These past few weeks, the topic of "broken friendships" somehow came up five or six different times in conversations with several different people.
I had been contemplating blogging about this for a while, but never really got around to motivating myself to confront the emotions that are inevitably attached to these broken friendships.
That being said, the progression of the aforementioned conversations seemed to be the workings of Divine Providence. The final exchange that solidified this realization was jump-started with the question, "Doesn't it bother you that [your friends] drop off like that?"
I suddenly put all the other conversations together in my head that added up to this question:
1. An old friend from college asked about a mutual friend that we both, for different reasons, severed ties with.
2. My "other mother" asked about a mutual friend who "moved on" upon realizing his views on homosexual marriage didn't mesh with ours (thus becoming indignant and hurt as a result).
3. The on-going Garlands of Grace saga that has led to over 100 people "breaking up" with them over their (how do I put this?) confused ideas on Catholicism.
4. A back-fired plan to find common ground that unfortunately left the friend who led the charge completely disgruntled
5. Friend of mine who is getting married mused aloud the hurt she carried due to a good friend of hers no longer being a part of her life (let alone part of her wedding day)
6. Acquaintance from high school asked if I'd be attending the upcoming reunion and if I knew the response of the friend I severed ties with from conversation number one.
As I said... it didn't occur to me until last night that these conversations were all leading me to this entry. I'd been toying with the idea for a while, but the topic has resurfaced with a vengeance, so I guess it's my time to confront it as I best I know how - through writing. I'll focus on my biggest "broken friendship" because, in all honesty, it was the most painful and is, at times, an on-going process - especially now that it's been brought up so much these last few weeks.
My slogan in life has always been "Once a friend, always a friend." I'm loyal to a fault and have swallowed more than my share of indignation just to "keep the peace."
However, I was never willing to compromise my beliefs in order to fit in or gain popularity. Those things never mattered much to me. It's probably why I was typically at the bottom of the social totem pole amongst my peers. :)
Anyway, I was highly selective of those I'd call "friend." I had plenty of acquaintances and was always well-known due to my high level of involvement and cheerful disposition, but I always knew who my FRIENDS were.
In high school, I was definitely the glue between these friends. Some of them would tease me about being "the Mom" of the group because I was always reaching out to make sure everyone was included, having a good time, and aware of what was going on with the group as a whole. I wore that teasing like a badge of honor. I prided myself in my ability to take care of my friends. I took pleasure in making sure they felt validated, important and loved. In all honesty, it was through my dedication to them that I, in turn, was validated, felt important, and understood myself to be loved. It's probably why I yearned so much for a child of my own from an early age... only in the service of others do I find myself at peace.
Even as my high school relationships blossomed, I clung to my relationship with Mary - my best friend from grade school. Even though she moved away, I did everything I could to bridge the growing gap between us. She had grown depressed... beyond miserable with her new school and those she found herself surrounded with. As a result, she withdrew from me (and the rest of the world), shutting herself off from our friendship.
I remember growing almost frantic at that. I felt so hurt and lonely without her. She was (and is) a very foundational part of who I am. To think that I'd lost her for some unknown reason was heartbreaking to me. However, through my irritating persistence and her own triumph over that inner struggle, we eventually found our way to a better relationship towards the end of college.
Having tasted the bitterness of losing a best friend, I was extremely vigilant regarding my high school friends. So when it became obvious that I'd have to "break up" with the best one I'd found, it was truly devastating.
He and I had met early on and clicked right away. We shared so much of ourselves with one another that it was no surprise that, at the end of senior year, we found ourselves romantically involved. We really did love each other. To an extent, I'm sure we still do, regardless of the hurt we now carry. Our relationship, however, was toxic. As we made our way through college, and all the changes that come along with it, we were growing apart. Instead of helping each other grow and blossom into mature individuals, we were clinging to ideas of what the other's growth should look like. That sort of thing never ends well...
The last time we broke up (because the first few times never really stuck), we reaffirmed our desire to remain friends. I soon met John, my future husband. My friend was never OK with our relationship. I truly believe it happened "too soon" in his mind, and made him feel easily replaced... somehow cheated out of the life we were supposed to have together.
I understood that and allowed him time to heal. However, he basically shut himself off from me. Sensing all the signs I'd been through with Mary, I did my best to bridge the divide. I went out of my way to befriend his new love interest (who, thankfully, turned out to be a sweet person), and I repeatedly implored him to "hang out" or "catch up." I'd leave little notes on his MySpace ('cause yes... MySpace was popular then), and I'd drop random e-mails just letting him know I was thinking about him. Most of all, though, I gave him the space and time he swore he needed.
