social life

Exit 153. Good advice from a bad application.

I recently came across a meme, a screen shot of a conversation about malaphors.  A malaphor is the mixing of two or more familiar expressions.  The origin of the word seems to be a mixing of the suffix mal-, from Latin for “bad,” with the word metaphor, ultimately derived from the Greek for “apply,” as in applying a word to something else that it does not mean literally.  So a malaphor is literally a “bad application.”

A commonly cited example of a malaphor is “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.”  The actual saying is “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” meaning not to worry about things that might not even happen.  The burning part comes from the saying “burning bridges,” which means walking away from something and leaving no possibility of turning back, just as literally burning a bridge would leave one permanently on one side of the water with no possibility of crossing back to the other side.

Shortly after I saw this meme, I overheard someone talking about having had a really rough day.  The incident that set her over the edge was not necessarily something all that serious in and of itself, but given a buildup of little things that had previously happened, that incident led to a huge argument.  She referred to it as “the needle that broke the haystack.”  I was amused with that description, because that is another malaphor.  The actual phrase she intended to use is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (or the shorter variation “the last straw”), meaning a minor event that causes a major reaction because of the buildup of other minor events.  A camel can easily carry a straw on its back, but when already laden with hundreds of pounds of straw, or other burdens, one straw may be enough to break the camel.  She got this phrase confused with “finding a needle in a haystack,” referring to an extremely difficult and arduous task.

This morning, I was thinking about recent changes in my life and social circles, and wondering whether it is time to cut off certain potentially toxic individuals entirely.  I hate to cut people out of my life.  If I was once close with someone, or if I once saw something good in someone I didn’t know well, I often wish that things could be the way they once were and we could be close again.  And if I do happen to run across any of these people again, I don’t like the awkward situation of possibly having to explain why I cut them out of my life.  But on the other hand, I need to take care of myself, and it seems dangerous to give people opportunities to do or say hurtful things, especially in cases when I’ve been hurt before.

And then it hit me.  A thought crossed my mind from one of these malaphors.  Good advice from a bad application.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

As I said before, there have been some changes lately, the kind of changes in which I am naturally growing apart from the people who are making me feel conflicted about this.  So it might not really be an issue at all.  I might see these people so infrequently going forward that I won’t have to worry about any toxic interactions.  A lot of this is all in my head.  So maybe the best decision is to just wait and see.  To let former friendships die a natural death.  And if any of these people do cross paths with me again, if things end up being hurtful, then maybe I’ll say something face to face and/or block them from all social media.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

Exit 152. Three years.

As of this week, I have now been writing this blog for three years.  What does that mean?  Nothing really.  It hasn’t grown nearly as quickly as some other blogs I’ve followed, but that is mostly because I haven’t actively promoted it all that much, and because it doesn’t have a specific topic tied to it that people can search for.  And it’s not necessarily supposed to.

I have made some new friends through this blog, people who, after randomly finding posts of mine, follow me and I follow them.  I don’t have hundreds of adoring fans, like celebrities or like some of the blogs I follow.  And some of the people who used to follow me don’t anymore.  But that’s okay, because that’s how real life is too.

I’ve said before that part of the reason I feel so lost in the world is because I’ve been looking for ways to live like I’m in my early 20s again, with friends who live nearby and a church group that also doubles as a social circle.  That’s not going to happen.  That’s not how life is, and I can’t change that.  But what I can do is make the most of what I have.  My social circle isn’t going to be huge.  But it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be. And it will change.  People grow apart.  People’s actions reveal who they really are, and it is better to let go than to stay angry and hurt.

I can’t change other people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.  I can stay close to the people who have stayed close to me.  I can try new things, since some of what I’m doing now isn’t working.  Or maybe it’s time for another party at my house, to try to keep my circle intact.  Or maybe some combination of those things.

Exit 151. Who am I? What do I want?

Who am I?

What do I want?

