Thursday, April 22, 2021

Goodbye Old Friend

“I always thought you were a bitch.” I’ve heard that statement from several of my closest friends. I used to be very shy and through my twenties and part of my thirties I was painfully insecure. It took me a long time to get comfortable enough with people to step into the realm of friendship. But once I crossed over there was no turning back. Once you’re my friend, it’s impossible for me to let you go. 

It’s why I’ve never wanted to move. Making new friends seems too hard. One of my oldest, best friends dumped me about six months ago. It’s strange because we used to talk every day. We lived within walking distance of each other. We’ve known each other since seventh grade.

But we had a crisis in our friendship. In these last six months, I’ve been trying to sort it out. I’m stuck. It doesn’t make sense to me. I thought I was doing the right thing by telling her how I felt, about problems I saw in our friendship. But I was wrong.

When I expressed my discontent with aspects of our friendship, instead of creating an opportunity to connect and deepen our relationship, it made her turn on her heels, walk quickly away from me, and shut the door to our friendship. I realize that I’ve been moving through the stages of grief with this forty-year friendship. 

Denial

Since the breach first happened I’ve reached out a few times but there’s never been an invitation back. I’ve sent a few emails, dropped food when she’s been sick, sent an envelope of old photos, and texted. She’s texted back a clipped, “thanks” but never extended any olive branch of her own. I’ve been waiting, thinking, of course, this will change, but it hasn’t. 

Bargaining

I’ve spent a lot of time peeling away all the layers of our history, trying to rationalize what’s happening, trying to figure out what I’ve done wrong. I’ve thought that maybe just giving her some time would be enough for things to get back to normal. But I always end up back at the beginning with the same question, “Would I have done things differently if I knew she’d react like this?” My answer is always no. Our friendship was not working for me and I needed to say something. If I hadn’t told her how I was feeling the friendship would have ruptured in another way, a more passive and indirect way.

Depression

In the waiting, I’ve lost faith that there is a place of healing for us. And I have so many questions: Do I want to heal from this? Do I even want this friendship? Did we ever have a real friendship? I am aware that what I miss in the friendship is not the friendship itself, not the substance of what we talked about or the activities we did together. I have other dear friends who I see regularly with whom I can talk about my feelings, go on walks with, and have dinner with. What I miss about my old, long-time friend is the familiarity of our relationship, the predictability and comfort that came from our habituated daily conversations, and our shared history. The absence of this regular part of my life has left me sad and lonely, longing for the way things used to be. 

Anger

And now I’m angry. I imagine running into her on the street. I imagine her saying, “Hi Laura, how have you been.” I imagine looking at her with disbelief and then rage and screaming, “How have I been?!!! What the fuck is your problem?!” My imagination stops there. I can’t see beyond my anger. 

Her rejection of our friendship, her inability to engage in an adult conversation with me when when I shared my feelings enrages me. Her sustained silence conjures all the moments in my life when I have felt neglected, unseen and unheard and wraps them into a fireball that spews flames from my nostrils, ears, and eyes. 

Acceptance

But if I’m honest and I look at this friendship breakup through a lens of growth and personal evolution, I have to wonder if maybe the end of this friendship is the best thing for both of us. Maybe she knows more than me. Maybe she has accepted the problems in our friendship and is completely clear. Maybe she’s understood this for six months. 

So how do I release it? I long for closure — some way to know that the friendship is over. I’m waiting for that confrontation on the street or a letter or email to come to me. But maybe closure doesn’t happen in situations like this. It’s not a romantic breakup. We’re not splitting up our belongings and going our separate ways. 

But it is like a breakup in the sense that I still feel the absence. And like a breakup, time will heal this. It’s sad. I feel the loss every day when I walk by her house. Sometimes I see her in the window and I change directions because I can’t bear to see her face. 

It’s like a death, the end of something. And like any mourning, I have to move through the stages of grief and loss. I’m coming out of that period now. I see that I’ve been moving through those stages and I can see more clearly now. My friend is done with our friendship. She’s that person in the RomCom who’s just not that into me. 

And so it is that I come to this last stage of grief — acceptance. I face the truth, that I have to take this emotional next step, to move on, close my own door and fully say goodbye to this friendship. 

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