Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Dear Marty: An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Marty,

We’ve known each other for a long time but I don’t think I’ve ever written you a letter before. I’ve thought of it a few times, even started once or twice. Maybe I won’t finish this letter either, or will decide not to send it after all. It’s scary to get real with someone you’ve known a long time but have never really been open with. But you know that, I think. It seems to me we would both benefit from some honest connection. So here goes.

I see what you post on social media but sometimes I wonder what’s really going on for you. From what you’ve shared recently it seems you’ve been going through a lot and I just wanted to reach out and ask if you’re ok. You seem to be there for other people a lot. I hope you have people who are there for you too. I’m pretty sure you do, to be honest, but hey if you ever need a new shoulder or someone to hold space for you, I’m here. I don’t find it that easy to open up, even with people I trust. But I think we would do ok.

I was talking with a mutual friend of ours the other day and she said something that made a lot of sense to me and I wanted to share it with you. It’s pretty much what prompted me to write to you, actually. She said, “A lot of Marty’s sense of self and wellbeing relies on contact with others. This can be both a good and a bad thing depending on when and what and how balanced it is.”

I wonder what you think about that. It would be good to have that conversation sometime. Does your mood depend on how your relationships are doing? if so, I get it. I’m like that. The people I’m close to are so important to me that if something goes wrong or seems to be going wrong it affects me a lot. Too much, maybe. How much is too much, though? Maybe I’d like to not react quite so much or recover my stability a bit quicker, but I wouldn’t want to be so distanced from my friends that I didn’t feel it if something changes. I can sense you nodding as you read this!

Is that what’s been going on for you lately? Some shift or change in one of your key relationships? If so, I’m not going to say don’t feel it, or try and push the feelings away. Like I say, I get it. But if I may offer a few words of support or guidance from my own experience, I’d say don’t overthink things. There’s that line from your book. The one you wrote with Fran. How does it go? “Feel it. Claim it. Love it. Let it go.” I’ve found that helpful so many times, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I don’t have to explain it to you — you wrote it! But maybe you don’t need my suggestions. Feel free to tell me where to get off! I don’t mean to be pushy.

From your social media posts and what our friend said the other day, I think you’re doing the right things and paying attention to self-care. You seem to be taking yourself out for “Marty time” now that the covid restrictions are lifting. I love your coffee shop photos! They remind me of the Marty I used to know. Maybe we could hook up in person sometime? I’ll leave it to you to suggest where and when. One of your favourite coffee shops maybe? Or Stack? That looks like a great place. Is it still open after covid?

Are you reaching out to the people who care about you, though? I think you find it easier to be there for others than ask for help. I’m that way too. Is it a guy thing, do you think? There are people who love you and are here for you. Dare to reach out, Marty. There will be a hand there to take yours. Someone to listen. To help, if you need that. I’m here.

I don’t get to read everything you publish but I’ve noticed a shift in the pieces you’ve posted on your blog over the past month or two. You seem to be sharing more openly about your mental health and how you struggle too sometimes. Would you agree? I wonder if it’s a deliberate shift, or just how things have evolved naturally with your writing? However it’s happened, I think it’s important and healthy, for you personally and for your audience.

The book you wrote with Fran is about how you’re the “well one” in your friendship, with her as the “ill one.” But those terms are relative, aren’t they? “Well ones” like us struggle too. And sometimes the line between the “well ones” and the “ill ones” becomes blurred, to say the least. I’m not sure you realise how important what you’re sharing is. That “Boys Get Sad Too” piece felt like a turning point for you. Would you agree? I recognised myself in what you wrote there, for sure. It was a bit of a wake up call, to be honest.

So another reason for writing to you today is to say thank you for all you do. Maybe you do realise how much your writing affects people and the impact you’re making. I hope so. You might never end up on Oprah (I remember you telling me years ago how it was an ambition for you and Fran to appear on her show!) but you don’t have to be on national TV to make a difference.

