Now You're Just Somebody That I Used to Know.
Lately I’ve been into mysteries. Well, I’ve always been into mysteries, but more so in the last year. Netflix has not disappointed in the abundance of mysteries, especially dark mysteries that I love watching while I sip my martini and play sleuth in my mind. I used to think I was sharp as a tack, and nothing and no-one got over on me; but now I’m questioning that line of thinking. Maybe I overestimate my ability to catch on. Maybe from the last year and a half of being home more due to Covid, my abilities have faltered and I’ve become dull. Maybe not. Maybe Netflix writers are just THAT good, and have given me the gift of surprise that is destined to land smack on my face in the last episode of any given series.
After all of those hours spent wondering who that dark figure in the woods REALLY was, after days of being baffled by the question of who really had that person hostage and why, and after approaching every angle of every guest at that resort in the mountains to decipher who could be terrorizing the group and WHY… the greatest mystery I can still say, is why, WHY are friendships so strong and fragile simultaneously, and why is it so hard to say goodbye to the friendships we must distance ourselves from, and when do we know it is time?
I have a mixture of friends, some of whom have become closer, and some of whom have become more distant. Some who are now bordering on being acquaintances. This all happened years ago, this weird shift. If I’m being honest, it all started happening with the election of Donald Trump into office, and it continued on into 2020 and the pandemic that was barreling ahead full steam. I feel like all of that combined, ruined us or changed us in ways that we cannot or will not come back from. I know I’m not saying anything earth shattering or mind blowing. I realize I’m one among billions who feel this way. It’s just important to me to blog about this and sort through it a bit. And if you’re one of my friends, or someone who knows me, this will maybe help you know me better. Or it may help you decide that a friendship with me is toxic for you, and you’ll move on without me. Either way, this is ok. We are all doing what is best for our sanity at the moment.
When Donald Trump was elected into office, I felt a mixture of emotions. Voting that year did not feel good. Not like before when I voted for Barack Obama. This felt dirty. Wrong. Discouraging. It seemed to me like I could not feel good either way. So, like many Americans, I had to vote based on policy and programs and everything else ASIDE from the personality or the cringeworthy moments, the bad decisions, the unlike-ability. I’ll spare you my thoughts on politics because many of you already know my position and it does no good to rehash old arguments. What I WILL say, is in the four years after Donald Trump took office, I was never more aware of my ethnicity and my people and the plight of so many Mexicans and Mexican Americans than I was in those four horrible years. My people were generalized, and a label stamped on them as if they were mere cattle headed for the slaughter. Mexicans were now “bad Hombres”, not people like you. Mexicans were dirty. They were sneaky. They didn’t care about their kids, because they kept “putting them in danger by trying to get them over the border.” Mexicans were “taking the jobs from Americans” and were basically just up to no good.
This solidified every thought I had growing up in a northern Minnesota small town. I was the only brown girl at my school. I was asked once at school, “What tribe are you from”, my cheeks growing hot as the cute boy in my room was the one to pose the question. I was asked why my butt stuck out. I was asked “what are you” so many times I lost count. I was even teased about my “black hole” by a boy in the 7th grade. I remember wishing I had a cute button nose and naturally blonde hair- the guys always went for the cheerleader types and here I was, my big butt, my dark hair, my brown skin, and not a clue who I was. When we learned about the Alamo in school, I felt ashamed. Who was the hero? As I grew, and discovered the wonders of makeup and hairstyle, I took a job bartending. Then I was told, “I’ve never been with an exotic woman before. I wonder what THAT would be like…” and “So your skin is so beautiful, what’s the downstairs look like? Brown? Pink?” Men actually said these things to me.
So, when Donald Trump took office, with his history of disrespectful talk to women and his affinity for promoting white America wherever possible, I was once again back in elementary school, back in high school, back in my 20’s, trying to feel good about the color of my skin and the ethnicity of my people. When I heard his thinly veiled proclamations and disgusting dog whistles, I was definitely triggered. It was hard to deal with on an emotional level. Unless you are not white, this may be hard for you to accept or relate to. I’m not here to change your mind. I’m here to just ask you to hear me. I’m here to ask you to consider what I’m saying, and maybe understand why I am the way I am.
