Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: friends

Remiss

I have been horribly remiss in keeping up with posts, and I apologize. There will be no promises that I will do so from now on; I’m not going to promise something that may not happen. Suffice it to say that the rough period that I’m dealing with right now isn’t over.

This rough period began back in October. I’ll be honest here and admit I struggled through November. Even though I did participate in Nano, and I did find the writing somewhat easier than I expected, it was a chore to write each day, and I experienced several days throughout the month when I didn’t write at all. About a week or so toward the end of the month, I threw in the towel. In part because I’m near the end of the wip I was working on for November, which always is a struggle to write, because I don’t want the story to end, even if there’s a sequel. The rest was just emotional exhaustion. To be vulgar, I simply had no fucks to give by that point. Since it had been such a struggle to write on fiction, it was even more difficult to keep up with blog posts, which takes more out of me, even if my post is relatively short.

December has been no different. I’ve written a little, but nowhere near as much as I wanted. I was hoping my creative mind would “switch on” sometime around the 15th, but that didn’t happen. And, to be honest, I don’t really care. I still don’t have any fucks to give about writing. To be honest, this blog post is the most I’ve cared about any writing all month.

Instead of writing, I’ve been doing other things. I spent most of the month making my mom’s Christmas gift—a bunch of wash cloths—in crochet sessions with a new friend whom I helped teach how to crochet. The Pride Center is officially closed, aside from a therapy office in another building they’re renting the space from while their new building is being renovated, and the games store that bought the old building has opened up in the ground floor. Katie went in to check things out and as a result, I joined her and her husband for a D&D demo game DMed by one of the store’s employees. Oasis Games sells board games and a variety of role games and things like miniatures that go to the role games. They’ve installed a cafe and also sell other items related to games and gaming, including Funko Pop figures, dice, and Magic: The Gathering cards.

That visit to Oasis Games with Katie has inspired a new interest in D&D. I purchased a Player’s Handbook with part of the money from a gift card my sister sent me for my birthday. That demo game kicked ideas into my head—ideas I need to be a Dungeon Master in order to execute, so I’ve brought up a suggestion to my Vampires gaming friends that I DM D&D for them, and they’re tentatively enthusiastic about the offer. I just need to get the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. In the meantime, I’ve been reading the Player’s Handbook from cover to cover, usually in reading sessions with the bottomless cup of tea Oasis Games offers. I’ve got some notes, a number of prize items, and I need to draw up a map for the first quest my gaming friends are going to take their characters through. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about DMing, but most of them are positive, and I’m feeling excited to do it. Even just a year ago, this is something I wouldn’t have considered doing.

Another thing I’m trying to do is schedule my days. Thinking it would be quite easy to switch my sleeping habits around, I originally scheduled myself a rising time of six in the morning. Mornings like this are flukes for the most part—though I did put myself to bed last night, I didn’t actually sleep all that much; overactive mind. So, in paying attention to my natural sleep habits, I decided to rework my schedule for a ten AM rise. Much as I like being up early in the morning, it just doesn’t happen with any regularity, and the fact is, I tend to get to sleep more quickly if I go to bed later, so even on nights when I got to bed around ten PM, I was still getting up at around ten the next morning because I simply didn’t fall asleep until one or two AM. I don’t understand it either; this is just the way my mind works with regards to sleep, and I’ve decided I’ve got to learn to live with it because trying to twist it around into something it wasn’t and couldn’t be was only stressing me out.

I’m glad about a few things, though. The D&D thing, for one. And I’m crocheting more. It’s been nice to wield a hook again, and I’ve even made a bit of progress on my monster bedspread afghan. Currently, my “portable” project is an afghan that’s been languishing to be finished that I’m going to give to a friend in return to all the kindness and patience they’ve bestowed upon me. I’m looking forward to giving it to them and am sure they’ll appreciate it.

So I’m dealing with my lack of interest in writing in constructive ways that are taking me out of the house more frequently, which is another reason why I’m not upset about not caring about writing. And I think all these things are signs of an improvement in my mental health state, which I’m sure everyone will agree is a good thing. The rough period may not be over, but at least I’m dealing with it in healthy ways—another improvement in my mental health state. And, to be honest, I’d rather have that improvement than a regular writing habit, mainly because I can teach myself to have the latter, but the good mental health status comes only with time, the correct medication regimen, and a lot of effort in therapy.

The Importance of Friendship

Back in 2009—well, actually, before 2009—I realized I was mentally healthy enough to expand my social activities. I was by no means capable of throwing myself into a club or bar with the goal of meeting anybody, whether prospective friend or lover, but I was ready to be more social than I had been up to that point. In 2009, I volunteered for the Pride Festival that’s held here the first weekend of June each year—I forget which one it was. I did it primarily so I had a free entry pass so I could see the sights and maybe meet a couple of people to strike up something of an acquaintance. To do this, I intended to join an organization or two, maybe a church, maybe find out some information on another religion or philosophy or some group activity.

