Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Losing a Friend…Getting Something Better

Ever think to yourself, ‘I need new friends?’

I’ve been going through an odd time, for a little while now. I’m basically happy, busy, and healthy. And at the same time, I feel like I’m in limbo, stressed and worried about all sorts of things, and mostly, incredibly frustrated that I’m not doing more with my life.

More and more I’m feeling like it’s finally all coming to a head. And that something REALLY incredible, really GOOD, is just around the corner.

If I could just GET there already!

That feeling’s been so strong lately, that last night, very late, I decided to go to the office and check my email one last time. Just in case. (?!)

And found a note from a ‘friend’ who said she didn’t want to be my friend anymore. Not exactly what I was expecting.

We’ve been friends for more than ten years. Like all friendships, you take the good with the bad. She’s critical, has a VERY selective memory, and, like most of us, wants everything on her terms—because she’s the only one who knows how to do anything right. I love her anyway. I make excuses for her; she “means well.” She’s the friend that can always be counted on to tell me the truth—not just the ‘you’re wasting your life and doing it wrong” variety, as well as the occasional “You’re too fat to wear that.” She’s also the “your eyes/hair/skin/smile look beautiful today” and “that was really clever.” She DOES mean well. She has lots of really wonderful qualities. I’ve treasured her friendship.

Without going into all the gory details, the inciting incident was that her husband behaved abominably, shockingly, UNBELIEVABLY, badly at dinner at my house. During the incident, my friend kept a bland, slight smile on her face, and watched me, not him, while he carried on and on. She said nothing. Did nothing. I’m a VERY good actor. I pretended to make light of, and diffuse the situation, while doing my damndest not to cry. I have never experienced anything like this before. I felt attacked— violated and betrayed—in my own home. I was embarrassed in front of my guests. The rest of the evening was strained, and it was a relief when they left. For the first time ever, I couldn’t walk them out. I couldn’t stop shaking.

She left a message the next day, apologizing for her husband’s appalling behavior. She hoped that I wouldn’t “never want to see” her again because of it. I called her back, to accept the apology and belay her fears. In that conversation, and in a subsequent email where she asked if I was avoiding her, I explained that I was hurt, and really rattled and needed a little break. I suggest that  we could wait another week or so for things to settle down and then get together when her husband had left town.  I let her know I was still dealing with a big problem at work 24/7. She didn’t respond.

Several weeks went by. Not unusual for our friendship—she often travels for weeks at a time, then comes home, calls me to either say she has no time to see me, or has a specific slot or two when she’s free and would like to see me at that time, before leaving for another week or two. I was still busy with the problem at work, and didn’t worry about it. In between, as is also usual, I sent her a couple of emails, articles I thought she’d be interested in, a book I’d ordered for her, and left a note on her car when I spotted it at Safeway. By the last email, I’d started to get worried and said I hoped she was ok.

And last night she responded. She wrote that by saying I needed some time, I had “not acknowledged” our friendship, instead having a “snit” and “shunning” her. She calls my behavior “sophomoric.” She thanks me for the things I’d sent, and says they show what a “dear and caring” person I am. She wishes me a long and happy life, but says “I think I’ll stay out of it.” That the friendship has “run its course.” (And could I please let my mom know, because she’d like to remain friends with her!)

Her husband never did apologize for his behavior.

As I’ve said, the last year or two has been an odd time, a time of transition for me. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to make other people happy. When I’d finally had too much, I withdrew. Almost completely. Farther and farther from my life, from people and places and activities and even professions. Even physically moving, twice, until now I live just one mile marker short of absolute nowhere. And then I worked on healing, and figuring out what I want. What makes me happy. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve come out of hiding.

And I’ve learned, once in while, to stand up for myself.

So I’m going to let what was becoming a toxic relationship go. Not without some sadness.  And a little relief. I’m trying to forget that earlier that same, disastrous evening, my former ‘friend’ started moving a collection of cookie molds around that I’d recently put up in my kitchen, telling me that I’d arranged them WRONG. I  told her how much time and effort I’d put into arranging each beloved piece into just the right place. And then, when I left the room for a moment, and after specifically being asked not to, she RE-ARRANGED them, so “it would look a little better.’” Not much, since according to her, the whole thing was set up backwards, anyway.

I realize that I’ve internalized her constant criticisms, the way she liked things done, to an unhealthy degree. It’s made me resentful, and increasingly reluctant to spend time with her.

In sharp contrast, I had  dinner a few nights ago with a dear friend that I also hadn’t seen in a while. She’s wise, and warm, kind and considerate, intelligent, and incredibly generous of spirit. It was a really nice evening. We had a great, real, conversation that gave me lots to think about. It was an evening that left both us feeling strengthened and nurtured by our friendship.  

Maybe my former ‘friend’ is right. Maybe our relationship has run its course, and the mature thing to do is to move on. To leave behind the clutter, the things that don’t serve us anymore. Or maybe I’m in denial. (Or shock.) Except for a high school girl who once sent me a note saying she ‘”would never be my friend again” because the boy she liked had asked me to the Prom, I have never heard of anyone else cutting someone out of their life this way. But I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. This woman, by her own account, has cut a number of friends and even family members out of her life over the years. She’s told me some of the stories—even referenced one in her email. So maybe it was inevitable.

But by removing herself from my life, she’s left a hole. In my heart, in my head, in my calendar. And a hole is just SPACE. Which means that now there’s room for something new. Something BIG, something incredibly, unbelievably exciting. Something wonderful.

I can hardly wait!