Today, I made myself proud. I hadn't heard from someone in fifteen months--someone I had considered as close as a sister. She'd vanished from my life without an argument, without a word. Poof! Gone. No explanation. Text messages had gone ignored, voice mails unreturned, and so I had given up. I'd mourned the loss--the giant hole in my life--and, with the passing of time, I learned to live without the calls and texts and lunches and martinis. Like with all people we grieve, her memory became one I was content to remember with a smile while letting go of the pain.
Then I heard from her, out of the blue, and felt a glimmer of excitement. There was the name on the caller ID of my long-lost friend--someone whose loss I had mourned with tears and confusion.
Things were great...for a few minutes...until I asked her why.
Why had she vanished? Why had she--someone who lives nearby and who I've known for over twenty years and who I used to see at least once every few months--let our friendship go? I asked the question, voiced my concern. I was nice, not bitchy, even used the word 'curious'.
You see, even though I'd had that glimmer of excitement at seeing her name on caller ID, my gut warned me that all wasn't as it seemed. She'd called for a favor--to meet for lunch to introduce me to a friend of hers--not to catch up, not because she cared about me per se. In fact, the reconnect wasn't about me or our friendship at all.
My heart sank as she talked about this person she wanted me to meet--how she thought we had parallel lives even though I have never been divorced, in a custody battle, had a crippling disease, or unable to work. How is that parallel to me? I thought. I haven't heard from my former best friend in fifteen months yet now she calls to have me meet this person? A part of me felt insulted that she thought I--a widow--could relate to custody battles and divorce while the other part of me started to feel hurt that she hadn't just called out of the blue because she'd missed me--missed our friendship.
If people care--and they live close--they take the time to return that text or voicemail message. It doesn't take long--a few minutes--and we're all at equal amounts of "busy" so that excuse doesn't fly.
The deep, pit-in-my-stomach mourning of a loss of what would never be again stirred.
So I honored myself and asked why. I've been hurt enough to protect myself. When my gut starts telling me that something doesn't feel right, I no longer ignore it to avoid conflict. We're adults--is it so wrong to discuss a concern? Is it wrong to hide your feelings from someone you've known for over twenty years? No. It's not wrong. It's necessary. It's called communication. It's called respect.
Did I really want to reunite with my former BFF who had essentially ditched me over a year ago? Did I really want to take the time to meet her over a polite lunch with a stranger in tow? I'm not good at small talk, especially when I have so many questions in my mind about why she left our friendship, when I was concerned if I could trust reopening that door. Could I trust that she wouldn't disappear again? Could I trust the intention behind her suddenly contacting me after so long to meet this other person? Could I trust her?
So I asked and it didn't go well. Her response was defensive and immature. She said, "I no longer want to have lunch with you if you're doubting my trustworthiness and that makes me sad." (Umm...she simply vanished from my life...POOF...and I'd been hurt and confused all this time! I'd mourned the loss of a good friend, someone with whom I'd shared my life's ups and downs with for two decades. I wanted to know why)
I never found out why our friendship abruptly ended over a year ago, but her response told me all I needed to know. Our twenty-five year friendship hadn't been important enough for an actual conversation. I hadn't followed the rules. I was expected to jump at the chance to have lunch with her and this stranger so she could link us up and move on.
I don't regret asking. I don't regret honoring that feeling in the pit of my stomach that said, "something is off here and you deserve answers."
People who care have uncomfortable conversations. People who care listen to someone who has been hurt. People who care don't just give up. People who care answer a text or return a phone call, even if they only have five minutes. People who give a damn show up in your life.
I read a quote once that said that a definition of a friend is someone who defends you in your absence. I've learned the hard way, especially in the past few years, that that definition doesn't apply to a lot of people. Rather than hold on to those who would rather think the worst of me or toss me to the curb at their discretion, I am letting them go without a tear.
My loyalty is to myself, my peace, my self-respect. I am fine with never knowing the why---the point is it happened then and today felt just as weird.
We experience many losses in our lives. Deaths, yes, but also the loss of key people who helped shape our lives who suddenly--and inexplicably--leave. And we mourn them...and we move on without them.
For those of you out there who think you're too busy to stay in contact with a friend, think again. We are all given equal amounts of hours in a day. We all have responsibilities. And we're all accountable for the consequences of "too busy"...one day, when you need a friend...you may look around and realize you're alone.
It's sad to mourn those of our friends who are still living but no longer in our lives. It is like a death--one that could have been avoided, one that often leaves more questions than answers.
Peace to you.
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.