My Readers Dear are highly intelligent. I know this because, well, because you are my Readers Dear. So, perhaps you have noticed that most of my posts regard friendship in all it's wondrous and blessed incarnations. My entries amount to an inventory of people I've collected, courted, cultivated, and clung to. I think most of my friends would say I'm steady and true. Once you are mine, you remain, simply, mine. Unless...
Unless you walk away from me, and then only if you don't look back. But if you do look back, you'll probably see me give you a tentative wave and a small smile in case you need a little encouragement to walk my way once again. I will welcome you back into my life because we all change our minds. We make mistakes while we are running on emotion. I've done it myself, and I hope to be forgiven for my bad judgement and the resulting bruises I've left on a tender heart or two. It's called grace and we all need it.
But, I wonder, when does the grace we grant to another become punishment of self? In other words: how do we walk that line between being a soft place for a cherished one to fall and being the doormat for the insecure to wipe their feet upon? How much is a girl supposed to take for cryin' out loud??
I'm talking about consciously choosing to end a friendship here. I have done it. Not lightly and not easily. And quite honestly, not soon enough. I've allowed a friend to make me miserable for much longer than I should have. I granted her more of my grace than she deserved and now I am able to see that grace I gave was only a small drop in the ocean of endless damage and limitless envy in which she comfortably swam. Today, buffered by a few years and a wide expanse of the United States, I am able to see the truth. Truth is, I was never going to make a difference. I was never meant to save her. The only one with sufficient grace for her is the One who made her. So I gave her back to Him.
Do you need the details? I've asked myself this question a few times in the course of writing this one. (Actually, I've been trying to finish this particular entry for three weeks because of the turmoil it has stirred up in me. But today, I am just pissed off enough to spew it out) Do I need to dredge up the drama and the details? Do you want to hear about the jealousy and one upsmanship? The showing off and the selfishness? I can tell you about the time she told me I was stupid, and the way she would casually mention pulling all of the medications out of her cupboard with the thought of taking enough to kill herself. I have very illustrative stories about the unnecessary rudeness she would dish out to restaurant servers. Are you curious to know how she can claim to be an ace business professional in public while never making the connection that two personal bankruptcies before the age of 45 would give the lie? (yeah, I never really reconciled that one either) I remember the way her jealousy would frantically rise up through her throat and threaten to choke her before shooting it's way out of her mouth in the form of a backhanded compliment or "constructive criticism" -- or the way it would turn her blue eyes to green when I would share happy news: a new car, a surprise vacation, a pregnancy. Her tedious attempts at control and manipulation left me emotionally exhausted and drained, but she never seemed to tire of it. Dee was my own personal Love Canal. (get on the Google) She insisted upon a clinging, clawing, possessive kind of love that nearly drowned me, and continues to taint the well from which I draw the water to nurture my current friendships.
I don't like to talk on the phone because Dee would call me up and use me as her therapist/sounding board for hours. I don't let my friends know when I need them because Dee NEEDED so much from me. I'm acutely aware of my own Drama Quotient and Neediness Factor because I don't want to be the Dee in my friends' lives. I never want one of my friends to look at their Caller ID and groan because it's me calling. With another crisis. Again. I work hard at keeping my own counsel because Dee would ask me for advice and then not take it. I reign in my judgmental tendencies (at least, I hope I do, I sincerely try) because Dee would use her professed Christianity as a tool to make herself look good in other's eyes as well as to diminish any sparkle of humanity she saw coming from others. I don't make many demands on my friends' spare time because I don't want to seem clingy. I could go on and on, but I won't--because DEE used to.
Being her friend was a lonesome place to be. I would try to talk to other friends and family about my Deelimna but after awhile they didn't want to hear it. The conversation would go like this:
Me: "She's driving me crazy, she makes me miserable on the phone, I don't want to see her, I'm drained, I can't deal with her today...yada, yada, yada"
Friend: "Just break up with her already!"
Me: "I can't, I'm her only friend."
Friend: "Helloooo, there's a reason you're her only friend...."
The final blow was mercifully delivered while I was pregnant with my son. I had finally hung up the phone on the third hour-plus call in as many days regarding her latest drama--her closeted, live-in boyfriend. I will be forever grateful to the hormonal state which allowed me to finally throw in the towel. Literally, I threw in the towel. I hung up the phone, and stepped into the shower. Over the running water I heard God speak to me so clearly, so plainly, I knew it was finally time to let her go, and in doing so, set myself free. He told me that Dee uses me as her counselor but that is His job. And that if I were any good at it, she would be in better shape than she is. He told me to put a boundary on our relationship: take some meds, seek professional help, or we are done. The next time we spoke, probably the following day, she knew right away "shit just got serious"- I layed it out for her and she very calmly told me that she couldn't abide by the boundary I put in place and SHE ended the friendship. It was all quite peaceful and civil and surprisingly one of the most drama-free conversations I ever had with her.
I shake my head and roll my eyes in exasperation when I ask myself, "What took you so long?" I can only say I was ill-prepared to handle her. I was younger then, and hadn't learned about boundaries as they apply in a relationship. I think, now, she wanted to consume me, literally eat me up if she could have. Perhaps she wished to posses my body and therefore, my life, so I wouldn't exist anymore. In that way, she would have the best part of me and no one else would have any of me. There must have been some part of her that knew most of my emotional resources would be poured into my babies and that was a competition she would never win.
I wish she didn't have such locust-like hunger for food, things, people. I wish she'd had a different life, without the trauma she experienced as a child. I wish she'd been given to a different set of parents who would have treasured their little girl's soul. But, only God knows why, that's not the way it happened for her. He placed her in that damaged home. He put that huge hole in her soul. There will never be enough of anything here on this earth, in this mortal life, to fill that.
I wish I'd never met her. I wish I hadn't let it go on so long. I wish it didn't still affect me so. I wish I didn't regret the decisions I made, the gifts I gave, the days I shared with her. I wish I could be more secure in my present relationships instead of always holding back, walking on eggshells, unable to ask for what I need. I wish...
It's been nearly 8 years since I heard her raspy, two-pack-a-day voice on the phone. The half-life of Dee's toxicity lingers on here. I like to think it will lessen it's presence a little more each year. Just as radioactivity has it's half-life, I pray, so too, will Dee's toxicity. Then maybe I can begin to enjoy my life, and the people in it, more fully.
I wish Dee a full life too. It's called Grace. And we all need it--some of us more than others.