Monday, February 19, 2007

I'm in no mood to celebrate

Dear HTT,

I recently (well, a year ago) went through the breakup of a very long-term relationship. I have had wonderful support of friends, and am getting on with most aspects of life pretty well. I've gotten used to going to sleep and waking up alone. I've started enjoying the fact that any mess in my house is mine alone. The cooking for one -- not so fun yet. But, what I'm saying is that all-in-all, I'm making progress and adjusting to this new life.

My difficulty lies in seeing other couples doing their "we're happy couples having a happy life" things: weddings, bridal showers, engagement parties, baby showers, children's parties, etc. I find every excuse in the book to stay home from these happy events. I don't even deliver gifts late with my apologies. I guess I kind of pretend they never happened. I don't even RSVP, come to think of it -- that's the denial I'm in!

So, a few questions come to mind. Am I being a self-centered terrible friend? I know I should at least RSVP, but is it horrible of me to just not want to go? How long will I feel like I can't handle "in my face" happiness? Any suggestions for helping to get over this hurdle?

Please help,
Single and (Almost) Loving It

Dear (Almost) Loving It,

Not to be flippant, but there’s a good reason the saying goes “misery loves company” and not “misery loves hanging around with happy people.” As socially unacceptable as it might be to admit, who among us hasn’t pasted on a smile upon hearing someone’s good news while we, ourselves, are suffering about something? This isn’t a character flaw, it’s human nature. Legitimate happiness for our friends and melancholy over our own situation aren’t mutually exclusive, just hard to express in a way that doesn’t make us feel like a killjoy.

So, no, wanting to steer clear of celebratory events doesn’t make you a horrible person. I’m not sure how long it'll take before the arrival of thick ivory envelopes with calligraphy and LOVE stamps will fail to make you a little sad. It’ll take as long as it takes, and you should try not to chastise yourself.

You might also try prioritizing and attend the events that you’d later regret missing, even if going takes something out of you now. Your best friend is having a baby? Go to the shower and pretend to be happy about it if need be. Your second cousin twice removed announced his engagement? Maybe you can skip that one.

That being said, I do want to discuss the RSVP issue. Do you think your failure to RSVP results from turmoil about whether you “should” attend the event? Or from your guilt over simply deciding not to go? Do you think if you forgave yourself for wanting to stay home that it would be easy enough to reply with regrets? What if you actually had other plans on the day of the event and had a “legitimate” reason for not attending…would you RSVP promptly? If so, try to accept that your reasons are legitimate, and let the party planner know that you won’t be there.

Finally, be kind to yourself and be proud of the progress you’ve made this year.

Best wishes,

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