Friendships, they live and they die
I've been kicking this one around for months. It's hard to explain exactly, but this one blog post is one of the reasons I actually put together a new blog, instead of wiping my old one and starting that one over. I wanted a clean slate, sure-- I also wanted the ability to be honest and open in a way I couldn't be with the old blog. That blog was primarily analysis, my opinions and stuff I researched-- not my inner person. This one, well, it's me in every weird, confetti filled, kaleidoscope kind of way.
I don't have a lot of friends. I have an ass load of “friendly acquaintances” and maybe a couple dozen people I consider to be friends. Fewer than a dozen people, including my husband, I consider close friends. Wow, that sounds like a lot of people, until you realise that my husband is my very best friend, as is my dearest friend Matthew (hi Matt!)-- who lives in Virginia. I count myself lucky as hell to have two people I can count as best friends, two different people I can tell anything in the world to, and who know me so well. My Dad's sister is one of my friends, as I can talk to her about anything, and my Dad, he's in that group, too.
No, I won't be naming any other names as to my “closest friends” list. First off, it's rude, and second, it's no one's business but mine. This isn't grade-school, and most certainly isn't a contest to see if you “make the cut”. I was speaking generally, to give you an idea. If I counted everyone, and actually had to place you all in columns-- you'd probably all end up on my “friends” and “good/close friends” list... because I think very highly of you all! That's all beside the point, anyway.
My point is, that while I don't have a lot of friends, I value them all, very very much. Friends are the family you make, the family you knit together, to make up for the shitty people you're actually related to. At least, that's how I always looked at it. Friends make us better; smooth out our wrinkles and rough edges; they make us want to succeed and celebrate with us when we do! Friends are there when no one else is, often when even our own families won't be. For some of us friends are our family, as we have no parents, or siblings either through being thrown out or death, or having to cut them out of our lives. Friends are there when we have babies, lose parents, get jobs, get into grad school, send our kids off to kindergarten and mourn the loss of our beloved pets. Friends walk this journey of life with us, and we with them, and it's good.
That's why losing friends is so damned hard. At least it is, for me. It's like someone died, but they didn't... they're right there, looking at you, or looking past you. It's just fucking awful.
Now, some friends you lose track of or just drift apart because of work, and school, and moving and life. I'm not really talking about those kinds of losses. They can be hard, yes, but it's more natural, more a case of two people growing along, touching for awhile, boosting each other to the sun, and then parting ways, healthy and happy for knowing one another.
I'm talking about the friends that end with daggers, or the silent treatment. The ones that end leaving you wondering what the fuck happened, but never getting that answer when you ask. Those kind of rip-your-heart out losses that are so hard to deal with.
I guess I'm kinda lucky in that I've only had one of those. Oh, I've had friends who grew one way, and I another; and I have friends that I don't speak to as often because of distance, but nevertheless consider them dearly and fondly. I've had friendships that were vibrant glowing rainbows that slowly eroded through time until they were merely strands of colour, catching the light and reminding me of the fun we had “back when”. Those friendships aren't lost, they have just transitioned, and it's OK. Often when you have a coffee or tea with those friends the relationship blossoms again, it's like you never were apart. Those I treasure and keep close to my heart.
I never was one for collecting friends, though. It's very hard for me to make friends. I'm really shy, and very introverted, so getting to know people takes a concerted effort on my part. I can be witty, and funny and generally entertaining, but at first, I'm the girl in the corner of the room with the scared, wide eyeballs, watching the door and the clock to see if she can make a graceful escape. I've been told I'm intimidating, but I never did understand why [she said it was because “when you know something you're so forceful about it.” I just looked at her and said, “Oooookay.”]
I've also been called aloof. This one is my favourite, because I don't think I'm aloof at all. Terrified maybe, but not better than you. That's what aloof says to me, that patrician “I'm so much better than you people” attitude. Sorry, my blood is reddish purple, just like yours-- it sure as hell isn't blue.
