“If you ever feel that you are no longer important to someone… then leave their life silently.”~ Anonymous

I wasn’t going to blog about this, because it’s a relatively small and unimportant matter, in the grand scheme of things, and is a situation that’s somewhat personal, besides. However, I found it was something that upset me in a way that I simply couldn’t let go of the way I wanted to…and it upset my emotional balance all evening, and consequently, how other people felt about spending time with me. In short, it made me really, really sad, and I’m not even sure why it hit home as hard as it did.

I have a friend who has been in my life for some time, only recently, after quite a number of years, we took the time to meet face-to-face. Before that, he’d always been the sort of person who’d been content to be my friend at somewhat of a distance. A naturally introverted person with a pretty rich inner world and a very busy life aside from that, he’s never been the type to call me up to gossip about our lives, and if I were looking for the kind of person to remind me of my importance on a regular basis, I’d naturally feel hurt by this friend, because he’s the type that forgets to send an e-mail for a week, or two, or four, or eight.

Of course, whenever we did communicate, I always got the sense that underneath our many difference, there was a complex and unique level of connection…and since every letter seemed to mention “I’m sorry for not communicating more often”, I took it as a sign that I was someone he wished to get to know better. I even took it as a sign that in some way, I was worth escaping from an introverted and self-sufficient world to spend time with, which he did, although neither of us were certain we’d get along…at all.

We did indeed get along, in a way that led to a more heartfelt, interesting connection than I’d anticipated. I’m not an inexperienced girl when it comes to people, the ways of the world, and seeing the parts of people and their inner worlds they don’t typically share with others. I saw in this friend someone I felt an inexplicable connection to, despite a myriad of superficial differences—whether that connection is a sign of simple romantic attraction, a meaningful friendship, or someone who has been put in my life for a purpose, I do not know—but I know that connection when it shows up (and it doesn’t often), and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been wrong about the existence of that connection. I also know when that connection is reciprocated, if not understood, and there really doesn’t need to be much conversation about that. People just intuitively sense how others feel about them, I suppose, even if it’s illogical and confusing and makes little sense. The “why” and the nature of human connections are harder to figure out, but their existence is fairly simple.

Anyhow, my response to all this was to react in the way I’d react to anyone I’d been friends with at a distance, clicked with, and realised we should spend time getting to know one another: by communicating more frequently. Unfortunately, since this friend lives at quite a distance from me, is too busy to screw around on Facebook all day and rarely uses it, doesn’t reply to e-mails in a timely fashion, and has a schedule that precludes long, in-depth phone conversations, it left me with one of my favourite and most adaptable ways of becoming closer friends with someone: text.

A few weeks ago, we had a rather heated discussion (re: argument) about communication, which ended in me overreacting and feeling rejected, because I received a rather sharply worded letter about how this friend simply didn’t have the time or emotional availability required for the whole “getting to know you better”, communication thing. The letter wounded me so deeply that I briefly considered simply dismissing any possibility of anything past a casual, once-a-month friendship, and cutting off communication. Fortunately, when I expressed myself and my feelings, my friend sent me back a more emotionally-oriented explanation of what he was trying to say, something I could relate to. This led to a series of communications and rather vulnerable, emotional conversations about ourselves and our lives, and on my end, I saw as even greater evidence that, deep down, I’d met someone who truly wanted open, meaningful, and sensitive connection with others…despite an outward appearance that might point to the contrary. The more I connected with this friend, the more I saw how much we had in common on a deep and internal level, and not just the differences existing on the everyday lifestyle level. Again, I received feedback from my friend that indicated he also saw this, and was both pleased and confused by the dichotomy of feelings evoked by that kind of friendship.

Somewhere along the line, we reached a truce. We agreed we both had broken pieces in terms of how we communicate with others that could possibly destroy not only any possible friendship between us, but likely affected other friendships and relationships in our lives. We agreed that I would cut him some slack and not assume that not hearing from someone every day means they don’t like me, are abandoning me, or have lost interest in knowing me. In return, he would work on being more open and communicating and taking the time out to truly connect, because it’s an important part of life.

This worked for about two or three weeks. I agreed not to text him at work when he pointed out it was disruptive, or when he was sleeping, or to be overly clingy and lack understanding about the need for focused, introverted time, which meant I might not get a response to a text or a call that day. On his part, he acknowledged that me opening myself up and trusting him enough to want to make a space for him in my world and my life, and doing that the only way I know how—via communication—was indeed a special gift, and one he felt hurt by not appreciating enough, letting me know that getting to know one another better and “spending time together”, so to speak, was important for him, too.

