A Test of Friendship
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.
Some lessons, I just have to be tested on again and again to make sure I learned it the first 500 times. Easy lessons are worthless, it seems. And the hard ones that need reiterating really hurt, even when I think I’ve got it already. Just having to be tested again is painful. But I guess it has to sting to make sure I don’t let things slide back into the groove I’ve known for so long.
These lessons, this time, have more to do with taking on other people’s problems and refusing to be used and abused even by and especially by people I love.
Thirty days ago, AngelSu told me something I didn’t want to hear and could hardly believe. Yet, she has a true gift for prophecy, one I was certain of from the first time I met her and she, a stranger, promptly told me certain events to come in my life, as well as names and places, all of which were unexpected and all of which have come to pass in the exact detail she de- scribed. This time when we talk, she tells me of things that will come to pass in two months’ time.
The good news is that a romantic turn of events will lighten my heart and set my senses aflutter. Although she’s been 100% accurate with everything she’s said to me since last Spring, if I doubt her about anything, this is it. We’re half-way through the two-months’ time and I just don’t see happening what she described, but I didn’t see the other things either.
The bad news, she tells me, is that I’m about to suffer a deep regret—again—and though I’ve worked hard to let go of the things that hold me back emotionally, there’s a little more letting go to do. Oh, Gods, that’s not what I want to hear! Haven’t I let go enough? Haven’t I learned from my past mistakes? No matter. There’s more to come and in the next two months, I’ll feel the chill before the weather chills.
And so a week later, The Treat tells me he’s leaving town for good, that his job requires it. He’s actually apologetic for not being able to stay and yet I understand that he must go, that this new position is a fantastic opportunity that will make up for the hell of his last job, both in the way he’s paid and the way he’s treated. He needs this to establish his own life of abundance and turn things around after his own time in the Under- world, and while I’m sad to see him leave, I’m glad to see his life starting to click into place. This will be so good for him in the long run, and though I still wonder weeks later if his moving away is the deep regret AngelSu spoke of, The Treat and I are still talking and we’re still friends and I have no doubt that we will always care about each other.
For several weeks after AngelSu’s warning, I squirmed under a book deadline that was impossible to meet. The problem was that I had four months to write the book and I had waited the entire four months for the forthcoming revision letter I needed to proceed, the letter that told me what to change about the second half of my plot. I wondered if my regret would be that my new writing career would stall out before I turned in the first contracted manuscript. But unlike most authors, I stopped making my editor’s delay my problem and renegotiated my contract to give me roughly three additional months to write the book—after receipt of the revision request. Voila! The chest-tightening pressure abated, and I’d stood up to a major New York publisher with a monopoly over the type of books I like to write. I probably should have spoken up sooner, but I stopped beating myself up for something that I had no control over and put the problem back where it belonged. This was different, way different, but it didn’t turn out to be a huge regret or a loss or a letting go of something I cared about.
Other issues popped up over the first month of the two- month period. Problems at work, but no major regrets. Realizing the data on my hard drive was irreparably gone, gone, gone after my last crash. Getting an extension for my taxes due to the computer crash that lost my accounting data. Resolving some residual anger toward a former Elder for being abusive to me. More, too. Lots more. All of it was about standing up for myself and not fixing everyone else’s problems.
But the deep regret, I figured out half-way through the two months. Another friendship I’m letting go of and don’t want to. A relationship that has brought me a lot of joy, excitement, and many, many new spiritual lessons. But I’ve watched the relationship fade, and I can pinpoint when the changes started.
I knew our friendship would never be the same the Wednesday night I called her several months ago, falling apart because The Treat had just told me we couldn’t legally have a romantic relationship for another two years. It had come as a complete surprise—both what The Treat had told me, his emotional response to me, my emotional response to him—and my friend’s lack of a response when I called her and said, “I have to get out of here. Can I come over right now?” She could hear the pain in my voice, yet she had something planned that she’d told me earlier didn’t matter. The lure of it kept her from being a friend to me when I really, really needed her friendship.
That was my first clue. And since then, I’ve watched her self-destruct in a full-blown mid-life crisis. Its start was just that subtle. Though I was hurt and surprised, I did understand what had caught her attention and why. I warned her it would be a growth experience for her, at best. And at worst, she’d lose everything. I helped her where I could. And where I couldn’t, I put her in touch with those who could. But then curiosity turned into confusion and confusion became desperation and then came the lack of concern over who was pulled into an ever- growing web of deceit and the dangers she posed for those who cared about her. Over the course of the first month of the two months AngelSu had warned me about, this woman became a different person—needy, frazzled, distracted, reckless. My concern turned to warnings, all unheeded. She was losing herself, and dragging everyone in with her.
“Don’t you know you’re being used?” my daughter pointed out a week ago. Vicki had told me the same the day be- fore.
“Yes, of course.” But it didn’t start that way and until very recently, it wasn’t intentional. That’s why I let it go until last week and why I didn’t stop it sooner. I could forgive all her shortcomings earlier. I could be emotionally supportive. I could understand, because being an empath, that’s what I do and it makes me more forgiving. But it hurt to see her lose her spirituality. It hurt to see the person I’d admired become weak and oblivious to anything but her own needs.
“Are you getting anything out of this relationship?” my daughter asks.
We’re talking about how friendships have to be two-way streets. How sometimes you give a lot and sometimes you take a lot and it all evens out, as long as you’re both learning and growing and loving each other and treating each other with respect and kindness. That’s the way it’s always been with my friend, Vicki, and my daughter’s known Vicki for so long that that particular friendship is a standard by which she judges all others.
I don’t answer. I’m thinking.
“Are you getting anything out of this relationship?” my daughter asks again of my frazzled friend and me.
“Not in the past month,” I admit.
But that was okay over most of the Summer when she was in need. I won’t abandon a friend in need.
And it was okay when I found out she had flaws, big ones. I understand that human beings have flaws, and though I may have high standards, I don’t expect them to be perfect. I’m willing to explore the imperfections with them, the idiosyncrasies, the quirks and oddities and why we are the way we are, as long as they’re willing to admit their fuckups and take responsibility and not pretend they’re something they’re not. I myself grew up having to be perfect, required to excel in areas where my parents barely met the standard and often didn’t. So I accept that my friends make mistakes.
But last week, something changed. Last week, there was a blatant disregard for something that made her actions a danger for me. Last week, she started to lie. To me.
So this is my big regret. The thing I will sorrowfully let go of within two months, half of that time being served already. A friendship that’s been important to me. Because I may accept that my friends have flaws, but I can’t accept that they lie to me.