Three mornings a week I swim at the Covington Aquatic Center. I’m usually alone for the last half hour. I arrive as the first shift wraps up their swim so I can have my own lane. Every once in awhile, another person joins me. I’m happy to see them to at least give the lifeguards another person to watch, especially if they are better swimmers and more awesome to observe than my plodding pace.
If it’s a woman, sometimes she’s friendly and we exchange pleasantries in the locker room. She’ll usually tell me she just started swimming again after a hiatus and looks forward to coming back the following day. So then I think, “Good, I don’t have to swim alone.” After a few encounters, she’ll say, “See you next week,” then I never see her again.
I always wonder if it’s something I said. More than likely it’s not about me, but I’m probably more paranoid than most people when someone drifts out of my life for unexplained reasons, even if they’re just strangers. But when you’ve got a big mouth like I do, which I’ve only learned to rein in slightly better since my pre-marriage days, you get used to losing friends. Even more so when people catch on that you write a daily blog and a weekly newspaper column and aren’t afraid to write about them. To my credit, I rarely use names. So if they recognize themselves, maybe they’re the paranoid ones.
Since most people don’t communicate well, or rather, are uncomfortable communicating their feelings, mistakes, and stresses, I never know why they disappear from my life. When I started writing about my family many years ago, it seemed all the other moms except me got the “How to be a Good Parent” instruction manual. I finally realized it wasn’t that I was a bad mom (though you can check with my kids in a few years), it was really because the other mothers were too embarrassed to talk about the chaos. In those early years of mothering the first rule of parenting was “no one talks about how hard parenting truly is.” What we should realize is that we all fail at parenting, because the biggest shocker of having kids is that they’re actually people. With opinions. That reality interrupted any notion I had of being in control.
Of course, I don’t expect random swimmers to announce their intention never to return or to call me in the morning and tell me they’re too lazy to get out of bed, but I kind of expected more from people I thought of as friends. I spend a lot of energy thinking about the last exchange we had and even though I can’t remember the exact words spoken, I wish I could take it back. I hoped it ended with me having a shred of dignity. Probably not, since I’m not one to leave well enough alone. I tend to try too hard to fix or find out what made them go away. After several attempts to get a response, which is more akin to desperation than the graceful exit I wished for, I hear the sound of their silence loud and clear and move on.
I get it, people don’t like confrontation. That’s OK, I do my best to connect and if they don’t want to, I know when someone is done with me, hopefully before I’ve made a complete fool of myself. I still sometimes think of the people I’ve lost and wonder, “Was it something I said (or wrote, as the case may be)”?
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. You can read more of her writing and her blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com or on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh,” or twitter @livewithgleigh. Her column is available every week at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Life section.