I’ve had a few conversations lately along these lines.  Most notably, a few weeks ago, my therapist asked me if I were to wake up tomorrow and everything would be happy, exactly the life I want, what would that look like?  It seems like a simple question… but I wasn’t satisfied with my answer.  My answer seemed clichéd and unrealistic.

The best answer I could come up with was that I would want to be married to a nice Christian woman, and we would be raising a family together, and we would be involved in a church.  And all of the frustrations I have with the way the world is wouldn’t matter, because she would share many of my frustrations, and church would be our safe place away from that.  That all sounds nice from the somewhat naïve world view I had in my early 20s as a new Christian, when things seemed more black and white, and I was surrounded socially by other Christians.  That isn’t life anymore.  Life at 40 in the suburbs is different.

And is that really what I want?  Or is that what I’ve always been told to want?  Do I want this life for the right reasons, or for shallow reasons of the flesh?  Are there any options I haven’t explored yet?  Which ones are worth my time, and which ones have I avoided just because I want to stay in my comfort zone?

If I’m going to make any progress in figuring out life, I’m going to have to figure this out first.

Exit 148. Not completely isolated yet.

Sometimes I feel like there is nothing left for me here.

I guess that’s an unnecessarily dramatic way of making this point.  What I’m trying to say is that I don’t have a lot of connections left here in the specific suburban community where I currently live.  I didn’t grow up here; I moved here in 2006, at age 29.  So I don’t have anyone in the area whom I’ve known since childhood, as people who grew up here usually do.  At one time, I worked near my house, and I attended church just a couple miles away.  These were the job I left in 2014 and the church I left in 2015, respectively.  At this point in my life, work is a half hour drive in one direction and most of my social life happens a half hour drive in the opposite direction.  The only thing left for me here is my house, and sometimes I wonder if I really belong here anymore.  But I have compelling reasons why moving is not the best idea right now either.

Last night, I went to a certain one-step-up-from-fast-food chain restaurant, prompted by a coupon, good for two days only, which I received from their email list.  Unsurprisingly, when I got there, I noticed that many other people seemed to have the same idea, as the line was much longer than I have ever seen it.  I went in to brave the line anyway, though; I had no other plans the rest of the evening.

About a minute after I got there, I heard someone calling my name.  I turned around and saw one of my favorite people, an old friend from many years ago, with two of her children.  This was someone I met at church a few months after I moved here, when she was still a teenager (so she is in her late 20s now).  She was one of my closer friends for a couple years, but eventually she met her future husband and found another church, right around the same time if I remember right.  We just didn’t cross paths much after that, although we have been connected on social media the whole time.  It had been a couple years since I had run into her in person, though, and it was good to catch up.

I don’t have much of a social life that takes place in my immediate geographical area.  This is true.  But I’m not completely isolated yet.  I still know people nearby.  And I occasionally run into them around town.  Most of the people I used to know here who are still here have grown up, getting married and raising children.  (I’m not necessarily saying that I haven’t grown up because I don’t have children; the point here is that my local friends from a decade ago have grown up in a different way than I have.)  And for those of you who fit this description, even if most of our contact is through Facebook likes and I only see you once every two years when we happen to be grocery shopping at the same time, thank you for staying in contact with me.  I appreciate it.

Exit 145. That’s ok.

I missed a post a couple weeks ago and didn’t write a second post to make up for it.  That’s ok.

I had a semi-blind date a couple weeks ago.  It didn’t go badly, but in conversations that happened afterward, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that we’re not right for each other in that sense.  That’s ok.

One day this week, we had to evacuate the school where I work, for over an hour.  It turned out to be a false alarm, but it was pretty inconvenient, and it messed up my schedule for the week.  One of the classes is now another day behind where I should be at this time of year.  That’s ok.

I had people over last night.  It had been four months since my friends had been to my house, and that was a last minute thing; it had been six months since I had planned to have people over.  I just haven’t been feeling very social the last few months.  That’s ok.

Although I have known for a long time that I am an introvert, I always enjoyed things like this where a ton of people show up at my house… once in a while, at least.  I would count how many people show up, hoping to set a new record.  But last night was a much smaller crowd.  That’s ok.

