Did you ever have one of those slap-ya-upside-the-head moments? Did you ever have one as it related to your friendships with other people? That someone you considered a great friend, you now realize doesn’t feel the same way about you? Maybe doesn’t even rank you on their list of good friends at all? That’s a sad realization, right there.
(**Disclaimers: This isn’t going to be a poor-pity-me post, but rather some observations from my life over the past three or so years. Also, since I’m not sure who reads ELEVEN anymore, I’ll be careful not to use names and I’ll try to be as non-descript as possible.**)
First, let me explain the slapping realization moment… I had someone I could have previously defined as being on my list of top-five closest friends, tell me what he/she was doing to celebrate a specific day of the holiday season. The event was with other people, in a public place, with no restrictions on the quantity of participants, and yet in the process of explaining it to me, this person was deliberately not inviting Alli and me to join them. Obviously I could have shown up without being invited, but at that point it would have been one of those horribly awkward situations no one wants to be a part of. We were not part of the group that was going, and his/her definition of the situation made that very clear.
As I analyzed what had just happened, an intense sadness washed over me. And instantly I started questioning everything I could possibly question in an attempt to find out where the friendship had gone astray.
Had I done something terrible or said something terrible to offend them? No.
Had I missed a birthday, anniversary, special day, or even some memorial that a good friend wouldn’t forget? No.
Had I not called or reached out enough as a good friend should? No.
Had our last meeting been sour or offensive? No.
Then some difficult questions rolled into my brain…
Was I not interesting enough to still be considered one of the cool kids?
Was I no longer on the short list when thoughts of who should be called came up?
Did I no longer have enough to offer to keep my friends satisfied?
Knowing the probable answers to those questions, I allowed my brain to shift to hard realities.
I used to be fun.
I used to be the guy that other people wanted to introduce their friends to.
I used to have a cool house that included a great alcohol selection, lots of music, a relaxing porch, plenty of space to crash, a big backyard, and a firepit to boot.
I had a wealth of friends from all walks of life and all age groups.
And as a friend once observed, I was the Godfather of our circle of friends. I was the glue that held all the parts together because I refused to let anyone go.
Then within a mere two months, I got sick and the ex left. That one snapshot of life irrevocably changed my life, or more accurately, I let it change my life.
Not getting the holiday party invite that started this thought process, I took an opportunity to have a 20/20 look back on the nightmare I had trudged through and what kind of person the journey had left me. To put it lightly, there were some disturbing revelations. During the months and years that followed that terrible time in my life, most of my friends were slowly backing away from me. Some of them didn’t know what to say to me, others were uncomfortable with my constant droning sadness, and others maybe just liked the ex more than me. And I guess that’s how things go in a divorce, but I wasn’t able to see it as I was living in the moment. With the exception of a few couples who never gave up on me, most of that giant circle of friends I held so dearly, simply let go of who they held Sam up to be, and moved on.
No one likes to be left behind, and worse, no one likes to be forgotten. In that sad time of reflection, those were the feelings I was having. My problems and I must have been too much to deal with, and I was slowly being left behind and forgotten. It was devastatingly sad.
After making no progress within my own brain, I took my thoughts to Alli. As she is so good at, she asked me some point-blank questions followed with practical and matter-of-fact advice. I’m not the same person I was, and either are all of those people. Life moves on and so do people. Then she reminded of the most useful tool in the friendship toolbox: if you want friends, be friendly. And then she asked me what I thought people thought about me.
So I took a long hard look at who I am right now. I am obviously a different person than I was three or four years ago. I’m scarred. I’m more reserved. I’m quieter. I’m more cautious in allowing people in. I swear more. I’m bolder in my opinions and care less if those opinions offend. I am also more observant and cynical of things said and done around me. (I was already bad at that last one, now it’s so much worse.)
I also took a long hard look at how people might view me as a result of the previous list. I am much less spontaneous. My spirit is somewhat darker. There will always be an unspoken opinion of me as tarnished or less of a good human because I’m divorced. I don’t come off as being fun to hang out with anymore. I might seem less hospitable. The thought of having a conversation with me could now seem cumbersome. And the hardest one to swallow? People just may not like Alli as much the ex.
With all of those in mind, the base point of Alli’s message to me was, “Get over yourself and move on.” Of course, she was right. I still have some really great friends and I’m still fun to be around. My more reserved nature can simply be defined as finally maturing. And making the decision to move on from self-deprecating sadness, into a new life with Alli, to a new environment in North Carolina, and recommitting myself to God’s control of my destiny, has made me a better human being than I was. I accept that I am a bruised and flawed human being and that some may now see me as less than what I was, but neither of those has to be what controls my emotions and well-being.
And so, when it comes to friendships, they come and go throughout our lives, and the ones that stick through it all are the ones that really matter. I bind that and make it my own.