Black Friday


I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.

~ Rainer Marie Rilke

Because I despise shopping, and crowds, and I’m broke, I spent most of my day at home yesterday, scouring, as my friend Pamela calls it, “the effbooks.”  Post after post spoke of Thanksgivings surrounded by family and friends, and there seemed to be no end to mobile uploads of pictures filled with smiling faces.  Happy people with other happy people who make them happy.  So much happy.

Back in the early 90s, I too had friends like that.  Fargo, North Dakota.  Newlyweds.  Jobs and nicer cars and babies on the way.  Four couples as tight as though we had a rubber band stretched around us.  We did dinner for no reason at all.  Grilled meat.  Drank pop from two liters that Mark always had to squeeze before putting the lid back on to keep the fizz in.  Talked about stuff big and small and stupid and laughed and cried occasionally.  And sometimes did nothing at all.  Happy. 

And then we packed up that big truck and moved away. 

Maybe if we’d had the effbooks back then things would be different.  We wouldn’t have fallen so far behind or grown older along such tangential paths.  We have the effbooks now, sure, but too much has come and gone.  I see pictures of their beautiful daughter – who I once held in my arms, rocked gently to sleep – as a senior in ballet slippers, and I don’t know her.  Or them.  We were in Fargo last fall.  I made a phone call or four, hoping for a reunion of sorts, a chance for some happy amidst all the sad, a sign that things hadn’t really gotten that bad, or that the gap wasn’t really all that wide, between us.  But people get busy.  Have to live their lives, distractions be damned.  Even as the effbooks told a different story.  Sometimes lies are better; it hurts more seeing the truth.

All these years and there have been other friendships, but none like those.  Where secrets are known and they don’t matter.  No masks that make us look successful or put together well or on top of things.  No smiles that aren’t sincere.  No superimposed agenda or pending deadline.  Back before trivial things became so unimportant and everything had to weigh thousands and thousands of pounds. 

So I took the girls ice skating and made meatloaf and watched a scary movie and played around on the effbooks and started an argument on the effbooks and got teased about how I use . . . too much.  I hung out with my one true friend and the mother of my children.  The one who knows me best and most and refuses to leave me because, well, she just doesn’t do that.  I push and she absorbs and we live and love and I have her when I have nothing else. 

So I know she’ll understand when I admit that I’m still sometimes very lonely . . .  

               [Flickr photo is by glennharper and is protected]


14 thoughts on “Black Friday

  1. I often times think of things like this. Friends I had from what seemed another life. They all seem happy in their photos, but their eyes tell another story. I once had an expansive group of friends, and not it is down to a small, very tight handful of people. I love it, and they love me, despite my inequities in the relationship.

    I choose to surround myself with family and friends, and I choose who I let in that circle. Seems you do the same thing and sometimes even if it is only your best friend/wife/sound board, remember, you chose it, and that is something to be happy about!

  2. i have maintained connection with quite a few old friends, but it’s been a lot of work. and there are a few cases where i’ve gotten no help from the other side – so i’ve had to just wave across the ether through the effbooks and be done with it… more and more, i realize that it’s the folks who read my words, and live inside my computer, who know me best… warts and all, they keep reading.

  3. So, thanks for writing that. I have nobody. And what I mean when I say that is: no parents, no siblings, no children, no aunts, no uncles, no cousins. No. Body. The holidays are pretty horrible for me, because I always feel like I’m standing in the dark, with my nose pressed to the glass, watching the happy-fun-family-love stuff going on inside.

    I have a close friend. I have over a hundred effbooks friends.(I like that!) And I have some people who live far away, who were once real life friends but are now really only effbooks friends, who invite me for the holidays out of a sense of pity. I don’t go, because I hate being pitied.

    I’ve been married twice, and neither time was I really part of my husband’s family or life. I was alone, when it came down to it. Nose pressed against the glass, watching them have connections to people that for some reason I did not share, wondering why the barrier was there, and what I could do to break it down. And now I’m in a relationship and it has happened again. I am alone, fundamentally and always. The connection people have with me is superficial, and from where I stand it seems that it is not that way for anyone else, and I don’t know why.

