Friends and Woes

Last year at about this time, I was in another city not too far from here, spending the weekend with some friends from high school I’ve reconnected with. It began about 5 years ago, when we saw one another at our reunion (the only reason I went was because those two were going to be there), and vowed to stay in touch. We connected via Facebook and messaged back and forth. On a whim, we packed up and met in Nashville for a long weekend, and an annual get together was born.

I’m so glad we did, we had a blast. We talked and caught up, and it felt as if I’d connected with two open, fun-loving women who wanted to share and maintain a friendship.

Over the next few years, others joined in, but the three of us tried to meet up apart from the larger group of seven. There was something more between the three of us. There was an easiness, the kind that passing time didn’t seem to affect.

By last year, I’d realized that while I very much enjoyed their company, the weekends always left me feeling as if I’d gone with hopes (and expectations) that we’d talk and catch up, talk about deep, meaningful things, and not just chill and drink and go out to eat. As much as I love those things, I need the other too. There was every indication that we had the sort of relationship in which that was a realistic expectation. We’d done it before, but it seemed to fade away. Contact faded more and more until it was mostly likes on Facebook. I agonized over whether I should go.

I asked myself…did I still value them? Absolutely. I was just beginning to see the friendship for what it might be – acquaintances with a history. Ones who have fun and can be open and honest and accepting with one another, but still really just acquaintances. And that was okay; I wasn’t ready to give that up. So, I went on the weekend. I tried to go with realistic expectations and I had some fun. I do value each and every one of them very much.

Except on Saturday, there was this odd-feeling exchange. The day before, J and A brought up that we should go to her parent’s cabin this year and plan on a big vacation weekend next year, some place like the Bahamas or a cruise. A few said maybe, and then JK said she wasn’t sure her husband would let her. I said I’d have to check with my hubby too, and the conversation ended….until Saturday, when JK left.

After she left, J and A brought up that they thought it was weird that JK had phrased it that way, that she wasn’t sure her hubby would let her. A couple of the others said it was a little odd, but J and A said it sounded like maybe her hubby was really controlling or something. I chimed in and said maybe that’s just the way it works for them. It works that way for M and I, and I’d have to ask him too. Then J seemed to abruptly change the subject with a giggle, so I left it alone. We had a decent evening and went home the next morning.

But later, I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. Sometimes it takes me a while to process my feelings with things like that, when I’m hurt and fear rejection. And in my history, I have a very difficult time telling those I care about that they’ve hurt my feelings or said/done something that I’d like to discuss. Again, that fear of rejection and abandonment, but I’ve been evolving and trying to maintain healthy friendships.

A few days later, I asked J and A if we could talk. I asked if we could do a three way call, but we couldn’t figure it out and decided to group text instead. I carefully brought up that it seemed like they were being judgmental toward Julie, and their judgement of her made me worry they might feel the same about me. All I wanted to do was discuss it. I also didn’t like that they’d spoken about JK while she wasn’t there.

Despite my efforts to try to talk with them openly, that conversation did not go well. J did not love that I confronted her about talking behind JK’s back. A said she was concerned that JK might be in an unhealthy relationship. They both turned it back on me, saying I shouldn’t have to defend how I live if I’m happy, when all I wanted to do was share of myself with them. That hurt.

I attempted to talk it through, but again, J just abruptly left the conversation. A was short and a little abrasive at times, but stayed in the conversation for a few more exchanges and seemed to try to understand my point. I understood hers.

Since then, there hadn’t been any contact at all. Nothing. Not even on the girl’s weekend FB group where plans are made each year. And then, two weeks ago, N asked if we were still planning to go to J’s parent’s cabin. J said she was busy and if someone else wanted to plan, she’d let us know if she could come. A said the same. Two others said they were in. I said life was hectic for the next couple months. It all just felt weird and unresolved. I figured it would, there’d been no contact, no further discussion.

Fearing last year’s exchange was the cause for the evasiveness, I contacted them both again last week by text. I’d had a long time to think about what had transpired.

A didn’t respond at all. J was still very agitated. No matter what I said to try to explain my thinking, to take responsibility for what I perceive as wrongdoings on my part and apologize, to tell her it’s possible I misunderstood their intent, and maybe even responded the way I did because I feared rejection, she wouldn’t hear me. She was angry and defensive, didn’t explain her view, took no responsibility at all, and abruptly left the conversation again. I offered to speak via phone (my preferred method!), but no answer. That was a few days ago.

The thing is, I always think about misunderstandings, I can’t just ignore them. I have this need to understand what went wrong.  I always evaluate them to see what part I played, so I can take responsibility and apologize, understand the other person’s view and feelings if I can, and learn from my mistakes. I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I don’t mean to, but I know I do sometimes.

I also have a history of taking responsibility for things I shouldn’t, because I don’t want the other person to feel bad. I feel other’s feelings so deeply, that I often allow them to overshadow my own.

My history also consists of instances where I’ve fostered these sort of co-dependent tendencies in some relationships. I’d do things to keep the other person around, seek approval, giving and offering, and hoping they accept that offering of myself and appreciate it. I’d give my all, putting others before myself, protecting their feelings above my own.

