One of the most noticeable changes to my life over the last few years has been to my social circle with its size shrinking so small that there is no one who is not family or who I do not consider family. Leaving Ireland was traumatic. Enmeshed with my memories and friendships, I left behind a life I thought I loved. Untangling myself from all this was the hardest thing I have ever done and resulted in experiencing the greatest pain and suffering.
I felt judged and mistreated. I took to complaining, moaning and voicing my pain. Some tried to help, others said nothing, both infuriated me. Soon I was left with no one to trust or confide in. Either I pushed you away or shoved you into an uncomfortable position. I retreated into myself and lived a life of solitude. It worked for about a year. It suited me and my in/out of hospital lifestyle. Then I missed my friends. I was desperate for connection. I needed people around me, anyone would do. I raced on, rushing a few steps and soon I was in love with new people, moving them quickly through Acquaintance to Best Best Friend.
The new friends blow out as quickly as they blew in. Over two years these new relationships tested me. I learned to slow down, focus on myself and think about my past. Mr K has gone. The Hungarian I rarely see and The Architect – all smoke and mirrors; however, the California Girl and I remain.
On my birthday I sat feeling sorry for myself. I missed my old Irish friends. It was not their fault that they did not know what to say to me when my mental health broke down, nor are they to blame for having different lives to me. Children and babies are no longer part of my story yet I should appreciate that marriage and family is part of theirs. A new girl sat beside me at work, full of talk of weddings and babies, she excited me in a way I have not been in years. As I saw her future roll out I realised I had accepted my life and excited as to what would happen next. Mrs B to Be (now married) at first glance seemed like my nemesis until I realised she is the woman I once wanted to be like; loved, in control, confident and nurturing. I wonder how to bridge the gap between Ireland and England, my old life and the new me.
Mrs B is erudite and funny, calculated and hard working, stylish and caring. Above all she has the culture I tried to assimilate myself into and through her careful quietness and frank questioning, she allowed me to be myself and ascertain what I had always known, that I am a good friend and need not change myself for anyone.
I spent November alone. In December I ran into a school friend who encouraged me to go out with him and try to reconnect to some of my old friends. We sit in a bar for several hours discussing friends and relationship. I had given up smoking but felt I needed one after discussing my sad story. Outside I met a Dutchman and began a conversation. The next morning he messaged me and began our friendship.
The Dutch are notoriously open minded and direct, from the start I confess that I am scared to be his friend having lost so many and suffered. He allows me to talk through my fears of being left behind, of being let down and remaining on my own. Knowing he cannot reassure me that his friendship was genuine he hung back and gave support without giving too much. I slowly began to trust him implicitly.
After countless times of being let down by The Hungarian I give up. Come around next weekend says Mrs B. I’m coming to see you says the Dutchman.
I greet him with a smile, He arrives ready to listen and support. Over dinner and red wine I tell him about my writing, of my family, of Mrs B. He enjoys my stories and has a gift for me. He hands me voice recognition software called Naturally Speaking I cannot believe it! I have in my hands something that will change everything, I am holding my dreams, real treasure. He dismisses the gesture as something he had lying around. He makes me promise to put it to good use. I think of Mrs B who eagerly awaits the next chapter and will edit with a hawk eye precision. I must promise him that I will write. I offer out a pinkie and he looks at me before teaching me to spit between two fingers as the Dutch do, we laugh, we are friends.
These are the real friendships of the real me, support, love, kindness- naturally speaking with one another about how it should be.