toxic friendships

Exit 210. A letter I’ll never send.

Dear ___,

It’s been a while.  582 days since I have seen you, and 220 days since I have had any sort of communication from you.  I have no idea what’s going on in your life.  I’ve been thinking about you again the last few days. I know why. It’s pretty obvious why, considering what day it is. I’m not proud of this fact.  I feel quite immature that I’ve been thinking about you today.  But my mind isn’t like that. I have been cursed with holding on to memories and thoughts long after their times have passed.  So why can’t I just move on?  It sure didn’t take you long to move on.

I still feel like I owe you an apology for unfriending you and cutting off all contact.  I never wanted it to be like this, and I’m sorry for that.  I don’t know if that was the best way to handle things, but it felt like something I had to do in order to have some chance of moving on someday.

To be honest, it almost felt like a blessing in disguise when you ditched all of us and found a new group to hang out with.  As much as I spent most of 2016 trying to stay on good terms with you after everything that happened, it was hard sometimes.  We used to be so close before then, and I was just watching you grow apart from me right in front of me.  I wasn’t getting much more from you than small talk.  You never shared your life with me like you had before.  You were always off flirting with whichever drunk guy was paying attention to you, while you were giggling and claiming to be shy and awkward.  And after you found your new friends, I only heard from you in texts once every four to six months, and those conversations always ended quickly and abruptly.  I just couldn’t stand to go through that.  You said that we couldn’t be together because it just wasn’t a good time for you to be in a relationship with anyone, but you sure had no problem running after other guys.  I kept getting my hopes up that we would be close again, and I eventually realized we wouldn’t.  I normally get annoyed with people who find new friends and disappear from my life, but in your case it probably needed to happen.

I don’t know what you’re doing today.  You’re probably out doing something fun with your new friends.  I don’t need to know.  You’re out there living the perfect happy life that I always thought I wanted, while I’m growing apart from some of my longtime social circles and finding new ways to be hurt and ignored by women.  And for as much as your bad decisions have hurt me in the past, this particular part of the struggle is entirely on me.  No one has promised me anything, and I have no right to actually find the happiness that I pursue. How your life turns out is no concern of mine. My long memory and my logical mind make forgiveness exceedingly difficult. Believe me. I have tried. I even wrote here about forgiving you, back when we were trying to be on good terms again.  What changed? Was I being dishonest? I don’t think so… but, as I said before, at the time I was hoping that we would be close again someday, and your actions in the time after that have shown that you aren’t interested in this.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if we were suddenly to cross paths again, face to face. Would I want to talk to you? Would I want to work things out and welcome you back in my life? Would I angrily tell you how much I am still hurt by the way you pretend to want to communicate and then leave me hanging?  I honestly don’t know. I can’t say what I would do. And maybe that’s why it is best that our paths not cross right now.

I’m not good at letting go and moving on.  I still sometimes carry around hurt from others before you.  I’m just going to have to learn to live with it, to accept that it happened and choose to focus on more positive things.  And hopefully as time goes on, it’ll hurt less and I won’t think about you as much.  So, in case you ever seen this, I’m sorry I’m not emotionally strong enough to keep you in my life, messaging me every six months to see how I’m doing.  But that’s okay.  You seem to be doing very well without me, and it’s probably just better this way.

Exit 153. Good advice from a bad application.

I recently came across a meme, a screen shot of a conversation about malaphors.  A malaphor is the mixing of two or more familiar expressions.  The origin of the word seems to be a mixing of the suffix mal-, from Latin for “bad,” with the word metaphor, ultimately derived from the Greek for “apply,” as in applying a word to something else that it does not mean literally.  So a malaphor is literally a “bad application.”

A commonly cited example of a malaphor is “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.”  The actual saying is “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” meaning not to worry about things that might not even happen.  The burning part comes from the saying “burning bridges,” which means walking away from something and leaving no possibility of turning back, just as literally burning a bridge would leave one permanently on one side of the water with no possibility of crossing back to the other side.

Shortly after I saw this meme, I overheard someone talking about having had a really rough day.  The incident that set her over the edge was not necessarily something all that serious in and of itself, but given a buildup of little things that had previously happened, that incident led to a huge argument.  She referred to it as “the needle that broke the haystack.”  I was amused with that description, because that is another malaphor.  The actual phrase she intended to use is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (or the shorter variation “the last straw”), meaning a minor event that causes a major reaction because of the buildup of other minor events.  A camel can easily carry a straw on its back, but when already laden with hundreds of pounds of straw, or other burdens, one straw may be enough to break the camel.  She got this phrase confused with “finding a needle in a haystack,” referring to an extremely difficult and arduous task.

This morning, I was thinking about recent changes in my life and social circles, and wondering whether it is time to cut off certain potentially toxic individuals entirely.  I hate to cut people out of my life.  If I was once close with someone, or if I once saw something good in someone I didn’t know well, I often wish that things could be the way they once were and we could be close again.  And if I do happen to run across any of these people again, I don’t like the awkward situation of possibly having to explain why I cut them out of my life.  But on the other hand, I need to take care of myself, and it seems dangerous to give people opportunities to do or say hurtful things, especially in cases when I’ve been hurt before.

And then it hit me.  A thought crossed my mind from one of these malaphors.  Good advice from a bad application.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

As I said before, there have been some changes lately, the kind of changes in which I am naturally growing apart from the people who are making me feel conflicted about this.  So it might not really be an issue at all.  I might see these people so infrequently going forward that I won’t have to worry about any toxic interactions.  A lot of this is all in my head.  So maybe the best decision is to just wait and see.  To let former friendships die a natural death.  And if any of these people do cross paths with me again, if things end up being hurtful, then maybe I’ll say something face to face and/or block them from all social media.

I’ll burn those bridges when I come to them.

Exit 140. My last hour of winter break.

I’m down to my last hour of winter break.  I go back to work tomorrow after a couple of weeks off.  I don’t want to say I’m not looking forward to it… that’s not it.  There is something I’m not looking forward to about it, but I think it’s just that I’m not looking forward to having to get up early and do stuff, as opposed to sitting around in my pajamas all day watching The Price Is Right.

I had a lot of ideas about what this week’s post would be.  At first, I was going to do something about the new year, goals for 2017 along with some reflections about 2016.  Then, last night, I did some stream-of-consciousness writing about a small step I took recently in removing myself from certain toxic individuals, and how what happened kind of contradicts something I once wrote about in this blog, because people and circumstances change.  But then I decided not to write about it in any more detail than I just did, because it’s not really the kind of dirt I should be spreading publicly.

So I’m just going to leave this week’s post like this.  I’m not ready to write about goals for 2017, because I don’t know them yet.  I need to take some time for some major soul searching, and figure out who I am and what I want out of life.  Most of my ideas of what I wanted out of life in the past were somewhat vaguely defined, and more important, they were based on a number of assumptions about the world and the future that either are blatantly not true or were once true but are no longer.  My goals need to be revised.

So, until then, friends, I hope all of your 2017s are off to a wonderful start.