I don’t even remember what the record is now.  I remember having 30 people once, but I think that might have been surpassed once.  But I’m not sure.  That’s ok.

I stayed up really late last night, and I skipped church this morning.  That’s ok.

Around 11:00 this morning, I went back to bed, and I stayed in bed until mid-afternoon.  I didn’t go for a bike ride today, and I haven’t cleaned up anything from last night yet.  That’s ok.

It’s ok, because I have to take care of myself.  It’s ok, because I needed to be around a smaller crowd and feel closer to this group of people.  It’s ok, because my true friends will understand.

Exit 132. It reminded me of the way I’ve been mistreated.

I voted for Gary Johnson.

This is not going to be a political post, so I’m not going to go into detail on my thoughts on the issues.  So here’s the short version: I wasn’t expecting him to win a majority of the electoral vote.  I mostly just didn’t want a vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on my conscience.  I dislike them both, for different reasons.  And I don’t agree with Gary Johnson on some things, but the thought of him in the White House scared me less than the thought of either of the two major candidates in the White House.  And I do not regret one bit voting the way I did, so all of you who kept telling me that a third party candidate can’t win, save your I-told-you-sos for someone else.

So… anyway… even though I wasn’t 100% behind all of Gary Johnson’s views on the issues, and I don’t agree with all of the Libertarian Party’s stances, this year felt different.  With Clinton and Trump so widely disliked, many voters were looking for an alternative. Johnson had previously won two terms as governor of New Mexico, so he had relevant political experience.  He was polling over 10% in many states a few months before the election.  He was popular with certain subgroups of the population, and in a few states, such as New Mexico and Utah, his numbers were looking like he might actually have a chance to win.  No third party candidate had won a state since 1968, and in an election projected to be close, like this one, just winning one or two states might be enough to ensure that neither of the two major candidates would win a majority of the electoral vote.  According to the Constitution, this would lead to the House of Representatives choosing the President, with each state getting one vote (as opposed to each Representative), and this would open up the possibility of a compromise with the Republican Congressional delegation not being unified behind Trump.  The chance of that actually happening was small, but like I said, this year felt different, and it felt like time for the unexpected to happen.

But it did not happen.

Evan McMullin of Utah entered the race late and took most of the Utah anyone-but-Clinton-or-Trump voters away from Johnson.  Johnson got a little over nine percent of the vote in his home state of New Mexico, and over five percent in only a few other states.  Nationally, Johnson won a little over three percent of the popular vote, a number very similar to his showing in my home state of California.

Watching this phenomenon kind of annoyed and disappointed me, because it reminded me of the way I’ve been mistreated over the years by people who I thought cared for me.  People get all excited about something that I’m also a part of, but then in the moment of truth, they back out and abandon me, much as many people who polls said were voting for Gary Johnson apparently abandoned him and the rest of the Johnson voters.  There have been times when I have made group plans to go out to dinner, game nights, movie marathons, sporting events, and the like.  Many of my friends act interested at first, and then many of them back out at the last minute.  Not only is this frustrating, but sometimes this leaves me with tons of uneaten food at my house, or a responsibility to find someone at the last minute to take a ticket I’ve already paid for.

Similarly, in my 20s, I was surrounded by Christians who preached an extremely restrictive and conservative message regarding dating and sexuality.  I did my best to conform: I made friends with girls instead of actively pursuing them as romantic interests.  I tried my hardest not to masturbate or have overly flirtatious and sexually explicit chat room and instant message conversations, and when my willpower wasn’t strong enough, I felt immensely guilty and down on myself.  Meanwhile, many of my friends who were so passionate about this lifestyle eventually threw all that stuff out the window and started doing all the things they preached so loudly against.  They told me that I was single because God doesn’t want me dating and I wasn’t praying enough, just before they went home to watch porn and have sex with their significant others that they weren’t married to.

