Part 1 of 2
The other day I initiated a break-up with a long-term friend I’ve known since my flight attendant days.
We were really close and even lived together for a few months at my parents’ house. Her home was in another province, but she worked out of my Toronto base at the time which is where I met her. We were both in our early 20s.
She eventually went back to her province a couple of years later, then changed jobs, broke up with someone, met someone new and got married.
Likewise, my life continued too. By the time I was in my 30s, I had a partner, a house, a dog and a couple of babies.
Our primary form of communication was via email and instant messenger, and occasional by phone as well.
When my kids were 6 and 3, we visited my friend and her husband one summer and spent a mini vacation with them in their home. They remained childless (he had two teenagers from a previous relationship) and my friend looked forward to connecting with my two little kids.
During our stay with her and her husband, I realized intuitively that something was bothering her. I noticed some subtle signs in body language and stoic facial expressions during certain circumstances indicating that something was off, either with her personally or with her marriage. There were odd behaviours I noticed that made me want to dig deeper by offering her an ear. But occupying two young children in someone else’s house is a lot of work and I figured, maybe now was not the right time.
After vacation, I went back to Toronto with my family. Life with kids was busy so I was distracted by my own circumstances. I made a mental note to revisit the odd behaviour I observed in my friend and ask her about it another time.
Of course, time was not my own. I was eyeball deep in kids, hockey and endless renovations.
I did check in with my friend periodically. We’d chat on email or messenger but it became clear there was a rift between us, expanding in distance with every passing year. I wondered if we were growing apart. I knew she always wanted a family of her own, and most of her friends were busy raising children; was this the reason we were growing apart?
I pondered and contemplated but could never quite put my finger on what was so out of place with our friendship.
One day she announced she was getting a divorce. Her reasons were unclear and changed each time I attempted to get her to open up to me. Next, she began to disappear from the few apps we used for communication, closed some of her accounts, and suddenly, she told me she was moving to America.
There was a man. She told me a little about him and assured me that leaving her mom behind to be with this man in another country was the right decision for her.
She married him later.
It was at that point our connection came to a complete halt.
My own life around that time was in the fast lane and I was… not unhappy, exactly.
However, being *not unhappy* does not equate to *happy*.
I was busy with kids and disillusioned with the house we were living in. I was also struggling with health and financial issues as well as trying to stay above water both mentally and emotionally. It wasn’t working. Something was missing in m life and I didn’t know what it was. I became introverted, isolated myself, and basically checked out.
I realize in hindsight this was the wrong way to deal with my increasing confusion about what I needed and wanted out of life.
Around that time, I could have really used a close friend. I had some other friends, but most of us were in similar predicaments with kids, youth sports and either renovations or moving to bigger homes. It became increasingly difficult to plan time alone with a female friend.
It didn’t surprise me then and doesn’t surprise me now that the elusive problems of my newly remarried friend in the States didn’t register much for me anymore; I didn’t have the bandwidth to chase after someone who clearly needed or wanted to be left alone.
I hoped she was okay but had my doubts. But it wasn’t enough to try and reconnect a friendship that clearly one of us didn’t seem to want.
To feel better, I justified things to myself:
- I’m not the one who changed my contact information, my name, or my geographical location; if she wanted to contact me, I was still at the same place.
- My address, my email, my phone number remained unchanged unlike hers. She even closed her social media accounts and wasn’t contactable that way any more either.
- On the other hand, I was easily discoverable due to my expanding blog and other online activities. If someone didn’t have my phone number to find me, it wasn’t difficult to contact me another way.
I stopped trying to contact her mainly because I didn’t know how. She did contact me once in a blue moon but she never really said much in terms of what happened or what was happening now. After she re-connected with me briefly to let me know where she moved to, and that she got remarried, our communications remained sparse. She edited every word she said to me and as much as I would have liked to have a really deep and vulnerable conversation about both her own and my situation, we just didn’t seem to fit anymore.
I convinced myself many times that we simply grew apart and accepted it as a part of growing up and maturing.
It wasn’t until I began my If Not Now, When journey this past year when I cognitively realized this was a pattern in my life.
Friends dropping out of my life, sometimes without explanation, made me feel like I never mattered at all.
How many friends have I lost because I thought the relationship was an equal give and take but was, in fact, a one-way street?
It made me question things about myself, which fed my insecurities and my self-image. Do I give too much of myself? Do I connect too often? Am I too emotional, too idealistic, too wordy, too raw?
I’ve pondered my friendship with my now remarried friend on and off for the past few years. We reconnected every so often, usually because she would cast the net and find me. As a result, I felt encouraged that she had found her way back to me and would happily, and openly, chat away as if time had stood still. Were we going to pick up our friendship again? I wanted that, I thought, and emailed or chatted with her whenever she reached out to me.
Until she’d drop off again for months at a time.
Fast forward to this year, during the second (third?) lockdown period here in Ontario. She sent a message she was moving back to Canada in the spring. She even divulged what geographical location she was going to move to.
I thought it was strange at first but attributed her reasons to not wanting to stay in America due to the political situation. She decided not to return to her home province and picked a city in mine, although many hours away from Toronto. Impromptu visits would not be possible without extensive planning, something I wasn’t sure she was going to follow through with based on historical patterns.
After she moved and let me know she settled someplace temporarily, she dropped off again for several months.
I expected it but felt resigned. Then, something happened:
For the first time in twenty years of on-and-off again friendship, I felt slightly irked.
I continued to live my life and figured, it is what it is. I told myself I was not under any obligation to maintain a friendship that was this flighty unless I wanted to, and right now, I didn’t want to. I could have used a more consistent effort of friendship in the past few years from her – she knew my history and was familiar with some of my family dynamics – but clearly she was in deep with her own circumstances. So I let it go.
I let her go.
I’d been down this road before with this friend. It was a pattern I had learned to accept as part of her whimsy.
Several months passed silently as they usually did with her. I only wondered occasionally how she was doing, but didn’t put any energy into nurturing what essentially felt like a futile and rather superficial relationship. I didn’t know her contact information beyond the app she used to chat with me, whereas she knew all of mine.
The ball was in her court.
Then one night a couple of weeks ago, she texted me out of the blue.
Part 2 of 2 (scroll down for the conclusion)
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As I navigate my midlife journey I recognize the importance of letting go of things which do not serve me. I have learned some potent lessons, including understanding how interruptions in seemingly meaningful relationships do not always mean the end of the relationship.
The journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance is not an easy one, but my life experience, gained insights and infinite wisdom will keep me grounded when relationships transform themselves in either direction. Either we sever completely, or we join in equilibrium and harmony.
I seem to have crossed yet another threshold in my journey of If Not Now, When? by recognizing the intricate complexities of friendships and relationships.
Who would have thought midlife could be such an exciting trip of new possibilities?