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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is a friend? the aspienado asks

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You know on Talking Dead when they do the flashback of all the kills? I've kind of got this mental list going of all the bodies left in my wake.

I lost old lappy before I could get all my downloads off it, and since all the huge windows updates won't ever let it make it past boot up now, I'm having to go back and find all those downloads again bit by bit over weeks and months. Third time now, because the first time I accidentally wiped 197 files off a flash drive after I had permanently deleted them off my hard drive.

Plus I've been slowly sorting through old private stuff off and on, moving a bit of content out into the open in several different places.

I was curious what goth has to do with sugar skulls, so I started digging
Anyway, there's this continual stream of bodies who didn't survive aspienado in their lives for one reason or another, and since this all keeps popping back up, I'm getting a better picture of how and why this happens, and how and why the people who don't drop off are able to stick with me.

I use the word 'friends' very loosely. I've had more 'friends' than just about anyone I know because I've been so prolific across a few fandoms, even though no one really knew who I was in other fandoms or real life or whatever. I've been careful not to cross streams, and for good reason- some streams don't cross well at all. I think acquaintances might be a better word, but everyone just uses 'friends' to mean that now, and basically, friends are non-enemies. I'm getting to where I don't classify anyone as a real enemy any more, so I really do use the word friends very loosely.

I'm usually able to skate above a lot of stuff, but I didn't understand for a long time how other people can't seem to do that, as well. I can hold several completely conflicting opinions at the same time without being bothered, and those opinions don't dictate to me who my friends are. I am usually able to talk to just about anyone about almost anything. I've been very easy in the past for people to latch onto and then get their feelings hurt because I don't mirror back the same enthusiasm, and I expect others to actually see me without having to play their head games if they really want to be friends, as opposed to assuming stuff about me without paying attention.

What people don't see is that I actually get attached in a much different way, and bonds don't break easily for me. When they walk away, I am usually devastated for awhile, maybe not for the reasons they might think, and not out of self pity or loneliness so much as I'm left hanging not understanding what just happened. I can't tell you how many times I've gone through this because people seem to be so afraid to simply be honest with me and point blank say "I need a break from you because this and this", but it's quite a list. There's only been one I've gone back after because I absolutely needed that connection back, but that doesn't mean the rest weren't very meaningful in their own ways or that I didn't care very much about them as people.

this tumblr blog makes a good point and has good links explaining why
I still remember all the people who were either nice to me or mean to me from early childhood on up. I am aspienado, the elephant's child, the one who rocks boats wanting to know why everything is the way it is and not being satisfied with the blow off answers I get. I am the one who puts up with personal abuse without dishing it back, who tries to understand what I did wrong while I defend being right my own way, who pays so much attention that I embarrass people quoting them back (with source) sometimes months and even years later and they don't remember even saying it. I am that annoying friend that can't just let time roll by and muddle through with narcotics and alcohol and regurgitating the same convos day in and day out for years. I am your truth or dare.

My social mapping skills are abysmal, so I've created my own style of social tiering my friends. There are several inner circle singles/sets who don't talk to me in public on social media, there are a multitude of gangs I'm in and out of on social media, there are people who've left me long ago that I still care about, there are people hanging onto me that I'm utterly perplexed about but still talk to, kind of like that. I group my friends up into subsets, categorizing them into what might look like a fishing lure box in my head. Or an embroidery box, take your pick. Or a letter box thingy on top of a desk. All of you are in labeled slots in my mind.

I've thought long and hard about what "friend" really means and is supposed to mean and all the ways it hurts because it doesn't always mean what we wish it would mean. I've decided that using the word "friend" to set judgement values on how close we are is a mistake. I am friends with some really awful people and some really good people, and using the word "friend" doesn't mean I or they care about each other more or less. It simply means there is a bond of some kind between us, no matter how deep or shallow, and I seem to have a lot of connections.

culture smashing all the things can't be stopped
coopting is the future
by the way, this is brain training
Pinky Robot gets it
A friend from my past who is a bit more dear than I ever let on liked to use the word betrayal, and the first time I heard her using it I felt a bit shocked that she would feel so utterly shunning of someone she loved over an emotion. Aspienado grew up without emotions cluttering and tangling stuff up (I simply lumped everything into anger), and since my feelings weren't ever considered in the first place, it didn't matter that my feelings would ever be hurt, because they continually were and no one cared anyway, right? So I've never in my life even thought of using the word 'betrayal' even though I've actually been pretty betrayed. I had a long think about how casually she used that word plugged into an emotion to express what amounted to hating one of her own kids, if I was hearing it correctly, and it was one of those stunning things that sent me reeling through worlds of wondering if that's how my own mother felt about me growing up and stuff. Which I never shared... Maybe I should have. At any rate, I found it very difficult to be friends with someone who was so determined to be so hurt by one thing in particular for nearly a month solid, and I didn't know what to say at all, so I talked about my own stuff like a typical aspienado. I just couldn't empathize at all with someone who triggered so many feelings from the receiving point of view, but it didn't ever occur to me that I should stop being friends with her. If anything, she's the one who toyed with me and eventually peeled me off, finally spelling out to me that she was only in it for the sport. I see now that was just an excuse, but it was very hurtful, and the reason why months later I couldn't reciprocate what felt like a lame attempt to patch up when she needed a friend again, although now I can see I missed a wonderful opportunity to grow more as a person with someone who was doing the same thing, growing as a person.

