By Jennifer Pastiloff
One of the girls from my yoga class waited for me last night after it had ended. She wanted to chat. S is a sweet girl and I feel protective of her. She found me at the height of her anorexia and in the last few years has come a long way.
Last night she was visibly upset.
Many months ago she’d told me about how her best friend had been blowing her off, how she was being left out of the friend’s wedding and its subsequent planning. She hadn’t known what she’d done wrong and it was eating away at her like something deadly and invisible. Over time it breaks down the healthy cells and even though you can’t see it you know it’s rushing through you with a map to your heart.
They’d cleaned it up, she told me, that mess between them, and she even ended up going to the wedding, she’d said one Saturday after class a couple months back. She never figured out what the problem had been and I suggested that maybe it was wedding jitters or anxiety. Who knows? I’d said lacing up my sneakers without losing her eyes, It has nothing to do with you. People get weird when they are going to get married. Hell, people are weird period. Even when they aren’t about to get married.
So last night she asked me if I remembered all that drama with her best friend? I indeed remembered. She told me that things had been strained since then and she’d finally said to her friend It seems like you don’t really want to be friends with me. Do you? And the friend had said, Actually no. No, I don’t.
Oh for the love of cliché. I wanted to tell her that it had nothing to do with her. I did say that, in fact, but part of me realizes that it does. And that that’s okay. This is what happens in life. We gather, we fall away. We collect like leaves and then drift toward winter without any idea where we’re going.
I admired her courage in asking her friend if she still wanted to be friends. I have this nightmare sometimes where an old friend of mine who I am not that close with anymore tells me she doesn’t want to be my friend. This is a friend I love dearly but whom I never see and feel slightly abandoned by.
Oh, for the love of God. Does it always shave to come back to being abandoned?
I told S that I admired her courage in asking her friend. I told her I probably would’ve been too afraid of what she might say. What if she said exactly what S’s friend said to her? What if she validated my worst fears about myself? What if she left me in a basket in front of someone’s door with just a note tacked to it saying Not Wanted? What if she let the basket sail down the Nile? And it goes on and on. The gallery of What if’s.
I wouldn’t have asked so I bow to you for asking, I said to S.
It’s almost worse than being dumped by a lover. Friendship is a primal beast, the vein that runs through all of us, the organ that grows and holds us together. Our spines memorize friendships in some way and falter when they fail. It’s hard to get back up.
At least when a lover dumps you, you friends pick you up off the floor. Here, drink this. Here, you need to eat. Here, there are plenty more fish in the sea. Here, you are still beautiful. Here, I still love you. Here, I’ve got you.
Her friend actually having the guts to tell S that she didn’t want to be friends was also something I found frightening in the way the early morning was morning and night at the same time. The way it feels like maybe everyone is dead. The quiet a spiny thing crawling in your ear and settling like fog. This isn’t quiet. This is dead.
This is “Somebody prove to me that I am not alone”. This is “Somebody help me!” I found it frightening like that. A thing you can’t put into words for fear it will fester and stay forever.
But, I said to S last night as we descended the stairs, this is how life is. And it is.
This has happened to me. On both ends. Someone has decided that they didn’t want to be my friend anymore. For no good reason. And vice versa. Maybe it wasn’t even a decision. Maybe it was a natural progression like aging and the way sex becomes less important and also more important as we get older. Maybe it was a natural progression like crawling to walking. Once you walk there’s no going back to crawling.
I don’t know. Life can’t be explained most days and when it can that explanation usually shatters its dry leafiness the next spring because things so rarely stay one way only. They change. They go. They leave. Things are so rarely explainable.
At least invisible things like friendship and love.
I told S that I’d had people I didn’t want to be friends with anymore but I hadn’t had the courage to tell them. I just let it drift out to sea until it was irretrievable. Maybe I hadn’t even realized I didn’t want it anymore until it was a piece of wood bobbing out there on a wave and by the time I noticed, it was too late because I didn’t miss it anymore. I’d just let it sail.
It takes courage and a commitment to the truth to tell someone you don’t want them anymore. In any capacity. It’s easier to let phone calls slide, to avoid, to pretend. Is it admirable? No. Just easier.
Why wouldn’t she want to be friends anymore with sweet little S? Her guess was as good as mine, but I can tell you right now that if someone said that to me it would validate some belief I had about myself being rotten. That it would set me sailing down the river Nile in basket with a note that said Nobody wants this. Abandoned goods.
S told me that it made her want to punish herself and I got that. My instinct might have been immediately to starve myself. That’s where my pain goes. To hunger.
Why do friendships fade? Why do people hurt each other? Is it better to be honest and a little cruel or lie and let someone think they are imagining the loss? That it isn’t real. That the trees are full of foliage as spectacular as burnt sun rather than than a bare arm reaching for the sky, fingertips pulling at the moon. Grabbing at nothing.
Is a loss imagined worse than a loss that’s real?
I don’t know. I feel sad for S. I put myself in her shoes and quickly stepped out of them because that basket speeding down the river is one I know well and didn’t want to be in. I felt empathetic towards her but I knew she’d be fine after all was said and done.
It hurts when someone rejects us. No matter what.
The thing with this honesty business though is that there will be no guessing. Now she knows where her friend stands, even though she truly has no idea why, she can stop wondering if she is imagining that her friend is pulling away at various degrees. She is pulling away. It is not an imagined thing.
The loss is real.
And as loss tends to go, it will heal eventually. The pain won’t necessarily fully go away but it will seal up and stop bleeding and one day she will run into the friend on the sidewalk and they will hug and that will be that.
And that will be mostly that.
Her friend told her that she just didn’t need her anymore.
Talk about honest! I was pissed for S when she told me that part of the story. She doesn’t need you anymore? What are you, a sponge?
But again, isn’t that life? When we don’t need something anymore we stop using it. We sell it or give it away or abandon it. Sometimes we try and hold onto it but usually we end up realizing that it’s taking up too much space on the countertop and it never gets used anyway, so let’s just get rid of it. Isn’t that how life goes? The natural progression? The cyclical fashion we move through our lives, the ebb and the flow of I need you, I don’t need you, I need you, I don’t need you.
It’s complicated as a sponge too. Full of holes and water. Holding on to too much.
I personally don’t keep my friends based on need. But maybe that’s a lie? Maybe everything in life is based on need? Air, water, food, sex, sleep.
I do know for certain that not taking things personally is multi-million dollar business and also maybe another lie. Sure, it happens at times, but don’t tell me that when someone you love tells you that they don’t need you anymore or that they don’t want you anymore, that you won’t take it a little bit as personal as if someone was trying to saw your arm off?
No one wants to be rejected. It doesn’t feel good. Ever. Nobody wants to feel abandoned. But the truth is, you are not sailing down a river in a small wicker basket, unclaimed. This is part of the viscous nature of life, this sticky and messy navigating.
You have to don your captain’s hat and tip it at the person who is rejecting you and move on. You have to let your sweet little heart recover a bit then open your eyes and realize you are back on the tree and that you are vibrant and very much full of color. That there is life all around you, pumping, mysterious, unexplainable.
Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.