    From January 3rd through November 15th, I am at peace with my lot in life. It’s hard and I’m lonely, but I deal with it. But come November 16th-ish, and I start to feel my isolation quite keenly. I remember that when I’m filling out forms I don’t actually have anyone to use as an emergency contact. I cry a lot, and wonder how this happened to me, and know that there’s nothing I can do to change it, and I brood on the fact that in a few decades, I will be the person you read about, whose neighbors call the police when her dead body starts to stink.

    Anyway, my point is, it is somehow helpful to me to know that even people who are loved and have family are lonely and scared. Maybe it’s part of the human condition. Maybe it’s not actually my fault that nobody has ever really loved me. Maybe everyone is just stumbling through life, getting it wrong all the time.

    And no, I really am not depressed. 🙂

    1. Oh, Lisa. First, thank you for visiting, and taking the time to comment. Do I know you from Facebook? Or elsewhere? How did you come across The Cheek? Just curious . . .

      And this time of year can suck. I have a wonderful family, a loving wife, and a few acquaintances that make life interesting. But I do miss having someone to just sit across the table from and chat about absolutely nothing. Just be with.

      If you can count online friends as people you can be close with, then do stay in touch. I’m here to listen, regardless of what you want to talk about . . .

  4. Brian! It’s Danira!

    1. D’oh! We must coffee soon . . .

  5. Your post has brought back a flood of memories and inspired several “deep thoughts” that I might just have to write a post of my own. We raised our children in a community that disbanded as we all moved our separate ways. FB lies (other than the now-teen that lets me follow her, who spills all for the world to see). I’m glad to know you, Brian. And…as the song says…love the one you’re with.

  6. Isn’t it ironic how we are together in our loneliness? I’m lonely when I’m not feeling good about myself. We feel lonely because we don’t seek out the company of others. What holds us back? Why don’t we try? Do we think on some level that we don’t deserve friends? Is it a lack of compassion towards our selves? I dont know the answer, but I’m testing the poor self-esteem hypothesis.

    I took a measure of myself this weekend. I found an old friend on FB and arranged to go for dinner. I got to compare my memories from 20 years ago with things as they are now. I found my friend relatively unchanged and in my perception, I feel like I’ve come miles since those old days of art school. Good miles.

    Most important! We are not who we think we are. We are not who we were anymore and we are not who we think we want to be. We are much more. 

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this so I’ll stop. 

    Let me end by saying that there is an end to loneliness. We have what we need inside ourselves. The search for belonging starts from within.

    No easy task, but there is a “tribe” of people like us out there. People who are willing to face the dark in order to find the light.

  7. I think people feel lonely because to be yourself, with no mask, and to humbly admit that, as Lisa said, we are stumbling around most of the time, getting it wrong, is to be so very vulnerable. Most of us have been taught or internalized that something about us isn’t ok and we think that when someone sees this, they will pull away from our ugliness. When really, most of us see those same frailties in ourselves and are washed in relief not to be the only ones that struggle.

    1. Um . . . amen? We do learn to pretend that we have it all figured out, don’t we? And unlearning that takes effort . . .

      Good to see you, Chris. Hope you and yours are well . . .

  8. I feel like this sometimes but I usually explain it away as me being an introvert. I wonder if extroverts feel like this too? Your thoughts.

  9. I wonder if that loneliness can ever be abated. I sort of think not.

  10. I am very torn about Facebook lately. I’m actually trying to politely re-cut away the people who didn’t stick with me through the years when things got shitty but now pretend to be friends when it’s as easy as logging in and adding my photo to their collection photos.

    My new take on Facebook is that it’s a collection of contact information. My real friends have my phone number and e-mail address. We communicate without the rest of the world having the ability to read our conversations. Because, like you, my best friend is here beside me. And no photo of someone I talked to once or twice in high school sitting around the Thanksgiving table in my old home town means much. I like that I’ve lost touch with some people. There’s a reason it’s happened. This is why I don’t accept friend requests from most people from my past. My real friends make changes to their daily routine to see me when I’m in town for a sliver of time. I am more than just a status update and a birthday reminder (although, I’m terrible with dates so the birthday reminder has been good for me).

    Hollee and I were just talking this morning before I even read this. You have to break apart. You have to start your own life. You have to carve your own family out of the larger rock that is life. The people who care about you will always find a way to stay in your life. Those are the ones who matter.

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