Am I a Glutton for Punishment, or What?!

I did it again. I just could not leave well enough alone. Sometimes I wonder what I was up to on the day the good Lord handed out good sense. It would seem that I have none. There are some basic truths we all know. Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to, and don’t open up old wounds or memories that are better left where they are. Did I take that advice? Nope.

A year ago I lost my best friend of over fourteen years. Not lost in the tragic sense, but lost as in she basically picked up her marbles and went home, leaving me sitting there in the dirt wondering what the hell just happened. I was going through some things and was stressed to the max, but other than that, I thought our friendship was just fine. Sound as they come. We would grow into cranky old ladies together, one day raising all kinds of hell in a nursing home somewhere.

Here’s what happened to the best of my knowledge. Like I said, I believed we were fine. We had made plans for a long weekend getaway, pretty far in advance of the weekend. I’d been looking forward to it like crazy. Then my mom got sick. I had no idea what was going to happen with her, we didn’t even know what was wrong with her – and the weekend was getting closer and closer and I didn’t know what to do. Finally I had to make the choice that I was not going to be able to go. My mom needed me and I’d been missing lots of work to be with her, and not only was I afraid to get too far away from her, I no longer had any extra money to spend on a fun, nearly four day stay in the mountain cabin that looked so heavenly I could almost taste it. My mom had some doctor appointments at the time and I knew I needed to be there. I messaged my friend that I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t go. I told her I was sorry, and that I would still send her the money for my half of the cabin when I could get it together, but there was no way I could go out of town.

What I received in reply was an email that I had to read over and over again for a few days because it didn’t make sense to me. The email talked about how she could not get a refund on the cabin, and she had desperately needed a vacation, but now she wasn’t going to get one. Then she told me not to worry about the money.She closed by saying, “lesson learned.” I desperately wanted to know what lesson it was that she had learned? I’m not a completely unreliable person. These were extenuating circumstances.  Okay, I still planned to send the money to her, but I was so confused. First of all, if I had cabin reservations and she could not have gone, I would have gone anyway, being disappointed she wasn’t there, but knowing the peace and quiet and hiking would be relaxing and good for me. I also know that I could have invited someone else if I had a mind to, or could CHOOSE to not go if I didn’t want to go alone. I guess I’m saying that even though I loved her like a sister, her email read like a whiny child talking about what SHE needed that SHE wasn’t going to get. I was hurt beyond words. She actually expected me to choose a weekend away on vacation over my sick mother? I wasn’t angry, I was just hurt. If it were reversed I would have understood. I would have known the only choice was to stay home to care for her mother. I guess that is where we were so vastly different. She didn’t have any family ties that meant anything to her, but I never thought she didn’t understand that the rest of us did. I thought she was being selfish and unreasonable and hurtful, but I never would have told her that.

I couldn’t reply to that email. I was just lost. I didn’t understand her anger, or hurt or whatever it was. I had seen her be selfish before, but never to me. She’d been one of the most important people in my life for fourteen years. I loved her.

I tried to push it all in the back of my head and just not worry about it. I continued to care for my mom (who actually got better by the way – the mysterious illness passing almost like it had come,) and I took care of A- which, in the next few months was no small job.

I also got a bit sick myself at that time. Tried to keep it hidden for the most part,telling only what I had to tell to people I had to tell it to, but suddenly I had a good handful of doctor bills of my own. A- also had an emergency room bill and an ambulance ride I had to pay for, along with her regular monthly medical bills.

That email came at the very end of September. In February, I was trying to keep my head above water, A- was battling a terrible bout of depression the likes of which we had not seen before, I was physically getting better even though mentally I was probably pretty shaky, and I sent my friend an email. Not since meeting had we gone that long without talking. Four months. I wrote a long email, not giving a lot of details but stating how sorry I was that I had not sent my half of the cabin and that I would send it soon. I received an email made up of the following words. “Let it go. I did. Take care.”

I was as lost and confused as I was four months ago. Fourteen years of friendship gone because I had to cancel a weekend getaway? Fourteen years of friendship gone because I chose to take care of my sick mother? I know there are two sides to every story, and I just kept thinking that there had to be SOMETHING else I had done that had offended her. Had I been such an awful friend that cancelling the weekend was simply the last straw? Was that it? Had I been oblivious to how bad of a friend I was and that was the reason she was now brushing me off without even bothering to tell me why?

I will tell you something. Losing that friendship hurt more than I can express. When I got divorced from my husband after fifteen years, all I felt was a great sense of relief. I felt like I could breathe. I felt like I was closing the chapter on a very bad book, but THIS – this was like being punched in the stomach. I cried. I mourned the loss of something that had meant a great deal to me. I was lonely and miserable. I was lost. But most of all, I didn’t even know why. And that was really the worst part.

