I see my therapist once a week. We talk about my life and how to reframe things that are difficult for me. I like my therapist.
But an hour a week is really not enough to help me. I think I’d probably need to see her every single day for the amount of therapy I need. Since I can’t do that, I often end up relying on my friends.
Last week, I had a particularly difficult day. I think it was because I was thinking a lot about Mother’s Day (why are holidays still SO difficult?) and trying to deal with the logistics of school winding down. It was just one of those days where I was at the end of my rope.
I always know when I’m having an “end of my rope” day because I’ll text my friends something along the lines of “I hate my life” or “things are always going to be terrible and I need to just accept that” or some other variant. It’s a plea for help, yes, and at this point they’ve started to understand what it mean: don’t leave Marjorie alone.
So that afternoon I ended up in Becky’s backyard with her and Michelle. The day was beautiful and we drank wine and fed the kids hot dogs. Neighbors dropped by. It was a day that I’d had a thousand times in previous years, when we talked about our dramas at work and our kids’ baseball games, rather than my emotional state. I mean, we actually still talked about our lives that afternoon, but it was also peppered with my feelings of sadness.
That’s how I know I have some good friends. They can help me work through those terrible feelings and then we can laugh over a story about one of the kids freaking out about a specific kind of socks. It’s become so normal for Becky and Michelle to hear about my dramatic emotions that we can also talk about the regular stuff in the same conversation.
Anyway, I was telling them about my meeting with my therapist that day, and how we had discussed my dating life. “It’s non-existent!” I had said to my therapist, “and I hate it. I hate being alone. I hate being the only person at a party without a partner and I hate feeling different from every other person in my neighborhood.”
I told her about how when I say things like this other people around me, everyone is encouraging. “You’ll meet someone when you least expect it!” comes the common refrain.
“But I’m tired of feeling like everyone just wants my pain to go away,” I said to my therapist. “Even though I want it to go away!”
Anyway, I was telling Becky and Michelle all of this, and they were listening thoughtfully. They are not the friends who say, “it will all be okay!” but rather they are the friends who say, “we love you and this sucks, but we’ll sit with you through it. Also, want some wine?” So when I was telling them about my therapist’s idea of radical acceptance of my circumstances, they were listening and asking questions.
“I just feel left out, and like everyone wants me not to feel that way. But I do feel left out,” I said to Becky and Michelle. “I do feel different from everyone who lives around us. Everyone tries to include me in the big events – which I appreciate – but then sometimes I feel out-of-place. Worse, sometimes I feel like I can’t be too sad at those events. No one says this, of course, but it’s just a feeling I get. I’m not sure why.”
They nodded thoughtfully. Just then, Claire came up to me and started telling me about the fillings she got at the dentist that day. My dad had taken her.
“Mom!” she said, interrupting my story, “it was so terrible. They put this thing in my mouth that made me gag and then they drilled on my teeth. They gave me numbing medication and then I couldn’t feel my face!”
She was getting worked up about everything that happened. “Well, Claire,” I said, “that doesn’t sound like it hurt too much.”
She looked right at me. “It hurt for ME!” she said.
I laughed. “Why are you laughing?” she asked.
“I’m just thinking about how I tried to diminish your pain right now,” I said. “Sometimes I feel like people are doing that to me and I hate it.”
“Right,” she said, “because it hurt so much!”
“Well, Claire,” Michelle said, “how did you manage to get through the pain while they were working on your mouth?”
“It’s going to sound silly,” Claire said, “but remember how we saw Avengers last weekend? I thought about how it was so much worse for Iron Man. So if he could still save the universe, I figured I could get through the dentist.”
We all chuckled. She ran off to play with her friends, and we sat and drank wine in the late afternoon sun. It was a perfect afternoon, and as we chatted about the mundane issues of our lives, I let myself feel the happiness that slowly came over me.
Maybe, I thought later, it’s not that everyone else is trying to diminish my pain. Maybe it’s actually ME. Maybe when I find myself in these situations – the social ones where I’m the only person without a man by my side – maybe it’s time that I sit in that discomfort, rather than wishing it away.
And maybe when I’m feeling like an outsider, I need to say it out loud.
“It hurts for ME.”