I have been mourning the loss of a friendship the last few months. We have drifted apart over years, but the final shreds of connection we had left were severed more recently.
It was a quick and unexpected ending. Words were said that left me stunned. They struck me at a deep level, probably far more than the speaker intended. But words can’t be undone and there they were – spoken – out loud – forever present in the air – tangible.
The dismantling of the relationship has been a long time coming, and I have not been blameless in it by any means. I made what I considered to be valiant efforts over the years to rebuild the connection we once had. But, truth be told, I wasn’t willing to make the effort I knew was required. It seemed too much, too monumental, and too repetitious.
Really, I wanted her to make the effort. But I think it had ended for her some time ago and it had been me trying to hang on. Finally, she said something that could give me absolutely no doubt about her feelings so I had to accept it.
We have had some magnificent times together – some laughter, some tears, some dreaming, some sorrows, and some joys. But there was always more to our relationship. A nasty undercurrent, ready to bubble to the surface when one of us felt threatened by the other. Sometimes we would push each other’s buttons, like all friends do. But this was a scarier thing – always lurking and always a surprise when it manifested. But if we were both willing to walk through the fire we would come out stronger on the other side.
Maybe we both became less willing to do that. I know I did. I felt like I’d done it time and again, and it took something out of me every time. Beyond that, it stopped making a difference as far as I could see. We were stuck in the same cycle, covering the same ground. I just didn’t have the energy to do it anymore. But I’m not sure it was my place to judge if it was useful or not.
When my life changed dramatically and I became fully self-employed, it was more apparent than ever that we couldn’t find a common ground anymore. Being self-employed is a tremendous gift and I remain so grateful for it, but it created a new separation in this friendship.
Brene Brown has written about connection in “Daring Greatly.” She says, “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
For this friendship, that connection no longer exists. I’m not sure I made her feel seen, heard and valued. She certainly didn’t make me feel that way either. I could offer a thousand ideas about how we got there – things I did or didn’t do and things she did or didn’t do. But it doesn’t really matter at this point. Best to cut the losses and move on.
But it’s sad. I value connection with other humans a great deal. I hate to let go of a long-term relationship, but I’m having trouble finding a way to salvage this that I’m willing to invest the energy in. Maybe if I knew it would work… Maybe not…
Brown says shame unravels connection. Maybe one or both of us feels shame for something we’ve said or done over the years. Maybe we can’t find a way out of that. Maybe we don’t even want to try.
For whatever reason, it seems that I, like her, gave up some time ago. I wasn’t brave enough to say so. But she was.