Why do people do this?  I don’t know.  I do have a few theories as to where all the prospective Gary Johnson voters went.  There probably were not as many of them to begin with, since much of what I was reading on the subject came from the Johnson campaign itself, which had a vested interest in skewing statistics to make their candidate seem more popular.  As I said before, many of them, especially in Utah, voted for Evan McMullin instead.  Some of them probably decided that they were so repulsed by one candidate that they voted for the slightly less objectionable candidate just to stop the slightly more objectionable one.  Some of them probably were so repulsed by both candidates that they did not vote at all.  Some of them probably lost faith in the ability of anyone to go up against the two-party system that they voted for the slightly less objectionable candidate.  That’s their right, and I’m not here to blame third-party voters for a major party candidate winning or losing any state.  That’s not how it works.

As for why my friends acted in ways that made me feel abandoned and backed out on, I know even less.  Some of the people in my life just aren’t true friends, just as many potential Johnson voters weren’t truly on board with his candidacy.  With social plans, sometimes things genuinely do come up.  People get sick.  Family members have emergencies.  And as for the Christians-don’t-date lifestyle, sometimes people get caught up in a certain lifestyle or viewpoint because of the people around them, without actually having a life-changing commitment to this lifestyle, and when circumstances change and they see other viewpoints, sometimes they fall away.  I don’t want to be angry with my friends.  I understand that things come up sometimes.  And everyone has their own journey of faith, and everyone who has left Christianity or become more liberal in their interpretation of Scripture has their reasons for doing so.  It is not my place to judge their faith.  I have things to learn from them, and I certainly see some things differently now than I did as a new Christian 20 years ago.  Many of these things happened to me a long time ago, and I don’t think it is healthy to carry grudges.

I guess I’m mostly angry at the world in general.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do about it.  Life isn’t fair, and people will disappoint.  I’m just going to have to find a way to deal with it, and this is a process that will take a long time.

Exit 128. What are you doing in town?

Earlier this week, I got to thinking more about something that I had omitted from last week’s post, the one about Davis (so you might want to read that one first if you didn’t already).

When I was in Davis last Sunday afternoon, I briefly ran into a guy who I knew from the church I attended when I lived in Davis.  He and I lost touch after I moved away, but we got back in touch about a year ago.  When he saw me, after saying hi, he asked, “What are you doing in town?”

It’s a perfectly natural question to ask when you see someone in your town who used to live there but doesn’t anymore.  If I were walking down the street in my own neighborhood, and I saw someone I know who used to live here but has since moved out of the area, I would probably ask the same thing.  But what was curious about this was that it highlights one of the interesting things about Davis that I mentioned last week: while statistically, Davis is part of the greater Sacramento metropolitan area, located just 15 miles from downtown Sacramento, Davisites often think of their community as its own little world.

I didn’t think of myself as being out of town.  It was only going to take me a little over half an hour to drive home.  I know lots of people who live on the same side of the Sacramento River from me, but about equally far from me as this guy, who wouldn’t have thought of me as an out-of-towner if they saw me in their neighborhood standing at a salsa bar waiting for someone who was using the ladies’ room.  Furthermore, I am in Davis quite often.  I have friends there who I have met through my dancing and board game groups, who sometimes invite me to parties.  I return to the UC Davis campus several times a year, for football and basketball games and Picnic Day.  In fact, I was there again in the time since I started working on this post, for a football game (the Aggies won, yay). In my mind, a trip to Davis is not a trip out of town.

There are a number of possible reasons for this mentality among Davisites.  Being a university town, Davis draws many people who did not grow up in the greater Sacramento metropolitan area (as I was when I moved there in September 1994).  Unlike many other communities near Sacramento, which all run into each other and even extend into adjacent counties, Davis is surrounded by farmland, separated from West Sacramento by six miles of open space and flood bypass.  The progressive political slant in Davis also seems to lead some individuals to think of a distinction between themselves and residents of other more conservative communities.  But this is not what I wanted to write about today.