Today, things kind of blew up, and there was an unpleasant exchange of texts that again led me to feel hurt and rejected and as if the gift I was offering was not only something not of value to him, but one he clearly did not want and was returning unopened. This shocked me because, quite frankly, I’d thought I’d understood that not only was this friend attracted to me on some level, but also felt a connection with me that was both intimidating and intriguing.

I see that it happened because we both failed. Neither of us followed through on the promises we made, on the ground rules that we established that said “This is what’s going to work to help our friendship grow”. I naturally fell back into my old habits of texting whenever I felt like it (although I did try not to do so during work hours), and because things seemed different, in that my friend would not only answer my texts but communicate and have long discussions with me—sometimes about important stuff, sometimes about nothing—-I began to assume the friendship was, in fact, becoming more comfortable to him. I understood that I was dealing with someone who didn’t need my level of communication, but it really seemed as if my friend were trying to bridge that gap, the same way I was trying by being more respectful of his time and obligations.

However, at the end of this week, things seemed to go awry. My friend stopped communicating, for days, and of course it didn’t take long before I started to take it personally. He let me know that he was very busy with other obligations, and at one point, even apologised for not being around—something I think is probably not normal for him to do. Yet, although I understood, I seemed to focus on the fact that not only was I being ignored, I was getting a different vibe from my friend’s sparse communication.

I felt as if something had suddenly become different, as if this person I felt comfortable growing closer to backed away—and like all intuitive people, I’m not sure I’m not right about that—-and like all people with abandonment complexes, I freaked out and felt abandoned.

Of course, I tried to mask this with sarcastic humour, and my friend instead accused me of being confrontational. I didn’t intend to be, but being an equally intuitive person, he likely detected the hurt feelings and fear lurking underneath the snarky comments. Somehow, things escalated into him feeling like something was wrong with him for his inability to make me happy with the communication he was offering, which then hurt me that he was so hurt. As a result, I immediately moved into abandonment mode, accused him of being disinterested in any sort of meaningful friendship with me, and using all the typical things you’d encounter in ending a relationship (“I’m just going to walk away now, because it’s for your own good; I make you sad and I don’t want that”) and the counter, (“We can still be friends though, right?”)—with someone you weren’t even involved with, ever, to boot. It became upsetting, distracting, dramatic, and in the time it took us to have this text fight, we could have had a lovely, uninterrupted 30 minute phone chat about something that left us feeling positive about each other and ourselves, rather than fighting about communication.

I still have this odd feeling that something happened to cause my friend to create an emotional distance I didn’t expect and I responded to in an overly sensitive way. Perhaps it is a “me” related thing—perhaps he finally read a regrettable piece of correspondence I’d sent after our first fight over communication and freaked out, perhaps it’s because I told him I was planning to stop by and visit on my way up to see my family and friends in the Northeast (something he seemed pleased to hear, but people are complex and difficult.), or perhaps he simply decided he’d had enough and needed AlaynaFreeTime. Perhaps it’s something related to work, or difficulties with another friendship or relationship in his life. But there was a specific point when I felt something change, and because that scared me, I couldn’t just let it go. I should have, especially if it was an emotional misperception on my part. But, this idea that this new friend in my life wasn’t yet someone I could trust not to disappear on me—either literally or emotionally—or withdraw to the point where sending me a “checking in” letter once a month was the extent of interest he had in knowing me; well, that idea is powerful and pervasive when it’s been a hurtful part of your past.

I understand that we both failed…both in communicating with one another and in working to understand one another, and to help one another overcome certain trust issues and insecurities.

I said to someone recently that usually,when people who care about one another fight, it becomes about everything except exactly what you want and mean to say.

What I meant to say to my friend this week was this: “I understand you’re really busy with life and overwhelmed, and I appreciate you taking the time to tell me that, because you’re not accountable to me in any way, and that choice shows me you care. Yet, you’ve been more emotionally distant than usual, and I have this weird feeling that you’re withdrawing back into your own little world, which makes me feel scared of being abandoned.”

Instead, I didn’t say those things. I didn’t say “thank you” for making the effort to try, which might seem like such a minor thing to me, but isn’t at all to someone like my friend for whom communication isn’t a daily necessity. Instead, I hid behind annoyingly snarky messages about his unavailability in hopes that he’d reach out and connect with me, say “This is how I’m feeling and what’s going on, and it’s not personal…and if it is personal, here’s why.” Instead, I made someone I cared about feel inadequate and unappreciated and unaccepted for who he is—which couldn’t be further from the truth. And, of course, rather than opening up more, this seemed to get the reaction of him shutting down, backing away from me, realising it was just easier to dismiss things by saying “We’re broken people” and “We’re really different, and look at close friendships differently” than to really talk.

