Something from last week is still bothering me.
A good friend, Irene, is moving back to North Carolina from New York. We went to the same undergrad university up North. Three years ago, she went back to NC to live with her parents at the end of our second year. Last year, she alone moved back to NY alone to make a life for herself. She admitted she longed to escape the conservative environment back at the South.
After working several jobs including a secretary of a children's after school theatre program and an employee of a local Trader Joe's, she felt her life was going nowhere in more than just financially. Fortunately, she was surrounded by extremely nice people who pushed her to be a better person by being a positive model or emotional support.
She rented out a basement of a nice guy (platonic friendship) for 700 bucks a month plus utilities. Financially, she was just breaking even with an above minimum wage income. Eventually paying off student loans became the least of her worries.
She is a person who knows when to drop your sorry ass when you cause nothing but drama and harm to everyone around you. However, she cares way too much for the good friends around her--dangerously so to the point of depression.
I was driving her home after the both of us caught up with another old friend. The drive was a little over 40 minutes.
We both got into my car after saying energetic goodbyes to our friend. We left on a very high note because all three of us were laughing. Scratch that, Irene and Heather (the person we bid farewell to) were laughing. I was just stroking her cat while smiling and nodding at the right times. I stuffed my face with Count Chocula whenever it seemed like I would be later prompted to talk. It was a long day and I was too tired to engage in the conversation at that point.
Irene and I got into the car and as soon as I finished setting my GPS, Irene's said something in almost a whisper. I thought she would say something like today was fun and thank you for driving me, so I smiled and nodded at her. It was my mistake to assume it was a pleasant thing.
She said, "I don't know." It wasn't the same cheerful voice from a few minutes ago.
I stayed quiet a bit, knowing from prior experience to give the person a few more seconds to continue their thoughts before interjecting. She ended up saying nothing for a while.
"If you want I'll listen to you," I said. "It seems to me that not saying anything is hurting you a lot more."
I was going seventy on a highway, but I managed a quick glance at Irene. She hunched forward into her phone, almost tugging the seat belt to its maximum. If her legs weren't down below the glove compartment, she probably would be hugging them at that point. She let out a small sniffle. "I don't want to move back."
I again waited a second to make sure she was done.
"Can you tell me why you feel that way?"
"I'm ending my long distance relationship," she said.
That long distance relationship started way back before Irene left our school. She found a guy in NY and they managed to maintain a long distance relationship when she moved back to NC, how strong that relationship, I never asked. She never mentioned the guy's name so I'll use Torian as a placeholder.
Torian is a bright person around our age. He completed his associates degree in Engineering and graduated with honors. When he was applying to different schools in sight of a Bachelors, his mother got sick or injured herself. I didn't ask what happened to her. All I know is that event left the mother in a hospital for a few weeks and then disabled for the days after. Torian believed that since money will be tight, he will have to work instead of pursuing his education. Irene will be leaving Torian at a very rough time.
"Are you more conflicted that you're ending your romantic relationship with him or you're leaving him at a shitty time in his life?"
"I don't know," she said.
It was awkward. I stayed quiet for a few moments, not for her to collect herself but for me to rethink my strategy.
My past experiences tell me to recommend her to professional services that will help her with emotional sorting and conscious decision-making. So I did. She said she's sick of giving money to psychiatrists who don't help at all. She also said I'm helping her more than they ever did. "What would you do?"
Fuck. I'm in a dangerous situation. I'm the type of person who runs away at the sight of real commitment. I also lock down my emotions to the point of consciously faking them. Whatever I will say won't help a person who is the complete opposite of me. Also, unlike most people I helped in the past as a paraprofessional, I've done so with a cold and logical standpoint. I was a total mess on the inside to really say the words that I should have said from a practical standpoint.
Irene is my friend and I care so much for her to the point of wanting to cry for her, but I couldn't. I was driving.
I did what most stumped psychiatrists do when the conversation is going nowhere and change the topic to focus on a different relationship trouble. Maybe just maybe, looking at another tumultuous relationship for a second will help formulate an answer for the first relationship.