The word “triggered” is now associated with hairy lesbians, beta males, ugly females with short hair, women who can’t catch a man, men who are gay, men who are bi, men who can’t change the oil on their car, men who make straight men uncomfortable because of their own issues, people who ask to be referred to as “they/them”… but in reality, What is an emotional trigger?
Triggers can be people, places or things, as well as smells, words or colors. Emotional triggers are automatic responses to the way others express emotions, like anger or sadness. For example, you may not have a problem interacting with an angry person, but find it hard to deal with someone who's crying. *
I think first of all, we need to all admit that we are human. We need to admit that we are ALL triggered by certain things. For many straight men, a gay man hitting on them may trigger a response that is defensive, aggressive or otherwise. Maybe someone who has been assaulted would be triggered by the quick movements or aggressiveness of someone’s behavior. Someone who has gone through war may be triggered by fireworks or the sound of a car backfiring. An individual who has experienced the loss of a loved one may be rendered helpless at the sound of a song playing that reminds them of their loss. When did “triggered” become such a dirty word? When did it become a word that is used to tear down and insult rather than understand? When did we, as human beings, become so calloused and ugly and hurtful?
You may be wondering what all of this has to do with friendship. Here’s where that starts to blur. I had to understand and accept that some of my friends and family would be doing the same as me- voting on policy and issues rather than like-ability and personal lives. I had to understand or accept the fact that the issues I held dear to my heart and the fact that I am brown and of Mexican decent would have no bearing on my friend’s choices. I had to also admit that it went both ways. Here’s the raw truth: It hurt like FUCK that some of my closest friends and family voted for a man that held a hatred for melanin in the skin, because of other issues THEY considered paramount, regardless of the fact that his speeches, his jokes, his dialect was filled with diatribe made to subtly or not so subtly put me in my place as a brown person.
Here is where I must pause and tell you that I am not going to debate what he meant by this comment or that comment. That ship sailed. I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m not asking you to double down on your choice. I’m only trying to get you to consider where I’m coming from as a woman. A Spanish, Mexican, Cuban woman. You don’t have to agree with me. I only implore that you consider my position, and recognize that those four years were very tough for people like me, or some of the people close to you who are brown like me, who may be keeping painfully quiet because they know your stance.
Some of my friends voted for Trump. So many of my friends posted hate filled memes and info graphics on social media to back their beliefs. Some clever quote that had a picture of Denzel Washington or Keanu Reeves or someone from Hollywood that had supposedly said the quote. Some stupid meme that was an exaggeration of a belief, a poke or jab at the opposing position. Just another tool that would contribute to the division of a nation. So many times I was tempted to do the same. So many times I wanted to post something that would be visceral to the people who voted for the man that hurt me and my people. However, I held back, willing myself to a higher standard. Asking myself that if I had to put something out there in the universe, would it be hateful? Politically sarcastic? Demeaning to other people? The answer was “no”, I would not be part of the problem. I don’t say that with a holier than thou attitude. I say that because for my own sanity, for my own worth, for my own dignity, I refused to be part of the problem. It was not easy, I admit. It was difficult. At the end of the day, I had to look around my home and absorb the positivity I live in, and keep company with the people I felt were on the same plain as me. That unfortunately meant pulling back from those who I felt betrayed by. Those I felt couldn’t or wouldn’t see me. Those who never acknowledged my struggle or even asked me about how I was doing when they KNEW the vitriol spewed from the mouth of the person they voted for was hateful and involved people of my ethnicity.
You may be wondering what this has to do with the mysteries of friendship. I’m getting there, I am. However, in order for you to understand or at least consider, all of this background is necessary.
I’ve watched as people on social media argued over masks, freedoms, blue lines, BLM, everyone’s lives matter, Covid, hoaxes, fake news, vaccines, borders, red hats, snowflakes, racism, abortion, women’s rights, beta males, alpha males, guns, gun control, voter rights, trans rights, LGBTQ+, election stealing, Russia, Palestine, speaking English in America and more… and it’s been EXHAUSTING. Just exhausting. I know I’m not the only one feeling this. This constant bombardment of nastiness that inevitably comes with a world full of humans disagreeing on such huge points had me feeling anxious, sad, weary and unable to handle very much at all.