@ 3.5 months pregnant!
However, the fragile bond I had run maintenance on shattered upon news of my pregnancy with Vincent. Knowing that, even after six years, this news would hurt him, I wanted to tell him in person in as gentle a way as I could. Instead, he afforded me no opportunity, pushing off plans with me and making it known that he didn't want to see me. I soon found out why. He'd suspected the pregnancy and responded to the news in such an incredibly childish, hurtful way that... well...
Let's just say his one comment tore down my lifelong mantra "Once a friend, always a friend."
I immediately ceased all contact with him and for the first time in my life, I intentionally cut out a piece of my heart to pack away in the attic of my soul. It was an incredibly painful, tear-filled, and angry few months.
However, when he contacted me later (acting as if nothing had transpired between us), I was able to respond with a clear head - something I wouldn't have been able to do had I not discounted him from my life. The conversation, I think, gave some closure to us, but it didn't "fix" anything.
In fact, several months after Vincent was born, we bumped into one another at an event for a mutual friend. Actually, I'm still relatively certain he came specifically at that time because he knew I was going to be there, but whatever. We met up again, and I could tell that he was looking for some sign that we were OK... that even though we weren't best friends, we weren't mortal enemies either.
I'll be honest. I really thought I was "over it" at that point. I 100% thought I had forgiven him and moved on. Boy was I wrong. Upon seeing him, my heart both leapt with joy at seeing someone I had so much love for, and revolted against itself in indignation that he should be anywhere near my son... the son he harbored such a negative reaction to not long ago.
I immediately asked John to take Vincent outside. John was only too happy to oblige, and off they went to give Mommy and Friend some time to sort out whatever emotional confusion was between them.
I am somewhat ashamed to admit it now, but I didn't exactly react with the most Christian charity. I was cordial and I returned the hug he offered. I also congratulated him on his recent graduation from grad school. However, upon thanking me for the well-wishes, he responded with, "Oh yeah - I never congratulated you on the baby, did I?"
No, Sherlock... no you didn't. In fact, I'm relatively certain "Congratulations" didn't even remotely come to mind when you first learned of his existence.
But I digress...
As a result of that immensely ridiculous remark, I felt my guard go up and the coldness sharpen my terse responses. I wasn't outright rude out of respect for our friend (who probably felt highly awkward in the middle of the situation). I honestly felt like slapping him, though. I really, REALLY did.
I started praying for John to get back so we could simply leave. He swung back moments later and we bid our farewells. I was absolutely fuming the whole way home, though. I was completely caught off guard by my anger. I guess I hadn't really "forgiven" and "gotten over everything" like I'd thought. Stupid me, I was still broken and hurting - I just hadn't had to face those emotions because I'd locked everything away.
This was about... I guess about a year and a half ago now. We've briefly spoken since that time, but it was nothing more than basic need to pass along a message from someone else.
That being said, I've probably thought about him daily. If not daily, then probably every other day. He's never far from my thoughts. None of my friends are, and honestly, I still view him as a friend. As I once told him, that mantra "Once a friend, always a friend" still remains true to me, there is just a footnote beside it now.
Two people who forge a true friendship... that never really dies. How can it? The basis for all true friendships, after all, is love. True love, in pure form, simply cannot be snuffed out. Together, we really did learn what love meant. We lavished love, support, and understanding on one another, each of us carrying the other through some of the darkest times of our lives. Those bonds, forged by the fires of unconditional love, cannot be broken.
I think that's why the pain remains, sometimes. The heart misses its dose of True Love. Our friendship (when it was functioning properly), was Christ-like. We were generous, supporting and affirming. Somewhere along the way, we focused more on our own hurt and frustration and lost sight of that true love we'd helped bloom in our early years of high school. Thus, the heart, having experienced something of Christ, yearns always for it. When the heart realizes that piece of itself has gone missing, an emptiness echoes its sad longing.
On the plus side, ever since rekindling my faith, this is one of those intentions I've dropped into the Hands of the Lord. I've reflected on it quite a bit, and am much more willing to acknowledge my part in the dissolution of our relationship. I've come a long way in extending forgiveness and now feel much more confident in my ability to exchange that forgiveness with this person should we ever come across one another again.
In all honesty, it's probably the only way either of us will ever fully heal. To forgive and be forgiven... it does begin to heal the scars.
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