So here it was, a year. I believed I had healed some in a year. I believed I had moved on. But last night, in a fit of either melancholy or a blur of bittersweet memories, or maybe it was just a moment of pure loneliness, I wrote an email. I didn’t intend to send it. But I did. Part of me wanted to rant. Part of me wanted to tell her how selfish I thought she had been. I wanted to tell her how hurt I had been, and how disappointed I was in her. But I didn’t do that. I told her instead that I just needed closure. I felt like everything was left hanging in the air with those seven words. I told her I did not need to be forgiven or to know everything was okay, but I apologized for not being the friend she had needed. I told her I was sorry I had to make a choice that weekend that she did not understand, but if I had to do it over again I would make the same choice. My mother needed me. I told her I was sorry if I had not been a good friend to her, but told her that her friendship had meant the world to me. I had honestly believed it was a friendship that would have lasted a lifetime. I said that people come into your life for a reason, and maybe they departed for a reason too.  I told her I was grateful for the time she had been part of my life, and during the last year, when I had to be stronger than I believed I was, maybe it was because of her friendship and the strength she had given me in the past that I was able to get through some bad times. I told her I hoped she was well, and that she had happiness and peace. Part of me still wanted to yell mean things, but I did not. It wouldn’t have been right.

I received an email this afternoon. She said she was sorry I felt I was left hanging, that there just had been nothing else she needed to say. She hadn’t intended to be hurtful. She said her expectations of a lifelong friend and friendship differed from mine, not better or worse, just different. She sincerely wished me nothing but happiness.

Suddenly I’m in grade school again. Here I am a grown woman, crying like a baby. I set myself up. What did I expect her to say? That she missed me? That she was sorry? Some explanation that actually made sense? I honestly don’t know what I wanted to hear, but I wish with all my heart that she had just not bothered to respond. How did our expectations differ? I HAD no expectations of her. I had no expectations of lifelong friendship except just that – lifelong. I expected that even when you disappointed the other person, you didn’t throw away friendship over something trivial. And that’s what I feel like. I feel like I didn’t mean enough to her to keep. Isn’t this silly for a woman my age to care so much? I can’t believe I opened up a year old wound and did this to myself. Why does it still bother me? I accepted her- flaws and all, for the woman she was. I accepted even the parts I did not agree with and saw her as a whole person. No expectations.

I say she gave me strength a long time ago, but maybe what she gave me was the realization that I can’t be anyone’s friend. Maybe my anxiety and my ADHD just make it too hard for people to stick with me. Maybe I’m just not worth it, after all. I have a lot of acquaintances, but I have no friends. I remind myself that there is a reason for that. I’m better by myself. So I’m sitting here eating ice cream. And feeling sorry for myself. And wondering what the hell. Mostly I wonder why I do these things to myself. Why don’t I just leave well enough alone?

And most of all, I wish it didn’t bother me so much. I wish I didn’t still miss my best friend. I wish I could let her go as easily as she let me go.

So maybe writing this all out, while embarrassing and probably best kept private, will help me get that closure I needed. Maybe it will help me leave it here on the screen and be done with it. I hope so.

9 thoughts on “Am I a Glutton for Punishment, or What?!

  1. I understand so much of this. I had a similar situation happen back in March and it really caused me to spiral and second-guess everything. I definitely think ADHD played a part in my losing my friend. I also think my stuff was just too much for her. It was still very hurtful. I’m sorry you experienced this.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate it. I just wish I didn’t keep wondering WHY it happened. It’s a terrible feeling to second guess yourself so much and know that you had to have done something wrong, you just have no clue what it was. Just seems so frivolous to me, to just walk away instead of talking to me so we could have fixed it like adults. But…I cannot help what someone else did. I can only now control my own response and what I take from the experience.
      I’m sorry you dealt with a similar experience.

      1. I actually wrote a post about my experience but took it down because it seemed disjointed. I read back through it last night after I read your post and started to put it back up but decided against it. I’ll try to summarize what I’ve taken from my own experience and now from reading yours. People like us (and I know I don’t know you, but I, too, have ADHD and anxiety so I feel like we have some traits in common) don’t expect a lot and we are an accepting bunch. Because of that we somehow assume that the rest of the world is this way, too. My friend wanted something deeper than what I was able to give at this stage of my life. My life is deep — some days it’s all I can do to keep my head above water and get my kids’ backpacks packed and the folders signed. What I determined after my situation is that I need friends (even if they’re just acquaintances) who *get* that. I don’t have the bandwidth for a friend who gets pissy because I have to go to a doctor’s appointment for my sick kid instead of having coffee with her on her birthday. I need friends who are flexible. I am more than willing to celebrate birthdays but I’m in a life-phase where things come up and plans have to be altered. Narrow and particular expectations feel selfish and high-maintenance to me. Had the situation been reversed I suspect you would have been totally understanding and would have encouraged your friend to be with her sick mother, and as you said, you would have gone to the cabin anyway. The fact that she couldn’t return that is very telling. I’m sure she is a lovely person who has things going on in her own life right now, but please don’t doubt yourself. Keep being you. Keep shining your bright light anyway. As you said — it IS frivolous. The short of my situation was that I had been away dealing with some pretty heavy family stuff. I wasn’t as available for a few days as I had been to my friend and told her I’d fill her in when I could catch my breath. I was still trying to process everything when I received a text from her saying that she was hurt by me for ignoring her and that she was unfriending me on Facebook and all social media and unfollowing my blog. Um…ok. I was completely dumbfounded. It seemed immature and petty but it also forced me to see things in this person I had previously downplayed. It still hurts — the hardest part I think is recognizing that I don’t have a lot of deep meaningful friendships which makes me feel different and rather sad. At the same time, maybe that’s just how it needs to be for now. I have a rich inner life. I go deep with my writing and I’m pretty up to my eyeballs with my kids right now. Maybe that’s enough. I hope you feel better and gain some clarity. I completely understand what you mean by feeling okay and then something happens and you revisit the pain all over again.

