Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Open Letter to my Former Friends

Several months ago, something happened. 

It was a weird cross between a reality check and a sucker punch to the gut. With no warning or preamble, three of my good friends decided to wash their hands of me.  One of them I would have called my closest friend - she and I were like sisters, or so I believed, and I would have bet all the cash in the bank that she was the last person, aside from my own sainted mother, who would ever turn her back on me.

In one fell swoop, though, not only was she gone, but she took with her a couple of friends who, while not as close to me then, had been friends of mine even longer than she. One since high school.

I got a bit of foreshadowing at a party a week or so beforehand.  The high school friend was chilly when I spoke to her there, chilly when she left, and it was noticed by a few.

But as for the others...and especially my closest friend...I was rendered nearly speechless with shock.

When I probed mutual friends for some clarity about the situation, I was given some information. The straw that annihilated the camel, apparently, was a Facebook post about a giraffe picture, in which I condescendingly ruined the joke for everyone playing along, calling them all out as "idiots."  OK. I can see that it was a harsh statement. Was it typical of a post from me? It really wasn't.  Did any one of these friends send me a message asking if I was ok, or why I was particularly bitchy and snide? No.

An unrelated post a few days later garnered a comment from someone I barely know, a woman who was a friend of one of my soon-to-be vanishing friends.  The statement, in a nutshell, was that I shouldn't express my opinion because it wasn't in line with her Christian beliefs. On my own Facebook page. I responded with something snarky about people like her making me tired (which I still maintain as the utter truth. Self-righteous people who preach to me - unsolicited - EXHAUST ME.)  When I responded that she was welcome to unfriend me, she did, and these other three friends of mine - INCLUDING MY CLOSEST FRIEND - immediately followed suit. Defriended me. And blocked me.

 And they have not spoken to me since.  

This friend, with whom I have celebrated multiple birthdays, both ours and those of our children. Whose shoulders I have cried on, and whom I comforted in various life-changing events. Whose family I loved like my own. Who my children called Aunt. Who I had spoken to multiple times daily. For years. About EVERYTHING.

When I probed our mutual friends further, I received statements like, "She says that you think you're better than everyone and that you make everyone feel like shit."

"She says now that you have a boyfriend you never make time for her."

And the best one, "She is absolutely done with you and she wants you to stop contacting her. The fact that you keep trying to talk to her is really pissing her off."

Well.  I chewed on that.  I cursed, I cried, I lamented. I tried and tried to understand.  I put the question to those closest to me and begged them to be brutally honest in their assessment of me, of my "Facebook persona"  and worried that I was a seriously, fundamentally flawed, selfish individual without the capacity to be a true friend.  I wondered what I should have done differently, which times I should have bitten my tongue, and offered apologies to them all. Apologies which were systematically ignored.

It's been six months.  I have given up hope that cooler heads will prevail, and that I will get a tentative text or call or email to attempt to reconcile. Sometimes I will allow myself to think on it and I get very sad. Sometimes a song or a picture will remind me of her and I will burst into tears. Even now. It's so much worse than a romantic breakup. Mostly because I was blindsided, I guess, and because there's still a part of me, this nagging voice, saying that I need to keep digging to find out what's wrong, what's happened, just why.....  because the friend I believed I had in her wouldn't have done this unless something was very wrong. But from what I can see she is fine, and carrying on happily and not missing me at all.

And you know what? That's ok.

I don't want to bad mouth anyone. I am not trying to gain sympathy or play the victim. I am who I am, and although I am ever-evolving, as we all are, the fundamental me who was before is still here. I am sarcastic, and I can absolutely be condescending.  I am unapologetically defensive to the point of offense when I feel that my right to choose how to believe is being called into question. But I am also fiercely loyal, even now, brutally honest, abundantly flawed and distractingly self-aware.  To my friends I try hard to be a cheerleader and a champion and without judgement. I am open to loving guidance and even constructive criticism.  If more friends decide that I detract value from their lives more than I add it, then so be it. The most lasting effect of this is that I am more careful these days in choosing to whom my loyalty really belongs.

And if at the root of this is what I believe it to be - jealousy over my romantic relationship - I am ecstatic to report that he and I are even better now than we were then, and life in general is nothing but sunshine and roses.  If there was ever a choice to be made in order to salvage the friendships that involved sacrificing him, I would have chosen him, every day, all day long, and not once looked back with regret.  I regret nothing. It was a shitty lesson to learn but one that I will take with me always.

So thank you, former friends, for helping me to gain wisdom and discernment. My remaining friends and new friends thank you too, for making room in my life for them.