Hug It Out, Bitch
I was asked to tea. It was a close friend, one I don’t get to spend time with because both of our work schedules are incredibly demanding; but one that I do see, around town, often, resulting in fun New York City sidewalk quickfire catch up visits. We have great affection for one another and these visits do the trick, until the next one. When I got the text, asking to have tea, I knew something was up — I just had to wait and see what it was.
Indeed, there was a deeper meaning behind the invitation than a simple cup of tea.
My friend needed some advice on a personal relationship question.
It is sort of well known (in my circle of friends) that I can be counted upon for a straight forward answer, when a problem is on the table. I see the truth and, when I see it, I answer quite clearly. It hasn’t always been the case; it has taken me a lot of years to fine hone the skill and, now that I have, I can actually be quite gentle with it. And so, people will come to me with problems, issues and questions. On this day, the question was about a friendship on the rocks. The details are unimportant. What is important is that my friend wanted to fix the friendship and the other person was ready to walk away, without the attempt at repair. My friend said that they couldn’t believe that this other person was ready and willing to just walk away from their long standing friendship.
As I sat, listening to the details of the situation, I found myself remembering one of the blackest times of my life…
I had a best friend. We shared many common interests and much time. We shared stories, secrets, laughs and adventures. One day we had a fight. I got my feelings hurt, incredibly badly. An email was sent that devastated me. Hurtful sentences and accusations were cast. They were in direct response to something I did that, genuinely, I thought was for my best friend’s benefit. Our perceptions of my actions were vastly different. The email was written and sent; it was received and read. I was aghast and appalled. The one person in the world who I had always been certain would never hurt me, had written, to me, such horrifying words as to devastate me. Having been hurt so many times in my life that I had determined never again to be hurt, I reacted in the worst possible way: I left a horrifying, heart wrenching voicemail of weeping apology and, then, went to my computer and blocked my friend’s email address from sending me email. I was so mortified by the sentences and accusations that I was terrified of which ones would come next. I would protect my heart, at all costs. The wall was up.
Some weeks later, having cooled down, I unblocked the email address and reached out to this person who had shared my life for a decade. I wanted to apologize, to be apologized to, to talk it out and to move on. My friend said no. No. No. Again and again; no.
In the weeks that had passed between the fight and the olive branch, I had blogged, rather openly and one sidedly about the situation. Someone had read the blogs and called my friend with the sentence “he’s blogging about you” (I don’t think I used any names; but people who knew us, knew who was in these online stories). This indiscreet word vomiting of our private affair was not just fuel to the fire — it was a butane loaded blowtorch, set to destroy any chance at reconciliation. It was over. One of the closest, truest, deepest and dearest friendships of my life was over and I would never recover from that.
I never have recovered from that.
Why, then, am I blogging about it today?
Because, in the years that I have grown from a juvenile into a man, I have learned that my mistakes can help others in their journey. If one person reads what I have to say and handles similar situations in their own life in a less dramatic (or, in my case, melodramatic) way, then there can be some, any, merit to the pain and suffering I have caused and withstood.
Just about every choice I made in this situation was a wrong one.
When I got the email, I should have trusted in our friendship and called and had a grown up talk with my chum. I should have trusted that true friends can say to each other “I don’t like the way you are treating me”, hash it out, hug it out and move forward, with growth and love. I can’t know any of that person’s motives. I also can’t insinuate into their motives the crimes committed against me in my own life, before them. I should have trusted in us, should have called and asked to talk it out. I should have defended my actions and then myself; but I should have protected us… should have protected our friendship. The kneejerk reaction of blocking their emails was infantile and stupid. The self pitying and selfish decision to blog about our private affair, in an attempt to garner support from others, was idiotic and disrespectful; and when a few weeks had passed, these choices had entirely sealed our fate. In spite of my attempts, we were never able to come together again and be who we were and have what we had, which was beautiful, though we did have a chance to talk and have some closure.
A beautiful thing is ended because of my stupid choices.
And what I want to say, to anyone who is reading, is this:
Give your friends a chance. Give the relationships a chance. Trust in the person and trust in the friendship. Friendships are living, breathing organisms – ever changing, evolving, needing understanding and the blurring of grey lines. Keep communication open between yourselves and always stay honest. It is in these honest moments when friendships are tested and made stronger. When bad times come along, sit together and discuss, don’t fight; and, certainly, don’t take to the airwaves. In the first place, it’s disrespectful. In the second place, it’s hurtful. And in the third place, nobody really wants to know. Thanks to social networking, we all know so much about each other that we can recite a litany of what our friends eat yesterday, what their pets’ potty habits are and how, best, to cure hangovers, athlete’s foot and rashes in our most private of body parts. Nobody is interested in the fights – that is what The Real Housewives are for. Give each other a chance and give each other a break. Friends clash from time to time; when it happens, keep it simple, keep it honest, keep it private and keep it quick. Be the first to apologize, be the first to forgive. Protect your heart by keeping it open. Come from a place of love and trust your friend with your heart. Tell them when they have hurt your heart – if they are a true friend, they will be mortified that they have hurt your heart – and then put that heart back in their hands and show them that you trust them enough to give that delicate object back to them for safe keeping. And if you find that the relationship isn’t going to survive this conflict, kiss them goodbye and put your memories in a safe drawer in your heart and, from time to time, open the drawer and look back on the good times.
I lost one of the loves of my life by behaving so very badly. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my friend; and it will be like that, until the day I die. It has, though, given me a knowledge that I hope can help others, when I am called upon to share that knowledge.
At tea, I asked my friend two questions: are you ready to do the work to repair this friendship; and is the friend with whom you are in conflict? If not, can you survive the demise of the friendship? I’m not sure what path lies ahead for these two people in conflict. I only know that I wish I had had me to ask me these questions, all those years ago. I would have been able to say, yes – I am ready to do the work; no, I will not survive the end of the friendship.
I still have not survived it.
I beg of you, dear reader, protect yourself from this pain by protecting your friendships. They are treasures that we don’t get to keep. Even in the best of circumstances, there will be a day that we bid our friends goodbye, if only to death. Cherish these gems, treat them like the jewels they are and show them their worth. In the end, your benefit will be ten-fold.
My husband always tells me to come from a place of love. If I had learned that lesson in time, I would never have allowed pride and the past take from me something so beautiful that, once destroyed, would leave a hole in my heart that could never heal.
Avoid this at any cost. It is worth the effort. Trust me, for I have learned the hard way.
“Friendship is like a garden. You have to water it and tend it and care about it…”