You know when a friendship is coming to an end. You just can’t find the motivation to spend any time with that person anymore. Usually because the memories of the last times together still leave a bad taste in your mouth. It’s about a person giving up a feeling of caring for you and not admitting to it. Or it’s an anger that they haven’t expressed about some perceived wrong.
I was in love with a man back in 1998. It was a short relationship that took me a really long time to get over. It took me a long time because of the fantasy. Almost immediately I felt that this was the man I was going to marry. I’ve never felt like this about any one before. It was a feeling, a knowing, that this was the man I was going to marry. I won’t get into depth, I don’t think I can go into depth about it but needless to say it didn’t work out. He told me he loved me but he couldn’t be with me. And it was over.
The interesting thing about it all was this was the first time that I reached out to my friends and said, “I’m heartbroken and I’m having a hard time dealing with this pain.”
I cried on a couple peoples voice mails. I needed support. I needed to be around people who cared about me and I asked for it.
One girlfriend came through once. She’d invited me over to her house. We chatted, I cried, we watched a movie and then her new boyfriend came over to pick her up to go to his performance. I didn’t hear from her again for months. The entire summer went by and we were approaching winter before she’d finally started calling me. I didn’t return her calls.
As I look back on the relationship with this girlfriend, I remember that I’d already been feeling like our friendship needed a break, at the least, or was coming to an end. You know how it is, you just don’t enjoy yourself as much when you spend time with some people. They make decisions about how they want to behave going forward and it could put a substantial strain on your patience.
For instance, I can remember this same girlfriend had decided one year, “this year is going to be All About Me.” And throughout the year she’d announce constantly, “It’s all about me! It’s all about me” It was truly trying especially for the friends who had been with her all along. What does that mean, it’s all about you? What about us, the people who’ve always been here for you and supported you? A couple of us considered dropping out of her life.
So when she didn’t call me for months it was the perfect opportunity to call it a day. So I did. We are in peoples lives for a reason and when the reason is gone...
A couple of points come up as I think about this. I needed to move away from that relationship as a part of my healing. When I’m in anger mode and that is all that I can focus on... When all I can think of about a friendship are the negatives, I think, for me, it’s time to move on. It may be for a short time. It may be that it takes a decade to see things from a different perspective. It may be that the friendship will never ever happen again. It happens as it happens.
We have recently, within the last year, resumed contact with each other. It’s not the same kind of friendship, obviously. But we are friendly. I can remember all the things I’ve always liked about her again.
The ideas that are popping up for me now, as I look back on this lesson of friendship is that I had certain expectations. I set expectations on how I thought I should be treated during my time of need. I was upset, I made the meaning of her caring or lack of caring about, “you didn’t call me for 6 months when you knew I was depressed and heartbroken.” And the big part of all of that is I never said anything to her about it. I didn’t give her a chance to say her peace. Granted, as I said earlier, after the ‘all about me’ year I needed a break.
I think that we can be cowards. We’re all guilty of this. At some point something happens in our lives and we have the expectation that certain people should show up for us. We have a health issue and we think our best friend should show up. We’re going through a hard time and we think our friends should care in a certain way. They should care in the way that we say. But if someone is being exactly who they are we have to then understand that they may only be able to give so much. And the bigger point, there may be a bigger reason why they simply cannot show up. They just don’t want to anymore, can be one of those reasons.
I have to accept that I play a part in all that happens around me. All that I create. I also have to hope that the more I delve into what I see, the more I will learn. As we know better, we do better...
I’ve discussed this before - accepting people exactly the way they are and accepting myself exactly the way I am. I think it’s a huge theme for the future, for everyone. We hear it, we’ve said it, if we’re going to stop wars, if we’re going to ever see world peace we have to stop trying to insist that all people be just like us. We have to learn to accept everyone’s differences. I’m no philosopher nor an academic so I won’t get into the atrocities that we humans commit against one another and entire countries.
I have another girlfriend. Her achilles heel is that people abandon her. She has told me on several occasions, “it seems like out of the blue someone freaks out on me and they basically tell me to go fuck myself and then they’re gone from my life. They don’t want to be my friend anymore. It has happened so many times and I don’t know why.”
I’ve been a coward. I suspect why some people have left her life, burning that bridge beyond repair. I’ve told her in one instance but not in all of them. She has the answer to everyones life, all the time. She has the answer with a touch of venom using poison tipped words. And she blames the person for any bad in his or her life. She’s simply not nice anymore. And she’s always had that insensitive edge to her. One of those, “I’m just telling you this for your own good” which is supposed to absolve her of any wrong when she says something without tact. You can tell somebody something for their own good without being an asshole.
