended myself past my zone of loneliness. It felt good. Then I spent the weekend alone, just me and the kids, invited nowhere, not checked in on. It wasn’t so bad, though. I can extend without expecting anything in return. What’s important is the act of reaching out. I had a lot of cleaning to do. I took some naps. I kept the kids busy. I owed the dogs some good walks. I was left alone but didn’t feel alienated.
I went into the office on Monday after steering clear of the place for all of June and half of July. The secretary was visibly excited to see me. I was touched. When we emailed later in the day, she finished with, “It was so nice to see you!” I believe her. And it was so nice to see her, too.
Any social life I had was shattered. I can admit that I am being treated differently in town. I have to just accept it. I have to accept that my old world was destroyed. It is another loss. There are been so many losses.
But, hey, loss? A world destroyed? I know how to deal with them. You just keep on going. You learn to live without a foundation. Without a foundation, you learn to teeter, and to hang on to the threads around you. You look around and realize that the people in the “inner core” of support are genuine and caring and awfully brave, and that these threads are strong. Then you learn to connect the threads around you. And so you ask a friend out to coffee or a movie. You leap at the opportunity to do favors for them. You throw threads out to the outer rings. When someone exudes love and care, you receive it, return it, sit in that moment together. When someone stops you in the grocery store and asks how you really are, you let them see another layer, assuring them that you’re all okay, but you’re suffering, it’s hard, it’s really so hard. When that someone pauses and says they had a recent family loss…that helps them understand your loss much better now, you read between the lines. You say you’re so sorry. You welcome that person into the circle of grief and the realm of the inexplicable. You know that you should savor these moments, not because you’re a loser and this may be the only time a grown-up talks to you, but because this here is real. This is what your social life looks like now–there is no superficiality about it. The threads that you cast out, the threads that are thrown to you, are real. The bonds are strong, the connections are now twisted into a rope with all your mutual experience. You are weaving a new social life. You know that it’s a good one. And you know that any connection could be cut at any time. And you hold on anyway, throwing, catching, weaving. This is how you do it. This is the rebuilding. You accept that you’ll never get back what you lost. But you can’t imagine what you’re capable of building. It could suck. It could be amazing. But you are so chastened that you stop looking ahead. You toss a thread out. A friend catches it, and you throw back your heads with laughter. This is it. Here, now. You stop lamenting what you don’t have and see what you have, what you can build, what you have already woven.