The whole experience got me thinking about how my life is so spread out geographically.  My social life extends across three counties, and my work is in a fourth county.  And, more importantly, very few of the people I spend the most time socializing with live within 10 miles of me.  My social life started moving away from my neighborhood in 2008, when I started hanging out with dancers, and after leaving my job in 2014 and leaving my church in 2015, I really have very little left in my neighborhood other than my house.  This geographical separation makes it much more difficult to make, keep, or participate in last minute social plans.  (Davis, for example, stands in contrast to this, as there do not exist two points in Davis that are more than 10 miles apart.) I can’t make plans during the week without advance planning, and even then I can’t always do things without sacrificing sleep or things that need to be done around the house.  When I make plans at the last minute, it is equally hard for friends to come all the way down here.  The most recent time I invited people over at the last minute, six people showed up, which is two or three more than I expected.

So what do I do about it?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if I can do anything about it, other than accept it and make the most of what I have.  If I move closer to work, I would be moving even farther from my social life, to a smaller town that seems to be dominated by families with roots in the area.  If I move closer to friends, I’d be moving farther from a job that is going well, and I’d have to go through the hassle of selling the house.  Making new friends closer to home sounds like the obvious choice, which could also tie in with looking for a church closer to home*, but my area is mostly families, and the churches around here are mostly family-oriented, so it is not as easy as it sounds.  I haven’t figured that out yet.

(* I am currently not actively looking for a church closer to home.  The church I’ve been attending for the last year is about 13 miles from my house.)

 

Exit 121. Staying home for no good reason.

It’s Sunday night.  I’m pretty sure that in approximately 121 weeks of doing this blog, I have never posted on a Sunday night before.  Sometimes I’m on the ball and I get my post done on Saturday; often I post Sunday afternoon or early evening; and occasionally I don’t get it done until Monday or Tuesday.  But I’m pretty sure that I have never posted later than 7:30 on a Sunday night.

There is a reason for this.  I have a weekly social dancing event that I have participated in every Sunday night since mid-2009, and since around 2011 I have volunteered there as well.  Honestly, though, I haven’t been there every Sunday night; once every couple months I ask to take the night off from volunteering because I’m out of town visiting family, or I’m at the Kings game, or I’m on my way back from a Giants game in San Francisco, or a friend who I really want to see planned a birthday party on Sunday night.  So I’m always doing something other than writing this late on a Sunday.

But tonight, I am staying home for no good reason.

I have nothing else going on tonight.  It feels like it would be a good week for me not to miss.  Last night, I was at a going away party for someone I know from this event; very few of her dancing friends showed up, so there was very little dancing at this party.  She is a wonderful dancer, and had I shown up tonight, I might have gotten one last dance with her before she moves back to her home, across a large ocean from here.  Also, someone I danced with there about a month ago and have stayed in touch with on Facebook is there right now.  It would be good to see her again, and I feel bad that I’m not there.

Nevertheless, I am staying home tonight, for no good reason.

No, that’s not true.

The reason I am staying home is because I have to take care of myself.  The last month has been an overwhelming whirlwind of stress and interaction.  I have an unusually high concentration of close friends, including myself, who have birthdays right at the same time I am starting the new school year at work.  I tend to spend most of the weekdays in August running around and trying to prepare for and adjust to a new school year, and I spend most of the time on weekends, and a few weeknights sometimes, at birthday parties with friends.  By the time the end of August comes along, my brain feels fried and my body feels exhausted.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I need more alone time, and how I need to figure out if there is anything or anyone in my life that I need to cut out, because they do more harm than good.  Since then, I have done exactly the opposite.  It’s time to start.  And staying home from dancing tonight is step 1.  How long will this last?  I don’t know.  I might be back next week.  I might be back in a few weeks.  I might not be back for a long time.  I might be avoiding other kinds of socialization for a while as well.  I might have to say some painful goodbyes.  But I can’t live the way I have been anymore.

Hopefully I can also be responsible enough to go to bed within an hour or so.

Exit 117. But what will I fill the void with?

I’ve said before that my time off work this summer seemed way too short.  I feel like the last year has been emotionally draining, for a number of reasons, most of which are not related to work, and many of which I have not shared here.  I was hoping that having seven weeks off work would give me time to clear my head, so that life would feel normal again.  But this has not happened.

