PLEASE NOTE: This is a letter to many of my past friendships. Not to the friends themselves per se, and definitely not to any one of them in particular, but more so the dynamic at play in the relationships between us.
Dear Old Friendships,
When I think of all of you and let the memories of you pass through my conscious mind it always leads to a heavy feeling.
First I think of the patterns you all seemed to share. The ways in which you were always heavily one sided, with me as a listener while you were in crisis… which was basically always. With me as a giver and you as a taker. With me as a planner and you as a flake. With me feeling grateful if you turned up to plans and you being generally annoyed I bothered to even make any. With that overall feeling that you only liked me for the reflection of yourself that you saw in our friendship. That if, for even one moment, you felt I was not devoted to you and placing you on a pedestal, it was proof you were right and I had secretly hated you or had an ulterior motive all along.
I remember the burdens of carrying your self esteem on my shoulders. Building you up no matter how many times someone else tore you down. Catching you no matter how many times you fell and even catching you on the times you willingly jumped. Being your safety net. Your back up plan. Being your designated driver of life, and also chauffer. Being the grounded one. Being your rock. Until you couldn't stand being grounded anymore and wanted nothing more than to be free. Until you resented me.
I remember the toxicity of your back handed compliments and the ways you would give me just enough hope to keep me there and just enough distance to provoke my insecurity - to be certain I always kept trying just that little bit harder. So you could feel comfortable that I would always be there if you needed me, even though you wouldn’t always want me there.
I remember the sense of wondering if you would leave me when you met that special someone and if you would accuse me of being jealous and in love with you if I were sad that you abandoned the friendship when you did. Because it was perfectly reasonable in your mind to stop making time for people when your partner was available. I remember the anger you felt at me for even requesting you spend time with me if your partner was available to you and the way you hurt me by rushing back to them as soon as possible if I dared to have an occasion or something when they were around.
I remember the way you would lash out at me if I pointed out your truths or inconsistencies or held you accountable in any way. If the reflection you saw of yourself in our friendship was anything less than perfect then often the friendship was over.
I remember always forgiving and trying not to have needs for fear that if I did you would refuse to meet them and I would have to question your character or the image of yourself that we both protected but was mostly untrue. I remember being pretty close to perfect myself. Also an untrue image. So I guess it is fair to say that I also held tight to the reflection of myself I saw in our friendships that I was also protecting. It was through your friendships that I could be perfect, but we both came down hard on me for any failings. Real or imagined.
I remember the ways in which I always seemed to be apologizing and you always seemed to be asking me for something. I remember failing the little tests you set for me that I didn’t even realise you were setting. I remember feeling you set me up to fail while my expectations were so low I set you up to succeed.
I remember it being unhealthy for us both. I remember rushing and not making you earn my love or devotion. You didn’t make me earn your trust. In hindsight I probably never trusted you and you were certainly never devoted to me. It was safer that way. I loved you so you would love me and you loved me because I loved you. It was a warm illusion.
I remember being so eager to give to someone that I attracted people who were eager to take. I remember not knowing how to receive anything positive. Deflecting compliments, running from affection and being uncomfortable with anyone who did seem to genuinely like me. I was untrusting. I didn’t like me, why would you?
I remember us liking one another for who we were to each other; not for who we were as individuals. I don’t think we knew who we were. Neither of us. We liked who we were in each other’s eyes.
But it was never going to be enough. It was never going to last. We were drawn together because we were both unhealthy. Incomplete. We both lacked boundaries, self awareness and self esteem. Eventually the illusions and reflections would shatter and it would end. They were fragile. They were near impossible to repair, because you can't unsee a truth, which is why we worked so hard to see and believe only the best in each other for so long.
I remember the endings. The poisonous words or the torturous silence. I remember the pain, and the loneliness and the desperation to find someone, anyone, to love when it was all over. So that they would love me.
And I remember the cycle starting again. And again. And again. And again.
But I don’t have to feel heavy anymore because I have learned. Stay tuned for my letter to new friendships and all I hope they will be. All I will make them.
Your Best Friend ForNever