I have deliberated for days about posting this blog entry:
I originally planned on not blogging about this challenge, mainly out of a misguided sense of respect for a former friend. However, this challenge was a major one for me, and, ultimately, one of the most liberating challenges I have had so far this year.
I "broke up" with a friend on Sunday.
We were friends on and off since middle school. We lost touch in high school, but in college, thanks to the wonders of Facebook and Instant Messenger, we reunited and became very close friends. I was quite impressed by his passion and drive to pursue his life-long dream, and often bragged of his accomplishments to those who would listen. I enjoyed our conversations and loved that we could often easily talk about anything and everything.
Out of this loyalty to him and our friendship, I often shrugged it off when someone close to me would question why I was friends with him. "Oh, that's just how he is," I'd say, even when something he said or did hurt or annoyed me. You see, dear reader, as much as I hate to admit it, my biggest fault is not impatience; it is that I am too nice, especially for my own good.
Because I mistakenly treasured our friendship, I ignored so many of the warning signs that this was a toxic friendship, until this past year. Over the many conversations we have had, I began to notice certain trends:
1) Every conversation had to be about him somehow, or about something he wanted to discuss at that moment. Anytime I tried to talk about something I needed or wanted to discuss, the conversation still ended up being about him, his issues, and his inability (more accurately, his unwillingness) to try to resolve those issues.
2) He is never happy. Even the little happinesses seem to escape him. Instead of finding joy in the things he has or has achieved, he can only focus on what he does not yet have. I, on the other hand, am a simple soul and often find the greatest happiness in the little things. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea that "while every day may not be good, there is some good in every day," and do try to keep my complaining to a minimum. (I don't always succeed, but I try.)
3) Most importantly, I could not be myself in conversations with him. Gradually, the list of things I could not talk about grew:
* I could not talk about my job - despite his own very awesome job, he was jealous of the things I got to do.
* I could not talk about my love - it reminded him of the fact that I had a love life while he does not, and that my love life does not involve him.
* I could not talk about my dreams and hopes for the future, where I want to live, where I want to go, and what I want to do - my ambitions and dreams are not, simply put, ambitious enough for him. Instead, he would demand that I become "incredible person x" or "live in place y" because they better match the ideals he had created for me, despite my insistence that those were not things I aspired to or would be happy with.
Whenever I tried steering conversations towards something about me, particularly one of the three things I just mentioned, our conversations would become quite antagonistic, and I would inevitably wind up hurt or frustrated. If I tried to point this out, his answer always was, "You know me better than that. You know I'm just teasing." But it never felt like teasing to me.
On Sunday, we had a conversation, in which I was trying to bounce an idea I felt quite passionate about off of him. Instead of the rational discussion I wanted, he instead began to once again demand that I pursue a position of power, so that I could get "power, respect, and money." The angrier I got, the more he dug his heels in, so I eventually just logged off the computer to avoid getting my feelings hurt any further.
When I logged back on, he insulted me, and I snapped. I told him I was done talking to him and tried to offer a brief explanation as to why, but he kept interrupting me and the conversation ended with "have a nice life."
I felt bad about how the conversation ended, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the relief I felt at not having to bend over backwards to continually soothe his ego. By trying to be a friend to him, I was hurting myself. So I let it go.
On Tuesday, he sent me a very nasty email. Knowing his temper the way I do, I was not all that surprised that he sent me such an email. However, I was severely disappointed in him. He spent part of the email talking about how I meant the world to him and he would do anything for me. Then, he ended the email with "May you die, burn in hell, and never cross my path again. I am and will forever be dead to you."
That made me sad. It also made me realize that I made the best possible decision for myself in letting our friendship go.
On Wednesday, after work, I got rid of all the pictures I have of this former friend. I have never done that before. I still have pictures of "friends" who deliberately hurt me in the past. I still have pictures of ex-boyfriends. I keep those pictures because even though things ended badly with some people, I still have good memories of the times I did share with them, and when I look at those pictures, it is the good times, rather than the hurt, that I recall. However, I knew I would never be able to look at pictures of this friend again without recalling his parting words to me. So I got rid of pictures, pages out of my scrapbooks, and anything that could possibly make me think of him again.
By letting go of a friendship, it hurt. By getting rid of all the memories we've had over the years, it hurt.
By doing both, I feel so much better.
I no longer have a "toxic" friend that I have to cater to. I no longer have to censor myself in conversations. I can instead focus on all the great friendships I do have - all those wonderful people who share their lives, hopes, triumphs, failures, and mundane daily routines with me the way friends should.