A lot of people hit and miss in this world. We might be really good for each other, but our time schedules are crazy and we catch each other all wrong. We might be the worst pairing up in history but everyone else is busy, so that person is the one who's there for stuff. Alls I know is I've had some really cool people slip through my fingers because I couldn't recognize what the real problems were underneath the stuff we use to cover things over, and I'm one of those really awkward people who wants the reveals and dares people to be honest. I'm still learning that part isn't necessary in order to be a good friend to someone, even if they need it very badly, and even if it might be the most important step they could take problem solving.

Defining myself as someone's friend is what I'm sifting down to. Am I available? Am I being transparent or elusive? Am I using them out of boredom or urgency and then casting them aside when I don't need them? I never asked myself these things until the last few years, and I'll be first to admit guilt. If I'm going to point to anyone, may as well be me, too.

the post this comes from didn't explain the leap to goth culture
No one owes me anything. Not my best friend, not my worst friend, not my dearest friend, not my scariest frenemy. I decided long ago that whether I allow someone to use me and toss me like a dryer sheet ultimately shouldn't be the basis of how I define "friend". If I go into a relationship expecting a standard of excellence from another person, I need to be letting that person know exactly how they'll fail me and why they'd be cut away, right? There's no guidebook that comes with being human saying "Thou shalt be a good friend". The golden rule thing is nice and all, but if you really think about it, aside from being encouraged toward a bit of kindness, there really aren't codified rules spelled out anywhere about what exactly friendship is.

There was one person many years ago who actually said to me "I am not your friend." This is after years of me practically being part of the family, many hours of babysitting and even cleaning house, being there for so many things. But apparently the definition of "friend" in his world was very tight, and even though he was available for a lot of people and even accessible when people needed anything, he didn't see me as a friend. That this direct sentence came hot on the heels of me being in one of the worst weeks of my life nearly destroyed me. I was let known that I was NOT on level enough to personally share that kind of depth or need, or something. I still haven't figured that one out. And then I basically got the kiss of live and be well and ushered out the door.

How do we know what lines we've crossed when we're never told? How do we know not to do this again if the lines aren't clearly demarcated? Being cut off as 'not a friend' is one of the most horrendous things a person can go through. Isn't it better to say "I don't know how to be with you for this."?

checking wikipedia for a history of skull symbolism
Pretending to be friends with someone until you can't handle something someone else is dumping out and then walking off really undermines the word "friend". So, I've redefined it. People are still my friends whether they think they are or not. They can leave me all they want to, I'm not the one who left them. I may have blown up a few bridges after a few incidents, but I'm typically not the one walking off the bridge in the first place.

If I want to rebuild a bridge, that is my prerogative. If I want to keep offering someone more chances to screw things up, that's my mistake to make. If I want to share everything with one person and not anyone else, that's my right. I do my best not to cross the streams, but the thing I need the most help with sometimes is some of those streams being crossed beyond my control, because that's when I start losing friends. Giving someone the power to do that to me is my latest challenge, and I can't even express how grateful I am to have another friend who actually understands and questions that.

the question of cultural appropriation, perhaps
-but here are my thoughts-
gothic sugar skulls represent abuse victims
because the colors are more like bruising
-original sugar skulls are festive and holy-
gothic sugar skulls are coopted to represent a lifestyle
but we do this with all religious symbolism eventually, do we not?
Mennonite goth has been around a long time, after all
I've had friends fight over me a few times, never understanding why, usually losing all of them in the process. When people start telling me they love me and they'll always be there for me, I know the walk off is imminent. I know that sounds odd, but this has happened too many times and must mean something. I'm still working on why that particular signal works the way it does. People need so badly to blurt their stuff, but trust is a hard thing in this cruel world.

Anyway, the friend compartments. Some of you are my pets, some of you are like siblings or cousins (actually not the greatest sign in the world), some of you remind me of people I went to school with, some of you are your own special thing, some of you I deeply need for very specific reasons, some of you are blessings humming in my background, some of you are sand in my shoes after a good time out at the beach, some of you are books I can't seem to finish, some of you are like 3 year olds wanting attention, some of you are like coffee and cake, some of you are roller coasters... You see what I mean. Some of you have me blocked now because I won't suck back up to your bossiness, but that's ok because it just means we're taking a break.

I stalk the ones I really care about. And I find you. Even many years later I know where you are, how you're doing, and I hug you in my head. If you have a passing thought of me, that's probably why.

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