It took me thirty-seven years to figure out what type of friends I needed in my life, and with that valuable lesson came another one blazing right behind it. I also learned what kind of friends I didn’t want. I never thought (not in a million years) I’d be spending my Friday night telling the story of how my best childhood friend, Wendy, and I used to be friends. Years ago, Wendy and I spent our Friday nights boozing together. With our bellies bloated with beer and aching from laughter, we’d vent for hours about everything under the sun. We groaned and groveled about motherhood. We celebrated triumphs in our marriages and rolled our eyes at its trials. Week after week, year after year, we met in the middle of a long-standing sisterhood to commiserate and have one more beer. There is so much I want, no, I need to say. But each time I sit down to squeeze thirty years’ worth of memories into ten minutes, I get hung up at those damn emotional flood gates. There’s only one way through that proverbial gate; to begin where it began and take it decade by decade from there.
. . .
My brother and her brother were friends. Long story short — it was dinner time, and Wendy came knocking at our door looking for her brother. We befriended each other by default. From that day on, we fell into a cozy, co-dependent big sister/little sister dynamic that lasted three decades. We spent our adolescence together, laughing, skating, swimming, and building an incredible bond. A bond I thought could never break. Until one day, I grew tired of that bond. I know, sounds harsh — but hear me out in the next three decades.
Oh boy, were these years tumultuous and freaking phenomenal.
Our lives were so fucking sweet and savory with hilarity and teenage drama from eleven to age eighteen. There were the all-so-familiar tales of our first periods, first jobs, first boyfriends, first base, and second and third base too. Then, the more bitter than sweet pieces of our history, like when I came out to my parents as bisexual or when Wendy’s dad cheated on her mom with a pornstar. I remember that night like it was yesterday. Wendy showed up at my doorstep, a weeping, blubbering mess. She had a pillow and a backpack full of clothes, fully prepared to stay with my family and me forever if it meant she never had to go back home again. It broke my heart into a million unrecognizable pieces. It was then that I decided I needed to protect her from feeling gut-wrenching pain like that ever again, forever — like a big sister would. Soak all of that with a bottle of Smirnoff strawberry vodka, more sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, and you’ve got our teens in a nutshell.
Our Twenties were just as electrifying as our teens, with more independence, surprisingly more stability, and, you guessed it — more alcohol. We met up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; we went on shopping sprees and got our body hair waxed together. We drove around town singing in our cars like two twenty-year-old girls would with pure love and joy in our voices. We joined a CrossFit gym, went on a cruise together, and when we ran out of ideas, binge-watching episodes of Friends were always a great way to pass the time. Wendy and I prioritized spending time together on every birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, even if it was a few hugs and an hour of holiday giggles. Ahh, those were the good old days. We did do other things besides drink. But if I’m honest, the end goal was to gulp down copious amounts of alcohol while doing them. The day may have started with a healthy post-workout meal, but nine times out of ten, it ended with jager bombs. I’ve come to the staggering realization that I fully participated in the drinking but wasn’t dependent on it like she was. I am, however, co-dependent. I spent a lot of time trying to control situations in our friendship. I thought if I loved her enough, I could make her pain go away. I worried about her wellbeing obsessively, as a mother would. It was unhealthy and harmful to our relationship. I can finally admit that now.
With those tremendous teenage years in the rearview and our mid-twenties approaching faster than we could say, “How you doin’?” life started to move in a much linear way for me. I met a great guy at a sandwich shop, dated him for a while, married that guy a few years later, and popped out a few kids with him. I was living the dream so-to-speak. According to her, Wendy’s roadmap was bumpy in comparison. I’d be lying if I said I never compared my life’s accomplishments to hers, but the way she sized me up took our relationship to a whole other level.
At twenty-five, I was uber content with the way things were going for me and genuinely happy when things went well for her too. But anyone could spot the toxic patterns of our friendship. I noticed how much Wendy depended on me to rescue her. She needed me to be her person, but crickets chirped so loud when I asked for the same in return; they pierced my eardrums. By this time, our carefree twenties were looking a lot like our we-need-to-grow-the-fuck-up thirties. We weren’t kids anymore. I had eight years of marriage under my belt and a few years of the most surreal and gritty experiences of motherhood. I was happy in life but tired of our one-sided friendship. Like us, the drama and hangovers were getting old.
If you were to have asked me fifteen years ago what my best friend and I would be doing in our thirties, I would have interrupted you with the most obvious answer.
We’d be sitting on that orange couch at Central Perk, sipping lattes out of jumbo coffee cups, laughing hysterically about life and motherhood.
I thought our thirties would be the best time of our lives, even with the added complications of some serious adulting going on. Things so don’t turn out the way you expect them to — and that’s okay. I was more than enthusiastic about participating when the pints of beer came around (from all that adulting the week prior), but inside I was growing tired of the liquored-up lifestyle. I quietly wondered what would be left of our friendship if I stopped drinking. Slowly, I started to disconnect from the toxic patterns of my twenties that were no longer serving me in my mid-thirties. I began to reconnect with myself and lay loving boundaries down with my long-time friend as I had never done before. And shit got real. Suddenly, those gates busted open and flooded with memories of all the times I should have set boundaries and didn’t.
I spent years pouring love and support into Wendy’s cup and letting it go when she couldn’t be bothered to pour something, anything, into mine. I started setting boundaries around what I was comfortable with, what upset me, and why, and hoped that we could be honest enough to work through it. I wanted better for myself and my friendships. I was ragged, and one-sided relationships weren’t working for me anymore. I knew by not honoring my boundaries, I was slowly killing everyone around me, including myself. I thought heavily about how to love Wendy and care for myself at the same time. I had to stop making myself uncomfortable for someone else to be okay, but I knew honoring my boundaries meant upsetting that false balance we had for thirty years.
I did it anyway.
. . .
What I Hope Happens In Our 40’s
A sober conversation about our friendship: I’d talk for hours about what I think happened, take responsibility for my role in it, and how sorry I was for not setting healthy boundaries twenty years ago. I’d tell Wendy that I love her, miss her and her kids, but I just started taking care of myself again and won’t stop just so that we could be friends again. I hope she would understand that I came to a point where I had to choose myself and my mental health over being a good friend. And don’t regret it for a second that I did. I hope, somehow, some way, we come back together. But at the very core of my heart, I know things will never be the same. We will never be as close as we were before. I also know that’s a good thing for me. Part of healing is being honest with myself. I may be mourning the loss of a thirty-year friendship, but I think I’ve got it now. I’ve been starving my ego and feeding my soul for years. And frankly, I’m getting too old for this shit. I’m thirty-seven, and I want, no, I need good friends in my life from here on out. I want friends who are as responsible with my heart as I am with theirs.
. . .
. . .
Thank you for your love and support. You Are Loved. ❤
This post was previously published on Recycled.
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