There’s a quote from Amy Poehler that I read recently — I think it is; I haven’t been able to verify it, but we’ll go with the assumption for now — and it really resonates positively with me. “Other people are not medicine.”
Once upon a time, I probably did use other people as medicine. I was jealous of friends who were in relationships because I wanted to be in one, and I just genuinely enjoyed the company of others. I never felt codependent, but I also never felt comfortable in my own skin unless I had someone around to reflect back at me.
Amy is right, though; people are not the cure for what ails you. At best, they are a salve that provides short-term comfort.
This may sound shocking and terribly coarse, but I’ll say it anyway. I don’t need my friends. I will not drop dead without them. The sun will rise tomorrow morning regardless of the number of people I count as my peers.
If you’re one of my friends, don’t go clicking on the red “x” in the upper right hand corner just yet. As I said, I don’t need you in my life. I want you in my life. I don’t say that to make it sound as though “you made the cut,” because that’s not it at all. There’s no leaderboard and even if you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you specifically what makes me gravitate toward some people and away from others. I’m not trying to fulfill degree requirements, I’m just trying to have a good time traveling through life.
I don’t ever want to tell someone I need them any more than I want to hear it told to me, especially from a lover. I wasn’t always that way. I’ve told at least two different women “I can’t live without you.” Guess what? I woke up this morning on the correct side of the turf. I only lament it a little bit that I’ll never be able to say that phrase to another woman because it’s a very nice platitude, but that’s all it really is. If you have someone special in your life, live in the moment. If you’re having a bad day, tell them you’re really looking forward to seeing them later. If they make you feel good inside, tell them that you’ve noticed that you smile and laugh more with them than anyone else.
If they press you for more than that, re-evaluate the relationship. I used to be the kind of guy who needed that kind of reassurance. Rightfully, I did not get it. Now, I cringe at the thought of it. “I can’t live without you.” In what universe?
For the first time since 1999 I am living alone, and as each day passes, I wonder what the hell I was so afraid of.
To my friends reading this, all two of you, please don’t take this as indifference to the times we’ve shared. I have been through some tough times — my brother Todd’s death, two periods of unemployment, divorce — and just knowing that you were there at the other end of a phone or an email was often enough to help propel me forward.
When you face your fears (leaving your departed loved one in the past, a longer-than-normal job search, moving on as a single man), it’s really just you in the forest against Voldemort and a wall of Death Eaters. It can be lonely, but the sad reality is there’s only room in your skull for one conscience.
“Other people are not medicine.” Damn right. If that was the case, don’t you think a room full of your friends and loved ones surrounding your bed as you lay dying might be enough “medicine” to snatch you back from death’s chilly grasp?
No. Because whether that hospital room is packed or empty, that journey toward death we make alone.
It’s the same in life. By all means, surround yourself with people who mean something to you, but don’t do it because you can’t stand the thought of being alone. Don’t do it because you can’t stand the sound of your own inner monologue. From cradle to grave you’re the only best friend you’re ever going to have your entire life.
Make sure you’re worthy of your own company first.
Incidentally, Amy I know you’re recently single. I’m recently single. I don’t foresee me lifting my six-month dating moratorium for you (because you should have to wait like everyone else), but if you ever find yourself in the Central Kentucky area with a few hours to kill, and you don’t have any better offers, my door is always open, except when it’s locked. And you should knock first. And we should agree on a code name for you because if I say “who is it?” and you say “Amy Poehler,” I’m probably going to think you’re full of shit. No, I won’t just use the peephole to confirm it visually, because how do I know you’re not looking through the peephole from the other side? If someone knocks on my apartment door and I don’t know they’re coming, I’m not answering the door, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to tip them off that I’m home by walking up to the peephole to look through. What kind of careless individual do you think I am?
So, yeah, we’ll need to come up with a code name for you. Maybe something low-key, like “Lindsay Lohan.”