And, in that way, my friend failed a little bit, too. It takes two people to connect, and when things went awry, I put myself out there in an emotional way that went largely ignored and disregarded. He retreated into his safe, comfort zone where someone getting too close or demanding too much wasn’t an issue, and there wasn’t anyone to let down or feel harangued by. Rather than remembering, “Alayna is opening up to me and attempting to know me in a way that is meaningful and flattering, and that is a gift that not too many people freely give”, he only saw demands and inconveniences and expectations he couldn’t fulfill—-something that I’d suspect likely reminded him of other friendships and relationships in his life where that was in play, and reminded him of other times he wasn’t understood or accepted. In fact, after apologising to me for being too “broken” to communicate in the way I—and many people—need, I felt the need to hug this friend, and remind him that he was just as he was supposed to be. He thanked me for accepting him, which I found odd—only moments early, I responded in a very emotional way because I felt judged, when he pointed out, “Most people would do this, instead of what you do…”. I felt it necessary to give him something I didn’t feel from him, which perplexed me..but, like I said, I don’t always understand feelings. They just *are*. I was very hurt, but his reaction made me feel bonded and protective, all at once. Perhaps I have a nurturing side to me, after all.

I may be really, really wrong…but despite the really unpleasant, hurtful conversation, I still feel like my friend is someone I know and see and understand, deep down. I can’t always express that when my personal insecurities get in the way, and I hide behind drama and histrionic outbursts, and the old standby, “I’m walking away so you can realise how important I am when I’m gone.” At the same time, I think he has a fairly deep insight into the person I am, the person a few layers deeper than most people know—but when something stresses him out or scares him or overwhelms him, he retreats into this very logical mode that can sometimes border on hostile (or maybe just for an emotional person like me.). I wish that he could communicate with me *before* that happens, to speak openly about thoughts and feelings and concerns and not just while we’re having an argument and hurling around all the statements about what we don’t like about ourselves, or one another. Because I know we are actually fond of one another a great deal—and we both like ourselves enough to get by. ;)

I know and understand enough about people to know that both my friend and I use well-developed defense mechanisms on a regular basis, two different tactics that have always been successful for two people who have developed a lifetime of self-protective instincts, distrust of letting others too deeply into their world, and fear of ultimately being hurt, abandoned, used, or betrayed. I accused my friend today of not being willing to open up or take chances or give anyone the benefit of the doubt or to let anyone in, but the truth is that I’m no better—-I push away the very people to whom I want to get closer. And, being more intuitive than most, it’s like I *know* what’s going to accomplish that self-protective sabotage that I’ve relied on to keep me safe—an instinct that’s resulted in a lifetime of commitmentphobia, polyamoury, a string of broken engagements and ex-lovers who won’t speak to me, friendships that change every few years, and the unique talent I have for telling people I want them to come closer while simultaneously pushing them away. Maybe we both share the same fear of intimacy that means our friendship can only exist on a superficial level, but I kind of instinctively feel the opposite…that perhaps we are the kind of people that can really and truly relate to one another in a way most others cannot. I suppose only time—and the mutual interest and willingness to figure that out, if such an interest exists— will tell.

I also see that, deep down, my friend and I aren’t that different. I deal with many of the same issues in an extroverted, hyper-emotional way that he deals with in an introverted, “this isn’t comfortable for me” way. I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite that dichotomy, our feelings and insecurities and fears are very much the same. And I also wonder if this underlying dichotomy is that inexplicable *thing* that would draw two very opposite people together, and despite reason and logic, create feelings of “You’re supposed to be important to me, and I don’t know how or why, but I know you are important.” When you turn around the mirror image of yourself—the one that is superficially opposite in every way, yet still essentially you on some level—you either find something life-changing in some way, or something you simply can’t have in your life because you–or the other person–can’t deal. Again, I suppose it’s a matter of time and mutual interest in getting to know one another that will reveal which this is, but regardless, I have this feeling that my friend and I finding one another, and discovering these things about one another, is meant to be immensely significant in some way. Good, bad, indifferent, life-altering, or just confusing? I don’t know. But I’m willing to be open and patient enough to find out.

In some ways, it’s asking the impossible. For us to get to a point where we have the kind of friendship I think we could possibly have—one of that rare variety that pass through your life, teach you something valuable, and change everything when you’re not looking—-we both need to appreciate one another and see the small things, rather than making demands. We both need to get rid of defense mechanisms that aren’t doing either of us any good…because (and again, I might be wrong), I think that deep down we both look for the type of connections that we simultaneously fear and push away, and instead choose other types of connections to populate our lives. We both need to stop running away, emotionally detaching, or hiding behind sarcasm and other forms of communication meant to not betray any real, meaningful feelings.

