women and friendships

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We left the cabin today and on the way home I called what I thought was my best friend. Here’s some background. My hubby would tell you not a word of this is untrue.  First of all, we’ve been friends for over twenty years. Her husband died three years ago. To condense a lot of facts into just a couple of sentences will be difficult but here it is. I saw her husband every time I visited her which was at least once a week if not more. So I had more than a passing acquaintance with him. He had been diagnosed with C.O.P.D. and suffered a sudden decline.

The day I found out he died, I asked her daughter when I could come over to see her mom. She said she wasn’t up to it right then. I asked when the funeral was. I was told there wasn’t going to be any special service. I called in a few days to see if that would be a good time. I was again told “no”, at my friend’s directive. It was three weeks before I was “allowed” to see her. This was all from her, not her family.

Then there came the three weeks of being kept out of the loop after her husband’s death. I couldn’t believe she was keeping me away-her best friend. I was so confused and hurt. When she allowed me back into her life, I didn’t know if I could continue with our friendship but of course that wasn’t the time for me to address my hurt. I stuck by her. It wasn’t always easy because there were things going on in my life as well, some pretty serious. There have been days when I’ve gone out of my way to visit with her, when my schedule was already jammed packed but she was/is? my best friend. Anyone does that for their best friend, don’t they? It never occurred to me to ignore her need because I was busy.

Last week before we left for the cabin, I mentioned to her, “Hey, give me a call during the week.”  (I had noticed she hadn’t been doing as good a job of taking the initiative since she started her anti-depressant a few weeks earlier. It was my subtle way to perhaps nudge her a little.I did not want to get to where I ended up getting to anyway.) Now back to the phone call.

We talked for just a second and I said, “Hey, I thought you were going to give me a buzz this last week.” Now if she had said she had been sick, was really “down”, or something like that I would’ve been fine. But what she said was, “I’ve been so busy.” Do you know what she so was busy doing? Raking her lawn. “I’ve just come in exhausted every evening”, she said. (Yea,right, it takes a lot of effort to pick up a phone, doesn’t it?)

A couple of points.

1. She wasn’t raking every moment of the day.The size of her yard wouldn’t require it. She doesn’t get moving early in the morning. So there was time before she went outside for just a “Hi, how are you doing?”

2. She always eats lunch.  Hmmm, some time there.

3. She eats dinner.  More time.

4. She didn’t work into the evening. Again, some time.

The busiest people I know find time to connect with the people who are truly important to them. Don’t they?

Now, if you’re wondering if I’m being unrealistic, after all five days isn’t forever, let me give you some more details. I’ve called her at least three or four times a week, stopped by her house a couple of times a week, asked her to shop with me, go places with me, had her up to the cabin, driven her to her daughters about six hours away because she doesn’t want to drive anywhere by herself .In other words, I’ve been pretty been a constant in her life for years. About seven years ago, we had a conversation about her lack of initiative in our relationship. I told her I was ready to call it quits.The events that occurred that prompted that discussion were numerous and I thought my heart would break if the outcome had been as I feared. Thanks goodness, she quickly acquiesced that this was indeed her issue and that she was sorry. I forgave her easily.

We have dinner together every Monday night. Go shopping at Goodwill and then watch DWTS. (Dancing With The Stars) during its season. We’ve always connected via phone if for some reason one of us is out-of-town to discuss the show.Maybe I should say I’ve always connected. She never has. This time I was waiting to see if she would call. She didn’t. I guess I was putting our friendship to the test. In so many ways, I wish I hadn’t because in all my imaginations, I would never have dreamed that her reason for not calling was because she was “too busy”. Never. But then I never dreamed she would shut me out during the most horrendous event in her life, either.

I got off the phone and my husband just waited. He’d heard it all. His comment, “You’ve been a great friend. Everyone should have a friend like  you. She doesn’t know how lucky she was.”

I’m not going to pat myself on the back but I can honestly and humbly say, it’s rare that I give up on anyone. No matter what I’ve got going on in my own life. It’s a strength and a weakness.The strength has been for the benefit of my friends. The weakness has been at my expense. Maybe that’s how strengths and weaknesses work.

But now I’m faced with what to do. I know that however loyal I am, I am at a point where I don’t want to be hurt by her anymore. I’m sensing the relationship has changed, for me. I don’t like that feeling. It means I’m gong to step back, something I do begrudgingly.  Right now I’m feeling like a complete fool. How could I have allowed her to do this to me again? (By the way, other people have noticed the one-sidedness of our relationship over the years.)

Does she even realize what she said? How hurtful that must have sounded to me? How hurtful it would’ve been had I said it to  her?  She doesn’t know I’m home. I didn’t let her know I called from the car. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  There is no doubt she caught the “feeling” behind our phone conversation. I was terse. I wasn’t me. She knows me well enough to have sensed all of that,  unless, of course, it really doesn’t matter to her because the anti-depressants have dulled her emotions.

I do know one thing for sure. I won’t be calling her. Not tomorrow. Not the next day or the day after that. I’m through pursuing. I don’t know that should she call me whether I’ll answer. Probably not. I’ll probably let her leave a message. I need processing time. Praying time. Meditation time.She needs to “simmer” a bit herself. Think through what she knows has been an issue between us in the past. Plus, I don’t want to act hastily.

I have no idea where this will end. I know my heart will break if the person I’ve confided in all these years, whom I’ve poured out my heart to, kept nothing from, is suddenly out of my life-especially from my own hand. But I also know I care for myself enough to protect my heart. Things will have to change or I’ll have to change my expectations. That will involve a lot of questions about relationships in general.

In every relationship there is “shared responsibility”.

No relationship will make it long-term unless both people work at it. There will come a time when the person bearing the load will  fall under the weight. It’s really not her fault. It’s who she is. It’s how she’s always been. It’s how she is with everyone, not just me. I know that. I was ready to let the relationship slide after her husband died, but when it got right down to it, I couldn’t do that to her until some time had passed. What kind of friend would that make me? I would not find it hard at all to end the friendship if we didn’t have such a long history. I’ve let more than one emerging friendship dissolve for this very lack of “shared responsibility”.But as I’ve said, we have a long, rich history.

Women and friendships are complicated. I know there are others struggling right now with these very same issues. When do we know when to pull away and at what cost? Are the benefits of the friendship worth the risk of future pain? Am I expecting too much or am I expecting what any woman should be able to expect from someone who has labeled herself her best friend. Does forgiveness mean opening the door to future hurts?

Hard questions.

Difficult answers.

Question, what’s going on with your friendships? I would love to hear some short snippets of what some of you have experienced.