Ending a long term friendship

28 Jul

Some things are best left to dissipate on their own. If you don’t keep throwing logs on a fire, eventually it ends in ashes and smoke. If you feel bad because you ate a whole bag of Doritos during a Packers game, when the bag is empty, don’t buy another one; problem solved!

I often am confused about how we socialize these days. For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone chooses to text rather than make a phone call, unless telephone usage is clearly prohibited. And the fact that we’ve never personally met most of our friends is as equally crazy as it is amazing.

Back in the old days, the 90’s, cell phones were rare, and those adventurous pioneers who were fascinated by that particular technical marvel, still in its infancy, looked goofy talking into mobile appendages as big and clunky as bricks. I used to laugh out loud when I passed anyone using one of those early phones, thinking to myself, “This is a trend that will never catch on.” Well, so much for prophetic vision.

I have to admit, the idea was intriguing in as much as I was tethered to a pager, (IE: beeper), five days a week. I hated when the darned thing went off because it meant I’d have to find a pay phone in a safe part of town, knowing returning the call only meant I was getting ready to have more tasks added to an already impossible workload. Before beepers, I could actually take a bathroom break as I drove from one patient’s home to another. How ironic, and disgusting, that cell phones have made it possible to carry on business while on the toilet doing, well, doing one’s own business.

Some of these marvels cost upwards of $500; a steep price to pay for what amounts to giving away your privacy. As if cell phones weren’t enough, we all drank the internet Kool-Aid and flocked like wild things into cubby holes of social media, following trend setters like geese instinctively follow migration routes: AOL, My Space, Facebook, Google, etc.

Now we’re all Twittering, tweeting, Pinning, LinkedIn, Digg-ing, Tumblir-ing, Reddit-ing, StumbleUpon-ing, Pocket-ing and Google-ing like addicts high on key boards and letters of the alphabet printed microscopically on infinitesimally small dots on the faces of near paper thin cell phones.

Thirteen years ago I made a friend the old fashioned way; we met at work, we clicked, and friendship ensued. We went through divorces together; we re-entered the dating scene side by side. We laughed, cried, hoped and planned our lives in sync like identical twins. We drowned our sadness in hot tea, New Age literature, poetry, good food accompanied by equally good wine, walks on the beach, and silly full moon rituals where we wrote all our worries on small scraps of paper and set them of fire, hoping that releasing them would bring us peace.

In time, our paths became clearly dissimilar; my friend opting to integrate more extreme spiritual practices into her plan, and me, opting to roll the dice and get married again. But even with diverging paths, we remained close across the miles and through the years. There were times we did not agree on basic philosophies or particular choices one or the other of us had made; still, friendship endured the ever-changing landscape of passing time. Every association we made, every choice we set in place, every book we read, every cause we supported or protested, every person we loved or respected added to the sum of our beliefs, boosting our confidence and setting our feet more determinately on the paths of our own choosing.

As the years passed, each became a little more extreme in our perceptions of the world, me, pulling away from crowds and the status quo, walking away from opportunities to make more money, paring down, shifting my interests from material belongings to lessons I learned from nature and philosophies that challenged my mind in the books I read. The more I learned of the world, the more I receded into the wild parts that had survived modernization, my supportive like-minded-best-friend-husband ever by my side. My friend chose another path, honing New Age skills and sharing them with others for a modest fee. She quit dating out of frustration with the spiritual shallows she experienced with men she was attracted to. She struggled with depression off set only by near manic bursts of euphoric optimism. She moved around the country often, changing jobs each time she did, moving further and further up the corporate ladder. She skillfully balanced professionalism with seemingly opposing spiritual beliefs. She made new friends. She surprised me when she began attending church; she shocked me when she became a member of a Seven Day Adventist congregation. She moved again, made new friends, joined a bicycle riding club. Walked on the beach every night, meditated for 4 hours each day before going to work.

Then she moved in with another friend, to stave off loneliness, and to cut expenses in spite of her six figure income. My friend began offering seminars teaching spiritual techniques meant to attract money to attendees. She wanted to teach other women how to use their spiritual ‘power’ to attract the things they dreamed of into their lives. She charged $1,700 for a 2 ½ day seminar.

That’s when we began to argue. I believed anyone able to spend that much money to learn how to make more money, spiritually based, as my friend believed, or not, most likely already had her share of money. I asked what about women who need to develop more practical money management skills, such as women coming out of abusive relationships, or women with children fresh off the street. But there was no money to be made there.

Listening to myself as I spoke, I could hear the sound of my own bias, and I was disturbed but kept talking. I wanted to change her mind, to open her to other possibilities, but all I ended up doing was insulting her. Weeks later, she sent an email telling me I was sanctimonious and too opinionated. She said she was getting rid of all the negative people in her life.

I thought for days before responding. I apologized deeply and sincerely. I agreed I was trying to push my philosophies on her even though I knew she had her own.

We did not correspond for weeks. Then on Facebook, a line here and there began to drivel in from her camp to mine. I found my heart stone cold. I answered using neutral language, frequently changing the subject. I received her traditional Year in Review Christmas brochure during the holidays, but that too left me chilled to the bone.

