Thursday, September 12

Feelings, Faith, Friendship, Fear... and Frustration

One of the hardest things for me to see is others developing friendships. When I can see people connecting and developing relationships, slowly or quickly, it highlights in my mind the lack of connection I have with the people I love.

And it hurts.

It's the reason that family reunions, after only a little while, make me find a quiet place, curl up in a ball, and cry. Every time. Mission reunions do the same. To a lesser extent, it happens at social gatherings for my ward, impromptu parties... almost any group setting. It even happens in movies. Yeah.

It hurts because, for whatever reason, getting close to people hasn't been a part of my life yet. I've tried in every way I know how. Prayed for help and seen therapists. Read books and done a thousand things differently. And it hasn't worked. At the end of the day, I'm still an outsider. Still alone.

It hurts when I watch others because it reminds me that this - connection - is still something that I want.

Most of the time the feeling of hurt - which I think might just be intense loneliness - isn't part of my life. It's a long story, but I've come to terms with the fact that I might never be close to people.

In order to survive, I do two things. First, I change the nature of the emotions I feel. Loneliness, isolation, and disconnection are usually seen as bad things. Feelings that are seen as incredibly painful... and totally miserable. That's not an acceptable definition. If my life is going to be full of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection, I need a different paradigm in order to thrive. Being miserable isn't an option. I can't honestly tell myself that loneliness is a good thing, because the opposite - connection - is a good thing. Maybe in the context that it has helped me develop a better relationship with God. But at least I can tell myself that it isn't miserable. That I'm not doomed or cursed. And, usually, I can convince myself well enough that the pain goes away and I believe it. I try not to focus on it, and most of life loneliness is there, just under the surface... but since it's always just there, it's not an issue. It only becomes an issue when I remember that it's there - in situations where I see relationships developing firsthand.

The second thing I do to survive is offload some of the responsibility. For a long time I tried to make connections. Really, really hard. And I tried because I believed that my loneliness was my fault. That if I was a kinder, nicer, more caring and inclusive person... that somehow the world would help me connect with people. I looked at what society teaches, and it teaches that if you're lonely, you should reach out to people. You should be there for them. There's even a song that I heard once that says something like, "Be that friend, be the kind, that you pray you might find, and you'll always have a best friend come what may." And I honestly believed it. Everyone else could find friends by simply changing bits and pieces and sometimes big chunks of their personality; I was sure that I could do the same.

It was a good thing. I became a kinder, nicer, more caring and compassionate person. I reached out to people and tried to do the things that I wished someone would do for me. I became more aware of people's needs and desires, and learned how to help them get through difficult experiences. I realized that I had an ability to help people work through inner conflict, maybe because there is so much inside my own life. But while serving others gave me peace and joy, it didn't meet the social needs that I had. At the end of the day, I still had to turn to God and say, "I feel totally alone. Help me feel loved and help me know that everything will be okay." I still wanted someone mortal I could turn to... someone to be a friend to me. And every time I was there for someone who needed a friend it made me wonder if I would ever have that myself.

That experience filled me with guilt and shame. Society takes for granted that anyone can simply make a few changes and be accepted, loved, and connected for who they are. That's what we preach - be authentic with who you are, be open and honest with your feelings, and life will just make it work for you. But it didn't work that way. I was open, honest, authentic, real, did everything the books and people told me to do. People told me I was their best friend. They tried to connect with me. And yet it didn't work... and for a long time I thought it was my fault. Until I simply realized that it's something I face. It's not their fault. It's not my fault. It's just part of my reality, and something that will influence every relationship I or someone else tries to initiate.

God was there for me. Part of this experience has been learning that He can be there for me in every way. That He can be my physical friend. A shoulder to cry on. Someone to bounce my ideas and give me feedback on what I'm doing right and wrong. He can listen to my stories and help me find meaning, point out the things I can do and help me avoid the things I shouldn't. He's always there. Never too busy to listen, always wanting to be deeply involved in my life... and throughout the day I find that He has placed things to help me remember that He cares - sort of like the napkins my Mom would put in my lunch the few times I ate lunch at school; she would write messages on them that always reminded me that she cared. God does the same thing.

