I met up with an old friend for an evening meal this week. We were “best friends” between the ages of 11 and 22. We did our homework together, we crushed on the same boys, we talked for hours on the phone about nothing, we’d complain about how unreasonable our mothers were. After college we went on to different universities – practically at opposite ends of the country (not quite, but you see what I’m saying…) during which I also spent a year abroad. We’d begun to grow apart.
Following graduation, I found myself dumped by my boyfriend of 4.5 years, jobless and living back at home with my parents. It was inevitable that my first bout of depression was about to hit – but I didn’t see it coming. That was when we had a big falling out as I was days from depression (which she admitted she prob would have seen the signs if she’d paid closer attention) and words that I’d said out of character to a 3rd person were miscontrued back to her.
Other than the odd email (which started after a very humble apology she sent after hearing I’d become engaged) and some distant Facebooking, we hadn’t spoken properly for 9 years until this week. For those 9 years where I didn’t speak to my former friend, I spent time moaning about it, obsessing over it, telling my new friends about her and constantly thinking I could have done something different to have changed the outcome.
Then one day last year, following a talk with a very good friend where I realised I have crap skills of forgiveness* (hubs enjoyed watching that penny drop!) and after looking at some of the great friendships I have around me now, I finally made the decision to let it go. And that was it. It stopped worrying me. Once the decision was made, I felt ready to meet up with her again as I was no longer scared of whatever consequences there would be.
A lot was covered during the meal we had together. We talked about old times, why we thought things went wrong, how we feel about our lives now, and so on. But there was a turning point about two thirds of the way through the meal. We went from catching up and reconnecting, to suddenly being very upset and defensive.
There were a few moments where I should have bitten my tongue instead of being outright honest with her. There were also moments when she spoke out of turn and criticised me for lack of tact – a fair point, but as it’s the one main trait that I have never managed to change despite years of agonising (coincidentally, also falling between the ages of 11 and 22), so I’ve have decided to embrace it and love it instead of getting upset over it.
The conclusion that came out of the whole evening was that truthfully we just cannot have a healthy friendship with each other. The problem is that in just being ourselves, honest without agenda, we were able to really hurt each other’s feelings – right to the core, in the heart. I honestly felt like my heart was being shredded at one point. We were both close to tears. Several times. My body language was open, pained and reaching out. Her’s was closed, pained and defensive. We couldn’t look at each other. We were both suddenly thrown back into our teenage years. Yet neither one of us had even the tiniest intention of hurting the other. It was intense.
So. I think that as far as friendships go, our’s classifies as toxic. Not saying we never had good times. We did. But I struggle to remember them. My memories of our friendship are that of heartache, tears and hours begging of her how I could better myself and be a better person. Her memories of our friendship are of laughter, jokes and a great talks. She recalls ‘a few spats’ whilst simultaneously professing that she has a terrible memory – and doesnt remember much at all. When we lost contact for 9 years, she said she missed my input and advice. But if the payoff for those good times is heartache, tears and pain, then it’s not a friendship I want to fight to maintain.
So as the evening drew to a close and we made moves to part ways, it just became clear that she misses our friendship – that I gave a lot to her. Unfortunately I never felt I received much in return. We hugged as we left – I remembered and mentioned to her, we never hugged. She told me how much she appreciated me – and I realised I never knew how much, because she never felt the need to tell me. We did know each other very well and for a very long time. But it was clear that it was never a friendship that was healthy. Even as I walked back to my car I felt drained from the contact with her. I felt like I was carrying baggage back home to my husband and kids.
Which is why I think I need to leave it behind – because it’s not just me dealing with the heartache anymore, it’ll be my hubs and my kids who will have the repercussions of Mummy/Wifey in emotional turmoil about how I need to change myself, when it’s BS. Where I am in life now, and who I have around me accept me for who I am, love me for who I am and make me a better person simply by proximity and inspiration – not by disagreement and heartache.
It’s sad, but I’m glad to be able to leave it behind tbh. It sounds like I haven’t forgiven her and I haven’t moved on. But compared to the last 9 years when I definitely was holding a grudge and unforgiving, I can say, hand on heart, it’s all water under the bridge now. It happened. It was part of my life. We’re both happy where we are now. Time to draw a line under it. The day I decided to let it go, I stopped thinking about it and that’s a huge deal given how much I used to think about it!!
So the meal was 3 evenings ago, and the effect of the closure that I gained from those intense 4 hours together has grown exponentially. Each day I’ve found myself feeling lighter, happier, less obsessed with my shortcomings. Each morning I’ve woken up with a new, fresher, more positive take on the experiences I’ve had in friendship. I’ve realised that I’ve been tarnishing all new friendships with prejudiced views formed as a result of my toxic friend. Some of which are just too ridiculous (e.g. Arians and I will inevitably not get on due to misunderstandings…!!) I’ve realised that all the times I struggle with my self image it’s because I’ve never allowed myself any limelight – because there never used to be enough to go around. I’ve realised that the little voice in my head that critcises myself has many similarities to her. But now that I’ve essentially shut the door on that friendship, the voice has lost it’s strength and weight. Who knows, one day I may find myself completely in control of it.
I wish I’d done this sooner.
*see my New Years Resolutions post!