I have had many friends over my 50 years of life. In my mind, I live with all of these ghosts nearly every day. As a child, my mother would console my sadness at a loss of friendship by telling me that they were ‘just jealous’ and I needed to just move on. I never could manage to believe her.
I once had a friend who liked me because I hired her for a job.
I once had a friend who shared the joys and sorrows of motherhood with me.
I once had a friend who sat next to me to cry after my baby drowned, and a friend who held my hand through a painful breakup with a lover.
I once had a friend who spent hours and hours on the telephone with me.
I once had a friend who shared new and fascinating music with me, exploring every nuance of instrument and vocal deep into the night.
I once had a friend who loved my parents and understood where I came from because they came from there, too.
I once had a friend who danced with me all night long to a 45 record on a portable turntable.
I once had a friend who loved Donny Osmond as much as I did, and pretended to surf right along with me as the Beach Boys crooned of their safari.
I once had a friend who would knock on the door and ask if I could come out and play.
I once had a friend who shared the wonders of the universe with me, pondering ancient knowledge and wisdom.
I once had a friend who wanted to play Frisbee and badminton with me, but I think it was only because I let them make out with me.
I once had a friend who wanted to talk to me all night just because they loved me so much.
I once had a friend who shared the drug culture with me…the rock music, the hazy concerts, the dark t-shirts, and the bleary-eyed mornings.
I once had a friend who laughed with me until we cried, and then cried until we laughed.
I once had a friend who liked me because I did everything to make their job easier.
I once had a friend who shared the experience of Israel with me.
I once had a friend who stood next to me when my mother died.
I once had a friend who liked to laugh with me. They always made me laugh, until they broke my heart and made me cry.
I once had a friend who rode shotgun, walked the trails, and dug in the brush with me.
I once had a friend who I felt I could be completely honest with.
I once had a friend who made special things for me and thought of me on special days.
I once had a friend who wanted to talk to me the next day.
I once had a friend who knew just when to hand me a tissue.
I once had a friend who shared those kind of special looks with me, the ones that not everyone sees.
I suppose everyone has friends like the ones I have had. But the words of a friend I once had still haunts me.
“But why are all those who were with you, no longer with you?”
That is a good question.
I have often thought that somehow it was my fault. That I did something to drive these once-upon-a-time friends out of my life. I have thought and re-thought. I have shed tears and re-hashed. I have agonized over the loss of every one of these friends. I have even believed that I must be a bad person – somehow unworthy of compassion, love, or friendship because that is what they said with their words and actions.
I once had a friend tell me that I had to choose between them or another.
I once had a friend insist that I publicly lie in order to continue in relationship.
I once had a friend ask me how long I going to cry over a miscarriage.
I once had a friend who only wanted to be my friend if I parented like they did.
I once had a friend tell me that they would be there to support me, but then they weren’t because I didn’t meet their expectations.
I once had a friend who used me for their own personal gain and satisfaction.
I once had a friend who hated me because I addressed them as ‘dearest’ in a letter.
I once had a friend say that they wished I would just disappear.
I once had a friend ask me to stop writing and sharing my thoughts.
I once had a friend tell me that I couldn’t be their friend because I was the wrong gender.
I once had a friend want to corner me in private with intentions to manipulate me.
I once had a friend tell me that my beloved hobby was evil and dangerous to myself and others.
I once had a friend tell me that I was selfish because I didn’t give them what they wanted when they wanted it.
I once had a friend who wanted to be with me because I was pretty.
I once had a friend who only could be friends with me while we worked together.
I once had a friend who was angry with me for years because I couldn’t marry them.
I once had a friend who only wanted to be my friend if I agreed with their political convictions.
I once had a friend who dumped our friendship because their old best friend came back into their life.
I once had a friend who looked for ways to set me up for failure and humiliation.
I once had a friend who said I was their best friend but chose to give me the ‘silent treatment.’
I once had a friend who only wanted to be my friend if I agreed with their religious convictions.
I once had a friend who felt more comfortable not being my friend anymore because I knew too much about them personally.
And, I have had many say they were my friend when they had absolutely no intentions of being friendly.
I am sure these relationship woes have happened to everyone. But it leads me, once again, to think about the definition of friendship and its purpose in our life. Are friendships meant to last for a long time? Or is it just a comfortable myth? What happens when people change…or possibly weren’t honest in the first place?
Could it be that, as a sensitive person who constantly loves too much and cares too deeply, I am to blame for all these lost friendships? Do I somehow make people uncomfortable with my intensity? I am sure that is partially at fault, and I do see my weakness. It just downright makes others uncomfortable when it seems as though I know things about them prior to them sharing vulnerabilities. I understand that and have always tried to downplay that aspect of my personality. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I have ever been very successful.
So, I have a lot of once-upon-a-time friends.
I once had friends whose children I loved with my whole heart, as if they were my own.
I once had friends who I loved because they were unique, and quirky, and made me feel alive.
I once had friends I cherished so deeply that I would give my life if necessary.
I once had friends for which I would drop everything if they were in need.
I once had friends who I supported through patient listening, even if I didn’t fully understand their struggle.
I once had friends who needed rescuing from awful situations, defended from bullies, and loved despite everything, and I so much enjoyed being a part of their life.
Now, I am only a part of their life through memory. Perhaps that is all I ever had – my own perception of these friendships. Maybe we are not really in control of relationships at all, as they seem so fickle and temporary. I have heard it said that friendships are like a garden that requires much care and tending, and that may be true. But what does it mean when you pour your whole self into relationships that end up failing? Does it really take two to tango? I have no answers, sadly.
I only have this to say, and that is that I miss them all.
I still hear their voices, and their laughter. I still see their faces in my dreams and memories. I still think about what they would think, and how they would react. And I still ponder their opinions and what they held dear. I still care. I still love. I’m still their friend.