One of my many jobs as a first grade teacher was to console a sobbing child after a classmate had said these words: I am not your friend anymore. Over the years, in my classroom, we had many emergency meetings during which I tried to give my young students the language they needed to express specific feelings such as I feel angry at you because... and When you did X, I felt sad... rather than revert to the age-old traditional threat of the indefinite cut-off.
I find it somewhat ironic that I, at age 59, find myself the recipient of the very same statement, I can't be your friend anymore... from a dear friend of more than 35 years.
I am cut off. We are done. I get no vote. I got the hand. I get no second chance. I get no rebuttal. I have no opportunity to apologize. Nothing I say will matter. She doesn't care. She is done with me. Forever.
What I did get from her, unlike my six-year-old former students, was an honest explanation for the somewhat sudden, but in hindsight (if I am to be honest) slow removal of any signs of friendship between us for several months. There were no phone calls, no emails, (she doesn't text) and no invitations to participate in events with mutual friends. There were no questions, How are you? How's it going? How are you transitioning to a new city? To retirement? Then, there were no responses to calls, to emails and to Facebook messages. I noticed an absence of 'likes' to her posts and answers to direct questions I posted on her wall. There were no visits to the barn, invitations to ride together, no more suggestions that we have lunch at Cracker Barrel or to get mani-pedi's, all things we used to do, or planned to do together. A search of my email history found our last contact was months ago.
Slowly, it began to dawn on me that something was very wrong between us, but I had no idea what it might be.
Recently a mutual friend sent a group email inviting us to watch her husband play soccer in an adult league. The email was initiated by my friend, and forwarded to my husband and me by the recipient. Once my friend saw that my husband I had been invited to participate, she declined to join us. To me, this was solid evidence that I had been crossed off of her 'will be willing to participate with' list. I thought that we may be done. But I didn't want this to be the case.
Afterwards, I wondered for a long while what to do with this information. After all, there was still a teeny possibility that this was all in my imagination-unlikely-but possible. Ok, maybe I was in denial.
One day, I had occasion to drive through my friend's neighborhood on my way to an appointment. I decided to stalk and see if her car was in her driveway. I had decided that if it was, I would pop-in, casually, and see what was up with her.
I turned onto her street. I searched for her house. I saw her car. She was home. I pulled up behind her car and cut my engine. I took a deep breath. I opened my door and looked up. She did not come to her door. I got my dog out of the back seat of the car and looked again at her door. No face. I walked up to the house and knocked on the plexi-glass portion of her screen door. It took a moment, but she came to the door, a bit slowly, as if dreading the exchange once she saw me. I wondered if she had expected this-for me to stop by one day. This did not seem to be the case.
I looked up and smiled. I said hello. She held the door open with her hand. I asked what she was up to and she responded that she was about to have dinner and offered me spaghetti squash. I thanked her and told her I was on my way somewhere and that I didn't want to disturb her dinner. She stepped out and closed the door. I asked her how she had been and then, looking up three stairs at her, I asked it, the burning question, the reason for the pop-in.
"Is everything okay?" She knew I meant 'between us.'
She paused and looked me dead in the eye and said, with her hand up,
"You are too negative. I am trying to be positive."
She pronounced it: pos-it-tive.
"You are negative. You have too much drama in your life."
Negative? Drama? I almost laughed!
This friend used to be one of the most negative people I've ever known. Hard to take sometimes, even. Seriously?
Recently, she has done a great job of turning her outlook around. We have spoken at length, often, about the importance of positivity and the devastating effects of negativity. We both had enormously negative mothers and we have both worked really hard to redirect and simplify our lives. We have both striven for contentment and happiness.
But, compared to my friend, I always felt as though I was the ray of sunshine.
I'm too negative?
I was almost relieved to know that my 'negativity' was the reason for the break-up. I had concerns that she may have thought I was stupid or that I had unknowingly said or done something to offend her.
"Drama?" I asked.
"Yes, drama. Your dog, your horse, it's too much. I want to be positive."
Our dog had recently run away and I made rather a big deal about him and other lost pets on Facebook. I was trying to be supportive of others going through loss like mine, but I can see how the re-posts came across as negative and sad.
Still, almost immediately afterwards, I felt hurt and stung by her words. She was dismissing me for having problems, as though I was an inconvenience, not fun, too needy. I felt confused, too, because I thought friends cared about each other and that the job of a friend is to help and be supportive when someone is in trouble. I remember distinctly helping her through some thorny break ups, including her marriage, the deaths of each of her parents, the rejection of potential suitors and the loss of her job and back pay.
It is also the case that she had begun to pull back her friendship long before my dog got lost. We last hung out in March. My last email from her was sent in June. She did, surprisingly, come to one party at our house in July but that was our last reciprocated contact. It is October.
I looked up at her, silently choking, and thanked her for her honesty. I wanted to defend myself and I wanted to argue, but I knew that would only make me look more desperate and needy. My goal was to leave with grace. I said goodbye, turned, and walked back to my car.
I drove to my appointment with tears streaming down my cheeks. I was relieved that this friend wasn't home to see me.
Since our conversation, I experience waves of grief and sadness. I also feel sorrow, shame and disbelief. It's ridiculous.
I am amazed that losing my friend hurts this much. The feeling is similar to a boyfriend break up, but, actually, it is worse. I guess we have higher expectations for our female friends.
I Googled this topic and read a few, very helpful articles on the subject. Afterwards, I decided to write my story. I have never experienced anything like this but I'm sure others have. I am curious to see what the response to my sharing will be, if any.
My friend and I have been friends, really good friends, for over 35 years. We met in our twenties. We worked together for quite a character of a horse trainer. We spent Christmases together with her crazy family, events which provided us with inside jokes and stories that are still funny and which no one else understands. She moved to our city because of me. She called us when she eloped. One really good mutual friend died and we consoled each other on the phone. We wrote letters to each other. Hers was always the first Christmas card we received each season. We rode horses together. We shared meals together. She introduced me to many fun restaurants in town. She introduced me to her closest friends...
And, now what? What about those friends? Do I lose them in the custody battle? Do I tell them what happened and out her? If I do, will they dump me or phase me out, too? Might they take up for me and confront her, telling her that they think she's crazy because I'm fun? And what if any of those friends also become too burdensome or irritating to her? Will she cross them off the list as well? Will she end up alone? Doesn't she need us? Doesn't she need me?
No, she does not. Long ago we made plans for day trips once I moved down. There were lots of things we planned to do together, to which I was really looking forward. It is clear that she has abandoned these ideas. She does not want to be around me and she will not miss me. She will never look back. I know. I have seen her do this to other people. I just never thought I would be one of them.
I am lucky. (A positive stance, no?) I have a loving husband. I have two children who are amazing and beautiful. I have a lovely home. I have other friends, some old, some new. I have a new, devoted dog and I have a horse, albeit one with many problems. I have many acquaintances, any of which may blossom into new friendships. I hope they will.
Still, I will miss my dear old friend.
|My dear friend on a happy day|