Sunday, October 6
Conference this year was most of what I asked for. President Uchtdorf gave a passionate talk about reaching out to others. Elder Holland spoke about depression, mental illness, and learning empathy for those with major trials and pain in life. And, among others, Elder Nelson and Elder Oaks spoke crystal-clearly about the eternal nature of morality and the Church's unchanging stance on homosexual activity.
I felt loved, understood, vindicated, supported, and uplifted in a thousand ways.
But in the wake of an amazing experience, I find myself now wondering exactly what I am going to do to apply the principles I learned. And, instead of looking for answers to the questions (and requests) I made of God, looking for what I should do.
It didn't take long to identify something. And yet...
Some of you know that I have a really hard time reaching out to people. Even when they reach out to me. This has been a painful realization for most of my life, and a constant reminder that I have room for improvement.
Part of me hurts when I think about trying to reach out to people. It makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry, because I am sooooo miserably bad at this. Either that or God always intervenes to ensure I come running back to Him. I don't know how it works with other people, but I've got to be horrible. I'll finally get up the courage to ask someone to be my friend, and 19 times out of 20, they'll say no. Or worse (and more common), say nothing and ignore me. Really. In maybe 5% someone that I approach will actually respond positively... and even those relationships don't last long. It's not the rejection that hurts persay... but wondering exactly what it is that I'm doing wrong... with no way to know how to fix it.
I know some people who would be willing to be friends, but another issue is that if people aren't involved in my day-to-day (or at least weekly) life, I forget major things about them. I forget their names, their professions, where they are from, what they like to do, even how I met them. On a good day, I can easily remember half of the names of my mission companions.
When I finally get some type of positive response, I let relationships fall flat because I don't know what ingredients to add to them. I'm terrified of doing something that will lessen my chances of getting closer to people.
If I could trade this struggle - the frustration and sorrow and bewilderment and unknowing and pain and overthinking and fear and incredible unmet longing - for anything, some days I would. I'd trade it for intense, permanent, physical pain. I'd trade it for numbness of mind (I'd probably be a drunk... more likely a suicide... if I didn't have the gospel) if that were an option. I'd trade it for blindness, or deafness, or lost limbs, or paralysis... I'd trade it for anything that I can imagine - even all the rest of the trials I've seen rolled into one.
This isn't meant to be a "woe is me." Just background.
Most of the time the part of me that tries to connect with people is quietly absent. I can serve, give, teach, and meet the needs of others, but I relegate my social needs to my relationship with God because anything else is too painful. And they're not going to be easily met anyway; even when people care about me, breaking through to get me to feel their love... yeah. That's not likely.
Compound the fact that now I'm at a stage of life when people around me already have close friends. They don't want me as a friend. They've known people for years and developed relationships... and science has shown that you actually only have space for a certain number of close people in your day-to-day life.
So right now, as I feel pressure from God to try to reach out again and develop relationships with people, I honestly feel sick. I don't have a slew of people to try with anymore. I'm not a BYU student; I work from home; I don't meet anyone new except for sometimes people through North Star, some of their friends, and the new people in my ward.
And then when I finally convince myself that I'm going to do it, when I get up the courage to act, I don't know what to do. I don't know how to be someone's friend. I know how to be a counselor, a teacher, a mentor... I know how to listen, to help people answer hard questions, to spend time with someone doing anything at all... but I don't know how to help someone have fun or relax from life.
And I find myself wondering if I really have anything to offer as a friend to people who seem to (at least on the outside) have their lives together. Including the people who were part of my life when they had major needs.
I don't know.
I'm sure that some of the people I know will read this and then immediately try to assure me that I offer plenty in our relationship. But the fact stands that, in all the things I've been able to learn or in which I've improved, this still stands as a glaring crater in my life. Yeah, part of it isn't my fault. Maybe most of it. But it's still there, still painful, still resistant to everything I've tried to fill it in.
So I guess it's understandable that, after a glowing session of General Conference, taking honest stock of what I face in life would bring me back here to its edge. Wondering what else I can do, feeling the pain start to wake up again to give me nightmares.
I should have brought this question to Conference with me. *sigh*
I don't know what to do. Which means it probably won't work. Maybe God will give me some ideas. Either way, the pain is back... and I'm going to keep trying.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 9:19 PM