The Last Man Standing

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I've started and erased this blog post three times. I hope this one sticks, because I have things to do, and I'm writing this to clear my head so I can do those things. 

If you've been following along on my Instagram stories, you will see that I am in the throes of ending a very long term friendship. A friendship that is part of that OG Squad, but now it has gotten to the point where I have to do the healthy thing for me and put the oxygen mask on myself before I can assist anyone else.

It was heartbreaking for me and made me VERY angry at first. Have you ever been the ONE person in someone's corner for years and years, putting up with a ton of shit, yet there you are showing up and showing up and SHOWING UP? 

Everyone around you is mad and frustrated with you because they see this person as nothing but a lead anvil, but you have always known they are smart, capable, and good; they just need to get the hell out of their own way and see it for themselves. 

Well, this week, I came to the hard realization that maybe what I saw in them never actually existed. Behaviorally speaking, there has never been signs of anything other that utter disaster. Where I think I've been helping, I've actually been enabling. The terrible repetitive choices that make me so angry, are actually a huge amount of projection on my part. They're just doing what they always do, and I'm freaking out about it because of my own hangups and experiences. 

"You don't want to always be the last man standing, you're tired." Dr. Z said to me in our therapy session last week as I was watching this person's life cycle through this whole hope/deterioration/entitlement/victim-complex dance. 

"What do you mean?" I asked him. 

"Are you angry with them or angry with yourself for not being a good enough influence on them?" He asked. 

"I just want them to unfuck their life. It's not complicated to unfuck your life. You show up and you work until it's not a mess anymore. I did it. I know how to do it now." 

"You're the only one that did it. Your parents didn't do it. Your siblings didn't do it. Your husband didn't do it. You know this person isn't going to do it. That makes you the last man standing. You're always the last man standing." 

"Yeah, it's lonely and it sucks sometimes." 

"Bingo." 

Fast forward to last night where this relationship had its last heaving gasp. I have a horrible habit of hanging on too tight and trying too hard way past the point of lost cause. We can turn this around, please just be a rational adult and see that you are heading for disaster.... please, please, please, please, pleaaaaaaase 

JENNI, YOU ARE AN ARROGANT BITCH WHO HAS TO ALWAYS HAVE EVERYTHING YOUR WAY. THAT'S WHY YOU ARE ALWAYS ALONE. YOU ARE ALONE IN A BIG EMPTY HOUSE WITH NO ONE TO HUG BUT YOUR WALLET. I DON'T WANT TO BE LIKE YOU. 

It went on from there, but I don't want to cry anymore today. It was the same speech my baby brother gave me last year when the 'way out' plan I gave him from his shitty life wasn't good enough. It's basically the standard issue addict decimation speech. It's meant to annihilate you emotionally. Scorched earth. Devastation. 

I didn't cry when my brother said it to me, because he's always been a surly brat, but hearing it last night did make me cry. 

"He's right. You're crying because you're tired of being the last man standing. Battle fatigue, sweetheart," OG said when I called heave-snot-hyperventalating-ugly sobbing late last night. 

This friend, Lisa, and I came from almost identical families of origin. Our childhood and adult lives mirrored one another's almost spookily, only I always land on my feet, while their proverbial trench of consequences only seems to get deeper and deeper. 

Survival is fucking lonely. I selfishly wanted a cohort. I wanted them to make it so I would have a buddy to toast and say, "Didn't we make it through some shit." I have a lot of friends, but there is a bond when you grew up like the three of us did that few truly understand. With Lisa gone, I was desperate to still share that with someone. 

I have hope that everyone will get it together one day. I'll always want that. 

I am arrogant. I am tough. I have very high expectations for myself and the people around me. I am hyper focused on my future because my children and grandchildren will be a tribe, not a messed up game of Survivor where the only one left is the one that can't seem to get themselves killed. I do spend a lot of time alone. I'm actually ok with the person I've become. 

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit there's a lot of pain and guilt in being the last man standing. Is it strength or is it selfishness? Arrogance or confidence? Is this need for independence and security that fuels me toxic? Did I really want what was best for my friend, or did I just not want to be the only one left on this mountain alone anymore? 

I have no real answers for any of those questions. They're all parts of me I need to continue to work out. I do, however, know that while the choices I have made for myself are rather isolating, I am healthier and more content than I have ever been, and it's ok to shed tears and mourn a relationship you've had for so long. 

It's also ok to be a little proud of yourself for being the last man standing. 

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Jennifer Gulbrandsen