Monday, July 16, 2007

The conundrum of emotional independence

In the course of managing my illness, I had to make some difficult choices about restructuring the relationships in my life. Some relationships I kept because they were fulfilling and enriching; others had become if not stale, then definitely more of a habit than an actual friendship. When you have a limited amount of energy and focus available to you, you need to cull from your life the things that no longer enhance that energy.

I do not regret my decision to trim down the number of people in my life. It was a healthy and necessary decision. In addition, I’ve also found it necessary to dramatically cut back on how much interaction I have with coworkers and other peripheral people in my life. I can’t pretend that these are true friendships anymore. My doctor once told me that friends are friends and coworkers are coworkers, and it would benefit me to not confuse the two. In other words, the friendships you have at work are actually nothing more than surface relationships, and to go further, you run a hazardous risk of exposing your most personal secrets in a much more public arena.

Again, it’s OK. I am comfortable enough with myself that I don’t need to validate my worth by way of the number of people who are close to me or vice versa. Here’s the thing, though. When you partition off the different parts of your life with such severity, it becomes hard to talk to anyone at all. If I tell you about my sleepy weekend or mention that I have blood work scheduled for today, you’ll probably want to know the details, but I’m not comfortable talking about more.

I’m a good listener, but hard-pressed lately to feign interest in people with whom I have no real emotional connection. That kind of relationship should be a two-way arrangement, but I’ve found that very, very few people are willing to give as they get.

I am lonely and I feel emotionally isolated. I have nobody to talk to anymore. I have no right to complain, I understand that. This is a situation I created around myself when I fired my former friends; now, I have to live with the consequences. Since I’m not interested in finding new friends, there seems to be no solution.

All too often, we only skim the surface of people. The surface is safe. Superficiality entails no risk, be it emotional or in challenging thought. If you really go deep with people, you might be exposed to ideas and realities that are just too intimidating and uncomfortable to cozy up to. I’m not willing to go either way on that two-way street right now. Not only can’t you come in (although I’m sure you weren’t planning to try), I can’t listen to you, either, if it means I might have to expose myself in the process.

Is there a solution to this conundrum? If I stop talking, can I stop feeling, as well? I think that’s the only way this is going to work for me. If I can eliminate emotion from myself, then I won’t have anything left to say beyond facts—information, nothing more. Actually, a lack of mood, a lack of emotion would take care of a whole pile of life’s snags for me.

Mr. Spock. Data. Witty, insightful...emotionally unendowed. Perfect.

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