[I think this one goes back to my inability to engage in small talk. And I know I am very reserved in social situations, but I promise you, I'm trying, and trying. I don't know if I'm getting better or not. Often I feel like I'm trying to breathe around an egg-sized knot in my throat, so talking is physically impossible. Bear with me, though, I'm worth getting to know, I am interested in you, and I am trying so hard to show you!]
Again, that's why losing friends is hard. I should say losing that friend was hard. Like I said, I've only had to go through it once, but it was devastating. I can't honestly tell you what I did to ruin the friendship, or what I could have done to save it. I only know that it was fine, and then dead. Just about that fast.
I met this woman when my oldest son was about six month old; it would have been the fall of 1997. She came to my birthday dinner with her husband, as well as mutual friends of our from the gaming group (one of whom was also my room-mate, and who had introduced us all to this couple). When she found out she was pregnant we all celebrated with them, enfolding her into our little group of “home away from home”.
She was a young, naïve Mormon, newly away from her home in California, and had no idea how the world worked. After she got it through her head that no, not one of us was interested in converting, because we all thought the LDS church was full of shit, she stopped bringing up her religion all the time. We never mocked her, so she didn't have to be defensive of it, she just automatically took that tack. I've seen that commonly with the LDS church, though-- they're always defensive of their faith, even when it's not necessary. Funny thing is, she smoked and drank caffeinated stuff like soda and tea as well as the occasional liquor or beer, so I never was sure why she tried so hard to make us Mormons. Maybe she was on autopilot every time religion came up? I don't know.
She was interested Paganism, though, at first it was like we were exotic, from another planet or something! Oh my Gawd, Pagans! My room-mate and I told her about it, as did several other friends. In the military, especially down south, Pagans sorta congregate together-- we understand each other, and no one will try to get us to church. Eventually she left her church and became a Pagan. [All any of us ever did was answer her questions and be there for her as she did her own seeking, no Pagan will ever try to convert another person. We don't do that.]
Her daughter was born the next year and ended up sick, and in hospital. We thought she was going to die. It was very difficult for everyone, because we wanted to be there with her (in Tucson, near her parents) but couldn't be. All of us friends hurt and worried and wishes we could be there. We lived by the phones, waiting to hear if the baby would live, or if we would have to send flowers, and if I would try to get a plane ticket out for the funeral.
We were ecstatic when the baby came home; OK, so her kidney wasn't right, but the other one was fine! She would be all right, and everyone was happy. We celebrated as she grew, happy and strong, and would laugh as she played with my son on our rug.
She knew that my ex and I were having trouble; I knew her marriage wasn't so good, too. Military marriages often don't last. It's a very hard life, very isolating for everyone involved. So we clung together. We had a lot in common, too. Neither of us was a girly-girl; we liked cooking, experimenting with herbs and oils, Paganism in all its flavours and shapes; dream interpretation for shits and giggles. We read and talked, and pol-watched and waited, and generally grew up because we were both so young.
She moved to Tucson when her husband got out of the military, and I stayed close with her through the years after. I supported her when they divorced, and helped her research options when he abandoned her, then several months pregnant with her second child, and her daughter just a year old.
I loved her like a sister. Through all her mother trouble, and mine, we bonded. We tried to be good kids, good mothers, good sisters and good spouses, but it didn't always work. No matter what, though, we had each other's backs.
We weren't afraid to call each other on our shit. I'd tell her if I thought she was going over board one way or the other, too harsh to herself, or being too sensitive. She would take me to task for being too hard on myself, or letting my ex beat me down, reminding my that inside all of us is the Divine Spark. We helped each other stand firm when the whole world seemed like it was quicksand.
When she got remarried I was over the moon for her. This guy seemed to adore her, and she said he was even interested in adopting her kids! Their bio-father has never even met her son, and hasn't seen her daughter since the girl was about a year old, so such news was wonderful. They had a child together in 2007, a son, and I was thrilled everyone made it through OK.
