On Losing Friends

There are very few things on earth that make you feel more lonely than having to say goodbye to a beloved friend. I’ve had to do that twice in the midst of this already isolating pandemic, and not a day goes by when I don’t have tears in my eyes at some point because of it.

What? Oh, no, they didn’t die. That would be infinitely more tragic. But they both broke my heart, making me feel like I was dying. Either way, it’s a mourning process, and one I barely have the strength for.

There just comes a point when you have to stop tolerating bad behavior from the people you love. You have a right to set boundaries. You have a right to put your foot down. You have a right to say, “No, you don’t get to do this.”

You should always be your own best friend. You need to put a stop to things that hurt your heart, even when they come from people with whom you have had decades of happy memories as well as a mountain of emotional investment. If you’ve tried to communicate and/or work things out and gotten no results, you have to say, “This far and no further.”

So for future reference, here are a few boundaries that I have set:

  • You don’t get to insult people you don’t even know on my Facebook page. Respect me, respect my friends. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t get to attack them.
  • If you espouse hate speech or try to encourage violent behavior, I don’t want you in my universe.
  • If you’re going to stand me up, blow me off, or take advantage of me, you better have a stellar excuse. And if you never return my calls and then accuse me of not being a good enough friend, you’ve made my choice for me.
  • If you make promises and then don’t keep them, I will lose trust in you. It’s hard to maintain a friendship under those circumstances.
  • You don’t get to exaggerate other dear friend’s behavior to the point of damaging their reputation, simply so you can win an argument. If you tell me that a friend I have known for decades, who has a reputation of never saying an unkind word to anyone, has suddenly verbally attacked you without any discernible motivation and with no proof whatsoever provided by you, I have to call foul. Not only are you insulting my friend, but you’re insulting my judgment.
  • You don’t have to like all the things I like, but if something is extremely important to me, the least you can do is be supportive of that thing. My blog, for example, is me on a page. When you continually reject my invites to my Facebook group, that’s painful enough. But when I offer to send you a link to one of my blog posts and you say, essentially, “Please don’t,” that’s like a rejection of me. How hard would it be to just say thanks and fake it?
  • If you know you’ve been hurtful, set aside your pride and apologize. If you choose your pride over our friendship, then the friendship must never have had much value to you in the first place.

For what it’s worth, I tried to salvage the wreckage of one of these friendships. I tried really hard. He just bent the truth more and more to prop up his stance, until finally I was the one who felt broken.

And in the other situation, it suddenly occurred to me that this person has made me feel bad more than once, and never has apologized, not once, in all the decades I’ve known him. I’m tired of begging to be treated decently. I shouldn’t have to ask for an apology. It should be a natural process once you know you’ve hurt someone. I realized that if I just swallowed my pain yet again and accepted my second class status in his world one more time, it would rot away my soul. This person could still apologize, and we could move on, but I’m pretty sure he never will. I suspect he is sorry, but I don’t think I’ve ever meant enough to him to merit an apology. And that crushes me.

That all of this is happening during a pandemic is bad enough, but then add on top of it the fact that I moved to the Pacific Northwest 6 years ago, and, with one or two wonderful exceptions, I’m struggling to make friends out here like I made the other 5 decades of my life.

It’s hard to make new friends after a certain age. Older adults have well established lives and obligations, so the opportunity to bond is just not there as much. That, and people are a lot more standoffish out here than I’m used to. I’m pretty sure I’ll never quite fit in. I can’t remember the last time someone took the initiative to do anything with me. Out here, I do all the asking, with very mixed sucess.

Oh, and I just remembered that one woman out here accused me of killing my cat and making a joke out of it, and called me a sick, sick person. When I pointed out that I haven’t owned a cat in nearly 40 years, and that I didn’t know what the heck she was talking about, she stopped talking to me. Who could even think that I could do something like that? So yeah, another boundary I’ve set is that I can only take so much crazy.

What I’m finding is that as my self-confidence and self-awareness grows, I’m less willing to put up with bad behavior. But the humiliating truth is that, my whole adult life, no one has ever called me their best friend. What does that say? I don’t know. But it hurts like hell, and it makes it hard for me to remember that quality is more important than quantity.

So, if you see me enforcing boundaries, or speaking my truth (not yours) don’t assume I’m being insecure. Instead, congratulate me for my own agency. Cheer me on for standing my ground. Think of me as strong, not defensive or paranoid. View me as healing, not broken. Is that too much to ask?

It’s just… I’m just really sad and lonely today. I’m struggling. (For what it’s worth, I wrote this more than a week ago, so I’m probably doing much better now.)

I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Thank GOD I have a wonderful husband and awesome dogs. It’s amazing how couch snuggles can make you feel that everything is right with the world.

Bleh. Thanks for listening. I need a hug.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine! I promise it isn’t as depressing as this post was! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

9 thoughts on “On Losing Friends

  1. Angiportus Librarysaver

    “I can only take so much crazy”–perfect!
    I’ve lost what I thought were good friends also, through slow fades due to depression, and one for reasons that remain unknown but her grip on sanity may have been tenuous toward the end.
    I remain afacebookual, illtwitterate and anamazonic.
    When one tends to have friends older than oneself, one also finds them dying, or circling the drain. This is not easy either. A relative once said I should find some friends my own age, and I said what am I supposed to do, have them fill out an application? That ended that discussion.
    I’m glad you have such a great husband. I am ace and not into romance, and a big introvert to start with, so friends are precious.
    I hope you enjoy many decades of a happy marriage, and that also you find some good friends.

  2. Nancy Peterson Buennemeyer

    I won’t say I understand your pain, because no one can completely walk in someone else’s shoes. But I appreciate every word you wrote. Boundaries are hard to enforce when you have to forfeit years of good memories. Neither should you excuse where that person is now and how they have crossed the line. Good for you for saying enough. I think we all have struggled in the last couple years with friends and family who’s values no longer match. When you can no longer keep the focus on what drew you together initially, then its time. Putting out energy that is not reciprocated is exhausting.

    I can also relate to trying to establish new relationships, particularly at an older age. I am a military spouse, who married older. First for us both. Left behind my previous well established life and entered into one of protocol and rank that I didn’t exactly buy in to. Thankfully neither was my husband invested in more than what was necessary. There is great camaraderie among spouses, especially if you live on base, but not as likely for strong minded liberal woman… That’s not to say they’re aren’t some of us out there but… Thank heavens we quit moving. You have to be in a challenging position with a rather solitary job. Thinking of you. Hope you are doing better.

    1. Thank you so much, Nancy. And my sister was in the Air Force for 21 years, so I got a vicarious taste of how strong the military clique is. It would indeed be hard to break into that as a liberal. Now that you’ve stopped moving, I hope you can make connections outside that hard shell. And I got married the first (and hopefully only) time at 53, so we have that in common. As for me, I have good days and bad days, but that’s the very definition of life, isn’t it? 🙂

      1. Nancy Buennemeyer

        Thank you! You most certainly do get this life. There are more liberals than you might imagine in the military. I’m fortunate enough to have stopped moving years ago, but it was still tough to break in to civilian groups once we were able to set down roots. I do have some wonderful friends and am still close with my college buddies in the Twin Cities, my first home of 30+ years. We talk weekly and have our own little book club. I don’t know what I would do without them. I just wish they were physically closer! Friends can still thrive online and Facetime. Pandemic life has been proof of that. But I haven’t forgotten those bleak times.

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