It’s Me Who Owes the Apologies
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.
Oh. My. Gods. I’ve had it all wrong.
The Universe has been giving me mixed messages about my friendship with The Treat. Sometimes I get the message to let him be and give him some distance. At other times, I’m told in no uncertain terms to keep the lines of communication open and not to throw away the friendship. The Universe can’t make up Its mind, and I’m frustrated. So I do what I do when I’m desperate for peace of mind.
I take it to the Goddess Herself.
Twenty years ago, when I was fresh out of college and temporarily living with my parents while job-hunting, I had no privacy to work through personal issues, so I developed a habit that I’d forgotten throughout my entire marriage when I dared not employ the same technique for fear of being accusing of gallivanting about town. While talking through problems with friends works out great, you also get the dilemma of someone else’s personal opinion on the matter. It can be protective and well-intentioned, but it’s still an outside influence. Better to talk directly to Deity and verbalize my thoughts. If I don’t say them aloud, my slightly ADHD mind will simply jump ahead and I’ll miss the important but more subtle points.
So when I need to express my thoughts aloud, I go for a ride. That way, I can be as loud or as happy or as tearful as I choose to be and without my kids hearing or sensing it. Maybe it’s 3 m.p.h. through my neighborhood at midnight or speeding along the highway to Mossy Head to visit Jeaneen, but it’s my chance to work through my issues verbally. The problems always sound different in my ears than in my head. It’s easier to hear the solution when the pain is spoken.
And so on this latest ride with the Goddess, I asked for guidance. Definitive instructions that even an idiot like me could understand. A billboard. A burning bush. Lightning striking beside me. Anything.
An hour later, I sat at my computer, deleting an email from an old “friend” who wanted something from me. This friend had blown me off earlier this year when I’d approached her for help—a rarity for me. Then out of the blue came a desperate message from her, wanting me to drop everything and give her problem a quick fix. Right then. But she was too late: I’ve stopped giving to her.
For some reason—whether it’s the astrological whammy of Saturn on my natal chart or the psychological backlash of discovering all the people who lied to me to protect my husband’s secrets—I’ve spent the past six weeks looking closely at all my relationships. Family, friends, co-workers, and undefined whatevers like with The Treat. Some relationships I’ve limited to five-minute phone calls a week so I won’t be deluged with negativity, guilt, and/or manipulation. Others I’ve cut off altogether. Most of them I have not missed. Because so many have been takers, and I never realized it until now.
A few are balanced relationships. Like with Vicki. Over the years, we’ve both spent our share of time in the abyss and in the heavens, and we’ve asked for each other’s help and joy and given help and joy without asking. It’s probably the only relationship where I’m semi-comfortable asking for help because I know there’ll come a time when she’ll ask my help and I’ll give it as freely then as she does now. And unlike with other friends, I can confess what make me joyous or proud without having to deal with unsubstantiated jealousies. Our friendship is a rarity and a blessing, and I know it must a reward for something I’ve done right in this lifetime.
Jeaneen, who is fast becoming a sister to me, is also giving and nurturing—at least as far as I’ve seen in these few short weeks of knowing her—and I feel more comfortable asking her help than I do with most friends, but I keep in mind to be careful to give back, to not take advantage. She’s well-grounded and accepts whatever I can offer, and so far, it seems equitable and I’m feeling blessed again with this new post-divorce friendship.
As for most of my other relationships, they’re takers. Pure and simple. They’re forever demanding and expecting certain things of me. Sometimes they’re smooth enough to ask of me in that covert way that so many abusers use.
Then it hit me. The Treat has never asked anything of me. Ever.
I’m shocked. I think through every conversation, every text message, every phone call. No, not once.
I initiated the friendship. I’ve always been the one to ask of him. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before except that I’m so accustomed to being in relationships with takers that I expect it to be that way. Yes, The Treat has taken from me, but it’s always been what I’ve thrust on him. Never anything that he asked of me.
And I don’t know how to have friendship with someone who isn’t a taker.
The truth is, I hate being a taker. Even when the relationship is as balanced and long-term as the one I have with Vicki. And for some reason, I get an awful lot from this friendship with The Treat. In 23 years with my ex, the only epiphany I can remember was the day it struck me that he was verbally and emotionally abusive. And yet with The Treat, I’ve had at least a dozen major life epiphanies within the past three months. I don’t know if it’s his uniquely scientific and metaphysically-minded brain, his out-of-the-box personality, or the way his last relationships mirror my own. Whatever the reason, I’m constantly making huge self-discoveries via my friendship with him—and that makes it incredibly valuable to me.
And also that makes me uncomfortable that I get so much out of a relationship. That I feel I get more out of it than I give back. That I’m the taker. That I’m the one who’s always doing the asking.
Subconsciously, I’ve tried to make our relationship fair and equitable by giving to him when he hasn’t asked. And probably when he didn’t want it. To give back, I’ve been pushing my agenda on him. He’s still hurting from his ex’s shenanigans? Let me help with that! Not fixing your life fast enough and moving on with a clean slate? Hey, I’ve been there and I’ll help you fix it! Because fixing is what I do. Helping others is what I do. Being compassionate and trying to unburden the pain is what I do.
Now the fact that he doesn’t ask for help and he is still somewhat screwed up is another matter altogether, but I’ve just come to realize that I don’t know how to handle it when someone isn’t making demands on me.
I’m the one who owes The Treat an apology. For expecting him to take what I want to give and for him to give back when I want to take, and because he’s never asked anything of me, ever.