My father left my mother after 17 years of marriage. This happened when I was 15 years old and I thought it was the worst thing that I would ever live through. It was my first taste of heartbreak before I could even understand what heartbreak was. I empathized with my mother but only in the way that a selfish little teenage bitch could. I mostly cared more about what lunch table I would sit at the next day or if the cute boy would say hello to me at my locker the next morning.*Spoiler* This was not the worst thing that I would live through. It took a while to be able to mature and to understand the complexities of what it takes to keep a relationship going and when to call it quits. I blamed my parents for everything wrong in my life for many years. But I eventually grew up and found other people to blame.
Maintaining a relationship is hard stuff. Knowing when to call it quits is harder. But knowing when to call it quits on a friendship is actually the hardest. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of doing just that this past year and I am hoping to find some catharsis in sharing about it tonight. I probably won’t be making many jokes in the following paragraphs as this is an incredibly hard thing for me to open up about. But I just did two shots of whiskey so never say never.
I met Becky (not her real name just a basic white girl name) as a pre-teen. Fresh out of private school and ready to begin high school with all of the non-Catholic folk, we bonded as nerds both in the marching band. The friendship followed through every other phase of life. You know- high school, graduation, teenage pregnancy, bad drug deals, abusive relationships, extramarital affairs, etc. All the normal stuff every young woman growing up in a poverty-stricken, blue-collar town experiences. It was comforting to have a rock in my life- to know that someone else would share my burden so I wouldn’t have to carry it alone.
But then Becky began to make changes in her life that were different than mine. Becky got back together with her baby daddy. Becky had more kids. Becky took a step back in her career. Becky joined the PTA. Our lives went in different directions and had different priorities. Becky had to reschedule our dinner. Becky had to cancel drinks at the last minute. Becky didn’t have time to return a phone call. Becky forgot my birthday.
Suddenly, I was no longer the rock in Becky’s life. Suddenly, my friendship was a burden. Except it wasn’t so suddenly. We had gradually been growing further and further apart as the years went on but I didn’t have the gall to acknowledge it. Becky was now a stranger to me. The only thing that we had in common was our past. And that wasn’t enough.
It took me years before I realized that it is not being selfish to take care of yourself. I am a nurturer and I care deeply about everyone I know and everyone I don’t know, including fictional characters. I had to learn that it is also okay to care this deeply for myself. And to treat myself with kindness was to allow myself to admit that this broken friendship only caused heartache and not the unequivocal joy it once did when we were children.
I have had several boyfriends break up with me over my lifetime. I have had boyfriends cheat on me with my own friends. I even had one boyfriend who lived with me harbor a wife and children for 6 months. I have experienced heartbreak before. But nothing prepared me for the gaping hole that would exist in my heart and in my life because Becky was no longer there. I received an invitation in the mail the other day to Becky’s bridal shower. She is finally marrying baby daddy. It is a momentous occasion in her life. But there were times when we were younger when we would imagine our wedding days. I was supposed to be her maid of honor.
There is a part of me that believes our friendship is a circle, and we will come back around to each other when it makes sense. There’s also another part of me that is incredibly happy for Becky. She is living a good life and I feel so, so proud of her. But I will say this with every ounce of truth inside of my body- nothing hurts worse than realizing that your once best friend is now a stranger who is living their life just perfectly fine without you in it.
The whiskey has seemed to backfire as I am now currently crying my eyes out instead of telling my really funny joke about butt sex. Fuck. There’s no happy ending to this story. That’s it. Life is hard and friendships are hard and that’s okay. It goes on.