The revolving door...

It's about 25 days out from the wedding and Peter and I have been watching the rsvp's come in. There have been a few people yet to respond, and I sent an email to a friend asking if she was coming. What I got as a reply knocked me for six. On reading it at work the other day, I felt numb, and sick. I couldn't wait to get home that day and have a proper cry. It was not what I had expected at all.

In the email, my friend rehashed things from the last 12 months. She commented on conversations had over six months ago, stating that with my limited life experience (working for one institution and living with 2 boyfriends), how could I possibly give advice to anyone, and that to do so was arrogant. In reality you can simplify anyone's life down into a sentence, but it in no way encapsulates all that someone is. It got me thinking about lots of things. If you scratch the surface of anyone's life there is always much more going on. I have two brothers who are both married with two kids each. One recently lost his job and the other has a child with special needs. My Mum nearly had a stroke six weeks ago and my Dad's health is ailing, and his heart problems mean he cannot walk very far and with his circulation deteriorating he is showing signs of vascular dementia.

I then thought about all the people I know. And it struck me that every single person is dealing with something. Stress, grief, mental health issues, relationship breakdowns, financial stresses, chronic illness, anxiety, depression, complex family relationships, unemployment, job stress, juggling kids and life, dealing with teenagers, work/life balance, terminal illness and aging parents. Most people are dealing with two or more of these at any given time. Life's not a pissing competition though. The person dealing with the most doesn't win. It may elicit more sympathy and empathy, and because I know my friend has dealt with so much hardship lately, I can understand her a point.

She then went on to say that she thinks how I ended my relationship with the Ex was badly done and hurtful. That I was using one situation to facilitate another. By doing this, she states that she feels she doesn't know me at all, and cannot pretend to be friends with me, as I am not the person she thought I was. That one is the kicker. It was what I had feared some people would make of my life over the last 18 months. It floored me. You see, the problem is that I used to hold my cards very close to my chest. Externally life looked ok, but for the friends who dug a little deeper, they found the signs of anxiety and sadness I was feeling. I let very few people into those feelings, basically because I was having trouble dealing with them myself.

It has saddened me that someone I have known for over 15 years thinks this of me. I know she has faced enormous stresses over the last few years, and in reality I have not been able to be there for her. I'm not about to turn this into a Hallmark moment of 'Friendship is...' but I have realised that as you get older life becomes more complex. It's harder to find time for people amongst everything you have on your plate. But this does not mean that we don't think about our friends, worry about them, care about them. Sadly, email and facebook have replaced phone calls and coffees. But on the other hand, thank goodness we still have ways of communicating and sending a quick 'thinking of you' message.

When talking to Peter about this, he reminded me that we had feared that some people would not be happy with what had happened. That there may be collateral damage from my breakup. The interesting thing is that the mutual friends I have with the Ex have been amazing. I guess they understand that life is complex and that sometimes people make decisions that you may not understand, but is right for them. It seems that this friend is another loss from my breakup. It just took a while to surface.

I don't have a huge amount of friends, but I'm lucky enough to have some amazing people in my life. I have made many friends through work. Not surprising as I've worked for over 20 years and spend 7-8 hours a day, five days a week there. I have known some people since high school and some from in my 20's. I'm not part of any external group like many of my friends, who are in choirs, book groups, sports clubs, food co-ops, Mother's groups or bands. It has been interesting that some people I have known for a shorter amount of time, have been people that I have opened up to.

It has taken me quite a while to find my voice, and writing has been part of that process. This blog has helped in so many ways, as I am able to get thoughts out of my head and into some cohesive shape. That's why I am writing this entry at 4am. I could no longer lay in bed awake. Some people have commented that I really put myself out there in my blog. It's true. I have talked about much more personal things than I ever would have imagined. It's cathartic as I no longer what to hide how I'm feeling from myself or others. And perhaps it has helped prepare me for writing difficult email replies. I did not get angry with my friend, I simply tried to expand and discuss some of the issues she raised. But these are the last lines of the email:

I had hoped that we would find time to talk properly, as old friends do. I had hoped that you know my character enough to not think the worst of me. I would hope that even though we had not seen each other, that you would know that I have been concerned about you and all that you’ve been through, as I know you would about me. I love you XXXX, and miss seeing you. Your friendship has meant so much to me. And this is why your email has devastated me.

I am not expecting to hear from her. And as I sit here, I'm thinking about friendships. About how people grow and develop and change. About how some people have a connection and longevity in your life. And about those who unfortunately don't. I am lucky that there are new people coming into my life, and perhaps the reality is that sometimes friendships are like a revolving door. People coming and going. Thankfully there are lovely people who are in for the long haul. And on the 16th October, Peter and I will drink a toast to them, for they mean the world to us.


Guido said…
You know Andrea. When I read your blog I am always mildly shocked by the honesty of it. And this is because you are right, when I was working with you I found you a private person, and I am very careful not to intrude in private matters. Of course asking more 'personal' question is a skill which I don't have (and found out in a painful way!). Pene (who is a social worker after all) knew more about my friend Greg in an hour after meeting him that I did in 12 years of knowing him. There was always one thing that I wanted to ask you when we were working together - which now is quite revealing. You used to refer to your 'ex' as 'the boyfriend' never by his first name, which struck me as interesting. While now you refer to your fiancee (what a romantic term!) as Peter. And there lies a big difference I think.
Andy said…
How very astute you are Guido. I'll put it down to something I obviously did but was not aware of. Some people are more private, but I'm finding that people respond positively to the honesty I now live by. I am truly happy and no longer need to shy away from things going on in my head.

There are people, like Nej (and Pene) who people just open up to. I hope to be more like them.

In talking to a friend recently, she said she wouldn't have thought of me as unhappy (in my old life), but just that I talked about work a lot. It was all external, never about me. But lately she can see a spark back in my eye and tell that things are different, especially as I talk about different things. So maybe I was doing that for a while.

Change is good - but hard - and not everyone comes with you on the journey.
Nejla McFarlane said…
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