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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rotten Fish/Voll in den Fettnapf Treten

Oh, my, another existential crisis for Sarah.  And really does it even matter?  These things that happen...he said, she said, then he did this or didn't do that - it's all a bunch of noise when you zoom out and look at things with a more distant lens.  None of it matters in the big scheme.  I'm starting to think that none of us matter in the big scheme.   If we embrace the notion that we're just fleas on a dog, not take anything too seriously, then we should just have fun jumping around and sucking some blood out of life - right?

So yesterday, "voll in den Fettnapf treten" - not sure of the tense, but it's a German expression that means, "I stepped in it". So I had what I thought was a lovely friendship with an older woman - a much older woman - she is 87.  And she is amazing, having led a fascinating life as an actress in Hollywood, she is a talented painter, owned her own restaurant, and made her money doing museum quality furniture restoration.  And even at 87, she is a great chanteuse and commands the stage.  Marvelous.  We became friends over the summer.  It was no big deal for me to give her a ride home from the place we both sing at, and it was my pleasure to add her to my invite list when I entertained.  She expressed her gratitude and affection verbally and by giving me two really pretty paintings.

Over the holidays, I got busy and didn't return a few of her phone calls (I also was without a phone for several days).  She sulked and wanted one of her paintings back which was no problem.   I called to arrange to do lunch with her and return the painting and ended up talking with her "roommate" for an hour because my friend was in her basement painting.  It was an amazing conversation and not just about my friend.  I had heard negative things about the "roommate" from my friend but when I spoke with her I found her intelligent, caring and insightful.  At this point, naive me didn't realize they were more than roommates.  There were things I said in that conversation that, if taken out of context, could have seemed critical and harsh.  But my intention was anything BUT critical.  In fact I found myself so accepting of my friend, faults and all, that it was inspiring to me to take that attitude and apply it to my relationship with my own mother.  I realized that I was able to see my friend in her entirety, taking into account the full context of her life, and nothing she did offended me or upset me. I expected absolutely nothing from the woman and as a result was just delighted with what she could give.

It was a gift, this realization.  Children have a hard time seeing their parents as people and forgiving them their faults.  I think we cross that final threshold of childhood when we can stand before our parents as forgiving adults and put their actions towards us in a larger life context.  So I am grateful to my friend - she is SO like my own mother, damaged, child-like, self-centered but delightful.  I could no longer reconcile my loving feelings for my friend with my angry feelings towards my mother. Time to grow up, right?

So, weeks ago a nice note to my friend apologizing for whatever it was that had made her angry over the holiday, hand delivered with a huge homemade chocolate cake.  A week later the cake plate returned in the mail with a terse thank-you note.  Relationship finis, apparently.   I let it go - I had done nothing wrong. But, I've been worried about her - she has not attended the venue where we sing.  I wondered if it was because she didn't want to see me or if she was ill.  Last night I decided to check up on her to renew my attempt at reconciliation and also to see if she was OK and if not, to offer assistance.

Her roommate answered her cell phone (my friend was sitting there with her) and told me to leave my friend alone.  She went on to say that they had recently had dinner with the woman who leads the cabaret event where we sing and shared with her that the reason my friend hasn't been there is because of me - that I overwhelmed her.  Keep in mind my "transgression" was giving her rides home, inviting her to two parties at my house and inviting her for Thanksgiving (the invitation was extended to her roommate too).  She also accompanied me twice to the bar on the south side where I sing Fridays.  That's it.

So why do I feel so shitty today?  Confused I guess.  Somehow, unwittingly, I became a source of friction between these two life partners.  I thought I was being kind and generous but my attention to my friend was misinterpreted and became a source of pain and discord.  Most recently, my friend has not engaged in her most cherished pasttime because of me - singing, afraid to face me, I guess. It makes me sad to be the instrument of someone's unhappiness.

But I'm pissed too.  That expression, "no good deed goes unpunished" comes to mind.  I have nothing to apologize for, nothing I would have done differently except maybe not having had the long conversation with the roommate that was probably then used against me. Mostly though I'm sad and feeling deflated.  The thought of overwhelming someone with kindness is unsettling.  Am I bad for people?  When my spotlight shines on someone is just too darn bright?  Do people feel suffocated, stifled by me?  Maybe I'm like Mrs. Pacman, just gobbling up everyone in my path, consuming people in an effort to get filled up, insatiable.  Maybe I'm better off being your electronic friend!

I'm toying with the idea that I won't go back to the venue where we both sing. Despite being brushed off and discarded, I still care for my friend and wish for her happiness.  She needs to sing more than I do and if my presence there causes her discomfort I'm fine backing off and finding somewhere else to sing.  I hate that I was talked about like some malignancy that had to be dealt with and removed - hate that I got mixed up in her life and caused jealousy with her partner - hate that people might think there is more to the story, that my actions toward her were inappropriate - hate that we can't just all get along as Rodney King would say.

Chalk it up to experience.  Boy I really "stepped in it" as my German friend would say.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I innocently befriended her.  Wow.

No challenge today - just me venting.  Today, my heart hurts.  I feel wronged.  I feel stupid.  Trying to make sense of it all and find a pearl of wisdom in all of it.   I'm grateful for the insight about my mother - that alone makes it all worthwhile, even though it all smells like rotten fish.


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