Monday, July 13, 2009

the roles we play.

I want to talk about friends and personalities and habits, and the roles we play. I want to say something that I’ve been thinking about but I’ve been having a hard time putting it into words, in a way that’ll make sense. Let’s try.

A little over a year ago, I had a bit of a revelation, about my life and my weight and a few other things.

Wait, back up.

I used to have a lot of friends, and I went to a lot of parties and got together with people after work to do stuff and have picnics and craft days and movie nights and potlucks and barbecues and clothing swaps, and whatever, we did lots of stuff. What I mean is I had a big circle of friends, and I had a lot of fun.

I had a role in that group of friends: I was ‘hapless yet hilarious’.

I’m a pretty decent storyteller, and a surprising number of bizarre things seem to happen to me, and so I kept people amused by telling these stories, setting it up in a way that’s like, “only me! This could only happen to me!”

Like, an example: one time I slipped on a patch of ice while walking down the sidewalk. Not a big deal, right, everyone’s done that? Of course, I happened to fall at the exact same time that a firetruck was passing, so the truck pulled over and half-a-dozen uniformed firefighters rushed to my assistance. Hello? Who falls down and gets rescued by passing firefighters, right? Only me! And people love these stories. So in my group of friends, I was the hilarious screw-up.

“Can you guys believe I haven’t filed my taxes in four years! Ha ha ha, I’m so useless! Let’s all drink some beer!”

“Oh my god, I went home with this guy I met at a bar and he wanted to watch an animal documentary while spanking me! My life is so crazy!”

(These are all true stories. Not even joking.)

Anyway, so I guess what I mean is, I set myself up to be kind of funny and pathetic. And what I realized about a year ago, the big revelation I had, was that it wasn’t just with my friends. I had, at some point, internalized this persona. It was me now. I WAS funny and kind of pathetic. Hapless yet hilarious!

And it was like a steel trap.

I felt stuck. I would never get out of my crappy job. I would never lose this weight. I would never get my finances in order. Because all those things would involve being competent. Strong. Determined. Focused. It would involve taking myself seriously.. And I couldn’t see a single one of those qualities in myself. I saw someone who made a mess at every turn. I saw someone who’d turned her whole life into a bad comic strip.

I didn’t know what to do but I wanted to change. I started to save up some money. I gave notice at my crappy job. And I stopped seeing most of my friends.

The job thing was the biggest gamble, but I did end up finding something great, something in my field, and I’m sooooo thankful that I did. I got a little of my professional confidence back. And since the job is with the government, it pays (a lot!) better than my old job, so my finances are in better shape. And in November, I set my mind to losing weight, and I’ve done it. Or, at least, I’m doing it. You know what I mean.

And in the meantime, I changed how I saw myself. I don't see myself as being so hapless, or helpless anymore. I see someone who can do the things she puts her mind to. I see someone who decided to change her life and then did.

But I’ve really had to focus on myself this year to do it. I’ve been basically a hermit for the past year and now I’ve started feeling … well, lonely. So in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing some of my old friends. Getting together for drinks, planning picnics, going to the art gallery.

And it’s been wonderful, don’t get me wrong. My friends are amazing, so smart and funny and filled with life. But I already see myself slipping back there, back into my role.

My family is a disaster, I basically pretend I’m an orphan!” I found myself shouting yesterday, in between shoving cheese pastries in my mouth. “My dad sold our house and moved in with some woman on the other side of the province, and he still hasn’t told me any of this! I had to hear it from my mom! I go on facebook now and it’s filled with pictures of his new family! What a mess! Oh well, I guess he won't bug me to have kids now since he's got 'grandkids' now! Let’s order another pitcher of beer!”

That story, about my dad, breaks my heart, but I turn it into a joke, because that’s who I am with my friends. The bad comic strip, where nothing goes right but it sure is funny! And I find myself eating and drinking the way I used to, because cake and beer were comforting, when nothing else was going right, and they were comforting yesterday too, and I could see myself, walking straight back down that same road, walking straight back into that. same. steel. trap.

It's all mixed up in there: Who I was and who I am now. I’m scared of gaining this weight back, but I’m scared of being lonely. I don’t know how to reconcile who I am now with who I was then. The new me might be competent but she’s kind of boring too. Will anyone like her? Do I even like her?