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The 20 year lesson from friendship and love

lonely outside

Background Story

I’d known her since school. We’d grown up together; double-dated, shopped, watched movies and gone to dinner for years. There were phone calls and online chats, emails and texts. We saw each other graduate, get married and have kids.  There were confidentialities and secrets between us, such as you might have between you and a friend right now.  An outsider might have watched us together and assumed there was a cherished title of ‘best’ somewhere between us.

 

The ups and downs of friendship

We’d had fights, arguments and passionate discussions, naturally.  We were individuals who had our own tastes in men, in books and in life.  I respected that she was different; that’s what I liked about her.  (I hope she understood that.)  I’d stuck my foot in my mouth as much as she had.  We’d both had moments of hurting each other.  I’d done all I could think of to make amends over time and show her how much she meant to me.  I thought our history had brought us to a level of understanding.

 

The mysterious tipping point

But one December day last year, she dumped me. She told me she couldn’t open up to me anymore and couldn’t be the friend I needed anymore.  We weren’t fighting; the email was just… there one day.  I was hurt.  It hurt to think she knew what I needed in a friend and knew what I didn’t need.  I couldn’t get an explanation of what I did that prompted that email.  I wasn’t even sure where to start to even try and fix things anymore.

 

Takes two to tango

I’m not going to lie and say this came out of the clear blue.  She’d already been pulling away when my first novel came out earlier that year.  And things had been getting quieter and quieter between us as she began homeschooling and I’d had our first child.  Things changed; I accepted that.  But shutting down was a bit different than having your priorities shift.  I’d been worried by the silence and had been reaching out, trying to set up time to get together that would fit into our different schedules.  But emails went with no reply.  Calls were not answered.  I’d been unable to stop the disintegration.

 

Was I friends with a stranger

2015 passed quietly and I’m sad to know last month marked one year of being estranged.  Looking back, did I ever really know her?  Did I ever really listen?  Or did she just wear the mask I wanted her to wear so I would befriend her?  Had this been as deep and meaningful to her as it had been to me?  Ironic how sometimes, those closest know the quickest ways to make us doubt ourselves.  I look at myself and wonder how oblivious I must have been to never have seen that she was uncomfortable. Or had I been uncaring enough to see it and think it was her problem and not mine?  On the other hand, had I just been a way for her to pass the time until she was bored with me?

 

Left hanging with no answer

It feels like the weave of a beautiful tapestry has come unraveled and I’ve lost any way to save it.  Do I make others feel this way?  Was it merely the book I got published that was some sort of last straw to her?  I feel that to insist on the closure I think I need would only beget more pain and confusion.  Besides, we’ve danced away like this before.  Perhaps, you have done it too and you understand the mixture of relief and sadness I’m touching upon.

 

Maybe she’s happier without me

Something feels different, however.  Previous breaks weren’t like this.  I’ve felt a silence descend, stinging and final.  Maybe it’s time to really pack up my memories and leave.  Maybe I’ve hurt her enough and this will both bring us into a new chapter of our lives where we can be more authentic.  Maybe I’m wanting to fight for something that was never real – wishing to hold onto a facade, a mere pen name to a woman I never knew.  Maybe she never really knew me, either.

 

What I learned

Ask the questions of the heart that the mind tries to ignore.  If you’re always finding your friend keeping to surface issues and skirting deeper topics, dig deeper.  Life is so short and you owe it to them to stop the game and be real.  If you’re the one wearing a mask and pretending to be someone you’re not; aren’t you tired of it?  Don’t you yearn, deep down, for the friend you can open up to?  Isn’t it time?

 

They might be right there, waiting, holding out their hand.  Won’t you consider putting down the load and taking that hand of friendship, true friendship?

 

I just wanted you to be yourself

Make sure they know that it’s ok to be themselves.  I told her she didn’t have to please me to keep me; that I was happiest when she was herself.  (It’s here in my journal.)  But just because I heard myself say it didn’t mean she truly heard it.  Communicate.  Encourage.  Somewhere in these last years, I lost track of a good friend who was right there in front of me and I failed to keep her trust. Maybe I didn’t need to fix anything, just needed to ‘be’ there more.  Accept.

 

Just tell me the truth

And if you decide things should end, don’t disappear; tell them.  Respect them enough to set them free to find the friendship they need.  Yes, they will be hurt, but things can only move on towards better things if you say something.  A one sided friendship isn’t truly one at all.  If you’re going through something, don’t ‘ghost’ on them thinking it will spare their feelings.  That merely indicates there’s a deeper issue being avoided.  You might end up repeating the cycle in the future with someone else.

 

I want you to want me around

I made the error of thinking she’d always be around.  I thought we both offered each other something unique and special.  You might be that unique and special friend to someone right now.  But it can’t last if you aren’t open.   Don’t assume they know how important they are to you and never underestimate the impact you have on someone.

 

If you’re reading this, I’m gifting you what you’ve been gifting me: silence.  I pray you’ve found the friend you needed.

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