I spent my 45 minutes in therapy talking about it. I was going to meet her at the Tim Horton’s by my appointment. I chose the place because I wanted to have spent that hour beforehand taking it out with my therapist. She was late, which made the anticipation of the upcoming break up awful. When she got there she ordered a drink and sat down across from me on the uncomfortable stool at the ridiculously high round table I had chosen by the window. I let her do the talking, having nothing to add myself. After all, this was her schtick, not mine. I would have carried on for years with her outwardly hating me and me desperate for her love and approval. What can I say, I have a knack for this kind of stuff.
She used words I can only assume she got in her own prep therapy sessions on how to end our friendship. Words like “disengage”. And I’ll be honest, even in my moment of pain at her ending our friendship I paused and thought “did she just say ‘disengage’?” – and immediately pictured Picard comedically yelling “DISENGAGE” from his enormous chair on the bridge of the USS-Enterprise-D.
Although this came as no surprise, it stung badly, and I ran away sobbing after quickly “disengaging” form the situation by excusing myself to exit the building. I’m not sure when I knew. I certainly knew before the day she told me. I had been talking about it for the last few months with others before that fateful day. But let’s be honest, I had known for years. There was always a feeling of dread that accompanied our friendship. I could always tell that she wasn’t completely committed to me as her friend. She looked at me with such disdain so often, worse was when she looked at me with pity and regret. A look that rang with loud undertones of wishing she had never met me in the first place.
We were friends for 6 years. And in that 6 years I always wondered why she hated me so much.
She was my best friend.
I was not her’s.
I’ll admit that I am a high maintenance friend. I’m a loud talker, a complainer by nature and a chronic interrupter. I have baggage, so so much baggage. I have ADHD, Anxiety and BPD. None of which make it easier to be my friend. I’m emotionally irrational at times and way too sensitive most of the time. I take too many things personally and I too can be cruel when given the opportunity. However at the time we met I wasn’t going through any of the REALLY heavy shit that was about to hit the fan yet, and I was relatively stable. In fact (at the time) I was going through my most stable and happy time in my life. I had just had my third child and was spending most of my time at the parenting centre (that we met at) just hanging out and enjoying life. All my kids were happy and healthy and I still had a job to return to after maternity leave. It was a time in my life that I can sincerely say I was at my most authentic. At least most authentically happy. Relaxed and grateful and without heavy burdens, I could talk easily about my interests and goals. In fact I was interesting! I was creative, I had energy (albeit limited by being the mother of a young baby), I was easy going and I was fun. She had the loudest laugh I had ever heard and a fierceness to her that I fell into with both envy and adoration. She made me laugh, God was she funny. She caused me to question anything and everything. She was the part of my youth that I skipped when I had a baby at 17. She was mischief and brutality, she was excitement and beauty. She was brave in ways I had yet to witness and she made me feel more alive when I was with her.
I fell in love with her.
To me she was one of the coolest people I had ever met. She was a photographer and a musician. A feminist and an advocat for anyone who was in a minority. She taught me about strength and independence in a way that I had never known before. She educated me on white privledge and truism. She inspired me to learn about politics, to listen and read about the World today. To look at the world through clearer eyes so that I may see it for the first time in a way I had never seen it before. I can never know for sure, but I can only guess that I offered her a younger version of herself, and someone who looked up to her and idolized her. Someone who had lived a very similar damaged upbringing and whose damage still hung there like a coffee stain in a favourite shirt that you wear anyway.
I was a clean slate. A slate on which she and I could create the image of what I should be. I made her laugh and I drank in everything she said and did. The undying flattery I offered up to her perhaps gave me a small place within her heart. Though I’m not quite sure if she ever liked me, she did love me I think, in a dysfunctional way. It’s hard to know for sure because she was as cruel to me as she was kind.
She could never have known what was to come, neither could I.
As soon as we had established a strong bond – my life began to unravel. About 2 years into our growing friendship I ended a friendship with my then best friend, I had a new baby (my fourth), just bought our first house and my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. My second eldest had been showing signs of being more than just a “Spirited Child” (if not for my efforts at buying every single book that would/could/should diagnose her otherwise). Obsessive by nature I started to research any and all potential reasons for Bean acting out in the way she was.
My friend was unimpressed and most definitely uninterested.
