I don't know whether I have mentioned here that last fall, I lost a friend. It was a friendship that probably would never have worked anyway - I value my privacy way too much and I get scared of people who see the world in black and white. This friend was the mom of one of Pk's good friends and for a while, we had fun together, although I sometimes found myself feeling a bit... well.. claustrophobic. Any of my closest friends will tell you that while I adore them and I love spending time with people who are ideas people and who are wise and fun and who are compassionate, I still need my space and that people who are overpowering, especially those with REALLY strong opinions who don't leave room for other views make me afraid. I don't know where it comes from but it actually gives me a bit of a nauseous feeling. On several occasions, this person turned on me (and I never saw it coming) when I held a different view and it shocked me when the attack came. I AM someone who doesn't need to have my friends agree with me (well, that's not entirely true, compassion, kindness and a willingness to extend mercy are qualities that I need to see in friends but you don't have to share my religion or my politics or my way of parenting) but I do need to have friends who are willing to allow me to have my own opinions and who won't always push me to tell them they are right and I am wrong. Being a teacher and as a member of a union at times puts me in positions where people feel they can take shots at me and this friend had a tendency to do that.
While I will not get into specifics, last fall, I finally couldn't handle the constant stress and self-doubt anymore. I had actually stayed out of an angry lashing out she did at another friend of ours and then, out of the blue, two weeks later, I was accused of being disloyal for not immediately coming to her side and soothing her wounds. At that time, my dad and Dh had pneumonia, my mother was in the throws of what was suspected to be a heart attack and both LB and I were sick. My daycare situation had blown up (due to nothing to do with me) and I was doing a new job and feeling so much uncertainty. I wasn't in a good place and I wasn't up to being attacked yet again. I did something that I have never done before - I took a stand and said that I wasn't up to being the target for her rage anymore and that I needed to back away. I discovered that I had been unfriended on Facebook and after several very intense emails listing all of my failures, I stated that I would no longer be continuing the conversation, I needed some peace. I cannot tell you how hard that was for me, conflict-avoiding, insecure little me. Dh was thrilled (he actually said something about Marty McFly finally punching the bully in Back to the Future) and he said that life would get much easier without that constant stress of a relationship that was evidently harming me more than it was giving to me.
I had no idea how much harder walking away from a friendship would be than I had imagined. Every time I hear a sermon on forgiveness, I wonder about whether I am a bad person. I have tried to continue to be kind without actually reinitiating contact. I still drop off Pk's outgrown clothing for her girls, we delivered Christmas gifts for the girls, we sent a card and I sent a birthday greeting text. On the few occasions that I have seen her around town, I try to be friendly and to seem as at ease as possible. I pray for her and her family every single day, hoping that my sincere prayers for their happiness and well-being will take my pain away and help me to disconnect. Honestly, though, it still really, really, really hurts and brings up all of the old feelings from high school of worrying that it was all my fault, that I was somehow to blame or that I am in sin and need to somehow repair the relationship. I start feeling that way and then, just the mere thought of having to sit with her in a room terrifies me. It's amplified because we live in a small town and our girls are roughly the same age and we have several contacts in common. I start to feel like I have moved on and then, I see her comment on someone's Facebook page or I realise a contact that she has with a friend (in one case, a friend about whom she said TERRIBLE things and it was our first big conflict, when I said that I wasn't comfortable hearing her speak about my friend that way - I would never pass on the things that she said but frankly, I wish the friend somehow knew - I wouldn't want to see the friend hurt and it starts to feel as if the ex-friend is trying to take my friends). I would like to just forget her and I honestly have come to wish so intensely that I had never met her. I wish that I could pass her on the street and smile a vague hello and not know her story or feel like my life had been altered by this severed relationship. I have never had anything like this before because, frankly, I avoid people who I sense are angry for this exact reason. Conflict is draining and toxic and to me, scary. I don't know what early life trauma made this so horrid for me but it reduces me to a miserable mess.
My big issue? Every time I have a renewed contact, I feel a mix of guilt (for possibly being unforgiving and for not initiating full contact to show that I am not harbouring anger), fear about what she might be saying about me to others and this overwhelming worry that perhaps, just perhaps, despite the fact that I tried and tried to get along and that she has a track record of short friendships and hurt feelings around her, that the problem was me - that I am not a good enough friend and that I am the problem. Every time I see her name, it's like the scab that signified my moving on and starting to heal has been ripped off and I realise that the pain is just below the surface. It's a hard place to be.
It makes me see why forgiveness is such a constant issue - it's so much easier said that done and while it's easy to see others holding grudges or getting angry about something that seems like nothing to me, when you are the one who was hurt, it's so much harder to let go.