Recently, someone I knew very well passed away. She was 51 and the death was a shock to all. I had not seen this person in almost 5 years. We didn’t have a falling out. We just moved in different circles and then I literally moved away. Her passing was sad. I was particularly sad for her husband and daughter because I knew they had a warm, close relationship. But, if I’m honest (and isn’t that the point of this?), I was intellectually sad, not emotionally sad. My husband teared up. Others poured out these amazingly heartfelt words of love and support.
I asked my husband if something was wrong with me that I didn’t “feel” this death more. And he said …
“There is nothing wrong with you ….” (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) … “BUT…”
He went on to explain that when relationships are not actively active, I disengage completely. For me, apparently, relationships either ARE or ARE NOT. For him, he may not speak to a friend for years and still he considers the friendship solid. For me, if I don’t have your phone number memorized, then I assume we are no longer friends and I dismiss you from my life. “Dismiss” sounds harsher than I intend. It’s like they move out of my heart – or I shove them out of my heart. This is not necessarily done in anger. So why do I do that? Is it wrong?
He went on to say that I hold a mean grudge. That was not news to me. It’s not that I don’t “get over” things. It’s just that I don’t forget them either. Is that an oxymoron? The friend that died had a brain aneurysm and was taken to a local hospital. I found this out when someone from my past life reached out. Let’s call her Juanita.
Juanita and I had been GREAT friends for several years. We actually saw each other almost every day. We shared and shared some more. I haven’t seen or spoken to Juanita in five years. Why? Do I hold some sort of grudge or have we simply moved in different directions? Can we rebuild – do I want to rebuild – does she want to rebuild? Did she do something to me that I can’t let go of? Did I do something that she can’t let go of? Is she waiting on me to reach out? Am I waiting on her? This particular person took such good care of me and mine during my mental breakdown that I should be forever grateful (and I am grateful). Maybe I don’t reach out because I’m embarrassed that I needed her or that she saw me in such a state. Maybe I don’t reach out because she knows more about me that I do myself.
How many times have I said relationships are over because ‘she never calls me’? But I never call either. Have I lost relationships because I don’t call or because they don’t call? I know why I don’t call –
I don’t call because I’m afraid to either 1) be rejected or 2) be told why they don’t want to be my friend anymore. I don’t want to hear what I did wrong!
One of my most developed coping mechanisms is the ability to genuinely forget. I have memories shoved so deep in my mind that they will never resurface. What if I reach out to one of these people and they have a legitimate reason for staying away that I don’t remember. If I don’t remember, it’s for a protective reason and I’m afraid to open that Pandora’s box. If I don’t call, then I don’t have to worry about facing some unknown.
Another protective mechanism I put in place is what I call the rebound. If I think I may have offended someone (even though I don’t remember it and am not sure I did it), I find ways they offended me and hold tight. Usually these infractions are so minor that I sound and feel ridiculous letting them hold sway over a friendship. But feeling ridiculous doesn’t stop me.
As I sit here, crying, I think of four people from my past that I’d like to at least try to reconnect. But, I’m not sure of my motives. Do I truly want a renewed friendship? Or do I just want to prove to myself I can face the past and whatever comes of it? These four friends are all Christians – devout, genuine Christians. As most of you know, I have left the church behind because of some deep woundings. Will these people accept me without the trappings of prayer and Bible study and belief? Will they try to get me back in the fold?
At one point a few years ago, this entire topic was troubling me just like it is now. My therapist told me that sometimes paths simply no longer intersect. It’s not that there is animosity, it’s just different paths. If I thought she was right, I’d be okay. But the reason I’m not friends with these four people is deeper than that. I’m not friends with these people for the wrong reasons. Right? This is what I want to understand.
Why do I drop people from my life as if I’m dropping a stone into Loch Ness? If it’s a protective mechanism, what exactly am I protecting myself from at this stage in my life? If it’s because I’m just kind of mean, unforgiving and grudge holding, don’t I need to actively work on that?
Do these women have any desire to reconcile with me? And if they don’t, can I survive that rejection? Is the risk worth it?
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In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....