The knee-jerk reaction was to simplify. Simplify simplify simplify. But where? And how? It started with unfollowing people on social media, and in some cases, unfriending. As dramatic as that sounds, and I don’t mean for it to be, it did help a little to not see the continuous posts that were hateful or misleading, or meant to cause panic. Ironically, over half of the mean spirited posts and memes were from CHRISTIANS, or people who claimed to be “saved by the Grace of God.” This absolutely floored me. I’ve known some of these people my entire life, people I’ve gone to church with; they’re people who have delighted in the fact that they can rest in their belief in an eternity with Jesus Christ our Savior. These were the same people who were referring to others in derogatory ways, calling names, elevating their own clever and wise and all-knowing thinking over the sheeple who did not share their beliefs, the less intelligent ones who weren’t “man enough” or “female enough” or “everyone gets a trophy” types. This made me feel sadness, and I even felt a sadness for the ones posting these memes meant to divide. I thought, “If this is where we are at, I’m sad that they feel this way. I’m sad it’s come spilling out into my newsfeed.”
I feel the need to say that I’m not without guilt. Just because I haven’t posted sarcastic memes or infographics in regard to the opposing view, doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh when someone else did, it doesn’t mean I didn’t “like” a post I found clever. I admit that I felt glad when one of my friends who shares my viewpoint had a fucking fantastic clap back on someone else’s post. This is usually when I would try and stop myself and ask, “Am I being part of the solution or part of the problem right now?” Usually it meant a change in my attitude and a quick prayer for strength to do better. We can ALL do better. It’s entirely up to you and I as individuals.
So I found myself at this place of depleted energy and inability to put up with more than necessary. I started pulling back from social media, which I just told you about. I started pulling back from certain friends. It was odd to me to have a relationships with people who said things that were clearly either racist and/or ignorant. I’m a big believer in thinking things through these days, since my 20’s and 30’s were lived with wild abandon and nothing was ever thought through- resulting in many a price paid. So, that being said, I have asked certain individuals what they meant when they said this or that. This way, I would have clarity and not assumptions. Sometimes this meant that I got answers I dreaded. This would result in me pulling back and choosing not to spend my energy in relationships that emotionally drained me. I started giving myself permission to not reach out to certain people any longer. I gave myself permission to not feel like I needed to include them in gatherings just because I always had previously. I gave myself permission to be ok with deciding their friendship was toxic to me. This is hard to do sometimes. Especially if it starts involving your family.
Family. It’s been a tough and winding road. We often make exceptions because “they’re family.” This ideal promotes the responsibility of someone to keep putting themselves in a toxic situation because it’s their duty as family to hang around. That’s what family does, right? This kind of thinking has caused irreparable harm to individuals who have desperately needed a reprieve from the toxicity that can sometimes run within families, individuals who have been made to feel like family loyalty is paramount. Well, sometimes it isn’t. Most of the time it isn’t. I’ve got certain family members who I choose to love from a distance. I’ve got extended family who have caused harm with or without meaning to, and so I hold them far from me. I’ve also got family who I’m able to talk with and feel recharged afterwards rather than drained. I’m thankful for those individuals and I’m fortunate to have them. But, I have had to chat less often with some, and even then, we talk about safe things, because we know going any deeper is not a great idea. This has been the hardest part of letting go for me. I’m not sure if a clean break is better than a shallow relationship. At the end of the day, I take comfort in knowing I’ll be with them after all of this and it will be much better then.
I’ve started asking myself “why am I friends with this person?” And, “If I didn’t know this person, would I choose to be friends with them?” And, “Are we friends because we have been for this many years? Or because we have actual commonalities?” What are grounds for friendship? What are the rules? Are there any? Outgrowing people is tough! I’ve seen people stunted in their growth the last few years. I believe this is because we’ve all had more time to pay attention. We are no longer just going about our days aimlessly or giddily. We are now thinking about things, and we’ve been able to see the hearts of those closest to us, brought about by situations 2020 and 2021 have presented with. I would have never been able to see my friends’ opinions on things I hold dear and close to my heart, because prior to the last year or two or four, no one talked about politics the way they do now. No one’s feelings on race were virtually catapulted into the stratosphere the way those feelings were when George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. Now I’ve seen some of those closest to me show their true colors, and it ain’t your rainbow I’ll tell you that much.
