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I'm Not So Strong, You Know?

This may be a bit of an emotional purge, but forgive me, for what other use is the personal blog if not this purpose? I know better than to over-react to something I see on Facebook. People post things on there without even considering the ramifications thereof – the far-reaching consequences of one little insensitive/misguided/offensive snippet. I, too, have been the offender in these instances in the past. So if this post turns out to be written for you about something I’ve said in either the virtual or physical realm, let me start off by apologising.

No one deserves to get their feelings hurt by a friend. It happens sometimes, mostly (I hope) accidentally, but still, it’s never nice. If I was that guilty friend, I really am sorry.

Because it sucks when it happens.

Today I was thinking of a person who has been a friend for the better part of two decades. She has never hurt me. I don’t remember us ever having a serious argument about anything. There has never been a period of ‘silent treatment’ or bitchy backstabbing. She has been a true and loyal friend for more than two thirds of my life. That’s saying something, because there are times, looking back, when I wouldn’t have wanted to be my friend.

And on the gust of that thought, I went ‘Facebook trawling,’ to catch up on some of the better friends who’s lives have been out of my immediate orbit lately. I understand that as life changes, we lose touch or we drift apart. I totally get that sometimes it can be months before we realise that we’ve had a real-live conversation with the person we consider one of our dearest friends. But I also have pledged, here on this blog, and in person where it applies, to be a better friend.

That is, I guess, what I was doing. But then I was hurt to see photographs of things that happened in their lives, completely excluding me. And maybe I have unrealistic expectations, (I have been accused of that before,) but more than anything I was hurt. I would never come to a picnic in your backyard and not even ring the doorbell. I would never reject your invitation to tea simply because someone else doesn’t like you. And I certainly try not to reply to teasing comments with cutting bitchiness.

I am trying not to sound too sanctimonious here.

God, (and some other unfortunate folks,) knows that I am sometimes rudely sarcastic and snappy. As I said earlier, I am also not always the perfect friend. But I want to explain something so I best say it slowly: I. May. Look. Tough. But. I’m. Not. So. Tough.

I have shed real tears about being left out of a baby shower before. About folks who’ve forgotten my birthday. About a reply to something I said in jest that is cutting to the bone. About times when my kids and I are simply not included. There are times when I honestly have to ask the question, “But I thought we were friends?” and it’s not a question one asks easily or often.

Remember the days at school when you were crushing on someone and passed a note along that had a simple question like, “Will you be my boyfriend? Yes/No.” I long for the adult version of those days. I've written at length about friendships and relationships with others, because it’s something that means a great deal to me. After reading my book, a friend asked, “Do friendships like those still exist?” I felt sad when I thought, WE used to be friends like that.

I don’t let go of the past easily, and by saying this, I don’t mean I bear grudges for a long time, I mean I will be overly sentimental for a lot longer than is necessary. I remember things about the past and commemorate anniversaries others have long forgotten. I cherish childhood photographs and have a box filled to the brim of letters from boyfriends and far-away friends from years ago. Maybe it’s crazy, but that’s just me.

Perhaps it is understandably hurtful that I would occasionally move heaven and earth to see a friend in London, only to arrive and see photographs of the same friend hiking in the mountains less than an hour from my current home. That’s what I mean by having a picnic in someone else’s back yard. But, I have also been accused of being the person who bends over a little too easily for friends who wouldn’t budge an inch for me.

There was a guy growing up who everyone I knew felt was a little ‘dirty,’ and certainly wouldn’t befriend him. Out of all the parties at school, mine was the only one he was invited to. My folks actually asked me a few times to stop associating with him, but we had fun. He was cool. I thought we were friends. So why, I ask, is my friendship request on Facebook still pending? I'm blaming it on his own issues. But it sucks nonetheless.

A girl who grew up a few doors from me; same primary school, same high school, same university. Friends for a hell of a long time. The last I heard from her was when I got married seven years ago, since then, total silence. Was she perhaps secretly hoping I would marry her? Who’s to say? Definitely not her husband. But the silent treatment was, at first, deafening. Now, not so bad. But this sucks nonetheless too.

I’ve been told, after hurtful comments have been spewed in my direction, that ‘I'm strong enough to handle it,’ or ‘You can take it, you’re a toughie.’ I really am not. I cry during adverts. I mourn for years. I never let go of hope that a friendship gone is gone forever. I'm strong in my own right and capable and smart. But sheeeewie, is anyone strong enough to deserve hurtfulness? And even if they are, for some reason, immune to these things, should anyone receive these from their friends?

The simple and only answer is, No.

My mom has an adage she has taught me over the years, “Keep your friendliness cheap but your friendship dear.” It’s a truism that has become all the more relevant as life pushes more and more of it’s own debris in the paths between my lifelong friends and myself. It is telling that many of the friends I consider my closest, are also those who have been around the longest. I pray that they think of me the same way.  But since I brought them up, I've been wondering why that is. And after today’s contemplation, I realise it’s because they have known me at my weakest points. They KNOW my limits and love me regardless.

The friend I mentioned above, who has never hurt me, sat beside me when I was in hospital in my teens, bringing grapes and visiting for as long as the doctors would allow. I had been in an accident in Zambia, flown in on New Year’s Eve, hospitalised over the prime festive season, but there she was. I still, to this day, don’t even know who told her I was there.

There’s a measure of friendship that is simply immeasurable. My heart is perhaps overly sensitive and my door perhaps a little too open. The countless hurts are definitely a direct result of these two aspects of my personality, but in truth, I would not have it any other way. The friendships I already hold dear have shown me that true and lasting friendship is indeed worth all the risks. I welcome new friends, new friendships and new journeys with open heart and open arms. But please come under the serious disclaimer, I am not, as I suspect nor are you, as strong as I look.  


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