Every time we spoke I wanted to discuss my findings. I wanted to understand what was going on and avoid thinking about my sister who I was ridiculously worried about. I was convinced Bean had ADHD and determined to get her assessed and in some sort of therapy to help us with the challenges of parenting a child that was “more”. My friend poo pooed my efforts with things like “labels are bad”. She rolled her eyes when I wanted to chat about it and even more so when I expressed concern about my kiddo. I noticed, and I tried to hold back and I tried to open the conversations to things going on with her. But it wasn’t just that she didn’t want to talk about me, she didn’t seem to want to talk about herself either. I spent most of our friendship wondering if I talked too much (I probably did), wondering if I was interesting (still up for debate) and I constantly felt as if I was taking advantage of her, or too clingy, or too open, or even too weird (ask me about the time I changed my baby’s name over and over again…). The more I tried to chip away at her wall, the more it grew. It left us with nothing to say to each other, nothing personal or substantial to a close friendship. She didn’t care for my life and my struggles and she didn’t like or trust me enough to care to talk about her’s.
I second guessed every move I made and prepped myself before every visit to remember not to talk about subjects she wouldn’t like or might mock me about. Some visits were so obviously awkward and uncomfortable that even I sometimes considered if it was time to break ties. She began to bore me, and I can only assume I had been boring her for years. I was never quite worth the trouble or worth the time. One might ask themselves why she bothered at all? I was definitely the weak one in the relationship, she could have easily broken my heart at any time. Maybe that was the power I carried. The power of an easily broken heart. In my darkest moments, when I went through my nervous breakdown shortly after Bear’s T1D diagnosis, I considered dark things and expressed them to her. Maybe it was at that moment that she decided she could no longer be my friend. And though that is fair, of course it’s fair, it doesn’t explain the previous years of insidious cruelty she acted out upon me. When we were out with friends, even very early in our friendship, she mocked me openly at every turn and even when we were alone she always had the incredible ability to assure me that I was uneducated and naive. Probably she wasn’t all wrong. I’m sure she wasn’t.
She was the friend that doubted my worry at Bear’s increasing issues with pee accidents and his change in personality. I’m sure I know why, because at first I related it to ASD. She hated my fixation with ASD, especially my need to write about it and openly publicize it in my blog. Exposing myself and my kids in this way lost a lot of respect from her. I can only guess that she felt I was victimizing myself and romanticising the condition. In truth I was in a way. I was also worried, and interested. I was also struggling with what this meant for my child and what it would mean for me as a parent.
I wanted to talk about it. To reach out to those that understood. But my worries, my valid issues and need to relate to others, were trumped by her critiques of me. In the end, I suspect that to her, all I was was an obsessive attention seeker with a need to expose my children for my own benefits.
Today a mutual friend of ours posted a photograph to Instagram that my ex friend had taken, and I decided to check out the ex-friend’s page. I wondered if she had ever posted any of the photography I had done for her. In fact she had. And though she always prided herself with being a morally sound photographer who asked people before she took their pictures and never posted anything without permission, she did not credit me to these photographs. I assume she never thought I would see them since we had blocked each other from each other’s profiles long ago. Alas, I have multiple accounts and was able to access it through the account I was on when I was scrolling my Instagram. I wasn’t angry, but I also wasn’t having it. In the first time in years, I contacted her and called her out on it. She apologized and said she had removed the images, which in my opinion was a bit extreme and unnecessary. After all, all I asked for was recognition. Her crediting me my work did not mean we were now best friends again. Seriously, I just wanted credit on my photographs that were clearly being liked by a large audience. But hey, deleting them worked too I guess.
After our brief communication about the photographs I decided to write her again. This time I sent her an email detailing my feelings about our past friendship and our “break up”. It may seem trite, or pathetic even, that I chose to do this, but – like the steps an alcoholic takes after they quit drinking, this was something I felt I needed to do to move on. Something I felt she needed to know.
That she never fooled me.
That she wasn’t a very good friend to me and that I always knew she didn’t respect me.
That despite it all, I loved her anyway.
That there was a lot of good that I gained from our relationship.
That I didn’t ever regret it, any of it. Even the end.
That even through her obvious dislike of me, she inadvertently caused me to love myself better. She caused me to question why she treated me that way and whether I would ever allow anyone else to do the same.
And I did learn to love myself better. I learned that just because someone thinks you aren’t worth the trouble, doesn’t mean you aren’t. I learned that it’s ok to talk about your struggles and even to expose them. Because it’s also ok to want the world to know. It’s ok to search out others like you. I learned that even bad relationships have worth if you can find the worth in yourself. I learned that you can love someone so much, and that doesn’t mean they’ll love you back. But more than that I learned that I can be ok with that, I can move on without regretting any love I gave even when I was alone in it.
Perhaps her best lesson to me was that life is too long and too short to carry grudges.
I walked away from her sobbing, yet still I was a stronger, more independent and more confident person just seconds after she said goodbye. The best thing she ever did for me, though it might have been selfishly motivated, was to end our relationship.
What she saw as a weakness in me might actually have been strength. Maybe loving someone anyway, through their shit, isn’t always the wrong move. Maybe it means that my heart is forgiving, and kind. Maybe it means that I am a good friend and that my heart isn’t so easily broken after all.