Warning, this post is going to be extremely raw and honest and might be about YOU. I will not be adding names to this post, though many of the people cited have been highlighted in this blog before. If I have mentioned you, please know I am telling this particular story because it has helped me work out some of my own issues. It is not to hurt or expose anyone.
I’ve noticed that many of my friendship statuses have been fluctuating this year. What I mean is that throughout the year I have noticed that my previously ever-steady close circle of friends has expanded and shrunk, and gone through a metamorphosis. It’s a very good thing…and of course it all happens for a reason.
My mother always said it’s better to have 75 good friends than only a few best friends. I have always disagreed with her. I feel if I have those 75 “outer circle” friends and I can’t count on one of them to check in with me every day, make sure I get my morning coffee, or know to ask for the full name and phone number of my blind date, then I may wind up with many acquaintances, but no one to make sure I came back from that blind date in one piece. I have a small circle of friends that I talk to every day or near enough, and they always take priority. I have a larger set of friends who I acknowledge at least once a week, even if it’s just on Facebook. The outer ring of the circle are the friends who I can go weeks or months without talking to, and I know that once the link is reconnected, it will be like no time has passed.
I like these definitions. The three rings of friendship give me security. And like a good (and single) Virgo, they give me comfort that someone will notice if I dip below the radar in less than 24 hours. Please see Sex and the City Season 2 where Miranda chokes on her food and has to save herself by heaving her upper body over a chair. Right afterwards she calls Carrie in a panic that no one will know she is dead for days, except her cats, who have, in the meantime, eaten her eyeballs. Have I had these fears? Oh yes. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that Miranda is a Virgo.
There are several accounts that I will share that back up this theory of friend fluctuation. This year through life’s trials and tribulations, one of my closest friends and I became almost completely estranged. She moved a half-hour away and was in a bad situation with an extremely controlling partner. This was someone who I used to speak with every day, who I could count on to be there for me whenever I needed her. Then the friendship I had known for seven years just stopped cold turkey. When she dropped off the radar, I felt feelings of panic well up. This was my go-to for all the crazy ideas I had that no one else would take part in. I knew I’d always have a date with her any time I had the urge for salsa dancing. In addition, and most importantly, she had two children who I considered family. I was having withdrawal symptoms for them most of all.
Another situation was with my former roommate. We lived together for three years, and then separated, citing a potential friend break-up and the desire to live on opposite sides of town as solid reasons to get out while the going was good. Almost immediately after moving, she met her soon-to-be fiancée…and dropped off the face of the earth. When I did see her it was almost always as a duo. I felt like our interests and commonalities were drifting at a rather alarming rate. After what seemed like no time at all, she and her boyfriend became engaged. My mind was absolutely boggled when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I was at this point feeling pretty distant from her, and in addition I had just spent a lot of money on another friend’s wedding and was starting to feel resentful and frustrated about all my friends with their stupid weddings. I began having feelings of incredible unhappiness about this long-time friend and former roommate, when I should have been nothing but elated for her. I knew I would eventually have to tell her I couldn’t be in the wedding for financial reasons, but I was terrified she would hate me. So I did what any normal person would do: I avoided her and the situation completely.
My last story is about my trusty hiking friend. We had been hiking together for two years and were always close, no matter if one of us had a boyfriend or girlfriend. Then, he met Her. Suddenly he was always too busy to hike with me. They had plans to go away for the weekend, or they had a function with Her parents. He fell off the map! The three of us hiked a few times but it was pretty clear that she was now the priority and I would have to work around their schedule. I admit it, I was jealous. Not only did he have a great partner, he found someone who liked to hike. I wanted someone who liked to hike!! The worst part of all? I actually enjoyed this girl. The night I met Her, he brought Her to my birthday party. He was clear he wanted me to meet Her and he wanted to know exactly what I thought. I really wanted to not like Her, because that meant he would be free to hang with me any time. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. As I have grown to know Her more, I hate to say it, but she is awesome. Grrrr…
Because of these estrangements, I had an awful lot of time on my hands. My brain understood that all of this extra time I now had was partially the cause and effect of people growing up, getting married, moving across town, etc. Though I may be single and childless, I can comprehend the need to focus on one’s family, but from my standpoint it can really stink when everyone else has different priorities and I am stuck alone, partnerless, and without family in the immediate area. While I love being an independent woman who chose to move away from her hometown eight years ago, sometimes I feel a little sad, knowing that most of my friends have a partner to run to or a kiddo to cuddle when they feel this way. This is exactly why I chose to have the close circle of friends. But when they aren’t making me a priority, who is left? I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t been faced with this situation before.
Instead of crying (much), I opened my up my contact list. I went through the list, noting people who I hadn’t talked to in ages but who I still very much wanted a connection with. One in particular stood out. We hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for over 4 years, but somehow we always stayed kindred spirits. We linked up on social media websites, talking about how we should get together, but we never actually did. So when I saw an opportunity one day, I took it. I knew she loved belly dance; she took classes from me when I was teaching a few years ago. There was a show coming up that I knew she would love, so I invited her, and she said yes! On a whim, I also invited my estranged salsa-dancing partner-in-crime as well, hoping she would bite, and I was so pleased when she decided to go! My evening was filled with catching up with the old and creating bonds with the new.
As for my former roommate, I finally got up the nerve to tell her I couldn’t be in the wedding. It was only fair; I couldn’t leave her in a lurch without a bridesmaid at the very last minute. I cornered her (figuratively speaking—it was over email) and got her to agree on a solo dinner. I hemmed and hawed during the entire dinner, only able to speak about my situation after we had paid and walked out the door. I don’t know what I was expecting: a slap in the face, tears? No, my friend was cooler than a cucumber and, as I should have known, hit the nail right on the head. She told me she wanted me to enjoy the wedding, not be pressured by it in any way. She said she didn’t want me to resent the financial burden that being a bridesmaid can bring upon someone. I was so relieved. I was also thrilled when she told me I would still be completely involved in any part of the wedding I wanted. The weight that lifted off of me was palpable. It also opened me up to wanting to spend time with her again. We have since completely renewed our friendship and are closer than ever. The grace of honesty in a relationship is something that can never be overemphasized. Even though we still live across town and have different marital statuses, we can be as close in spirit as we want.
Because I was left high and dry without a hiking partner, I was grumpy. I am used to getting dozens of hikes on the books each year, and I was at a loss. The Universe must have been working overtime because I gained two brand-new hiking buddies this year, completely by coincidence! One of them, as I have previously mentioned, took it upon himself to invite himself on one of my already-planned hikes. The other I had known for a while, and it just seemed natural that once we established our mutual love for hiking, we would do it together. What makes me really happy is that I have gotten all my hiking buddies, new and old, on the same hike. Thanks for listening, Universe!
Does this mean my mother was right? I don’t want to say she was 100% correct. I still want to be confident that my cats won’t be eating my eyeballs because no one checked in on me, but it’s nice to branch out and let some of the outer circle in a little closer.
When one door closes, another one opens. I swear I have read or heard this mantra hundreds of times in my life. No matter what, it always ends up being true. Life can really be painful, but I have found that once I get past the clouds, I can see the sun shining through. It really is a beautiful thing.