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I canceled again. I haven’t reached out in months. I didn’t…you name it.
I haven’t been that thing that most people would call a good friend. These days—forever, really—it’s been hard to label those with whom I’m actually “good friends.” Heck! I don’t even know how to discern a new friend from an acquaintance, anymore.
If we just met, we likely hit it off pretty well, and I gave it my all going into the first few meetings—put my best foot forward, and then a few gatherings in started saying things like, “Thanks so much, but…,” or “next time,” or something of the sort. I started saying them a lot.
Maybe you’ve gotten to the level of “friendship” where when we talk, let’s face it, I do most of the talking. When I don’t, you feel like we just scratched the surface for a long-ass brief check-in.
How’s your mom? Work? That one hobby? Oh, I know, this COVID thing, right? Masks, quarantine, I’m doing okay (sigh); you? Blah blah finances. Blah blah I feel ya. It’s the same topics we talk to everyone else about, these days.
And when it’s real talk it’s either real good or real bad. Not necessarily in a manic way, but in the way that things are definitely looking up and I’m chipper and happy-cheerful—my normal clownish “self.” Entertaining. I love me this way, and I think you do, too. Or the opposite: everything is wrong—and you get to hear all of everything. A downer. I don’t like me this way, and I don’t think you do, either.
When I text, it’s a quick “I’m thinking of you.” Maybe you attempt to have a back-and-forth, and one of two things happen: I write you a book excerpt about everything that’s up (usually the negative stuff) and then add a little on-the-bright-side note at the end with a heart or a smiley; or, I disappear into something I later say is adventure or exploration or quality time in my relationship. And that’s true—sometimes. But it’s also not.
It occurred to me today between the bathroom and the closet that you might need this explanation. And maybe if you don’t, someone like me—some fellow “flaky” friend across the interweb—might get some catharsis. So here I am writing this note to say:
It’s not you or me, it’s both of us.
Okay, it’s mostly me. At least, that’s what my mean mind likes to trip on.
I’ve read articles that offer up how to know who the toxic people in your life are, and my oversharing is often on the lists. My reaching out mostly when I need something is on the lists. Lots of things so me are on the lists.
I’m sure you feel tired sometimes listening to me. I’m sure you’re weighted down when I share my heavy things. I’m sure I could (and should) use a counselor instead of you as my sounding board. I’m sorry—truly—for the times I’ve leaned on you so hard you’ve felt I was taking you down with me.
Here’s the it’s both of us part:
It takes two to create a chasm.
Folks, when’s the last time you initiated real, quality, what’s-really-going-on-in-your-life contact with your flaky friends? (This same question should hit you just as hard, my fellow flakers and largely avoidant pals.)
When’s the last time you even reached out to just say, “Happy Easter,” or “I’m remembering that one time when…” even if you knew you’d get busy later and might not respond to a reply?
When’s the last time someone who you didn’t expect sent you a message along those lines? How did it make you feel? Thought about, perhaps? Remembered? Important? Still valid? Still loved despite the space gone by and the time passed?
When you don’t reach out, I feel abandoned. Like you’ve placed distance there for a reason (and maybe you have). So I don’t reach out, either.
And then I get lonely. And loneliness, though often a friend, strikes up conversation with all the other times in my life I’ve been abandoned. By a father. By a kid or two at school whose parents told them (and the school) that they could not play with me anymore. By the other people who those kids could continue playing with and did and thus isolated me so that elementary school lunches and birthday parties spent alone and feeling like I was some weirdo turned into middle school parties spent alone and feeling even more like a weirdo. And so on.
Here’s the okay, it’s mostly me part:
That’s all my processing. It’s not your problem. It’s my responsibility to find a way out of that that doesn’t drown you in the process. Here’s what I need you to know:
I’m trying to reach out more, so you get the “thinking of you text.”
I’m trying to not do the surface thing, so I tell you what’s really up, and then I disappear with your follow-up because I get scared that I’m going to do “that thing I always do” and hijack things and make it about me.
I’m trying to be curious. Please know: when I ask you about you, I really, really want to know. I want you to fill my text screen like I have yours so many times before, or to talk my ear off with TMI.
I’m trying to spare you my heaviness. So I’ll say no to plans when I’m feeling I don’t have anything nice and positive to say.
I’m trying to spare you my heaviness. So I’ll disappear because I’m afraid to say “no” yet again.
I’m trying to spare you my heaviness.
I’m trying to spare you my perceived awkwardness.
I’m trying to spare you my shame about both of those.
I’m trying to find the best of me with what I’ve got at my disposal so that you can have that in a friend because I think you deserve at least a little more than what I’ve got to give at certain times.
Can you try not to give up on me?