Though I had fun at Fillmore Glen (for the most part), some annoyances occurred. First, I had to contend with the radio players who set up a tent nearby, playing it loudly so all those surrounding them are forced to hear it too. Our site is quiet until they arrive, with the bubbling of a gentle brook right next to it. As my blood begins to perk at the sound of a radio, all I hear is their radio and the peacefulness I had been feeling vanished. Gone is the water slipping over stones, and the cardinal singing hello- welcome, and the soft sun filtering down through the leaves. I look at my husband and he knows.
He says, “It doesn’t bother me!”
Sounds like continual dog barking and radios, upset me. But he hates confrontation. Or maybe it’s true that it doesn’t bother him. But I think it does, it’s just that confrontation bothers him more.
I grabbed his cell phone and head to the bathroom because I remember the park office phone number is posted on the door. On the way, glancing over at the offending couple, my gut curdled with the blare of their radio. How can people be so stupid and disrespectful?
I’ve come a long way. I don’t wait for two days complaining to Samuel, or waiting for Samuel to do something, or suffering through the arrogance of camp neighbors behaving so selfishly, but immediately take action, make the call, complain clearly and forcefully in a calm, steady, courteous voice.
Soon the park scooter arrives next door, the radio goes way down, and mostly stays lower while we are there. The ability, or feeling that I too deserve the right to enjoy my camping experience by standing up to rudeness, is a big deal, and a giant step, long, long overdue. I feel so complete, finally. No! That is not OK!
The only other annoyance, was my friend’s husband, his beery, breezy belches. OK, I can stand that he does nothing to keep the decibel down to manageable levels, but please cover you frigging mouth. It gags me to have it blow across the short span of the picnic table into my mouth and down my nose and throat. Whatever the person ate or drank, I smell. He is a strange man. And I say nothing. I don’t know how or what. I either have to work on it, or not camp again with them. I think that trip for this summer is enough. I am a coward, or just want to have fun… Do I really want to use him as a learning tool at speaking up, so go ahead with another camping experience together, or just find as much peace as I can and make excuses when she asks if we want to go again. Because she will, and I’m already coming up with plausible reasons why not.
At the campfire during game time, he had his phone out the entire time fiddling with it. And while sitting around the fire he thought nothing of answering it while the three of us had to listen. I left for the bathroom. My god, what a moon on my walk there and a wondrous respite from him. A huge field nearby gave me a glorious sight.
And maybe the heathen took the hint, because on his next call he walked away from us. His long, loud stinky burps are just too much. I like my friend, but I have to work extra hard to tolerate her husband. Everything seems to revolve around him. Isn’t there a word for that? Self-absorbed? Narcissist?
And my ‘friend?’ For a very long time I could not maintain a friendship. I could make a friend but not keep them. But I came to a place where I began to see more layers in myself, open up more, let others in, and see the same multi-layers in them. So friendships I cherish now have lasted many years and I’ve learned that through the bumps both sides can come back together, stronger, closer and better. And some friendships are lost along the way because they are not a good fit for either side. And though painful, and I grieved the losses, they were not healthy for me and vice versa.
But it is still hard. Others seem to have no problem saying whatever they feel like saying, whether it hurts me or not. And I find it impossible to say ‘ouch.’ But that too is changing. This friend, Carol, has been one for over ten years, yet has caused me so much pain that it felt like she was more of an enemy than a friend. She made remarks that stung, and flung them constantly for no reason. I withered as if struck by an arrow. Sometimes they were more like needles, others like being jabbed with a knife. Yet she would oddly say that I was her ‘best friend.’ I think that translated into me being the only person she could dump on and get away with it.
Whatever was bugging her, which had nothing to do with me, she dumped. I felt immediately diminished, over and over and over. She was like my mother reincarnated. Pick, pick, pick, until I’m fully deflated. I keep her as a friend because this time around I’m determined to. Whatever is wrong with the friendship must be me, because I’m the one who hadn’t been able to keep any.
I saw myself as her own personal dumpster and hated how that felt yet was incapable of speaking up gracefully, with strength accompanied by compassion. But I began to see that it is not all me. She cannot keep friends either because of her tendency to jab at others. Just because you jab in a sweet voice does not make it hurt less. She has issues from her own childhood unresolved, which is why I cling to her. Her mother was ultra-criticizing too, and favored an older sister over her.
I ask myself, “Why can’t I have normal friends? Nice friends? Not weirdos?”
Yet I’m drawn to those who struggle as I do. I relate because we have so much in common. And she has so many other redeeming traits, it’s worth a shot. So I speak up. After over ten years, I finally speak up. OK, I did so in an email, but I did it. And she knew I had had enough. Finally. Because long ago, she did mention she had this tendency to ‘say things.’ But I rarely called her on it. And when I did, it just wasn’t enough, because she retorted with another barb and it would start up again.
And her tendency at shooting quills is still there. I felt my shield going up while camping when the snarky remarks started coming out. But I have a shield. And it’s more or less facing the right way now, with the exterior curved outward so the shit bounces off, not inward so I absorb it. Sometimes I have to work very hard when it flips and I’m devastated by another’s meanness. But I’m learning that I too belong here, same as everybody else. I matter. Each person does.