        1. You don’t know how much these comments mean to me right now. You’re right – we are an accepting group and because we have to be so flexible in our own daily lives I guess it’s easier for us to be flexible and understanding when our friends have to alter or change plans. We get it. My friend and I were definitely at different times in our lives. My daughter is just entering her teen years while hers is grown and gone. Priorities are different for us. And that was okay. Or at least it was okay for me.
          I too have enough to deal with daily that I don’t have the time or energy for high maintenance friends. So I’m okay with it just being my daughter and me. I have a few family members I am close to and then I have acquaintances and that is more than enough for me right now.
          I’ll get over it. I guess I just thought I was closer to being over it than I really am. I don’t WANT to still be hurt by her actions or her dismissal of me, but I know it’s really for the best. I’ll heal from the experience and be able to let it go. I will never understand it, but that’s just the way it is.
          Thank you again for your kind words. They helped more than you know.

  2. I’m sorry you had to deal with this. I had to let go of a friend a long while ago. We didn’t exchange words, we just didn’t talk to each other anymore. Once I was away from her friendship I realized how much she disrespected me and used me. I wish I had the answers to help you through this difficult time. Good friends are hard to find.

    1. Thanks, April. I think we are so accepting and maybe sometimes insecure so it is easy for people to use us and sometimes we are too close to them to see that is what they are doing.
      It is hard to lose someone you believed in – someone you thought was better than they actually were – but I know in time I’ll be able to not think about it anymore, or feel sad when I think of it.

  3. You are still hurting from this bad experience because you are such a caring person. I have no advice for you because I have never had this kind of friendship, but I certainly understand your feelings. I am just sorry this friendship was a seemingly “one-way street” for your “friend”, only heading towards HER. Her loss !

  4. I love that you talk about these things.
    I feel for you – that grieving is hard. I also liked the comments above as they gave me a few insights into myself. Viv@grief happens – “People like us (and I know I don’t know you, but I, too, have ADHD and anxiety so I feel like we have some traits in common) don’t expect a lot and we are an accepting bunch. Because of that we somehow assume that the rest of the world is this way, too,” – that is SOOOO true!

    I have ADHD and anxiety also, but I guess my anxiety also kicks in and thwarts this, when I feel bad about the fact that I’m a terrible friend a lot of the time. I forget birthdays (don’t even bother with them now to be honest because of the inconsistency of remembering sometimes, and not others brings disappointment, so I just don’t do it), I will go months without calling friends because I’m so overwhelmed just coping with my own stuff (and that of my 2 ADHD kids) and hardly see them – and then I’m uncomfortable about calling them in case I cop a mouthful. BUT when something’s wrong with them, I’m there if I can be (and even sometimes when I can’t be), 100%, above and beyond what most people would do.
    Just not good at the upkeep stuff – and part of that is because I’d happily be a hermit. I find people draining more often than not and being on my own is just easier.
    But here’s the thing. Despite me being this sort of person who by all accounts couldn’t/shouldn’t have many friends, I do have some unshakeable ones.
    They are quirky like me, they can go months without talking to me too, but for the same reasons I do – so all we do is sincerely cherish the rare but great times we catch up and support each other without judgement or expectation. Those who need more than I can give…. fade away over time. And that relieves a lot of stress and expectation in some ways once the grief has settled.
    Your friend needed more than you could give. That’s not her fault and it’s also not yours. At the end of the day, she proved she also was not able to give you the sort of friendship YOU need and are deserving of either. So please don’t ruminate on how you might have fallen short – because you didn’t. You are allowed to be you.

    1. Thank you so much for this! I appreciate your comments. You and viv@griefhappens have given me much to think about and really helped me with perspective, too.
      I too, am usually to drained by people to keep up friendships. I like being on my own and taking care of myself and the kiddo is a full time job. And I don’t mind it one bit. I agree that while I might not have been the friend my friend needed, she was also not the friend I needed either. That is the perspective I needed.
      It’s nice when friendship can be stress free because they “get” you. It’s a powerful thing.

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