It’s been a long time and while I could likely weave a story or two about why – suffice it to say that there has been some self examination and purging going on.
We all know how I feel about my friends.They are the bestest ever. I love them and consider myself rich because of their presence in my life. They are a blessing. For me, my friends are the foundation on which I’ve built my chosen family. Without a doubt, we learn from our friends but our lives are also so enriched by lessons are often hidden in the laughs, the suggestions (gentle or otherwise), the time simply spent together resulting in changes in attitude, behavior or even opinion.
But what about friends that are lost? What happens when you lose a friend? These are also folks you spent time with, shared ideas, heard their ideas – maybe considered them a blessing. Did the ending of the friendship turn into a lesson instead of a blessing?
What do we take away from friendships that go sideways? Some friendships are based on things that change over time and for whatever reason they cannot be sustained. You may run into one another once in a while or still trade holiday cards – these have fizzled out but the memory is a reasonably warm one. Other friendships end because someone was a jackass. Now – it may be the other person or it may be you (we’ve all been there, just own it) – but regardless, the friendship can’t move past the jackass factor and these friendships likely went out in a blaze of glory.
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about friendships that ended because someone doesn’t support a life choice or those who truly belittle your beliefs. I’m not talking about friends who feel it’s their job to tell you the “facts” or be brutally “honest” when all they really have is closed mind and a strong opinion. I’m not talking about those “friends” who are only around when times are good and they can enjoy the ride. Those “friends?” Fuck those people – they don’t deserve you. Because, really – life is too short for crappy friends.
I’m talking about those folks with whom we establish a friendship, a relationship – some level of connection or commitment. We invest in that relationship – and then it ends.This isn’t like the ending of a romantic relationship, where hearts are broken and men (or women, hey, whatever floats your boat) are declared turds and you’ll never love again. A friendship ending is different – friends are supposed to be there no matter what, aren’t they?
I’ve come to believe that the answer is no. We change, we grow – we tolerate less – or more. There is some shift, in attitude or behavior that simply makes the friendship unsustainable. As painful as it may be (and it does hurt – in a deep and different way than a romantic loss,) these friends – or former friends – can teach us valuable lessons. Regardless of the duration of the friendship, these are people that came into our lives for a reason.
Years ago, I stopped speaking with someone who had been a dear friend for 25 years, someone who wasn’t supportive of a major life choice I had made. While I had always appreciated her “tell it like it is” attitude, she could not separate herself from her own experience or opinion in order to be supportive of what I was doing. It was a scary time for me – I was feeling fragile and very alone; unsupportive friends and family magnified those feelings. We didn’t speak for almost a decade. We have since re-connected on Facebook. We aren’t particularly close now though messages have been exchanged on major life milestones or losses and I’m really glad about that. We’ve only chatted through messaging or posts but I know re-connecting was the right thing – a good thing.
I learned that having a rich history matters. hat sometimes, just sometimes, what was positive outweighs an isolated pile of crap. I learned how important it is to not only be supportive when I understand – but even more so when I don’t.
I once walked away from a friendship that was too draining – it simply zapped every ounce of energy, compassion and reason. With the help of Geek, I cut the cord. It was hard because I genuinely like this person. I do occasionally speak with her now and enjoy the limited nature of a friendship with a person who is so vastly different – and similar – to me.
I learned that boundaries are important in all relationships. If I don’t set my own, I only have myself to blame when others don’t acknowledge them.
I’ve also had people walk away from me. Choosing to not get involved, to not defend, is a shaky area and I do get it. But let’s be honest – neutral doesn’t apply to any relationship. I really did expect friends to be honest and stand up for me.
I learned that loyalty is really important to me but that expecting others to share my sense of “right” sets me up for disappointment and isn’t fair to anyone involved. This hasn’t changed my sense of loyalty in a friendship; it just means that knowing where folks – where friends stand – is important. It can be a good way to determine where we are on the friendship food chain and who you can count on to help bury the bodies.
I’ve also had the unsettling experience of someone just walking away from me. I own that I was feeling resentful and annoyed and instead of taking a step back and just creating space or reaching out to talk, I was snippy, snarky and likely a bit of a jackass (this is me, owning my own shit – can you do the same?). I am as aware today as I was back then that that when I stopped being so agreeable and generous the friendship faltered. Neither of us reached out to talk about. Perhaps we didn’t value the friendship or simply didn’t have the energy to work through the situation. Perhaps we were each going through something that neither felt comfortable sharing.
I learned that when something feels unbalanced, when I feel like I’m giving and giving and not getting much back (I’m not talking about tit for tat – I’m talking about acknowledgement, gratitude) – I either have to be willing to talk or willing to walk. Snark and sass don’t solve the problem.
At the end of the day, all of these peoples were lessons. I’m glad they came into my life – and in some cases, left and came back. I’m grateful for the experience. For the chance to learn. I’d like to think I’m a better person for it but there are likely many that would still call me an asshole. And lest I sound too Pollyanna-ish (as if that would ever happen) let’s be clear that I hope I was a good study and don’t make the same fucking mistakes again.
PS - Major thanks to Neiman - for some reason, this was a really hard post to write, edit, re-write, edit again and finally tell myself it was okay to post. She was with me every step of the way. Sigh - she puts up with a lot. Thanks T! I couldn't do this (or my closest) without you.