These are all things for which I’ve had to be acutely aware, but I feel like I’ve made some positive strides. I’m in a much better place; I know what healthy looks and feels like. I have some healthy friendships with some amazing people (which I constantly analyze, lol). I know that it’s sometimes not possible to mend a misunderstanding and it has nothing to do with me.

And I know it will pass, but it still hurts when it feels like someone who was a friend doesn’t care enough to try to work through a misunderstanding. It always will.

Simple Saturday

Just thinking this morning……listening to Any Other Day, Norah’s soulful voice mingled with some Wyclef funk….a reminder that there’s always another way, another day….sorting and tackling ways to put into practice what I KNOW I need, what we need, and readying for another talk with M…..followed by a little folk thumping in Awake My Soul with Mumford and Sons, in awe – ‘In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die, And where you invest your love, you invest your life’ – I KNOW this to be true, I feel the anchor of such love in my life.

I’m gonna go invest.

Who Knows

About three weeks ago, I spent a weekend away with some high school friends. I was anxious about it, more so than any other year and it wasn’t until this week that I had any real insight as to why. This vulnerability I feel is not just with M, but with the entire world. I am this genuine self, the one that authentically offers what I have inside and not prefabricated reactions and defenses designed to make myself or others feel comfortable and safe. I knew when I went on this weekend, that’s what I’d have to offer these women. Not that I’ve never been a genuine or authentic person, it’s more that I just don’t have those defenses and armor to protect myself from hurt like I used to. And I feel so deeply. I get hurt very easily and I was afraid of not being accepted, afraid of being hurt.

On one of the days with my friends, we were sitting around talking about going on a much bigger trip in a couple of years and JV said she wasn’t sure her husband would let her. When she left, JM said she didn’t agree with the way she’d said that, that it was crazy she even felt like he might not ‘let her’, which sparked more comments from some of the others, especially A, all along those lines. I politely spoke up. I told them JV seemed happy, which she does, and if she’s happy why wouldn’t we be happy for her? I added that it’s that way at my house too, that I ask for permission, too, for many things. JM purposefully changed the subject and ended the conversation. She didn’t want to talk about it any longer. There was no antimosity, but it was awkward. It made me think, long and hard. I was hurt, even though the conversation hadn’t been directed at me.

A few days later, after I’d processed it more deeply, I chatted with JM and A, the two with whom I’m closest, because they were the two who initiated that conversation. Not only was I unhappy that it felt as if they were judging JV, but they’d done so behind her back. JM had ended the conversation, and if they felt that way about JV and her relationship, it seemed they’d think the same about me and mine. I needed to tell them it bothered me, that it hurt they had judged her and seemed so unaccepting. As I discussed it with them, I also described in general terms the power exchange between M and I. While they don’t need to know all the details of my relationship, I don’t feel the need to hide or be ashamed. Either they’ll accept me for who I am, or I suppose they won’t. In the end, they both said they accept anyone’s way of living, but they don’t agree with the way JV or I live. They defended their talking behind JV’s back, saying they were concerned for her. Then, A said I shouldn’t feel the need to defend myself, although I was merely offering information about myself in order for them to understand me. I wasn’t seeking approval, only acceptance and respect from the women who are my friends. I don’t feel that’s an unrealistic expectation to have, at all.

It was left at that, but again, it made me think so much about how I live so vulnerably, how it’s not possible to prepare for these types of situations, not just ones that involve sharing about my relationship, but ones that involve being hurt by others. This hurt stuck around. It shook me and effected me so deeply. It made me feel very isolated.

 In the past, I’d have smiled and allowed that hurt to internally fester, but I’d never have voiced my view or my hurt. I’d avoid confrontation at all costs and either keep hanging out and getting hurt or quietly walk away making excuses. I’d have recovered quickly on the outside and found a way to stuff it away or release it in misdirected anger. Now, I feel it all, right way, and I’m learning how to handle that without those old defenses and old tricks. I’m happy I reacted genuinely and offered my voice. I’m happy that, after I truly processed what had happened and my feelings surrounding the situation, I talked to them about it, even though it was difficult and uncomfortable.

I’m not exactly sure where it all stands. I don’t know how I feel about continuing to go on the weekends. The ‘face that shit head on’ part of me says to go, be this genuine self, and whatever happens, happens. There’s another part of me that says it’s not worth the time and money taken away from my family to go and be with people who talk or judge behind one another’s backs. That’s not the kind of person I am.

Who knows.

Some Days

Some days, I really FEEL the miles. The never-ending stretch of each and every one, the seemingly insurmountable distance between us. It’s the best feeling to have people in my life who get me and accept me as I am. I’ve had good friends in my life, ones whom I’ve loved with all of me. But there’s something with these friends I’ve shared, that I’ve never shared with anyone before. They know me at my core. All the things I’d longed to share for all those years. And when they speak to me, I feel them, too. I share their sorrows, their joys and triumphs, their fears and dreams. I feel them all so deeply in my heart.

And some days, when we talk, I just want (NEED!) to hear their voices. I need to see (FEEL!) their eyes when we speak, feel the air around us vibrate as we laugh, the warmth of understanding between us when we cry.

Some days, I just need to hug my friends.