I spent some time with my friend this past weekend. During the course of the conversation she reminded me that it was the anniversary of her father’s death. My stomach split as I realized I had forgotten what day it was. I thought she had invited me over to simply enjoy and talk, catch up, have fun, let the kids play together. She started talking about how I had always been there for her no matter what was going on in my life and that she never asked me about what was happening with me, she just knew that I showed up for her.
My head began to spin with guilt and too much alcohol and I felt like the entire world shifted underneath my feet. I felt like I was looking at the scene from the outside but it was like looking through a rainy windshield. I thought she had just wanted to see me, that the conversations that had picked up again over the last few weeks were about connecting again. In that five minute portion of our time together, I started to feel broken and used and I was feeling like we were back in high school because we weren’t talking about progressing anything.
This is a friend whom I truly love dearly and it felt, for a moment, that she only wanted my presence to serve some purpose. That all of the reaching out had merely been a build up to that moment on the anniversary of her terrible loss. It made me realize that I have a tendency to view my relationships differently than those in the relationship with me. I’ve done it with my husband—falling head over heels, thinking I’m not worthy, that I’m not doing enough when I am sitting here depleted and angry and resentful.
The truth of the situation hit me: what she said was true. She did have a tendency to only reach out when she was feeling emotionally distraught. She didn’t have a clue what was going on in my life and I really don’t remember the last time she asked me. But I also realized that I take care of the majority of my stuff on my own. I haven’t reached out for help. And maybe that is a trauma pattern because the times I have reached out for help I am met with the distinct sound of crickets. So I get angry and resentful again that the people I am meant to rely on are not there for me.
I felt like crap—I got myself sick—and I knew in that instant that I never wanted to feel that way EVER again. Neither from poor judgement with drinking or from poor judgement with friends/family/husband…anything. I feel incredibly empowered to realize that I can step out of my way and set boundaries. If I want the genuine friendship then I need to reach out more too. We struggle to keep up because of the state of the world and because we are both busy trying to keep kids alive, houses run, and the million other things it takes to get through the day as a full time working mom. And in my case, a full time working mom trying to start a business.
I didn’t want to have the conversation with her because it touches so much of who I wanted to ignore inside of myself. The child who demands attention, the lazy girl who just wants to have it done for her, the princess who feels entitled to have people listening to me at all times. I am grateful for the terrifying emotions I felt because I realized that I am no victim. I don’t have to feel that way again. I can build friendships with a genuine foundation. I can be an empowering, non-threatening boss with great team-development skills. I can be an amazing wife and mother and have a great career. But I have to do the things that it takes to get there.
I have held myself back for so long and that is no longer conducive to what I want to do. Yes, I’ve said that before but the feeling I had as I was in the shower after this most awkward of nights made me realize that it is time to take control. I can re-create the narrative at any time. The truth with this friendship is that I am willing to put in the effort and get us where we need to be—but I am not willing to go back to high school to re-create the scenarios or to feel those things again. I would like us to let go of how we treated each other and stop reaching out because of guilt or lost time—I would like us to reach out because we are looking for a genuine connection and to be part of each other’s lives again.
I think we are all just looking for connection—and we all have decisions to make about the connections we make. If they are unhealthy or they deplete you or make you uncomfortable in any way—they aren’t really serving any purpose. That is an opportunity to redefine the relationship or remove it. In my case, I have the opportunity to be a better friend and to put in the work. I am grateful to be in that position and I am grateful to have someone in my life who wants to work on those things with me.