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March 6, 2010 @ 1:00 am

When A Friend Becomes A Stranger

About four times a year, my neck starts to hurt, and it will hurt for a few days.  It starts out as that “I must have slept wrong” kind of feeling and then progresses until I can’t turn my head.  Because it’s so cyclical, and because I realized that it’s only a couple weeks earlier this year than it was when it happened at this time last year, I suspect it may be Fibromyalgia related and probably has something to do with changing weather patterns, apparently just before each season change.  Even though we really don’t have four distinctly identifiable seasons in Florida, I do seem to get this neck pain toward the end of each season.

Well, anyway, it occurred to me, on Sunday, as I was spraying the menthol stinky stuff on my neck and groaning inwardly, knowing it would get worse before it would get better (Tuesday was the worst of the “worse” part; it’s on the getting-better side of things now), that it happened just a couple weeks after this point last year.  I’m able to pinpoint when it was because I lost a friendship at the same time.

She’s a fun person, this friend, with a very high-energy aspect to her personality that is infectious.  She’s intelligent, is able to carry on conversation about a variety of topics, and for a number of years was the only person I knew who also currently watched All My Children.  That was how we met, in fact; on an All My Children message board.  I went to a couple Super Soap Weekends with her (when they used to have them every November in Orlando; they stopped after 2008) and attended a fan meet-and-greet luncheon thing with her once, as well.  We went to see Walt Willey’s stand-up comedy act a couple times, too.

Despite how much fun we had, though, and the several-hours-long and fascinating discussions we would get into over any number of topics (not just our soap), maintaining a friendship with her was exhausting for me, and frustrating and disappointing for her.  She needs more from a friendship than I am able to offer.

She often became frustrated by my difficulty in keeping up with email, for example.  It’s a problem that bothers me as well, that I seem to be unable to be consistent with replying to the emails I receive.  Sometimes I receive an email and plan to respond later, because I’m in the middle of something.  Other times I try to respond and my focus just isn’t there and it feels impossible to put thoughts together and express them coherently.  Then there are the days when I’m not home until late, and days when I have a mile-long list of things to do, and days when I’m just plain exhausted, whether there is a logical reason for that or it’s because of hormones or Fibro or who-knows-what.  She always felt that, if she is able to make it a priority to keep up with her email contacts and MySpace and Facebook friends, even with working and taking care of her house and maintaining a marriage and social life, I should also, and that by not keeping up I was simply not prioritizing properly and/or did not see my friends and online contacts as important enough.  We differed in our opinions, there.

Worse than the email issue, though, I’m not always able to keep plans, because of health issues (although I’m doing much better with that lately).  I think in the three years that we were friends, I had to cancel or change plans with her three or four times.  She is a planner by nature and she can’t stand it when plans aren’t clear and set in advance, and if they have to be changed, she really has a hard time accepting that.

Well, almost a year ago (on March 13th), we’d made plans for me to go over on a Friday night and stay overnight.  I’d battled the neck thing for a few days that week, and the Thursday was my “worse” day that time.  I actually made the decision to get my hair cut short that morning, after letting it grow for over two years, because trying to pull my comb through it caused so much pain in my neck.  I was having trouble even carrying my purse on my shoulder, at the time, and turning my head to look over my shoulder while driving was impossible.  Because I was hurting so badly, and her house is about a 40-minute drive from mine and involves getting onto and off of a toll road in the process, and because staying overnight would mean carrying my purse, overnight bag, and the case with my CPAP machine (I haven’t written about that yet, here, but I will soon), down the stairs from my apartment and up her stairs to her guest room, without being able to put anything on my shoulder, I emailed and told her I was going to have to pass on our visit for that weekend.  I just couldn’t do it.

I didn’t hear from her again until May.  She forwarded an email to me (Creative Puns for Educated Minds – it was cute) and then surprised me by sending tulips for my birthday.  I emailed and thanked her for the tulips and resisted the urge to be snarky and say, “By the way, I’m feeling much better now.  Thanks for askin . . . oh, that’s right; you didn’t ask.”  (It turned out that I also had a bug of some sort that weekend in March, and spent most of the weekend in bed.)

We emailed a few times after that, and she explained that she’d been so extremely disappointed by my canceling our plans (not a word about the fact that I canceled because I was incapacitated by pain and not for some arbitrary reason like simply changing my mind or something), and that she had chosen not to reply to me at all because she was raised with the motto, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

We emailed a bit again, for a while, kicked around the idea of maybe getting together for coffee vs simply continuing our friendship through email so that there would be less chance of my disappointing her again by not being able to keep firm plans for getting together (my idea; she didn’t care for it), but never got together.  In August/September, while I was going through some hugely difficult times in my personal life (no excuse, but the reason), I dropped the ball on answering an email with a question she needed an answer to fairly quickly.

I didn’t hear from her again, until I got an email from her while I was at SS’s last month.  I’d received an email a few days earlier about another soap event locally, and she was writing to see if I might like to go with her.  She really doesn’t have anyone else to do that sort of thing with.  I replied and said I was out of state at the moment, but that I appreciated her thinking of me.  I explained that I’m not sure whether I will be free the weekend of the event, since SS and I have been trying to plan weekend trips to see one another as we are able, so I wouldn’t be able to commit to attending.  I asked her a few conversational questions, in case she wanted to email back and be in touch again, but as I expected, I heard nothing more.

I understand.  I know that her needs in a friendship and my needs in a friendship are very different, as is what we each have to offer.  I also am able to see more clearly, the healthier I become, that friendships or relationships that are so much work to maintain aren’t that healthy, and I really don’t want that pressure back, of never measuring up.

Perhaps our friendship was only supposed to be for a season.  I wish her all good things in life.

Still, I will miss her.

4 Comments

  1. Comment by kate1975:

    I’m sorry that she was rigid and controlling in this. You did and do deserve someone who can take in that you have health issues and that your life and beliefs are different, not less than hers. I’m sorry that she hurt you through this process. She truly lost a good thing in having you as a friend. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

    • Comment by lifeischange:

      Thank you, Kate. I’m actually not feeling “hurt”, really, because I understand her limitations as well as my own, and the fact that our individual personalities and issues don’t mesh very well. I do miss some of the talks we used to have, though, and I really do wish her well.

  2. Comment by kate1975:

    Hi,

    I understand that you are saying that you don’t feel hurt, and I do understand, I think, what you are saying. I meant that in some way the kind of friend she was to you was hurtful to you. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

Thoughts?

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