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The No-No

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

September, 2012

While access to a computer had been a nicety in 2006; by 2011, it had become a necessity.

Not only was the computer the best way to research and plan travel, but it had become Niko’s main source of companionship apart from Hanna. Unable to work and frequently apartment bound, Niko had come to rely on their laptop for entertainment and as a portal to the outside world.

You know by now that Henry and I had thought about our computer situation in advance. We had agreed that it would be very difficult to deny Niko use of my laptop, especially after having previously given him carte blanche. We had also agreed that it would be best to do so.

For some reason—and I suspect some fuzzy-minded state of denial and avoidance—I had not connected the dots. If I had, it would have been evident that a month-long visit sans computer would pose problems for anyone visiting a major metropolitan area. For Niko especially, computer access had become crucial to his sense of wellbeing and mastery in a sometimes hostile and often overwhelming world.

Maybe you have had this feeling too…when one half of your brain, red faced and breathless, brandishes a red flag in your face; and the other half of your brain responds: “Strange weather we’re having. I feel all melty and mushy,” and then proceeds to the freezer for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s followed by a food coma and a dreamless sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat…with any number of diversions.

I knew, but did not want to let myself know, that confronting the matter of the computer with Niko head on would, at some point, necessitate my confessing that I had concerns beyond those related to the condition of my laptop.

To be blunt without being gratuitous: In 2006, Niko had had trouble sharing the computer with the 5 other people who wanted time. And he had used the family computer it in ways I believe most hosts would not condone.

Shortly after Hanna and Niko departed that year, our new desktop had (terminally) failed. I wondered if his habits had played a role. Realizing his activities had occurred during prodromal and illness states, it didn’t seem right to classify them as Bad Behavior. How much true choice had been involved? And thinking it unfair to blame him for the demise of the desktop without clear evidence, I hesitated to speak. I wasn’t mad at him, and I certainly did not want to shame him. He had been so worried that his psychosis had damaged our friendship. Yet, I feared the same things could happen again in 2011.

Niko is a highly-verbal, detail-oriented, analytical, intelligent, and intuitive man. And he is persistent. He is good at debating, and he never misses an angle. To engage him on these issues at all would have been to open the whole can of worms, and I was afraid he would catch me out.

Why did it matter if he did?

I’m not sure.

I harbored no ill intent. But I was young and unsure in my attempts to prioritize my family. I knew I was making a healthy change but Hanna and Niko were unaware. In some fashion, I felt disloyal. Maybe even sneaky. For the first time, I was putting the needs of Henry and the girls over those of my best friend–and by association, her husband.

This is all hindsight, of course. In the moment, one half of my brain was sending up frantic smoke signals while the other half was smothering them with plans. Layers of plans, which were to provide insurance against ever having to have this conversation.

This is the eleventh installment of The Story of Hanna, a story of friendship, loss, and aging. Please click here for installment ten. Installment twelve is here.

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9 responses »

  1. Pingback: The NO that Broke the Camel’s Back | Family Rules

  2. I can definitely see how tangled things were at the time. I’m glad that while you look back and sort through it all, you recognize the forces at play at the time. I get the sense that what was happening in the relationship was beyond any individual’s control, and there were no easy choices anywhere. Thanks for sharing this story.

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  3. Jane, while I appreciate and admire your generous and caring spirit, and your support for your best friend and Niko, this takes me back to the years of being pushed, pulled, sabotaged and controlled by a friend who seemed to have legitimate needs that only I thought I would help. I couldn’t.
    My mother gave me the wise advice that while we should try to help those who say they need us, we must always put first those who count on us and trust us for first loyalty, and those are our family. She also had watched what was going on and reminded me that the friend’s past abuses would be future occurrences, and my husband and our daughter were in the line of fire emotionally.
    Mom talking to be so honestly stood me in good stead then, and has ever since, too.

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    • Very, very wise!! I have come to the same conclusion though it has been difficult to do so. The Story…is how I processed- almost all of it was written years ago. I tried to have a strong value of self examination and fairness, and may have taken it too far. Not trying to be a martyr but there is some of that flavor, for sure. Just think that if I am going to say these things about them, I need to look in the mirror as well. And not really eager for anyone to hate my friends no matter how badly things went down. I see them as suffering people as well as people who behaved really badly. So please know, Marylin, how I value your reading and commenting as it helps me take perspective!

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    • Actually, I am very curious….Would you ever consider telling this story? I would love to know where you find yourself now, i.e., Would you pretend not to see them if you ran into them? Would you pick up if they called? What would you do if they apologized and it seemed sincere? Or if they wanted to be friends, could you do it on a polite surface level? Does the thought of seeing them fill you with anger, fear, numbness, resignation? What broke the camel’s back in your case? You may never care to awaken that, let alone write about it but if you ever care to share, I would love to be your listener. I always wonder: How do other healthy people do this?

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  4. Pingback: Plan D | Family Rules

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