Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the break-up

Several years ago I made some big changes to my life. Before I get to that, I’ll give you a bit of framework.

I’m a very loyal friend. I’m a “you-could-call-me-at-four-in-the-morning-and-say-you-need-bail-money-and-a-ride-home-and-p.s.-you-don’t-wanna-talk-about-it-and-I’d-say-where-do-I-pick-you-up” kind of friend. I’m fiercely loyal, especially when it comes to my heart friends. I would do anything for them. Anything.

When you foster these sorts of relationships, you stay friends for a long, long time. There’s no lying to each other, spilling their secrets to garner a few minutes’ worth of the spotlight, no grandstanding, and generally no drama. You just be. It’s a steady, calming thing to know that you have these kinds of relationships with people all over the place. It means a lot to me.

And from time to time, I try to express how much my heart friends mean to me. Several years ago I went through a phase where I felt intensely that I needed to tell all of my best friends that I was "grateful for you, and grateful for your friendship." I kept doing it over and over until my friend El held up a perfectly manicured hand, frowned and said “Lisa. You have to stop.” My friends are used to my emotions runnething over, but there are limits to how much they can take.

Although in an ideal world we’d all be best friends forever, sometimes things just…don’t work out. I have over the years had to distance myself from a few of my friends. Sometimes, it’s been due to a terrible miscalculation on my part- entrusting someone who wasn’t trustworthy or overlooking something that couldn’t be overlooked forever.

But for the most part, there were no horrible betrayals of trust. No big fallouts over money or men. Nothing like that. And I don’t think the friends I exorcised are bad people. I don’t hate them. It’s more, well, it’s more like this:

Friend: “So what have you been up to? How’s the big writing career?”

Me: “Pretty good! The book is going well, and I started work for a new client this week.”

Friend: “Really? I thought you’d be done with this by now. Aren’t you a little old to playing around like this? Don’t you think it’s time you got serious and did something meaningful with your life?!”

Or how about:

Friend:  “You know, if you haven’t married by now, chances are, you’ll never be married.”

Me: “I’m OK with that, actually.”

Friend:  “Doesn’t it bother you that you missed your chance and you’ll always be alone?!”

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s not that Friend hates me. I don’t think Friend understands how difficult it is to be friends with someone who is so critical. I don’t think Friend thinks she is being critical. She is, in all seriousness, probably just worried about me. And she’s likely projecting and a whole lot of other stuff that I won’t get into here.

I did try to speak up about my feelings. I was met with responses like “Oh, Lisa. You’re too sensitive.” I also heard “Well, you have opinions about other people. Can’t I have an opinion?” (Of course, I’m not running around telling people how they should be living their lives, but I digress.)

So here’s what happened: After one too many conversations about the way I should be living my life, what I should be doing, how I should be handling my family, I just, sort of…dropped her. We’d been friends for years. I care about her very much. I’m just not really interested in defending myself or bracing myself every time there is a call. The amazing thing is, the people that I bounced for being too negative have been bounced by other friends, too. But they can’t acknowledge they’re negative and critical, so they write their ex-friends off as having “issues.”

Maybe I made a tactical mistake when I dropped out of these friendships. The people that I have let fall away likely have no idea why I stopped calling them or stopped answering their calls. Perhaps we should have had angry, tense conversations where I laid out every reason why I wouldn’t be speaking to them again.

But I’ve always been fairly low-key. In addition to not relishing the idea of some sort of battle royale along the lines of David and Goliath, I just don’t think those kinds of conversations would change anything. I don’t think those people can change. And in the end, the biggest reason I decided not to pursue some big tell-all discussion was pretty basic:

I just don’t care anymore.