How many friends do you have? Do you like to be alone, or are you a social butterfly? Do you blame yourself for the bad things that have happened in your life? How often do you ruminate on the past?
I’ve had friends, good friends, at different times in my life. I’ve been a best friend and shared my life with another person. I had careers and in each, a handful of people who I became close to.
The sad thing is I destroyed every last one of my relationships. It was no one’s fault by my own.
Frank and I were friends as teenagers. Over the years of our friendship, we talked about everything and shared our dreams. I don’t think there was ever two closer guys. He wasn’t my first friend, but he was the first I connected with on another level.
We were inseparable, that is, until I got in trouble and moved away. After a few months of letters, I stopped writing and never saw Frank again.
He was my first victim.
Later, Paul and I were the best of friends. We worked together and partied together. We carried a video camera around and taped our antics before it was a cool thing to do. We made YouTube videos before there was a YouTube. We were as close as two people could be.
I moved away and never kept in contact. Years later, we reconnected on Facebook, but it was never the same. There was always a distance between us and a feeling that I betrayed him once, and I would do it again.
I destroyed that relationship.
There were others — Tracy, Gabe, Art, Carlos, Bob, John — should I go on? I could make friends, but I didn’t know how to keep them. I gave up on every one of them.
I could come up with a hundred excuses why I shouldn’t be friends with someone. I would blame it on my illness mostly. That’s what I’ve done until now. I dismissed all the burned bridges as a symptom of my mental issues. That’s the easy thing for those of us with a mental illness. We can cop out and blame all our problems on the elephant in the room.
As I grow, I analyze the past. I’ve stopped making excuses for my bad behavior. It is what it is, and I can’t change the past and get all those lost years back. It’s not possible.
What I have decided to do is focus on myself for a while. I socialize, especially with other writers here on Medium, but I don’t think I’m going to try to create any new friendships until I can be sure I can commit myself to someone else.
Right now, the only relationship I’ve been able to cultivate and grow is with, Flora, my wife. When I need someone to talk to, I talk to her. When I need to cry, I cry with her. Flora is the most important person in the world to me, not just because she is my mate, but because she’s my friend.
I wonder if there will come a day when I don’t always screw everything up? I feel like, in all my fifty years, there are very few things I did right.
I had more than my share of friends. I ruined my first marriage (sure, it wasn’t all my fault, but I had a lions-share of the blame). I rarely talk to my parents, and my three oldest boys are strangers to me.
I started and failed at a dozen businesses and left careers behind me when my mental illness was too much to handle.
The loss of friends and careers over the years is a symptom of the larger issue. What is the issue that is the source of my problem?
I know I’m looking at this whole situation the wrong way. Instead of blaming myself or my personality for ruining everything in my life, I should be accepting of myself.
Sure, I didn’t stay in contact with old friends. Maybe I was moving on? Who cares if I failed at so many businesses and careers? It brought me to this point in my life, didn’t it?
It’s true I haven’t stayed close to my family. But I live on the other side of the world and they — my parents and my kids — are adults and have their own lives. Relationships are a two-way street. If they wanted a closer relationship with me, they would try harder too. The onus is not on me to make every relationship in my life successful.
I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Maybe this is the nature of life that not everything will last a lifetime. I shouldn’t expect to stay friends with everyone. I can’t possibly be compatible with everyone I come in contact with.
Also, not every business or career I start will stay with me for life. I can’t be successful in everything I undertake.
I need to love myself, and those who are important to me right now, like my wife and daughter.
This whole subject is a good lesson for everyone.
I know that too often we blame ourselves for things we don’t have complete control over. We can only keep up one side of any relationship. Don’t try to make it work when you are the only one making an effort. That is too much pressure on one person.
I know I, and maybe you, need to be gentler to ourselves.
It’s not realistic to blame ourselves for every bad thing in our life. If we spend all our time complaining about the past and not thinking of the future, we are sure to be unhappy.
Be kind when you talk about yourself and your past. Turn things around and put your focus on the future. Stop wasting time worrying about people you left behind or careers shuttered.
The good stuff will happen soon; all you have to do is have patience.