Because I grew up in an Air Force family, and because we moved around a lot, I never learned to maintain friendships with people I was leaving. Even close, close friends, men and women with whom I shared deep secrets about fears and hopes; casual acquaintances who touched my heart and moved on; partners in all kinds of casual sexual relations; drunken parties; smoky, stinky bars; everyone who touched my life in any way was left behind with my former telephone number and the broken chair I left in the living room.
Actually, when I was a child, I didn’t learn to retain friendships; as an adult, I refused to do so. Long after I might have reconciled with my vagabond life; after I was old enough to forgive my young, neglectful self for friends I had left behind, I continued to tell myself that I didn’t care about any of them. In fact, I cared very much — maybe way too much, and I couldn’t bear to think of them forgetting about me.
Even after I studied the separation anxiety phenomenon, and recognized myself squarely in that syndrome, I continued to turn my back on people who had become my treasured friends, with whom I had shared some of the most significant events of my life. In fact, ex-lovers and ex-husbands I left further behind than anyone else. The end of each affair or marriage, (for which I always blamed him, not me,) was the starting whistle for me to run, run, run!
I have now been living here in my home town for 9 years in a row, and I don’t intend to move anytime soon. But I have, in the last two weeks, had the opportunity to test my new decision not to dismiss friends. I was prepared for failure, as I was ready never to see this friend again. Fortunately for me, he ignored my rejection, and has called a few times, telling me of his new love, kayaking and fishing. Since he rarely got involved in anything not attached to alcohol or pot, this is a big change for him. And he has given me the opportunity to reexamine my role as his friend. As always, I could only see the black or white answer. We found an in-between answer; middle-of-the-road, neither-here-nor-there, one we can both live with comfortably and happily.
Each time I manage to end up in the middle, I reinforce this new good habit, and take another chip out of the black-and-white cage I’ve lived in for so long. I love learning new lessons — even though sometimes they suck. This time, it didn’t.