Six months later, no communication between the two of us had occurred when I clicked Unfriend by her name on Facebook. I was weary of finding myself scouring her site in hopes of a glimpse of my old friend; and I felt sure she was equally disappointed in posts she read on my page. Thirteen years ago, I began a friendship the old fashioned way. Two months ago, I ended it using technology.

Unfriending an old friend without further drama seemed the easiest way to put the past to bed. For days I felt I had betrayed her. For weeks I considered events that had evolved over the years. Then I wrote all my grief and sorrow down on small scraps of white paper, burned them in a metal bowl during a full moon, and then I walked away.

burning paper ritual resized

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8 Responses to “Ending a long term friendship”

  1. Lynette Whittenton July 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Friendships are an interesting thing. There are ones that last, and ones that don’t (obviously), but I’ve always wondered at the ones that don’t last. Sometimes I wished they would have and sometimes I’m happy they’ve lapsed. And then, there are the ones I wish would happen and do not. Oddly enough – that’s the most troubling situation for me. Not having something I desired.

    I also find your discourse on the rise of electronic media interesting as well. It’s a mixed bag. Oddly enough, there are people I’d rarely hear from if it wasn’t for texting and Facebook – so for that I’m thankful.

    Question – do you have any friends on Facebook, for example, that you’d rather not have as friends but keep them anyways out of obligation? I wonder if that’s a struggle for people. So much to think about….thank you ittymac!

    • ittymac July 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      I’m very happy with all of my Facebook friends on a personal level, although there are a few whose rigid ideologies, religious and political, are polar to my own. I welcome the diversity of thought. Having said that, I must say there are times one has to make hard choices. When my friend told me I was negatively influencing her life, I realized the effect was mutual. You and I have talked about energy vampires before, but this particular relationship was demoralizing as well as exhaustive. Now that all cords have been completely severed, I feel 100% more positive. PS: I’m riding that technology train and loving it; I just don’t run full throttle!

  2. theempathyqueen July 29, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    It is so painful to lose a long term friend especially since they are so rare and full like a Harvest Moon. But in the depth of your story, there is a philosophical twist and a divergent path of authenticity. I am not expert, but I feel from your previous comments, that authenticity is key to who you are. Additionally, you both chose to rid yourself of toxins in the relationship. Rationally, it makes sense. But emotionally, it is so hard to lose a friend with whom you have shared so much history. Electronically removing only works on Facebook, not in the heart.

    • ittymac July 29, 2013 at 10:50 am #

      By the time I hit the Unfriend button, the relationship had already ended; even so, there was tremendous sadness. That’s why I had to ritualistically release the emotions that were involved. Meeting her, becoming friends, the long, slow drifting apart, and the ultimate confrontation helped each of us define the philosophies we live by, and strengthened our confidence in all the choices we had made for ourselves up to that point. Our paths diverted; she chose one direction, I chose another. What we experienced in our shared journey led us to where we needed to be. When the time came to assert ourselves individually, when the relationship was no longer beneficial to either of us, it ended. To formalize it’s demise in my heart, I pressed a button, but more importantly I honored my traditions and beliefs when I set the past, both beautiful and horrid, free. I believe everyone who enters our life serves a purpose; they’re presence is an impetus for inner growth. Not everyone we meet is intended to stay with us forever. There is a season for everything. Love you Empathy Queen.

  3. Claudia Anderson July 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I so like the responses and your response to them. And I find myself feeling exactly like you do. I am not against spiritual connections — they are as important as family connections, nature connections — anything that helps you find your inner self. But some people, whether it’s religion, politics, morality, or a dozen other topics, can only validate their point of view if they convince others they are right, too. What should be a considerate splitting of the paths (with occasional retrograde crisscrossing), often becomes a divergence of such levels that we can’t make that trek across the mountains any more. Treasure what you learned from the friendship — it was a lesson like no other. But remember that life is nothing BUT lessons, and there are thousands of them yet to be learned. Maybe that’s an older point of view…but it’s one that keeps me going every day. And, believe me, I’m still learning and growing every, single day. So are you. And I love it.

    • ittymac July 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      With you, Claudia, I’m looking in a mirror!

  4. Billie Bell July 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Friendships and all relationships seem to run their course and end when they need to. It is a difficult balancing act because relationships must be nurtured to sustain themselves, yet sometimes we can not, chose not too, or simply should not give them any more energy. Letting go is difficult and brings with it guilt at times but ultimately the impermanence of life is the beauty of life.

    I agree with your comments about social media. As I age, I feel the same while. While grateful for the ability to stay in touch with friends and family on social media sites, overall I feel they depersonalize our interactions and contribute to our laziness. People display personas on these sites that are not always a true representation of their true inner selves and when vulnerable, they can be a dangerous playground. I just bought a book that is very interesting and helps sum up my current feelings. It is by Susan Cain and it called, Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

    Thanks for your insight and comments. Forgive yourself for ending the relationship and remember things are as they should be.

    • ittymac July 31, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Thank you so much for your feed back; I’m going to check into that book myself!

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