I think I have always been a lonely person. No one would guess that from meeting me -- I think I usually come across as friendly and outgoing, even a bit loud. I'm one of those people that always needs to be in a room full of people, yet can still feel lonely among them -- among friends, loved ones. I'm someone who needs to "gather the troops" constantly; when something amazing, tragic, life-altering, special, memorable or just silly happens, I need to call everyone. Not someone. Everyone. That goes for a frightening medical diagnosis for one of my kids or an amazing new lip gloss that I came across. I will tell the same story to any number of people just to hear them laugh with me, cry with me, get excited, feel my pain or just hear them breathe into the phone.
A very close friend told me recently that she needs people like me or she wouldn't have any friends. She's horrible about calling, writing back, texting, etc. She said that if friends like me didn't always call or text or write her, then she likely wouldn't have any. I have the same fear, that if I'm not the caller, the texter, the writer, the voicemail-leaver, the Facebooker, the blogger, there would be silence.
I worry that friends don't think I'm worth the effort. Even the connections I feel when writing here are something I need -- to feel that there are people out there that know that I'm here. Alone. Hoping that they are out there. That's why I do all of those things -- to feel connected. Because I'm always afraid that those real-world connections are too fragile. That if I stopped to take a breath, I would see that they are all much more transient than I can stand to think about.
I'm a tough person to be friends with: I'm high-maintenance, I talk incessantly and at the speed of the Micro Machine Car commercial guy, I'm needy, emotional and always seem to have some sort of drama going on in my life --- and that was before I had kids. Kids who make me feel like even more of a social pariah than I did before. I'm not blaming them -- my poor children have enough problems of their own -- and I do not expect them to bear the burden or responsibility of my social and emotional welfare. I think people don't know what to do with me, what do do with a friendship that asks and takes so much. I know that before I had Owen, if I heard that someone had a special needs child, I would have felt badly for them and certainly acted nicely towards them, but likely shied away from them, if only because I was scared -- for them? Of them? I really can't say. But it was intimidating. And now, being Parker and Owen's mother defines me. I announce it to the world to the point that I should just go ahead and wear a t-shirt every day or get it tattooed on my forehead. It's what I lead with when I meet people. Why? I'm not really sure -- maybe because I want to tell them upfront so that I don't invest too much in case they are like the "me" I used to be and couldn't hack it. I'd understand. I can barely hack it.
Scott and I have recently had some play dates with families of special needs kids and I cannot begin to say what a relief it is to not have to worry or apologize or hold your breath for what feels like the entire two hours or so that you're with these people in fear of what your child might do or how he or she might act. I went to a "meet and greet" for my daughter's new school last week and told myself that I would just be myself -- not "Owen's mother," not "Parker's mother," but me. Jamie. And I convinced myself that it would be good enough. And I couldn't do it. I was asked where Owen goes to preschool and I told them where, and why he was in a special needs school. And then I got the looks of empathy and surprise and pity. And I knew that I blew it and that these women would never get to know me for who I am on my own and then have the chance to make a decision based on that. And I regretted it, but I don't know what else to do.
I'm sure other parents of special needs kids have have felt the invisible but palpable wall come up between them and the parents of typical kids. We're over here and they're over there. Over here feels like being in a bubble. An igloo. A cave. Parker will be in that new school next year and I wonder what will happen to the friendships I made at her current school over the past few years. Some of them I know won't pass the test of distance, even if it's only a few miles. Those are the friendships of convenience. The friendships that go on because you are literally in each other's faces and spaces everyday. Some have already ended for their own reasons. Some I know in my heart will continue and some I can only hope. But here I am again. At the end and the beginning. The first day of camp approaching. The first day of school soon thereafter. Where will I be in my quest to end this perpetual loneliness? There are times when I can't get in touch with anyone and I genuinely wonder if it was all in my imagination and my real life is as silent as it feels at that exact moment. And it's petrifying. If I never called or emailed or texted or blogged again, would there be anyone there?
Originally posted on www.ourstrokeofluck.net
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