The friend I alluded to in my previous post has decided, unilaterally, to end our friendship. It’s hard to know what to say about this development, harder still to parse the double messages in our short, intense friendship. Can one person find me fascinating, want to know more and more about me, come over on my birthday to play me “Glad to have a friend like you” — and drop our friendship by email (Thank G-d he’s not on Twitter!) a few hours before Shabbat, because he doesn’t feel a deep enough affection to continue? It’s as if I blinked and missed the yellow light that must have preceded the red light of yesterday’s message.
Three of the four (amazing) friends I’ve told about this situation, including my husband, theorize that the friend in question developed romantic feelings for me, couldn’t handle it, and decided breaking off contact would be the sanest course of action. While I like the ego massage of this theory, I don’t imagine it’s true. Quite frankly, I think it’s an issue of overcrowding. When we first met, I wasn’t asking anything of him, wasn’t asking him to call me when I was having a hard day or inviting him to join me on outings. There was room for him to feel some agency in the relationship. As things progressed, and based on his frequent articulation of his commitment to our friendship and my general struggles in life, I leaned on him more and more. I was too busy enjoying the empathy (believe it or not, he’s great at empathy!) to realize he wasn’t leaning on me, or initiating contact, or inviting me to do things, or asking me to comfort him when he was feeling down.
Last night, I alluded on facebook to having had a rough day. Two — count ’em — friends who live in the neighborhood offered to come over with chocolate. One, in fact, did come over, not just with chocolate but with wisdom and kindness and tie-dye shirts for the boys. Later last night, a woman I know from graduate school (and before that from summer camp) took time out from packing for a move to chat with me (facebook again!) and send me amazing, beautiful, heartfelt wisdom and support. And she sent me a poem. (Poetry deserves its own sentence!)
Today I went to synagogue with the boys, as I almost always do on Saturday mornings. A neighborhood girl who also attends our synagogue watched the boys so I could sit peacefully in the service and hear the whole Torah study. She declined payment, even after I offered to pay her after sundown (i.e. after Shabbat was ended). Another friend, Anita, who is — did I mention? — 91 years old and legally blind, made a standing offer to look after the boys in her (small, childproof) apartment while I run errands. Yet another woman noted that it’s supposed to be hot this week, and invited us to come use the pool at her apartment complex.
In the aggregate, these various encounters leave me with some less than charitable feelings toward that person I had liked so much. They also suggest something about friendship: it’s not just about the soul connection but about the day-to-day support and respect. Had my now-former friend said to me, “Naomi, I’m feeling a little crowded in our relationship. It’s uneven, and I’d like a little space,” I like to think I would have backed off. Of course I’d have been hurt, but if that were said in the context of an attempt to make things work for both of us, the soul connection would have been backed up by caring and respect.
I’m sure he had his reasons, but it is painful nonetheless. And hard for an intense control freak like me to be left with so many threads dangling.