And I found Temple Squares’s booth.

I found them dancing in front of their booth, in fact, wearing variously-colored tees that all said “Circle To A Square” on the back. I hadn’t square danced since middle school, when boys wouldn’t touch me, but I had enjoyed the PE module despite that, and I knew I could learn how to do this. I collected every last bit of information I could find and left them my contact information—neatly written because I definitely wanted them to contact me—then went on my way in search of another organization I could possibly join.

Well, I didn’t find any other organizations I wanted to join that day, but I kept in contact with Temple Squares and joined them for classes when they started up in September. I went in expecting to have fun and to meet a fun group of people, which is precisely what happened. I had fun, and I had it with fun people. Over the course of my first year of dancing, as I learned the many square dance calls, I made friends among these fun, welcoming people.

I went into square dancing the same way I enter into any group activity. I expect to find fun-loving, fun people who are trustworthy and friendly. I go in to have fun, to be a fun person, and with an open mind willing to open wider, and with a complete willingness to be trusting and friendly. I expect to make friends.

My mom, on the other hand, has a completely opposite view of people in general. These days, even her closest, deepest “friendships” are rather shallow in comparison with my friendships. Hell, they aren’t even really friendships at all. Mom is lonely, and has been burned by her loneliness more than once, when she willingly entered into marriages which turned out to be abusive for her.

In a way, I can kind of understand her withdrawal, but I think that’s the wrong way to solve her problem. Instead of looking at people with an open mind willing to trust, she looks at people with a closed mind at first mistrustful. I get that she doesn’t want to be hurt again, but this is not the best way, in my opinion, for her to “protect” herself. It’s not real protection. It further isolates her. She’s lonelier now than she’s ever been before; she may not say she is, but it’s in the way she reacts to those around her.

Mom looks at people with a judgmental mind. Yes, I understand that there are people who are busybodies, nosy, untrustworthy, and who seek to create drama where she lives, but even with those whom I believe are trustworthy and sincere, Mom is reserved and distant. She’ll associate with them, but not let them in close.

She says she doesn’t want friends among anyone in her building, but she also doesn’t make any efforts to get out and meet other people. Mom isolates herself. I believe she doesn’t realize just how emotionally and mentally debilitating this can be, or how much of a sign of emotional and mental disturbance it is. She’s not so closed off that she’s afraid of people, but her “friendships” aren’t healthy, and her expectation of finding untrustworthy people is only further isolating her.

I hate seeing this, but I know and understand Mom’s thinking on this. She believes that if she doesn’t get close with anyone, she won’t get hurt. And, for her, that’s very profound, because she’s been hurt by men she’s married.

And that’s basically because she’s been trying to live out her dream of being a wife and mother. This is a completely honorable and respectable dream to have, but her life simply didn’t work out the way she wanted. She spent most of my childhood falling for abusers because she “needed” a man so much to fill the emptiness she saw in her life when her dream failed. She’s generally a confident person, but with men, she was desperate to fulfill the role of loving wife, and abusers picked up on it and took advantage of her.

And that is why she isolates herself now. I think, in a way, she’s conflating friendship with her bad marriages. She’s afraid to trust anyone now, even with her friendship, because she’s afraid of being hurt again, when, in reality, if she opened herself up a little more, trusted a bit more (with caution), she’d have rich, rewarding friendships with a number of people. My mother is a very rich, rewarding friend to have, with a lot of wisdom, a lot of common sense, and a lot of good humor to share, and I think she could find similar people and connections that would be as rewarding for her as what she can be for other people.

It’s all a matter of perspective. She expects to find mistrustful, unhappy people around her, so that’s what she sees in her neighbors. I’m expecting to find trusting, happy people around me, so that’s what I see.

Now, I won’t say I don’t find the occasional loser, but that’s just it. They’re not that frequent, and they’re easy to spot. Yes, I’ve been hurt before by people I thought were friends. I haven’t let it make me withdraw, though. Years ago, once I got mentally stable, I recognized how bad isolating myself was. It’s healthy to have friendships, and I’m glad for each and every friend I now have, no matter who they are, what walk of life they come from, or what social group they belong to, and I’ll continue to put myself and my trust and my faith in people out there to make new friends because I need friends. Not only is having friends a sign of good mental health, it keeps me mentally healthy.

Mom has told me, on numerous occasions, that I’m too trusting. Well, I’d rather be trusting and rewarded for my trust with friends who trust me, than be mistrustful and rewarded with isolation and loneliness. Being hurt occasionally is a small price to pay for the company of good friends.

On Mental Illness and Being Honest About It.

Mental illness carries with it a number of challenges, especially when the sufferer is young. When I was a teen, I had incredible social anxiety, exacerbated by beliefs that I was unworthy of friendship, I was ugly, and that nobody really cared about me. That nobody could care about me. I believed I was inherently unlovable and undeserving of being loved.

