Since it was a relief when I finally decided I would not go to my 20-year college reunion, it’s a surprise to feel so emotional about it now that it’s happening.
About a month ago, I check to see if the friends I most wanted to see were going. Most weren’t. A few of them were unsure, and there were some perfectly nice other people who were going, but I felt pretty certain I would find lots and lots of moments that weekend when I really had no one to talk to.
Other people would be there with friends they were close to and with whom they had remained close. And even if they weren’t in the company with best buds, I imagined they would be more open to just hanging out, having a beer, sharing what they are up to than I.
I knew I wasn’t up for this for lots of reasons.
Travel away from my home is a lot of work for me.
For one, my kids are still just nine and five. It’s rough enough on the family when I go to a conference all day, to an event where I learn and feel empowered toward better health & happiness or creativity. Even when all things are good, I still feel like there is some kind of fall-out with my kids and/or with my husband. I have done little get-aways on occasion, but not much recently, and never without guilt.
So for me to up and leave for the weekend, it has to be for something I’m really committed to and something that will ultimately fill me up more than it will deplete me, like the blogging conference I attended in June. Or because it’s something I need to do, like visit my mom in the hospital after open-heart surgery, as I did in August.
Another reason travel comes at a cost is that my diet is really restrictive, and any food I eat that I don’t make myself might cause a negative reaction. I miraculously made it without incident through five restaurant meals on a recent (and rare!) family weekend to the beach, and that was great. It felt like a real win. But at home this week, my GI system is not super happy, and my face is burning up after the second meal in a row. I look sunburned!
Is the culprit kombucha, or sulfur from the garlic in the farm sausage, or that I have had some nut butter and a tiny bit of sugar this week and so have trigged gut inflammation such that now I’m overreacting to anything? Or is it one of my new supplement additions? Or that I need more probiotics? Or more something or less something else? I don’t know. But I do know that it would not do me a lot of good right now to be trying to eat on the road! Forget about having a drink or even a cup of decaf with acquaintances from college.
And finally, I am still a little too vulnerable to strike up a cheery conversation with people I don’t know well. Or who I think won’t remember me well. I had been feeling a lot better in the past seven weeks or so, since I started the anti-viral for the reactivated Epstein-Barr virus and the methylation support, especially related to neurotransmitters – better enough that I have the start of a draft of a post about how much better I feel! But I’m still not super confident out of my element. I can still remember too well how excruciating it was this summer for me to talk to relatives on my husband’s side of the family. No, I am not teaching. No, I am not tutoring. No, I am not really working. What am I doing?
On a good day, I’ll talk about all my volunteer work in my children’s school, in the school district, and with Holistic Moms, and I will share my vision for my website and my novel. And I’ll share matter-of-factly that my health has not been good and I’ve been spending a lot of time working on that.
On a day that is not so good, I just feel like a loser who has accomplished little in her 42 years. I want to shout, “I’m busy trying not to feel like dying. That’s my work. And yes, I’m costing my family tons of money. And no, we haven’t been on any interesting vacations, and no, I don’t have a job. I am just trying to survive and be a halfway decent parent.”
Who wants to hear that at a college reunion? As I see Facebook photos of all the activities happening without me and think about what I would say if I were there at the bar or the football field or the class photo, I recall how I barely made it through my husband’s family reunion this summer. It’s hard not to think now about the person I wasn’t, and the person I am still not.
I don’t want to be confined by the past and to live in a narrow window of possibility, but I wasn’t 20 years ago and am not now someone who easily gets along with people such that I have lots of close friendships. I can network well and connect people. I can lead meetings and head up projects. It’s not like I a total dolt. But I was never best-buddies with anyone – anyone — not after 8th grade, and certainly not in college, even though that was a place – ostensibly a community – I chose.
I know lots of people in my community now, and I even had a nice time catching up with some of them this morning at a fall festival at my son’s old school. But I don’t have “girlfriends” evenings or outings. We rent cabins or go on trips with other families. I don’t think my kids are growing up to see me as an introvert, but there are social ways of being that I wish I were modeling for them so they would have an easier time inhabiting comfortable places with friends in their own futures.
As I’m watching the Facebook feed of my reunion, I’m having a much harder time than I expected. One of the friends I would have liked to have seen – and who was a very nice cheerleader as we messaged about it – ended up going to the reunion. Even with a child younger than mine at home, and even though she, too, has food restrictions and health issues, she made it work and she got there. I hope she has the good time I didn’t believe I could have.
I’m surprised by how many names I don’t recognize and what that says about how disconnected I was in college. There are still things I regret and am embarrassed about from 20+ years ago even as I’ve been feeling better about things I’m accomplishing in my community today.
How can I possibly feel like I haven’t grown up when I also feel so old? How can so many realities exist at the same time?