Earlier that day before we met up with Heather, we went to a diner to eat breakfast. I shared my crappy life and she shared hers. She told me in confidence (whoops, I shouldn't be blogging this whole thing at, but nnneh~) that she has a father who loves her and would devote himself to them to the point of dying for her and her mom if it meant protecting them and securing them a bright future. However that devotion is currently only manifested in monetary support and silent faithfulness.
Irene wanted more from her father than just a provider; she wanted a father figure, most specifically a happy memory of her father. She told me that even though she has friends back in NC to help her, she will force herself to ask her dad to teach her how to drive.
Problem is, she knows what will happen. Although I know Irene is already a good beginner driver and there shouldn't be an issue, she admitted that her father would start yelling at the smallest imperfection, then she'll start yelling to defend herself, then they'll go home both angry. Her father will plant himself in front of the TV and Irene will run to her room crying. It happened already, but she's willing to take the risk if it means finally getting that happy memory.
This I can analyze and help her with.
"Have you considered just going up to him and say I'm not happy with the relationship we have? Ask him: I want to know you and love you more as a person and as my dad. As of right now, I'm not feeling enough love from you just by your supporting us alone," I said.
She was quiet for a while. I let her think for a second. Then she knocked me back off my feet again.
"Did you try this with your own parents?"
I was flustered when she asked me that, but I couldn't let her know that. She needed a strong person in that moment.
I was quiet for a while. I juggled between being genuine and telling her I never tried it with my parents and have no intentions to do so OR make a Cinderella story in which doing so will yield strong results in the future. Making this decision was hard because I truly wanted Irene to live a happy life when she moves back. Because of my love for my friend, I made a choice i would never make as a professional.
"Yes I have," I spouted bullshit. "Around the time we were still in NP, I reached a point where my relationship with my dad was not enough for me. It took a heart attack scare to realize that I don't have anything with my dad other than the provider-son relationship. I went to him when I needed money. He went to me when he needed forms to be filled out or information regarding my education. I didn't want him to die without knowing him more. So I told him up front: Hey. I want you to be more in my life and I want to know and love you more. Things didn't magically change overnight. I went back to school, but when I was gone, he slowly opened up to my brother and sister who were still in high school and middle school. To this day, he has been making attempts to get to know his children. It made happy when my sister texted me saying our father took them out for food and he spoke more than two words the entire night. In terms of my own relationship with him, it's not like we're bros, but at least we're making attempts and I think that's better than 3 year ago."
It was all lies. I'm never close to my father, not even after the heart attack scare.
It got dark out and I couldn't see Irene's face except the short moments she turned on her phone to reply to a text. I also couldn't afford not looking at the road because of asshole drivers who don't signal when changing lanes.
"I don't know," she said again.
I resorted to my last resort and said what was really on my mind.
<<Saying what I said really hurt me, but maybe I'll share it another day. This one blog entry is long enough already.>>
Fast forward ten minutes and I said, "I love you and I really care about you. That's why I said what I said. I would have said the cookie cutter script if I were talking to a different person."
"I love you too, " she said. "I really appreciate it."
We were both quiet for the rest of the trip. At least now her faint sobbing quelled down.
I pulled over to the curb of her renter's house. We hugged goodbye.
I gave her my personal email address that I always check and offered my time if she needed to vent more than just using the phone or texts. She gave me hers and assured me the offer works both ways.
I was really happy that the words I said on my mind didn't ruin our friendship. That was the last time I saw her in person, even thought it was just a week ago.
What really bugs me to this day is the lies I said to her just to make her get over her problems. I didn't give her real concrete advice that I know for a fact works from my own personal experience. We even didn't arrive at a conclusion with Torian.
I spent the last hour writing this and it helped me make sense of what I should have done, but it didn't help with what I should do in the future. I have her contact information. I can drop a text or email asking what's up, but I'm so ashamed from the things I said to the point I just want to wait months before doing so. I just hope that everything I said helped her. I couldn't deal with myself if it had adverse effects on her life.