Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Missing Out

My dog is always afraid she is missing out on something.  My cats are too, but they aren't as worried because the pull of sleeping twenty hours a day is more important than actually participating in anything they might be missing out on. 

The cats seem to be the most concerned with missing out when I'm in the bathroom.  For some reason they are absolutely certain that something amazing and exciting is going on in the bathroom.  They could all be asleep in various areas of the house, not having stirred for hours, and as soon as I step into the bathroom and open the toilet lid, at least Percy will bang open the bathroom door and march in purposefully.  Puckett usually follows him, or else she sits just outside the door and glares at me from a safe distance.  Willow has tried to crawl into my lap before, thinking that as long as I'm sitting on the toilet, I'm a trapped audience for her purring, kneading, and meowing like I've ignored her for months.

If she can, Tess will squeeze herself into the bathroom as well, but that is only because everyone is already there and she is so afraid she will miss out on something that she has to be present at all times.

Tess can never truly rest.  Even when she is sound asleep on the floor, as soon as I get up to get myself a cup of tea or a chocolate, she is on her feet and glued to my side, ready to follow me wherever I go.  If I move towards the front door, she is right behind me.  I will go outside to check the mailbox, grab something out of the car that I forgot, or dump the trash, and Tess is absolutely convinced that she must go with me because anything might happen.  When I leave for work in the morning, she almost has apoplexy, staring at me through the back door with wide, sad eyes.  "How can you not take me???" she seems to plead with those eyes as I walk out the door.

And I just want to tell her, "Trust me, dog.  You're not missing anything.  It's just work!"

She might be missing out on a bunch of lunatics, but that's another story.

Surina, our new dog friend, is just as bad.  When I'm cooking, she is right by my side, her nose practically glued to the counter or stove, because she is so afraid that I might drop something she will miss.  In my house, no one's going to pick that up, not the cats or Tess.  Anything that falls to the floor is not fair game.  It will instantly be Surina's because she is the only one interested in it.  And yet, she is still worried she will miss out.  So she makes sure to stay in our proximity at all times, lest she miss extra snacks, or a wayward hand just looking for something to pet.  I keep Tess outside most of the day on nice days because she likes it.  Surina, when she visits, is out there with her.  Tess likes to be outside so she doesn't miss out on anything there.  She can chase birds, snap up wasps, watch the cars go by, bark at strangers walking down the streets.  Surina is more worried about what she's missing inside.  She sits by the door and whines so pitifully one would think she is dying.  I don't know what she thinks we are doing inside without her, but once again, she is really not missing out.  Given her food obsession I can only conclude she's worried about all the food she's missing out on.  I put her outside one time while I was cooking because I was tired of tripping over dogs and cats.  One day I'll end up head first in the oven, so it's just safer to roust everyone from the kitchen.  Surina cried so pitifully I'm sure the neighbors thought we were strangling her.  She was so sure the whole pizza was going to fall on the floor, just waiting for her to snap it up, that she couldn't stand the thought of being outside, missing it.

Tess worries about all the exciting things she's missing.  Surina worries about the food she's missing.

I think Percy just worries that someone is using the bathroom without him to assess the situation.  He's very interested in bathrooms and litter boxes and what goes on in them.

I favor Tess is in this respect.  Not Surina, because I never worry about what food I'm missing out on. Definitely not Percy since I really don't want to know what goes on in bathrooms. As irrational as it is, I worry that people are all out having more fun without me, more fun than I'm having, or living more exciting lives than I am.  I feel left out a lot.  It's not a rational feeling.  I blame in part Facebook and texting.  I know rationally that people who brag about their lives on Facebook are probably not actually having all that much fun, but I still feel left out. I also know when I'm out with friends and they are texting someone else, they aren't having more interesting lives than I am.  They are just being rude. This is not a feeling I get towards strangers.  I'm not a keeping up with the Joneses type, or worrying that I don't live a jet set life like celebrities.  My sense of feeling left out comes from people I used to be close to, or people I used to be friends with.  As I get older, my friends get promotions, move away, get married, have babies, make couple friends or mommy friends or friends they just have more in common with.  I feel like a stepping stone in people's lives sometimes, a phase they went through during a certain time of their lives when they needed something I could provide, and now that things have changed, they've moved on and I am still in the same place I've always been - same house, same job, same town, same single status.  I don't feel like my life is unfulfilled.  I do feel like my social circle is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking, and every time another friend moves away or gets married or has a baby, I feel more isolated and like maybe I should be doing something different with my life.  Then the Facebook posts pop up - "My ultrasound picture!" or "Check out how many pounds I've lost since my family started this new diet!" or "Me and my husband on vacation!"  Or else it's the tagged pictures. One close friend or another smiling into the camera with someone I don't know, tagging them and posting about how much fun they had.

Does anyone else ever feel like this?  We aren't really missing out on anything.  All of us live our lives and do our things and spend time with friends.  They spend time with us and then with other friends. There is no reason to feel left out because no one is leaving us out.  It's hard not to feel that way sometimes, though.  I've been to weddings and bridal showers and baby showers and I look around and realize that my friends have these other lives that I'm not a part of.  I'm only a small part, sometimes an afterthought.  When I made a list of all the people I would invite to my wedding I had a list of eighteen people, half of which are spouses of my actual friends.  Of that list, only half would come.  The other half wouldn't, not because they don't care about me, but because they have their own lives and other obligations and maybe not the funds to travel.  That's what it all really boils down to.  No one is leaving anyone out on purpose.  And their lives are just as mundane with routine as mine, punctuated with a few exciting events here and there.  Everyone gets lonely sometimes and everyone struggles just to get through the days.

Perhaps this perpetual feeling of feeling left out or feeling that everyone else is having more fun than me comes from having such a small family.  I have two parents and a brother.  We've never had huge family events.  We've never had big holiday plans.  It was always just the four of us.  My parents have always been content with their small family circle and mostly each other.  I've never been a social person. We are a small family who is used to being isolated.  My parents like it.  I used to like it too.

I also blame TV shows like Pretty Little Liars, The New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland, and the mother of them all, Friends. These shows revere friendship, and they drive home the idea that your friends are the be all end all and that you should be a family together in lieu of any blood family.

Moving a thousand miles away from everyone and everything you've ever known and relying on a support group of friends rather than family can be the scariest loneliest thing one can do.  Things change and people change and friendships don't stay the same.  Every time another friend moves away or has a baby or gets married I feel like Tess, standing at the back door looking in and feeling left out that she doesn't get to go to work with me.

And then I remember, she's not missing out on anything when she doesn't get to go to work with me.  I'm not missing out really either.  Do I want these people's lives? Not really.  I just miss my friends.  Tess just misses me.

I know how Tess feels so I make time for her and try to do things with her to make her feel included.  I try to keep up with my friends as well, and as I get older I make more time for the people who truly matter and truly care about me and try not to care so much about the rest.  Do I still feel like I'm missing out or that I'm left out? Do I still wonder why some friends no longer want to spend as much time with me? I do, but then I remember I've got some fun and interesting things going on in my life too.  I've got a new friend and Tess has a new dog friend.  We enjoy each other's company and have formed our own little unit that includes all of us - three cats, two dogs, and two isolated humans who have trouble making friends and have no family anywhere nearby.

We might feel left out by the rest of the world, but we feel included with each other. Maybe that's the lesson here.  You're pretty rich when you have a few quality people in your inner circle.  We might be one in millions to most people, but we are one in a million to a select few.  And those are the ones who matter.

Don't worry, Tess, I always come home to you.

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