Recently I have had a lot of changes in my life and while i’m no stranger to changes, I really dislike the sort of changes that upset the foundation of my world as I see it. I have always identified my adult self first and foremost a mother, then a wife, a daughter, a sister and after that a friend. So as you can easily see, my identity is mostly defined by the relationships i’ve forged and the roles i’ve assumed over my lifetime. Lately though, changes have come about that have upset my apple cart and forced me to redefine some of the ways I see those roles and the part I play in them.
Many of the changes i’ve dealt with have been things beyond my control and so with those changes, i’ve had no choice but to sort of roll with the punches. My youngest son has moved to Tennessee and while this isn’t the first time he’s left home, it’s the first time in which he was headed toward something with intent. It feels promising and i’m happy for him even though i’ll miss him. Both my sons are strong willed, independent thinkers and can be very clear about how they see the world. I suppose in that respect, they are somewhat like me. I guess that even though we don’t always see things the same, they have learned to view the world through their own eyes. That can be challenging to a mother that has always been the “fixer” of all issues but ultimately i’m very proud that they can form their own opinions, feel strongly enough about them to act on them and will stand up for their beliefs. It means they were not only listening to the lessons I tried to teach them, they are living them. I’m transitioning to being a long distance mom and while that isn’t the easiest thing i’ve ever done, I have to believe that they know that Mom is only a phone call away if they need to talk. So while it’s not really goodbye, it’s goodbye to the role as a full time mother.
These changes though have forced me to re-evaluate the areas of my life in which I did have some control and while it may not have been the best time to make more changes, it gave me the courage to stand my ground in areas I felt i’d been compromising a little too much. After all, if my children were grown enough to stand on their own two feet, why couldn’t I do the same? So I did.
I took a stand and tried to talk to a friend of mine about some issues that were bothering me in how we were interacting and in our relationship. I will admit that it was my fault for letting things that had affected me go too far and not saying something before I did. I had hoped that when I did approach them, our friendship would be strong enough for me to be honest, be heard and even respected for trusting in them enough to share my true feelings.. even if those feelings made both of us a bit uncomfortable to discuss. In my minds eye I thought we would have a discussion, fix the issues and move forward. Only that didn’t happen.
I suppose I should go back and lay a bit of groundwork. Our friendship developed and grew deeper in part because of my need to “fix” things. I saw someone else hurting on many levels and I wanted to help. I thought that perhaps I could extend a hand of friendship, even a hand up for someone going through a hard time and that as a result, we might find mutual things in common and become closer. Perhaps that was a bit simplistic and idyllic on my part but I sincerely believed that there was a real chance to finally make friends with someone local. Someone that I could become buddies with in a place i’d found so different than what I knew growing up in Louisiana. South Florida is a very transitional area and there aren’t a lot of people here that truly understand my southern heart. I have some amazing friends that have been with me through thick and thin over the years and even though our friendships are still strong, we live in different states and I don’t get to see them nearly as often as i’d like. Simply put, I was lonely for friendship. So I felt this new person might be the right one to bond over chocolate, coffee and chat and help to fill in a missing piece of my life since moving to Florida so many years ago. And it was that way.. for a time.
I admit, there were some things I didn’t understand about their approach to the world but I didn’t feel as though that had to interfere with us being friends. I accepted the quirks as being a part of their personality and while I had no desire to change my friend, I didn’t want to have to change myself in order to make our friendship work either. I recognize now that I should have said something when those quirks started to encroach in areas of my life that made me feel uncomfortable. I own that and I can’t expect the other person to be a mind reader. But the real problems came when I did try to set a very clearly stated boundary and it was basically ignored. So I went to my friend.. tried to explain how it bothered me only that explanation didn’t go over quite like I had hoped. I dunno.. perhaps they felt I expected too much of them by placing a boundary? They did tell me that they had no expectations of me but I find that hard to conceptualize. To me, it’s impossible to have any sort of meaningful relationship in which there aren’t levels of expected behaviors. Perhaps too many expectations can lead to disappointments but the flip side of that is that if you have no expectations, how can mutual respect develop? Respect is formed from knowing where compromise lies.
So after approaching my friend with my concerns, I think we were both left with a lot of frustrations. It was stressful to feel as though my need for boundaries had to be continually defended instead of just being recognized and accepted. I asked if we could just drop it for a while.. let things cool off, give us both time to step away and come back to revisit the issues with a healthy sense of respect toward each other and a desire to move forward. I admit I was disappointed when that simple request could not be honored.. and I was yet again met with another round of why I should be changing my mind to suit their needs. I did not like that it had come to that point. I tried telling myself “do not engage” but by this time, I felt completely disregarded as a human being. It was a HORRIBLE feeling and one that I would have never imagined I would be in with this person.
There were too many misunderstandings, too many hurt feelings on both sides and in the end I was left feeling used, unheard and disrespected. I searched inside myself for answers, consulted with my therapist and even came across an article on the web that felt eerily familiar in places and while I saw the writing on the wall , it was a tough place to be. Deep down, I knew I couldn’t continue in a relationship in which I no longer trusted their ability to recognize and respect my boundaries. I told them that I was ending the friendship but I do admit it has been very difficult for me. I want to honor what the friendship meant to me for it’s duration but there is a part of me that is deeply saddened by having to let it go. I find myself missing what once was and while I am at peace with the decision, it was really hard to say goodbye.