My mother was at a total loss as to what to do with me—until she saw an article in the newspaper about a local Star Trek club. Now, I’d been a fan of Star Trek: the Next Generation since I discovered it in 1989. I adored that show, and I’d been writing fanfic based on it pretty much since beginning ninth grade. So, Mom did what she thought was best and dropped me off at the library for one of their monthly meetings one Saturday afternoon. I briefly considered hanging out in the main section of the library for the duration of the Star Trek meeting, but ultimately decided to at least check things out, in part because I didn’t want to have to lie to Mom about having gone.

The little library’s main meeting room was already set up for the meeting, with a long table with chairs facing the room at the front, and rows of chairs facing that setup in the rest of the room. Two more long tables stood at the right, already bearing snacks and 2-liters of sodas and cups. A few of the regular club members were present, but I didn’t approach them. I sidled into a chair in the middle of the last row set up and huddled there. I can’t remember if it was Dawn or Milo or someone else, but one of those already present came over and introduced themselves, asked my name, and pointed everybody else out with their names when I admitted I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of talking to anyone.

I spent the entire meeting in that chair, and scurried out without partaking of any of the snacks when it was over, though everyone else stayed to socialize. I’d had enough, I felt stressed, and I wanted to go back to my bedroom at home and hide with my writing. Mom picked me up. On the way home, she asked me how things went, and I told her a little of what had gone on, then, to my own surprise (and probably hers, too), I admitted I wanted to go to the next meeting.

I gradually grew comfortable enough to chat with everyone after the meetings, but my first Christmas party with them, at one member’s home, proved to be a little too much. In the middle of our Secret Santa gift exchange, I retreated to an empty, dark bedroom to spend some time alone. I needed to recover from what was for me intensive socialization. It was either Kim or Dawn who followed me to ask what was wrong, and I, in my innocence, was completely honest with her when I replied. I explained I needed a break from the social activity because it was starting to stress me out, and I was getting edgy enough to start snapping at people for no reason, and I didn’t want to do that, so I needed some time to recover. She nodded and told me to take all the time I needed, that she’d tell everyone else what was going on and that I wasn’t upset or hurt or anything, then left.

I didn’t know it then—I wasn’t as self-aware and mindful as I am now—but I taught myself a valuable lesson. I learned that day it was important for me to be honest about my mental health with my friends. I didn’t realize it, but by telling Kim/Dawn why I’d retreated into isolation as I had, I’d given my friends a precious opportunity to be supportive and caring.

I realize now how big a thing that is. Up to that point, I’d fiercely guarded my mental health status, even after my inpatient visit to a local hospital’s mental ward. I didn’t tell anyone except my therapist and psych doc about my mental status. I didn’t realize, even when I told Kim/Dawn how I was doing mentally during that Christmas party, how imperative it was to be honest about my mental health.

That’s something I’ve learned over time, this honesty about my mental health. As friendships fluctuate, grow more distant and close again as they are wont to do with me, I’ve learned the value of being completely honest with my friends how I feel at any given time. If I’m upset or depressed, I tell them with complete honesty and as tactfully as I am able. This may be over the phone, or in an email, and is frequently done with them in person. I need to keep giving my friends the opportunity to understand me, particularly when I feel upset with, or angry at, or jealous of them for some reason. I’ve found that when I give my friends the opportunity to address my mental illness and its effects on me, my friendship with them strengthens.

This, I believe, is why I’m now able to pick up a friendship previously dropped or “forgotten” over the course of time when things get busy for myself or one of my friends. Not only am I honest with them about myself, but my honesty allows them to feel comfortable being honest with me, and confident I won’t get upset with them for life getting in between us. That’s what I mean about strengthening the friendship. It doesn’t matter how many months or even years fall between us from one conversation to another; what does matter is that we’re able to pick up where we left off because we both are honest with each other about what got in the way.

But I have to give my friends the opportunity to be honest, and compassionate, and caring. If I don’t do that, they won’t know I’ll welcome them back no matter what’s separated us.

In the Mail

My square dance club is a member of a regional Utah square dance club organization, and I have met very many nice people through this connection. One such person is Angela Mast, who sent me a little something about cancer.

What Cancer Cannot Do

Cancer is so limited . . .
It cannot cripple Love
It cannot shatter Hope
It cannot corrode Faith
It cannot destroy Peace
It cannot kill Friendship
It cannot suppress Memories
It cannot silence Courage
It cannot invade the Soul
It cannot steal Eternal Life
It cannot conquer the Sprit

Author Unknown

She sent this with a very encouraging card. The little card is heart-shaped, with a floral design around the edges and the phrase, “A grateful heart knows many joys” in the center. Within, she’s written, “Dear ———: Thinking of you with prayers and love. Make the Journey of your illness with Faith and Determination! Please keep in touch. Love, Angela.”

It gives me comfort to know I am supported in this journey. Now I’m going to call her and tell her I received her card and appreciate the little poem/statement she sent with it.

© 2018 Ashe Elton Parker

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