I noticed that her husband was more conservative than she, but didn't think much of it. Most people in the south were more conservative, so it just seemed like a “whatever” deal. That would come back to bit me later.
I had noticed for a couple years, that she didn't seem all that interested in anything outside her house, but I put it down to the fact that I was in school, and most people don't find Calculus or world governments nearly as fascinating as I do. Also, when you're having trouble with your kid, your world shrinks down to the size of your living room. At the time she was having trouble with her older son. He's my daughter's age, so he'll be 13 this coming winter. He was having weird behavioural problems from the time he was 3 or 4, ADHD, no sleep, acting out, anger problems, and a myriad of school troubles.
So I encouraged her, tried to steer her away from the ADHD quack diets and herbal supplements she has heard about that were supposed to magically cure her kid (I can't remember the number of times I told her to go to Quackwatch http://www.quackwatch.com/).
She also encouraged me to come down, to live in Tucson. I'd been going through hell with my mother and was looking to move, so it seemed like a logical thing. Moving to Tucson, give me and the kids a new start and be close to my best friend! Win-Win! She even laughed and told me about the single gents who worked with her husband, some of whom would be “perfect” for me.
Politics was common in our conversations, and we both tended to be left-of-centre, Democratic-leaning. Her husband was a republican, but pro-choice, so I shrugged off some of the weirder things he'd say, or she'd repeat about “the liberals”. Mostly I thought it was just spouting talking points-- everyone does it. Any time he'd get good and riled up, I'd just say, “look you're an electrician, without labour unions and the Dems you're daemonising you'd be paid shit,” and he's stop. She was pro-union, too, so that always struck me as weird. I never considered myself to be pro-union until very recently (I was ambivalent)!
I met my Beloved, fell head over heels and excitedly told her all about him. She fairly danced with joy! Finally, I'd found someone who loved me, and treated me well, after a disastrous marriage and a couple bad dating relationships. When he decided to come with me, I was over the moon, and I couldn't wait for them to meet!
We set off driving down and all she did was complain. The sport suspension in the car was too hard, the weather was too cold, it was snowing, she was tired. I felt like I was sitting next to a four year old, not my best friend! So much for setting out on an adventure, huh? She had never seen winter in the Midwest though, and even in November it can get nastily cold, so I shrugged it off.
The weirdness continued, as she'd taken an immediate dislike to my Beloved. I don't know why, for sure, but I think it's because they're both stubborn as mules. When he's in the right, he will not back down, and he will show you where you're wrong! She had been the same way. However, she started getting angry and adamant about stupid shit, things easily corrected, not worth fighting over, and often stuff that was blatantly wrong. I've seen my Beloved get pretty heated about stuff that I'd blow off, but I've never seen him stubbornly cling to an incorrect argument or piece of information. She did, over and over. If you feed him a fact, he'll sheepishly apologise and shut up. Suddenly, she wouldn't! I'd never seen her do that before. She had always sought new information, better information, facts over opinion... until now. I would have to step in, and say something like, “let's look it up”. I felt like I was mothering her, and I don't like that, at all. I felt like she was constantly saying, “Don't get your fact in my opinions, dammit! Don't make me think!” Right or wrong, that's how she came across during those stupid arguments.
Her husband didn't like me, either. I wasn't happy enough for his taste. I don't exactly know how to take that. I have never been overtly happy, never acted all perky and smiling all the time. My natural face (at rest) is neutral, not frowning, so I never was sure what he meant, or how he knew I was unhappy. I wasn't, at the time I was finally happy for the first time in years! I didn't care, really, because I foolishly thought “well, we're adults, and she doesn't need his permission to have a friend. I'm not his friend anyway, I'm hers.” When I told her so, she agreed and I thought that was the end of it. OK, so everyone didn't get on and we'd never be a happy foursome for cards or whatever, but I had my friend and it was good.