When we disagree with our friends or families on just about every social issue out there, what then? What then. Are surface level conversations enough? Enough for what? To sustain… what, exactly. What are they sustaining? Can I have a visit over coffee and discuss sports or movies or plants or whatever and go away fulfilled? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think so. So why do it at all then? Is this a dismissive attitude? I don’t have the answers to that. I hear my fellow Christians and my family say, “Well with some of those people, you have the Lord in common, and that’s better than anything.” Why yes, yes it is. And that is why it’s hard for me to visit with them about the “Grace of God” whilst they also are of the mindset that they aren’t going to help anyone if it inconveniences their funds or their beliefs in the government’s job, or their belief that here in America we need to speak ENGLISH, or their belief that most black people make it hard on themselves- if they would just obey the cops, there would be no issue, and women need to just raise their children and serve their husbands… Do you see my dilemma here? Do you?
This is why friendships with friends and relationships with family and the dilemma as to how much to immerse myself in those interactions are the great big mystery. I’ve already seen my friendship circle take a few hits, and I’m sure you have also witnessed it in your own lives. I’ve already stayed up many a tearful night confiding in my guy that certain friendships are now exhausting to me and I feel worse when I’ve spent time with someone because of the things they say and do. Yet I can’t let go because I feel like the bad guy!! Imagine that. That’s a whole other blog.
If you’re still reading this, I commend you. It’s a lot, I know.
I’ll also interject here that I realize friendships, deep friendships, good friendships, meaningful friendships are all… up for interpretation. I also realize that you don’t just throw people away. You don’t just end things on a whim. It’s not as simple as that, and that alone is why so many of us are or have been caught up in toxic spaces for longer than we should be. Sometimes a particular friendship is worth powering through, I know that. I understand that sometimes having those uncomfortable conversations with friends whose views and beliefs we have found to be offensive are necessary, and in some instances may actually bring about positivity. I’m not saying that people should let go of friendships just because they have opposing viewpoints. I’m saying that at any time these opposing viewpoints become toxic FOR YOU, that is when you need to consider stepping away for a bit of time. And if someone steps away from YOU, do not judge them, and try instead to check in with yourself and consider if your way of thinking is bringing good or bad. Or maybe it’s the way you’re communicating the idea that is harmful. A great thought or idea can be harmful when the delivery sucks. However, on the flip side of that, if you are firm in your beliefs and the delivery of them, and you find your friend withdrawing from you in spite of this, we need to try and be understanding of that. We don’t need to meet this boundary with indignation or condescending thought process
When we publish something like this blog, something this vulnerable, it’s a bit terrifying. What I hope to gain from this is understanding from people who may have otherwise thought one way but may now have another angle to look at things from. Sometimes we are guilty of not even considering another viewpoint. We could all benefit from a kinder approach. I’ve seen so many angry situations and I’m quite tired of them.
What does friendship mean to you? Is it “all accepting”, even when other’s thoughts, words and actions go directly against your morals or sacred beliefs? Or is that actually a world without boundaries, one that you are unwittingly putting yourself in, where just about anything goes. “You do you and it’s ok!” But for some of us, it’s not always ok, because some things cross moral lines and core beliefs and humanity issues. A lifetime of no boundaries, or no consequences or no one calling us out on anything at all is unrealistic correct? It’s not ideal, is it? I suppose that’s an individual question and isn’t a blanket statement.
As you can see, being my friend is probably challenging. *insert rueful smile here* I’m such a thinker. I can’t just be passive about things. I can’t just say, “Oh well. You do you, it’s whatever.” I used to wish I could be more like that. Now I’m glad I’m not. I don’t mind being me. And it’s ok if my current or former friends need to take a step back from me. I hope they are as understanding if I ever need to do the same.
In the meantime, I’m trying to watch more comedies and I’m trying to read more and get outside more. Because the world is one great, big mystery. Cheers to the people out there who are being kinder, being more considerate and adding joy to the space you’re in, rather than negativity. Thank you. Keep being you.