I was really upset about the conversation today, not just because I felt hurt, rejected, and abandoned, but because I felt I let down someone I’ve come to care about greatly, and possibly destroyed the chance for a real,honest, deep connection. I assumed my friend would feel relieved and as if a weight were lifted, making it clear he didn’t want to know me as well or hear from me as often. But, writing this, I realise how inconsistent that is with the person I believe I’ve come to know…and that I forgot I’m not the only one with a great capacity for feeling emotional, abandoned, misunderstood, rejected, and not good enough. Wanting space to be yourself is not the same as not wanting to become closer to another person. At the same time, I could see why he’d be hesitant to want to become any closer to me than we already are. I think there are aspects of our friendship that confuse and overwhelm and scare this friend of mine—and at the same time, he truly values and wants in his life. Ironically, many of those are likely the same things. I asked him why, knowing about me and my tendency toward clingy, dramatic communication in compensation for other, more meaningful things—he still chose to befriend me, much less meet me, much less admit he felt the same inexplicable connection with me upon meeting that I did—and I don’t believe I ever got an answer. Knowing the answer might clarify some things for me. Am I just a curiosity that’s outlived the entertainment value by becoming a demand? :( I don’t actually believe that, but I’d hate to find out what I felt as connection was mere intrigue by something long heard about, but never experienced. I’d hate to discover that I was a novelty for this friend.

In an emotional outburst moment, I informed him that he could send me away and choose not to communicate with me anymore, but after a few days, he’d miss the presence he found annoying and distracting. I told him that I believed the fact he thinks he doesn’t need or define closeness in the same way I do might be true, but he also might be surprised to find that it’s not exactly the way he always thought to define it, either. An overemotional, dramatic statement, of course…but I suspect there’s an element of truth.

I think that my friend and I did, in a way, let each other down this week…and while that’s sad, it’s nothing that should put an end to what has the makings of a very special and valuable friendship. Sometimes, people fail one another. Sometimes, people fail themselves. That’s precisely what forgiveness and insight is for.

I know my friend doesn’t read my blog, or tries not to…but I do hope perhaps an exception exists for this one. He may not see things as I see them—my intuitive read on things has been known to be wrong—but somehow, I believe he’ll understand more about me, and about our disagreement, than I was able to communicate while it was happening. And if not, well—at least I know I understand better. I am not going to be the person who simply walks away and says “You have no idea what you’re missing out on in not knowing me”, and talk to him once a month, once every two months. If he’d rather we have that kind of friendship…well, that’s not my choice. I can only make my own decisions. But I’m not allowing my fear of feeling hurt and rejected and suffering from wounded pride to shut someone out of my life who has become quite important to me.

I think that’s a type of personal growth on my part, and I can only hope the continued interest in carving out a small place in life for another person who may one day become a great friend is ultimately reciprocated.

Sometimes all you have to say is, “I care about you, and I’m sorry all my own crap kept me from letting you know that, and not giving you what you asked me for.” It is OK to tell someone else what you need, but it’s also important to remind them how important they are in your life—if, in fact, they truly are, and you want them to stick around. And, when someone asks you for something, if you truly care, you owe it to them to keep trying to understand, to provide that…especially when it’s relatively small, but requires you working through some of your own issues. In a way, it’s the hallmark of one of the strongest types of friendships that can exist…one with a strong enough foundation to challenge one another, without drifting apart or growing resentful in the process. Under the right circumstances, those are the people who leave an indelible imprint upon your life…and I guess that’s why I feel as attached as I do to a friend I should be able to easily walk away from. After all, I have experience in walking away from relationships built on much more, with much more time invested…so why not this one?

I don’t know. It’s just something that, in the core of my being, I *know*…some things, some people, are too important to give up on. Most aren’t. But once in a very great while, you find the one that is, and there’s nothing logical about that. Yet, it is one of the most real and honest things there is in the world. Not everything has an explanation, yet some fundamental understanding of that thing’s importance exists on a very personal level.

I know I sound like a person who’s read too many Paulo Coelho books, which I am, but it’s how I see the world, and how certain things make sense to me. We all have multiple soulmates in life—and I’m not speaking of the romantic variety, although for some, that is part of it–but of the people who have an irreversible impact on who you become. Some grow with you, some stay with you, some merely pass through your life, but all leave a permanent mark that can’t be undone. Something tells me my friend is one of these people for me, even if he is not the type to believe in such things.

I’d like to hope that, whatever the purpose of our friendship and however confusing and rocky the path, the emotional side of my friend is able to understand and appreciate that, too. Because, sought out or not, it is truly a gift that life sometimes puts in your path.

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