I was terribly bothered that she didn't defend me, though. Any time he'd make a snide comment about how sad I looked she would ignore him. That bothered me. A lot. My Love never picked a fight with her, but her husband went out of his way to be rude to me about how I looked. If I wasn't “half starved” I was “depressed looking”. I would have thought friends would stick up for each other. I had no trouble stepping between her and my partner when they got at it, before things could get personal. So I was disturbed that she didn't do that same.
The place I had arranged to rent fell through, so we started a frantic search for a home. She lives in a double-wide, still on the hitch, in the middle of nowhere (OK, technically it's just outside Vail, but you get the idea). The school, so vaunted and oozing with supposed awesomeness was so fucking backward that I determined I wouldn't send my kids there. My oldest son (then in the 4th grade) was stuck doing the mathematics that my daughter had been doing in Michigan-- she's two years behind him. He told me “Mum, I did this already.” I thought he meant back in Michigan, and when I took a look at the worksheets I told them, “Well, maybe they're still doing their review?” What else could I say? “Sorry guys, looks like they're all fucking stupid?” I couldn't do that. They felt like they were being punished for already knowing their work, and both were bored out of their minds in the short time they went to that school.
My friend told me they weren't doing their review, that they'd done the start of the year review already. “This is all new for them, isn't it exciting?!” I could feel my face making the “WTF is wrong with you” look, and told her that my kids had done that stuff already, years ago. I told my Love, “It's no wonder the test scores are so high-- the kids are two years behind. If they can't pass that shit with flying colours they probably can't read!”
That attitude didn't endear me to my friend. She loved the school, the way they accommodated her fragile son, and let him decide if he “could handle” his 20 spelling words, or just do 10 of them. Let him decide if he needed a time out, to be by himself playing quietly, or if he could handle actually learning and listening to the teacher. [No, I'm not exaggerating. They got up a “treasure chest” of toys for the kid, if he could be in class and listen every day for a whole week he could pick a toy! You know actual class participation as opposed to punching the kid sitting next to him; and he had to promise t stop stabbing people with pencils. Yeah, reward the kid for not stabbing people. WTF is that?!] I told her I thought the school was doing a disservice to everyone going there, by not pushing the kids to excel.
Stranger and stranger, weird little things, snide remarks. Asides that didn't make any sense, but were pointed at my kids for being too smart, or at me for also being too smart. Things got odd, quick. They became more and more passive-aggressive and it was so strange. We looked everywhere for a place, and finally found one, just before Christmas. I suppose it's a good thing, as their boy told my daughter, “Dad told me that if you don't have a place to live we're kicking you out for christmas!” No one said a word to me. She knew I was looking, calling, and going to see places. He knew we were at wit's end trying to find a place. It wasn't like we were sitting on the sofa watching Sprout on PBS all day. That was her job.
I was flabbergasted and in shock. And hurt, I was really fucking hurt! I'd more than paid our share of bills, food, water, the whole thing. We weren't living on their charity, or taking advantage of them. I moved down here under the premise that she was starting a florist shop, and I would be working with her. Partners! My hand-made soaps, oils, fragrances, and other herbal things like that; her flowers. Our shop. I even helped pay, I thought, for paperwork for the business loan. I didn't think twice about it. Our shop, gotta get it going. I was hard at work getting up a back log of stock for the shop, putting together and perfecting recipes of soap, so they'd be cured and ready to go (soap takes anywhere from 1 week to a month to cure after it sits up).
Then I found out that it wasn't for the fees for the loan. It was one of those scams you pay so much a month (500 bucks) to some company to pester the fuck out of your creditors to clean up your credit. Some of the money goes to creditors, but it's not as effective at fixing things as actually paying what you owe. She'd filed for bankruptcy at one point, so I never did get a clear idea of what she needed cleaned up.
She never got the loan; never spoke to the banker, never contacted vendors, never even looked at the property she'd told me we would be at other than to drive by it. I trusted her, and felt foolish, utterly taken advantage of.
When I told her that it bothered me, that she'd not been upfront, she got defensive. It was all her husband's fault, for pushing her to stay home until the little one was in school. She thought if I was there he'd change his mind, and we could move forward. I didn't appreciate that, and told her so. If that was the case, she owed it to me to tell me before hand.
