Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rainy Day Women

I've written here before about my former best friend, Heather. We grew up together. She was the closest I ever had to a sister. But she and my mother always acted like they had to tell me what to do and keep me in line and eventually, I stopped talking to them. Breaking away from Heather was really the test run for breaking away from my mother. I felt, for a very long time, that I would eventually break contact with my mother. Our relationship was never good and as I got older it got worse and worse. Heather would often "report" back to my mother on different things about me. For example, she met Rock a few weeks before my mother did and called my mom on her way home to tell her all about him. I realized that if I ever did break contact with Mom, I couldn't stay friends with Heather. She was my mom's friend, not mine. I tried, in each instance, to let the other person keep the mutual friends. The main reason is that I felt bad about breaking contact and didn't want to inflict more harm by trying to take more friends away. I also didn't want to put any of my friends in the uncomfortable position of choosing between me and Heather or me and my mother, so I tried to just bow out gracefully. I also didn't want to talk about why I was breaking contact, because at that point, I really couldn't put it into words and felt like if I was questioned too closely, I would cave in. So in addition to breaking contact with my mother and Heather, I broke contact with several other friends. Well, yesterday, one of those mutual friends contacted me on Facebook. She and I wrote back and forth a few times, catching up on life. This morning, I saw that Heather had written on her blog last night, "Found a very, very giant trigger of my very own just a short time ago. Former best friend on Facebook. Seeing her face and her words on a mutual friend's wall just triggered a lot. It's a lot more complex than just "seeing her name was triggery", and yet not more complex than that. I'll just leave it at that for now, because I need to not think about the triggery before bed." Very cryptic. And it makes me.....sad. and confused. I wonder what she feels about it. When she says "trigger" I wonder what she means. I wonder what she thinks about when she thinks about me. I know that a lot of her opinion of me is bad. But we had a lot of good times, too. I miss her, a lot. There are so many childhood things that we shared that I don't share with anyone else. I watched Steel Magnolias again recently and I swear, I missed her so bad it hurt. We were Clairee and Weezer. (She was Weezer.) We were going to be friends for life and then be old, bickering, best friends just like those two characters. I want to reach out to her, but I don't want the old friendship that we used to have. We made the mistake that a lot of people who know each other for a very long time make - we thought that we knew everything there was to know about each other. She thought she knew everything about my childhood and my parents' marriage. I thought I knew everything about her family. She told me once that she thought she had been depressed her whole childhood. And I'm sure I smiled and nodded while she talked, but I didn't believe her for a second. Because I had BEEN THERE. I knew her as a child and she wasn't a bit depressed. But maybe she was. Because as close as we were, I didn't know everything about her. If she says she was depressed, then she probably was. But I didn't even stop to give her the benefit of the doubt. I just didn't believe her. And she did the same to me. Is there a way to form a new friendship with someone with whom I have this much history? A different friendship, in which we don't try to fit each other into the roles we played as children? I find myself equal parts hopeful, wanting to try and convinced that it's impossible. Should I reach out to her, try to make peace with my past, try to find a new way forward. Is it possible to create a relationship with her and then with my mother, in which they respect me? Or should I just leave it all alone and try to find a way to co-exist?

8 comments:

Jess said...

These are such heavy questions. I think the first thing to figure out is what you want, in an ideal world. It sounds like that would be a relationship of mutual respect with both Heather and your mother. Maybe that's wrong, though. Maybe you don't really want that kind of relationship with them so much as you would like to have a relationship with them that's impossible, you know? Like the friendship you used to have with Heather can never be recreated, but maybe a new and different type of friendship could be built? So then the question is if that's what you want. And the other question is how much will it hurt you, if it all, if you reach out to try to establish a relationship like that and you get rebuffed?

I'm sorry. I don't know. But I think you have to start by figuring out what you want and what you can handle, and deciding from there if it's worth trying for.

d e v a n said...

That's a tough one. I wish you luck in deciding what's right for you.

Alice said...

i think i'm probably a bad person to ask. i cut a friend out of my life a while ago, and she recently made contact again.... and i ignored it. maybe we were friends too recently-ago, and maybe since you & heather were friends longer ago you could start anew better? but i feel like there's no way for me to just go back to being this person's friend, not after everything that went down between us. and what's more, i don't even want to try, which is sort of awful. but i don't believe it would be different enough, or that enough time has passed that we're different people now. maybe enough time has passed for you?

Shelly said...

Jess - A relationship of mutual respect is what I've always wanted with Heather and with my mother. But, despite all my efforts, we've never had it. I don't know if it's possible or not. I don't know if I want to try. Thanks so much for your advice.

Shelly said...

Devan - thank you.

Shelly said...

Alice - I totally understand, because that's how I've been for a very long time. But now, I'm trying to mend some fences. But it's difficult to know which fences to mend how much, if you know what I mean. I don't want to go back to some unhealthy relationships, especially the ones with Heather and my mom. But at the same time, I really miss them.

Hyphen Mama said...

Oh! I just finished reading a book about setting Personal Boundaries (Anne Katherine)... and it talks so much about these kinds of relationships. They totally violated YOUR boundaries, and would you expect that if a new relationship formed that you'd be able to set very specific boundaries with them? If you don't think you can do that (I am SO NOT ABLE TO SET BOUNDARIES!!), then it probably wouldn't work out the way you want.

I, too, have several friends who've had to be broken up with over the years. Trolling FB has made me all kinds of nostalgic to reconnect with them (I even drove past one of their houses a few weeks ago, wondering if I should just stop and say "hi".) It's hard, because we have expectations going into it.. and what if it doesn't turn out the way you need it to? It's like breaking up all over again.

Shelly said...

Hyphen - You totally hit the nail on the head. They did violate my personal boundaries, I would not be able to set boundaries with them if I tried again, and it's just nostalgia making me want to try again. Thanks so much!