Selfishness

A few nights ago I was talking to a friend about a family member’s depression, how it had affected me growing up. I said, “Depression makes people selfish. They’re always focused on their own suffering.” The ironic thing is that, while I’m not depressed, my divorce made me selfish, and I’d been selfish with the very friend I was talking to when I made that statement.

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When I was going through my divorce, I talked often to anyone who’d listen. My family wasn’t terribly supportive and, of course, I couldn’t talk to my ex about it. I saw a therapist who encouraged me to lean on friends. So I did. After a few months I started to get sick of the sound of my own voice, of the topic of conversation. I felt needy and weak. But it’s like I couldn’t help myself – I’d spend a few days working alone and trying to avoid thinking about the mess before me and as soon as I’d get together with a friend I couldn’t stop the words about my confusion and fear from tumbling out of my mouth. I’d apologize for talking about it so incessantly. My friends would smile and nod and say, “It’s okay.”

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Now my divorce is final and I’m more content than I’ve been in years. I feel like my life is finally right, even if it’s not perfect, and I don’t have that same disorientation over not knowing where my life is going. But I can’t seem to stop leaning on my friends.

Instead of confiding about my divorce I fixate on texts (or no texts) from guys because I’m ridiculously clueless about dating. I talk about my job. I whine about how tired I am, or about how my sister isn’t speaking to me.

It’s as though, in the absence of a spouse after so long, I’m trying to use my friends to fill that void. In my main job I often work from home alone, which makes me feel isolated. So I send messages to friends during the day and make plans to see them during my kid-free time.

I’m not being a good listener, which equates to being a bad friend. I get so caught up in having a listening ear that I’ve become like that depressed family member, talking about myself and my (frankly unimportant) issues too often.

I don’t know if this is because I no longer have a husband to share my day with after living with him for years or because I was encouraged to be so selfish during the hardest months of my separation and divorce (“You need to work on being happy, do whatever it takes!” and “You need to put your own needs first.”) but once again I find I’m sick of myself and yet keep blabbing about inconsequential things now that I have no big decisions before me.

Seeing it now, I’m embarrassed, but it’s something I can work on. I love my friends and want to help them as much as they’ve helped me, if they it. Instead of feeling lonely without a confidante at home with me I need to realize my life is good, and anything I feel the need to obsess over is of my own doing.

Time to get out of my own head. My life is not that interesting or stressful that I should share so much of it with well-meaning friends. My time of need is, thankfully, over now. There should always be a balance in any friendship but my side has been overflowing because I’ve asked for too much and not given enough. I will right the scales.

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