She’s going through what so many of us go through once we hit a certain age. It’s having to face the reality that all of our childhood dreams have not been met. Let’s look at my realities - I never became a dancer. I’m still an unpublished writer. I’ve never been married or had children. Heck, I don’t even live in a fancy anything. I’ve accepted that. The only thing that hurts is being unpublished.
This girlfriend hasn’t accepted her reality and worse, she’s mad at those of us who are living our lives the best way we can and we are all starting to realize that about her. She cannot find a way to be happy when one of us has a nice bit of happiness enter our lives.
So slowly as I realize that this is exactly who she is. This is what she is going through. I spend less time with her. I would guess that so does everyone else. Hey, my life sucks too sometimes, I don’t need to make it suck more by spending the little free time I have with someone who is filled with venom.
Needless to say, she went through a breakup similar to mine and when she called asking for help she threatened, “If someone doesn’t call me back I’m going to do something really bad to myself.”
And that loaded word obligation came up. I didn’t want to call but I didn’t want to be left with the guilt that if I didn’t call and she did do something to herself that somehow I would have been at fault. So I called. She wasn’t a crying mess like I had been. She was angry and filled with all the answers as to how she is filled with a power that had intimidated her boyfriend and that’s why he left. Okay. When I changed the subject and asked about mutual friends, she proceeded to blame one for being sick, said another one was in an arranged situation (‘there’s really no love there) and asked me when I was going to get off my ass and get my writing done. Did I mention she doesn’t work and I work a full-time job and a part-time job? Yes it’s easy to have all the answers for the world at large when you haven’t worked a day in your life. But that’s just a little of my venom.
After that call I didn’t bother to call her for 6 months. I just couldn’t be bothered. I felt like her cry for help was emotional blackmail, a manipulation and I just couldn’t be a part of it. Emotional blackmail is one of my achilles heels. Emotional blackmail gets you to say yes when you don’t want to say yes for fear that should you say no something really bad could happen and by extension it would be your fault. I do not respect anyone who gives me no choice other than doing what they want me to do. IT MAKES ME HATE!
Anyway. We recently got together for dinner. I didn’t really want to go but I figured since it had been at least 6 months maybe it was the time to approach the subject. The moment I saw her I realized that nope, it wasn’t going to be discussed. The first thing out of her mouth was a careless remark that was basically like a laugh at how hard I work. Basically I’m a loser in her eyes.
I sat across from her and for the first time ever all I saw was an ugly person. Her skin looked ugly, her eye contact was angry and ugly. She was ugly to me. I knew that her poison tipped words were probably about her anger towards me. She is angry that I haven’t called her in six months. She is angry that I didn’t support her in her time of need. She didn’t ask me why I haven’t been available and I didn’t volunteer the information. Another girlfriend said to me last night, “that dinner was the funeral for your relationship.” Truth!
As I look back at the girlfriend who didn’t call me for six months, I wonder had she felt she’d done enough of what she could possibly give me at that time? Was I putting on her expectations of what I wanted not considering what she could do? Does my heartbreak mean that everyone else should stop what they are doing to sit vigil by my side? Does your heartbreak mean that I have to sit vigil? And it brings me back to accepting people exactly the way they are and accepting myself exactly the way I am.
Byron Katie shared a story a few years ago about her husband who wasn’t interested in joining on family outings. The outing were with her grown up kids and he didn’t have kids. And overall he just wasn’t interested. She made it into a thing briefly and then finally set him free from having to attend. She made family plans without him and found she enjoyed those outings more because she wasn’t worrying about him having a good time. And he went off and did his own thing. It wasn’t too long before once he had the freedom he started joining the family outings and started having a good time himself. She said something along the lines that when she realized she wasn’t responsible for him and accepted that the family thing wasn’t his thing it made everything easier. And for him, he needed the freedom to choose and when he did have the freedom he actually chose them.
I’m really trying to find that place of true full out acceptance. Removing false expectations and obligations from others and hopefully they will do the same for me.
The best analogy has always been about giving money to charity. It would be ridiculous to donate your entire pay cheque to a charity leaving you with no money to pay rent, get groceries etc. No, you give a portion of your pay. You give what you can afford to give.
I want to accept that people, my friends, my loved ones are giving me what they can afford to give emotionally, spiritually, keeping their own well being in consideration. I want to remove the focus on what I think they ought to give me, how they ought to support me. How many phone calls are enough phone calls if I’m heartbroken. Because if I lift my head and look around, other people did support me through that heart break. I wasn’t alone.
That work as yoga practice has really been helping me to look at my life from a different perspective, with a different attitude. And zero in on where I cause my own problems and zero in on what meanings I give to events that don’t have to mean the most negative.
And that said, sometimes a friendship is just over.
This was a long piece. If you’ve made it through the whole piece SERIOUSLY Thank you for reading!