So I've learned to live, and maybe even thrive, in a life of isolation. I don't guilt myself when I can't develop connections with people, I reach out to others, and I'm grateful for the people who reach out to me regardless of the feelings inside my mind.

Which means that, after years of trying, I find myself wondering, still, if it's worth it to try to go beyond just living and relating with people who reach out to me. If trying to develop a friendship with someone who already has friends is even going to be a positive impact on their life. If they're in crisis, maybe I can do something to help. But if they don't have major crises to solve, or when the crisis is over, what do I really offer? What do I have to give that's worthwhile? I have problems. Major problems. Being my friend will always be a frustrating, chaotic, even painful experience. Is it worth it in the end?

And if the answer is no - if my relationships really do drain people instead of lifting them up - is there any other reason to try? Am I worth trying for?

I don't think that my feelings merit placing a burden on someone else. I can deal with my own feelings and find peace without needing to inconvenience someone. It doesn't make a difference if people tell me that I'm worth it. Really. It doesn't. I don't know how to change that belief... or if I'm even open to it changing right now.

I don't know. Part of me still wants to believe that I can connect with people. Maybe I just haven't found the right people yet. Maybe I haven't learned a crucial skill that has left a block on my side of the road. Maybe I'll have a breakthrough and finally move forward.

The other part of me is tired. Tired of trying, tired of what feels like rejection... even when people are trying their best. Tired of turning back on the vulnerability with hope of developing something instead of it just being there. And tired of inserting chaos into people's lives and wondering if it was the right thing to do.

I don't know.

Except that the side that God is always on is the one that tells me to reach out.

That's the compact we have - God and me. It's not super complicated... but there are clear terms. I commit to reach out to people, and focus my life completely on them. To be there for people when they need me, to be the friend they need in times of crisis or distress, no matter what the impact on my own life. I commit to being kind and open to everyone, and accepting them whenever they try to get closer to me. And I commit to trying to befriend someone when God tells me to, even if it doesn't look like they need help on the outside. In return, when I need someone to talk to... when I need to feel loved... when I need a friend of my own, God is always there for me. Really, truly, honestly, completely there. And it works.

So it looks like I'm going to keep going in that direction. It's the only choice that makes sense.


At least I know He's with me.


  1. I am impressed at your courage in working to turn something that is a burden that could make you unhappy into something that you can live, and even thrive, with. I appreciate your example in doing so, and I may look at some of my challenges in much the same light here soon. So, thank you.

    I was just writing on my blog about a flaw that seems to be following me, and I feigned a positive attitude about it. You seem genuinely possessed of a spirit to live this life with a strength I don't think I have. I know Internet acquaintances don't account for the kind of human connection you seek, but I feel I can relate to you at least. Again, thanks for that.

  2. David, thank you. Thank you for writing this today - it helps me realize that I'm not alone in how I feel. I spent a couple of years nurturing a friendship that ended up hurting me more than anything ever has, and from then on have realized that I can't really get close to people either. I've seen it as a major personality flaw - something that I have to deal with if I don't want to be so lonely.

    And then, because of your post, I realized that I have someone who is always there - God. Right now, it doesn't feel like enough. It just feels lonely. But I hope some day it will!

  3. Something my momma gave me long ago;

    "Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good things to happen. It gives us hope by helping us realize that the righteous suffer no failure except in giving up and no longer trying."
    -Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

  4. I have follow you on Twitter since a while and I really admire your strength...I`m going at this moment of my life with this pain. The feeling to realize that being attracted to men and being an LDS is quite hard to live whit. Thanks for this words, they really help me understand that I`m not the only one going through this.


Comment Rules:

(G)MG is how I write to you. Commenting is one way to write to me.

If you want your comment published: No swearing, graphic content, name-calling of any kind, or outbound links to anything but official Church sites.

In addition, comments must be 100% relevant, funny, uplifting, helpful, friendly... well-written, concise, and true. Disparaging comments often don't meet those standards. Comments on (G)MG are personal notes to me, not part of a comment war. You are not entitled to have your ideas hosted on my personal blog. There are a zillion places for that, and only one (G)MG.

And I'd suggest writing your comment in Word and pasting it. That way Blogger won't eat it if it's over the word limit.