We moved into our crooked little town house on the 23rd of December. We had been in Tucson for 5 weeks. Five weeks of lies. Five weeks of cold shoulder. Five weeks of peevish disagreements about PC vs Apple (she's an Apple person. I am not. Neither is my Beloved husband. But she took every opportunity to tell us how wonderful her piece of shit Mac was. And yes, it's a piece of shit, my kid's computer it 10 times better, and cost a hellova lot less to put together, but that's another tangent altogether).
Five weeks of her son tormenting my youngest child. Boogie was just four and a half! I did everything I could do, to protect my son from that kid. I should not have had to...Her son, the middle one. He was on three different medications for his ADHD and anger issues, and one to get him to sleep at night. He also saw a therapist twice a week. He also regularly punched his sister; when he socked my daughter she hit him back. Boogie did too, even though this boy was much bigger than he was. This caused my friend to throw a fit. We had to understand him, accept he got mad sometimes and couldn't control himself! Then she wanted me to spank my son for defending himself.
“No, I won't. You might think about spanking yours, though, if you're so keen on it. If he doesn't want to get punched in the face, he's big enough to know not to hit people. Especially people smaller than he is,” I was livid. Beat my kid for defending himself?! What the fuck is that? Who teaches their kid to beat on people? Especially people smaller than they are! You defend and protect people weaker than you, not hurt them! I was, and still am, pretty pissed off about that sort of thing.
[I firmly believe that the only reason he didn't hit his little brother is because he knew that the baby was his mother's favourite kid. His sister was disposable, the kid most likely to be ignored, the “you're an utter pill” kinda kid, I'm sorry to say; and so she was a safe target. I hope that has changed. That little girl doesn't deserve that. I know how girls can be, I have one. They're by turns adorable and infuriating; I never would cast off my kid because she annoyed the fuck out of me, though. Yell at her, sure. Let her brother beat on her, fuck no!]
He likes to watch monster movies, that son of hers. And draw things, like aliens eating soldiers, or men with huge guns blasting other men into pieces. Complete with flying appendages. I sent my sister some photos of his drawings, and will never forget what she said (she was a psychology student, almost done certifying to be a counsellor, so I felt she could tell me if I was over-reacting or not). I told her I was uncomfortable, a little freaked out, and was glad that I'm tall, “that kid, he scares me. If he was bigger he could really harm an adult!” Not something I ever thought I'd say about a child.
“Get your kids, and [Love] and get the fuck out of there! That kid is a murder waiting to happen!” She then went on to tell me about how that kind of anger (that I'd described) and the enabling of the school, and by his parents, could cause the boy to become the kind of teen who tortures animals. My sister is many things, a drama queen being one of them; however, she doesn't exaggerate about shit like that, she only gets overly dramatic about herself. When it comes to kids she gets this deadly serious tone, and I know she's not just listening to me, she's actively thinking, pondering and will give me the best answer she can. [Even if he doesn't end up that way, he's going to be ten kinds of fucked up, his sister too.]
Anyway, we moved and had a house full of boxes on Christmas. Saint Nicolas still came, though; he left the presents on the landing, so my kids still had an awesome Christmas. My Love and I were happy, too. Odd as it might sound, all it took was being together.
She stopped by a few weeks later, saw the town house and they didn't stay long. I didn't see her again until the end of February, 2009. I had called to talk a couple times, but she always said, “let me call you back” and never did. She sat on my sofa and talked with me for about half an hour. As if nothing had changed. As if she'd never yelled at my son. As if they hadn't threatened, through their fucking kid, to throw us out for no reason. It was a very awkward conversation for me. Every time I tried to call after that she never took the call-- always let it go to voice mail, and never called me back. I gave up.
