This past year I had a friendship fall apart. I have been very hesitant to write about it here or anywhere because, to be honest, it cut through me like a knife. But, as I have been talking it out in the past few days I have realized it needs to be written – the good and the bad. It was surprising, but expected, and happened just as school was wrapping up for Christmas.
Though it seems like things like this always happen at the worst possible time and going into Christmas feeling bruised and battered can feel like a punishment, it has been a blessing in disguise. Having the entire Christmas break to think about it and practice some hefty introspection seemed almost effortless because of the amount of time on my hands. Had it happened in the middle of the semester I don’t think I would have dealt with it and it could have wreaked havoc on my anxious self. I cannot be blameless for what has happened, but I can learn from it.
I had very few close girlfriends in college and never really appreciated that there was an unspoken understanding or agreement on how much we expected to invest in each other as friends. How close was too close, how much time spent together was appropriate, what decisions we wanted comment on, and what decisions we wanted left in the dark. I never thought about the need for boundaries in any relationship because I have never had someone push them. I am filterless in many ways which has lead to very open, comfortable relationships. I don’t mind people knowing things – any things – about me. Almost all my friends, close or otherwise, know that Rob was and is my first. Does that bother me? No. Because I don’t care. I don’t care.
I don’t think I can pin this entire situation on my forthrightness, but letting people know me with such ease and lack of regard has finally gotten me into trouble. I’ve had people in my life who I let in and then believe, through no fault of their own, that it is okay to set up camp. To ask for more time and effort than I am willing to give. To have an influence on my life that I find uncomfortable.
If you take my tendency for openness and pair it with my anxiety this type of friendship causes a problem. I feel anxious when I let people down. I feel nervous when I don’t answer the phone. I feel guilty when I don’t give everything that is asked of me and more. But there is a tension in the back of my mind, telling me something is amiss. Something has taken away my balance. Who I am is slowly shifting and I don’t even realize it.
I am expected to be available all the time. My phone has become an appendage. I am ignoring Rob to deal with other demands. There is less air in the room and I don’t even realize it. I am light headed from the lack of oxygen and running full steam ahead.
And then, full speed ahead, I trip. I fail. I don’t meet the expectations. I confuse loyalties and tell the truths I have been keeping. I underestimate the consequences. I demand more than is being given. I make accusations. I apologize. I say – no more. I’m out. All at once I take a deep breath and come to the surface.
It takes days for me to breathe deeply again. Even longer for me to understand what I am feeling: relief. I try to look at it objectively, trying to place the blame where it belongs: on me. Days turn into weeks, and I let myself believe that it wasn’t all my fault and maybe it is better this way.
I want to be a good friend. I want to be reliable. I am. But I don’t want to be on call 24/7. As cliché as it sounds, my family is who I want to be with. I didn’t understand that then, I do now. I don’t want anyone but them feeling as if they have a claim to my time, my heart, my person. I didn’t pick them, but I got damn lucky.
It’s me. I need to put the phone away. Leave the door locked. Leave out the details. I need to decide what I want and what I will give and give no more than that.