Prompt: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
Reverb10 prompt from Martha Mihalik
I really, really went back and forth about how to answer this one. First, I feel that I have told you a lot about Heather already, and if you have read a fair number of these posts, you already know what a difference she has made for my life this year. So I wanted to talk about someone different, but at the same time, I’m not comfortable talking about her personal situation in a blog. Instead, I’m going to dance around this one a little for the sake of privacy, and so this response is probably going to be less than satisfying to some people. But it’s what I can give. So these are thoughts about changes in me, but they did, really and honestly, come from a friend’s hard experience.
I am not a person who develops real attachments easily. Superficial ones are no problem, but to get below the surface of me and my observations takes a chisel if not an armada of power tools with industrial-strength after-market parts. Once you are there below my skin, that’s where you stay, no matter how maddening you might be, no matter how much time passes since we’ve last spoken. I have mistakenly thought I let people go, but I almost always regret this. I’m tempestuous that way, always losing my temper or thinking that I’ve finally had enough of someone’s dread behavior when in fact, the damage has already been done. Really, there was never any real clean slate. There was the friendship, the ups and the downs, and later, the certainty that a part of me is now missing and the situation is my own doing.
And though the world today is different than it was years ago, and technology brings people together in new and amazing ways, and even sifts through old connections with all the emotional resonance of a flyswatter, some things cannot be fixed. Life is not a movie-of-the-week for a woman-centered audience. You can stand at a deathbed and not get absolution; you can be your most charming self and not get the man; you can race down a city street dodging taxis and winos with the urgent file and still be late for the meeting. You can rip open a vein and spill out your regret and watch it spread and drip away, but sometimes too much time has passed. Sometimes they’re better off without you, as awful as that is. You can’t fix everything. Sometimes all you get to do is scrape up the remains and throw it away.
I still haven’t found a way to let more people in without the souped-up tools, but that might not be the liability that I sometimes think it is. Somewhere in one of the earlier Reverb10 posts I read, someone talked about the way she thought friendships would be when she grew up: a tight foursome à la Carrie et al., where everyone knows each other’s damage and idiocies and strengths and fabulosities, and it somehow all just worked. I used to feel the same way; I expected that these glorious women would gravitate to me with their supportive natures and same-size feet for shoe sharing. I expected friendship, that basic human construct that even three-year-olds can negotiate, would only sprout up between people who were good fits, people who belonged together so naturally that ending the friendship would never come up. We’re supposed to outlast houses and husbands. So I am not a great friend, but I try harder now than I used to. I’m pretty sure I can be a good one.