On friendship in hard times
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
In 2020 I lost one of my best friends. Not because of any concrete actions on my part. In fact if you had looked at our lives, we probably behaved similarly. No, I lost my friend because I asked questions and expressed unpopular opinions. The really interesting part, was that she knew I had the beliefs I did for years prior, but 2020 is when everything came bubbling to the surface and it was no longer possible for her to compartmentalize or ignore our differences.
This friend (let's call her Jennifer) unfriended me on Facebook without any communication. Again - this was one of my best friends. She didn't message, call or follow up in any way. We had been trying to have conversations about controversial issues for years and had come to a place of "agree to disagree" because we loved each enough to stay friends.
For months after Jennifer unfriended me on Facebook without a word, I compartmentalized myself. I thought I'd let the "crazy" settle. I knew that we loved each other and our friendship mattered to both of us, so I didn't really think it was the end. After about 4 months I reached out and her response put the final nail in our friendship's coffin. It stung. It was the beginning of a difficult journey for me.
I recently created an online experience that outlines what I believe are fundamental problems in our society. One of the problems is that we have lost touch with our intuition. I've recently begun to think about how I am NOT a very good judge of character at all. My husband is. He has always had great instincts about people. Not me. I fall in love hard and quickly with people. Everyone is my "best friend". I think there are a couple of variables at play in this tendency of mine. The first aspect is admirable and based in a true love for humanity, people, and the diversity of individuals. I love learning people's stories, making new friends and connecting with people. I truly believe that we all have the same human needs and have so much more in common than we differ on.
But I have come to think that there is more to my indiscriminate people-loving. Being "nice" and people pleasing is deeply embedded in my psyche. I replaced whatever instincts I had about reading a person's true character with a societal construct that it was good to "be friends" with everyone.
I have shed many of my long time friendships these past 20+ months. Looking back I can see all sorts of red flags that I ignored in order to keep friendships alive. See exhibit 1 below, Red is my ex-friend, Blue is me. These emails occurred in January of 2020. And I still remained steady in my friendship even when Jennifer admitted that she had done no research but didn't think vaccine mandates were immoral. See? Red flag.
In reality Jennifer did me a favor when she cut me off. Do I agree with how she did it? No. Do I wish we could have had real, adult conversations about our differences? Yes. As my wise daughter said this year: "I think that people need to learn how to disagree better."
But I experienced an extreme "leveling up" in my life when she decided we couldn't be friends anymore. I had been holding back and keeping quiet. Not anymore.
It's taken more than a year for me to get to the level of peace and acceptance that I am currently at. It has been difficult to navigate this loss. I often felt obsessive, immature and weird because I thought about Jennifer so much and how much her rejection hurt me. One breakthrough occurred for me when I wrote the post Burning Bridges, Building Bridges, or...? I am not closing the door on anyone. If any friends want to reconnect and have real conversations with me, I will welcome them back with an open heart.
Jennifer is not the only relationship that I've lost or that has been drastically altered by these past 2 years. What hurts me most is the seeming inability to have difficult discussions, the lack of curiosity and how people who you thought loved you, seem to be able to throw away everything they know about you and your character in exchange for some mainstream headlines.
Even after experiencing so much hurt, I am still very grateful for the journey I've been on because I have a new level of confidence and love in my life. I am slowly healing and working on forgiving people who have let me down. I'm learning to tune into my intuition and trust myself more. It takes practice and time but it's worth it. Because now I find myself in relationship with people who actually love and value ALL of me, not just the parts they agree with. The friends that remain when you allow your whole self to shine (or as much as is possible) are your true friends.
The people who are in my life now are absolutely amazing! Both new relationships and old, the people who stand by me now feed my soul and support me in all ways. And because of that, I wouldn't change a thing.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.