I’m starting to wonder if it might be time for a more drastic step, and the message I heard at church this morning tied in with this.  Maybe it’s time to become a bit more isolated.  I’m starting to wonder if some of the things I do and people I see might be causing more harm than good.  I feel conflicted about this for a number of reasons, though.  For one thing, most of these things aren’t harmful 100% of the time.  And, for the most part, no one is actively trying to hurt me.  This is not a situation where I’m being bullied, or threatened, or anything like that.  I’m just realizing that certain parts of my life that used to make me happy in the past aren’t making me feel that way so much anymore.

But what will I fill the void with?  Part of the reason I haven’t cut things out of my life is because I have nothing with which to replace them.  That means more time spent at home moping and being alone, and that seems just as unhealthy to me.  But maybe I should be filling that void with God, spending that extra time in prayer and Scripture and meditation, to get some real direction on life.  And this doesn’t have to be forever.  When I feel ready, I can gradually add things back into my life provisionally, so I can better discern who and what are and aren’t worth my time.

I haven’t decided for sure that I will be doing this, but it’s something I’m thinking about.  We’ll see.

Exit 91. Oh, @#$%, I do know her.

Last night, I was at a friend’s birthday party.  When I got there, I scanned the room to see who was there.  I saw some people I knew, some people I recognized from previous birthday parties (I’ve been to all of her birthday parties since 2013), and some I didn’t seem to recognize at all.

The party was in an older house in an older neighborhood in Sacramento, and there is only one bathroom in the house.  About an hour and a half into the party, I was waiting in line to use the bathroom.  The bathroom door opened, and out walked one of the people I had spotted in my initial scan of the party and identified as one I didn’t know.  I smiled and said hi, as I usually do when I come face-to-face with party guests I don’t know.

“Hi,” she said, with a strange look on her face as she walked off.  By strange, I mean it wasn’t the friendly hello that usually comes when I’m about to introduce myself to a guest at a party whom I don’t know.  There was something significant in her response.

It hit me about two seconds later, as I walked into the bathroom and closed the door.  Oh, @#$%, I do know her, I thought.

I didn’t recognize her until I saw her face, because she has significantly shorter hair now, and I hadn’t seen her up close in my initial scan of the room.  I met her at this same birthday party two years ago.  Over the next few weeks, we started exchanging long Facebook messages, which then led to two dates.  On the way home from the second date, I asked her something like “what are we,” and she said that we were casually dating and seeing if things could work out.  Four days later (and this was right around Valentine’s Day, I should point out), she dumped me by text.  (I told this story in more detail here, in Highway Pi #42.)

I think it hurt so much because I felt like I deserved at least a phone call or a face-to-face conversation, not just a text.  In particular, I didn’t understand what had changed in those four days.  I suppose I was fortunate to at least get a text, though, because apparently the trend these days is to dump people by not saying anything at all, just refusing to answer communications and disappearing out of the other person’s life.  That’s just immature and cowardly to me.

I didn’t say anything to her the rest of the night last night, and she didn’t say anything to me.  I hate being in that awkward position where I don’t want to talk to someone, or someone doesn’t want to talk to me.  But I think that’s just part of life.  There have been times when I was able to reconcile with someone who had hurt me (I wrote about one in Highway Pi #19, for example).  But I can’t expect that to happen every time.  Everyone is different, and every ending friendship and relationship is different, and I can’t change people.  That’s okay.  The best I can do is move on.  Sometimes I’ve been in awkward situations with people, and I can’t always figure out if I want to stay friends with them or not.  That’s okay too.  Healing takes time, and usually it depends on the other person as well.  I just hope all of these situations sort themselves out in time.

The rest of the birthday party went really well.  To this day, I still don’t know if my friend who was having the birthday ever knew that her friend and I went out a couple times, or that she dumped me by text.  I didn’t bring it up.  There was no point.  I was having too much fun with other people who are actually fun to be around.