This post concerns my sexual history and some associated guilt. While nothing explicit is described, or even implied, let this serve as a fair warning for those who aren’t interested in this kind of content.
Some short while before I left the theatre troupe—now more than three years ago—my lover and I stopped seeing each other romantically. I was mired in the depths of untreated depression and, for any number of reasons, her feelings toward me and toward our relationship changed. I want to be very clear that I have never held any grudge or ill-will for how things ended between us, though there is a not small part of me that still laments the loss of what we had.
Though still regarded as one of my very best friends, and someone with whom I enjoyed weekly lunch outings—at least, pre-Covid—she has pointed out on occasion that it distresses her that I still hold a candle for her, even tempered with the knowledge that we will never again be what we were. To that end I try to be very careful with my otherwise naturally-flirty jokes and innuendos, not wanting to give offense or cause her to think I consider us to be anything other than close friends.
Today she sent me a sweet, succinct text wishing me a fond birthday, and I responded with what I at first thought was an upbeat, positive message, but upon further thought, decided to amend it with an apology.
In friendships, relationships, and life I find myself apologizing a lot, and—whether this particular proclivity stems from the deep-seated thought that I genuinely owe others some manner of reparations or feeling that I need to somehow alleviate all others’ burdens—I worry that the sheer volume and frequency of such apologies dilute their impact. I find myself apologizing most to this ex-lover, perhaps owing to the closeness of our friendship or the feeling that I have much to answer for.
Part of me worries that if I were to apologize less, to stifle that part of me which seeks to make amends for all slights real or imaginary, I’d come off as an asshole or at the very least as offensively indifferent to the feelings of others.
In any case, here was our text exchange from today:
Happy birthday, my dear friend! I love you so much and am so grateful to have you in my life. 💚
Thank you so much [Name]. You mean the world to me and I cherish both the times we had together and the friendship that is so dear. You are a wonderful friend and I look forward to that indeterminate future day when I can take you out to lunch again. 😄
Upon reflection, I’m sorry if my referencing the past is uncomfortable for you. You are a wonderful friend and it’s impolite of me (at best) to keep dredging up the past. I truly mean it when I say I value and cherish our friendship.
I honestly don’t know if I’m being an ass in the first text by bringing up a time that has very much passed, or if I’m instead being an ass with the second by drawing even more attention to it and doubling down on assuming what her feelings are.
Even ignoring the pandemic, I really don’t talk to many people these days, and I haven’t since I left the theatre group, never having filled the social void left behind. It makes me nervous and anxiety-filled when I do reach out to someone, because I worry that I’m either intruding or unwelcome. The feelings come from a place of not wishing to be a burden on others, which itself likely stems from a lack of self-validation.
Without our almost-weekly lunches, I haven’t communicated much this year with my friend, to the extent that I even considered sending her the following comic on more than one occasion, stopping myself because I didn’t want to come off as pitiable or pitiful.
2020 has been a weird headspace for me, in that I’d functionally just as separated from people as I was before, but now when seeing other people isn’t even an option, I crave that inclusion in a way that isn’t so easily ignored when it was a self-imposed isolation.
If ever someone wonders what kind of thoughts keep me up at night, it’s the kind that spawns blog entries such as this.
Header image found at Pixabay.com, a fantastic resource for royalty-free stock photos.
Comic artist sadly unknown.