I emailed her last fall, thinking time passing might have mellowed things. Her answer gave me all I needed to know. She had disposed of me, too. And you know, by that point I was OK with it. I felt the need to make sure there were no amends to be made, to clear the air, and feel like I did. She wasn't accusatory, even invited me out to lunch “one of these days”. Well, I know an invitation like that is polite-speak for “that's never going to fucking happen”. But she could have been really nasty.
Maybe she was afraid I was going to ask for my 500 bucks back. I'd asked already, and so I know I'll never get it. Fuck it, let her keep that money. It didn't do her any good, anyway.
I have thought and thought, and meditated and pondered. I think that she and I grew apart and didn't know it. We'd discussed the same things for so long, endlessly interesting things, but not a lot of new things. New and challenging thing were me explaining to her, not we discussing together. I grew, evolved, changed and my branches went into one direction; she went in another.
She and her husband are very right wing. I am not. I thought that would be OK; because friends don't have to have the exact same political attitudes and beliefs. I was mistaken, for them, their friends have to be in political lock-step.
They're very busy, you see, keeping up with the Jones' or maybe down here, it's the Sanchez's. They have to spend, spend, spend, to show how important they are, how worthy, how awesome. “See my shiny shit!?” I am not like that. I don't spend money to show people my importance. Money to me, is a tool. I don't need to keep up with anyone, and if I don't have the newest gadget I don't care. I'm not impressed with some one's shit, either. Their television that's big as a wall? Yeah,whatever. If you need a television so big you have to make payments on it for two years, then you're doing it wrong. (I'm sure that's offensive to someone. However a television should not cost 2000 dollars. If it does, and your kids need clothes, but you bought the god-damned television, you're wrong. Period.)
She and her husband have very small lives. They don't read, only watch the local news long enough to get the weather for tomorrow. They don't listen to music. They watch reality shows, and bad comedic movies or tacky romantic comedies <shudder>, and “The Simpsons” has to be on while they eat dinner. I hate reality TV, and can't stand “The Simpsons”-- I never thought it was funny, let alone guffaw producing, slap my knee, pee my pants, funny. For her husband, it's all of those things; remember please, they are a year younger than I, not in their early 20's.
She and her husband don't think, ponder, wonder or dream any more. I don't know why. I don't know why anyone would stop dreaming, and I can't understand how you can see the mountains surrounding Tucson and not be in awe of their stark beauty.
They have very bland lives, and they seem discontented, but not willing to change that. It's as though they've both settled. I'm sure they did. Not settling down in a good way, but settling for “whatever came along, because it's probably the best they can get”. And that's sad. I think my refusing to settle had a bad effect on her; I fell head over heels for a guy who was good for me, and wasn't afraid to cuddle on the sofa with him. I wasn't ashamed of him, and I did not care if she didn't like him. I loved him then, and love him more now, and that's all there is to it.
My Beloved husband did support me when I wrote her last fall. He told me that I had to do what I had to do. He understood that I missed that close friend. But he also understood that when it's dead, you can't revive it. He felt bad, like he'd broken us up. That's not the case at all. Although I would lay that at the feet of her husband; he just seems to dislike the idea of her having friends that he disapproves of. I've never striven to be been socially acceptable in my life, so I wasn't really going to start now.
I remember fondly our good friendship. And I am sad that it ended. I didn't share all of the troubles, but skimmed over them. Sometimes it’s best not to explain everything. I feel our friendship died a complete death when she refused to acknowledge her son's behaviour, and refused to stand up for me when her husband decided to pile on the juvenile abuse over my lack of cheerleader qualities and my “leftist ideals”. Friends don't do that, we don't abandon each other. Friends stick together, no matter what.
I don't think she's a bad person; just short sighted. She probably feels the same way about me, and she might very well be right.
If I could tell her anything, I'd tell her that I love her. That she will always be dear to be, and that I am thankful for the relationship we had. I'd wish her the best in all that she does, and hope that she feels the same way about me. Then I'd walk away. See, she's not my friend any more.
I'll talk about what being a friend means to me, and what I do about it later. I think I've just about wrung myself out with this one.