You matter, Marty. Do you doubt that sometimes? I know I do, in my own life. It’s easy to get into a rut, and see other people going about their lives, especially those we care about, and wonder if we’re as important to them as they are to us. I think it’s natural to feel that way. Okay, I’m not qualified to say it’s natural (sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been if I’d studied psychology or counseling instead of pharmacy!) but I get that way sometimes and I know others do too. Sometimes things just get a bit too much, don’t they, and we doubt our worth and the value we are adding in the world.

There’s a line somewhere, between feeling overwhelmed, or down, or “flat” as you put it, and being clinically anxious or depressed. (I’m certainly not qualified to draw that line.) Your posts remind me to stay vigilant about how I’m doing and pay attention to any signs I’m not ok. That in itself is huge, Marty. To remind other people it matters how they’re doing, and to reach out when they need to.

That’s my tuppence-worth, anyway! (Two cents’ worth, for Fran and our American friends!)

I wonder if we could meet up face-to-face sometime. I’m free most Saturdays, or we could meet one evening after work. Whatever works best for you. Is that something you’d like to do? It’s been tough this past year or so, not being able to meet up with friends, but I see you’ve seen a few folk recently since things have been opening up. I loved the pics you shared from when you and Aimee got together for your little picnic in her garden. (Say hi to Aimee from me, please.) And your other friend who came to see you. Louise, is it?

Do you ever meet up with your male friends? Do you have guy friends? Like you, almost all my close friends are women. It’s always been that way. But lately I’ve had some great conversations with guys too, mostly at work. I’m not sure what’s changed, if anything has. Maybe I’m feeling more open to people generally. Maybe I’m exploring what it means to be me, which includes being a dude!

You wrote a while back about how you never felt you belonged. That’s very much how I feel about being a guy. Like you, I never felt I fit in with the “guy club.” I never understood the rules What I was supposed to do, or like, or not like. I never felt that pressure when hanging out with women. I’m more able to be myself. Maybe it’s like that for you? It would be good to talk about that. If you want to, of course. Too much? Am I scaring you off? I know I can be a bit much. It’s something I’ve tried to change over the years but I still get it wrong.

Heavens! I didn’t expect to write so much! When I’ve tried writing to you in the past I scarcely got past the first page, but for some reason the words are flowing today. I’m a bit scared to read it over, in case I change my mind and trash it for being too long or too pushy or just generally too much. Because it feels right to connect with you at this time, Marty. And maybe it will feel right to you too, when you read it. Sometimes you have to go with your gut, right? Take a risk. Seize the moment. That’s something I’ve learned from you and Fran.

I’m proud of you, Marty. Have I ever told you that? Maybe at specific moments in your life, when you’ve achieved something you were aiming for. It’s important to acknowledge those things, but life isn’t just about completing a checklist of achievements. I’m proud of you as a person. I’m proud to know you and count you my friend. Because you’re worth knowing. You give a lot to the people in your life, and although you’ll say you get it wrong (who doesn’t?!) you get it right too. More than most. As another mutual friend of ours told me, “Marty’s good at supporting without being a prat.” I laughed when she said that. I think you will too. You have a good sense of humour, no matter what some people might say to the contrary!

I think that’s a good place to stop. I’m glad I decided to write to you, and I hope you’re glad I did! Let me know if you fancy a face to face sometime, either a video call or in person — preferably the latter, I’m keen to try that salted caramel chocolate cheesecake you keep raving on about!

Keep on being you.

Martin

 

Photo by Owen Michael Grech on Unsplash

 

2 comments:

  1. đŸ„°đŸ‘ What a fantastic letter. Glad og was written,glad I read it. Not a bad friend you have there, Marty ... you might listen more when he calls 😉 ... Lots of hugs to you both ♡ from your friend Charlotte

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  2. Thank you so much, Charlotte! ((hugs)) x

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