When Relationships Change

imgresI have spent countless hours having one-sided imaginary conversations with a former best friend, idly trying to express the sorrow I feel for our relationship changing. They happen while I fold laundry, walk the dogs, wash dishes, or shower. And every time I have the conversation it ends with no conclusion, because she is not there in the conversation with me. The feelings I express are carried off in the breeze, washed down a drain, or absorbed into the tiled shower walls.  I’ve come to realize this is normal for when relationships change. Especially when one person didn’t want the change in the first place. It’s like having someone break up with you. It hurts. Even more so when you know what spurred the change, but cannot go back and alter the event or words that caused it.

And as most people do, I try to focus on the positives. Focus on the friendships I do have, my kids, my work, the projects around my house that I am successfully (albeit slowly) completing on my own (okay, I confess, with the help of various YouTube videos.) But every time something exciting or silly or frustrating happens, I find myself wishing I could call her. Wishing I could recount the crazy thing my kid said, or the hilarious act of clumsiness I committed, and listen to her share her day with me like we used to. And the sting is only heightened by hearing about her life and her kids from mutual friends, clueless that our friendship is no longer, where I find myself smiling wide and nodding as if I had heard the news from her as well, hiding the sadness to the best of my ability, only to dwell on the news and how much I miss our old friendship later that night when I am alone in my room. And our relationship changing goes beyond sharing our lives with each other. Much of my life included her before. And since our friendship ended, much of that life and the people in it have disappeared as well. There are no longer baseball outings with the kids for one fundraiser or another, no ladies’ nights out, no more driving her to functions and getting to be the proud best friend watching her do something so well, or simple cups of tea at the kitchen table to catch up on time passed.

To be honest, I screwed up. In the crazed months of divorce and moving and having to upend my business, I didn’t handle some things well. Actually, I was a walking disaster. And I made some stupid decisions.When I look back, I realize what I thought at the time was the right thing, was actually the wrong thing. I realize that I was so raw from the emotions and difficulties of my divorce that I was operating in some sort of self-preservation mode, not aware that my actions, or inactions in this particular matter, were hurting someone. And doing so hurt her. It hurt her enough that we are no longer friends, at least not the type of friends we once were. And we have spoken about it, at length, on several occasions and via text. Each time leaving (I believe) both of us hopeful that things will go back to the way they were. But what was done is done, and it’s a big, fat, noisy elephant in the room, and I don’t blame her for walking away. I don’t blame her for our relationship changing. Sometimes you can’t fix it or go back. Sometimes it’s better for the person to move on.

When I lived in NYC I would come down to the shore for the summers with my kids. We would leave the day school got out (and before they were in school, we left Friday of Memorial Day weekend) and wouldn’t return until Labor Day. It was the perfect antidote to city life and provided my kids with the same environment I had grown up in, days and nights at the beach, barefoot and sandy for ten weeks, surrounded by kids and their families, letting time slip by with the tide. My best friend was gracious enough to include us in all of her activities where my kids and her kids would play for endless hours on the beach, in her backyard, at one of her friend’s houses, at the baseball field. She has a way about her that makes everyone around her want to be in her company. She’s smart, fun, caring, and inclusive. She’s even-tempered and fair, and she’s amazing with kids, her own and everyone else’s. My decision to move here was made partly because she was here, and showed my kids and I a life we had come to love, and the idea of a family I wanted my kids to grow up with. I had envisioned our kids sharing their childhood’s and teen-aged years together, having countless sleepovers and endless games of night-time manhunt. I had envisioned holidays and new traditions forged. And I had envisioned us being able to call each other at any time for anything for years to come. It will be five years on May 24th since I moved here and life, per usual, is not everything I envisioned. After some serious bumps and cliff hangers, I’ve made wonderful friends, forged my own life as a divorced mother of two, re-imagined my business, and am learning the art of D.I.Y. on everything from putting out dryer fires, repairing fence and garage doors, to differentiating plants from weeds. And through it all I miss her. But relationships change. And I’ve come to realize that the best way to accept the change is to begin welcoming news of her and her family (instead of being sad I missed out on it,) to let myself hope she and her family are doing well and are happy (instead of shutting myself down when those thoughts arise,) and to forgive myself for hurting her. It was a mistake. A costly one, yes. I will always miss our old friendship, the closeness we once shared, the feeling that anything could be thrown at us and we’d come out of it laughing until our bellies hurt. But I will always be happy to see her, to hear of her, and to love her from afar. That part of our relationship will never change.