There are people who I've known for many years who now fill me with anxiety and dread. When they text or ring me my whole body goes rigid with stress and I get a knot in my stomach. Most days I don't even bother answering the phone. I just want them to go away. The anxiety has different levels - low level for some people and through the roof for others.
My discomfort with those friends doesn't feel logical. It's not something I consciously choose. In some instances it's because they simply weren't there for me when I needed them last year. So am I bitter? Angry? I don't know. I try not to be. Anyway, there's more to it than that and not all of them were distant last year.
I'm starting to think it all comes down to the fact that these people were part of my former life - the life where I was married and we were a 'complete' family of 2 adults and 3 children. Most of them were friends of Diarmuid's too. Is there room for them in this life? I don't think so. Not yet. It's too hard. Too painful. Does the friend they had back then still exist? My life was shattered into a million pieces. Those friends were there, on the parameter. They were affected too but to a limited degree. Their day to day lives remained the same. Can I bear talking to them in the same way, about the same things we always talked about before he died? That's part of it. When I try to slip back into those old ways it hurts because I've slipped back to the old me and then it's like a fresh bolt of pain because he's not there. Yet I cannot constantly say to them "stop, this hurts too much".
Part of it too is simply tiredness - long chats, extended phone calls, meeting up... it's all exhausting.
Mostly though, I *think* it's all about their expectations. They expect me to be the same person I was before... but I'm not. I can't be. Not their fault. Not mine either.
Funnily enough, there are others from my old life who I really do want to stay in contact with. I think it's because they have adjusted their expectations of me. They aren't surprised when I'm tired or struggling; when I'm confused or stressed. They might not have lost a loved one but they have enough empathy to imagine that it has changed me without asking "hey, what's wrong?". With the others, every time I see them we revert back to those old days, *they* revert back to the old jokes, the old anecdotes, the old habits, with no allowance made for how much I've been forced to change; no time given to my new feelings and my new status as a single parent. It stabs me in the heart. I simply don't have it in me to force myself to 'fit' that old structure any more.
Should they change their expectations? Should I tell them to do that? Or should I suck it up and just 'be' that person I used to be? I don't think that's possible actually.