If, like me, you have embraced a greater spirituality and new interests as you have grown older you may find yourself looking at your friendship group and wondering if the past is all you have in common anymore.
This was brought home to me one day when my oldest friend and I had our second disagreement in 25 odd years. We were close buddies at school but lost touch when she disapproved of my marriage to my first husband as he was older than me. We got back in touch again when I sought her out to see if we could repair the damage. We seemed to get along as well as we had always done and slipped back into what I thought was an easy friendship for a few years.
What I didn’t know then was that she was harbouring a decades old jealously. I found this out rather shockingly when she lost it in my house during a coffee meeting and admitted she was jealous of my exam results from school decades before, felt inferior to me intellectually in the here and now, disliked the fact I was no longer a wallflower and was more confident, hated me because she had stayed in her marriage and was unhappy and yet I was divorced and in a happy relationship and…well, the list went on for about an hour. She then left and, although I tried to speak to her at the time, we haven’t seen each other since.
Ironically, I had always happily sat in her shadow. She was always far more popular than I was at school, with both sexes, was slim and had a loving, big family with five brothers and sisters to call her own. Her home had a normality I craved and I basked in it when round there. It had such an impact on me I decided to have a big, happy family of my own and went on to have five beautiful children and recreated the place I saw as perfection from my teenage years.
The day our friendship ended again and the things she said devastated me at the time but I let her go mentally and physically. I did so because I realised the past was all we had in common and to keep trying to repair something which had been so (unknowingly to me at the time) fragile at its best was not going to be good for either of us. When I looked back I could see the things she had said and done which should have red flagged the whole thing for me but I had chosen to see these things as part of her darker side we all have. I loved the bad with the good and blamed myself instead. It is a familiar story and happens frequently with those we care about.
I also began to realise that a lot of friendships I had were very similar in that they were there but neither them nor I were bringing anything to the party. Conversations were superficial, lacking any depth or interest and there were increasingly awkward gaps. So I did something which at the time was scary but was the best thing I could have done. I slowly withdrew in some friendships and dropped others quite quickly. This might sound harsh but many of my friendships were ‘rescues’ which I probably shouldn’t have bought into. They were mentally draining and with people who wanted me to be there all the time and got upset if I wasn’t immediately available…you may recognise the type I mean.
Roll on a few years and I have found withdrawing from those friendships was absolutely the right thing to do. Life is quieter but it has freed up more time for me to be me, to concentrate on my family and my research. It has also left a space ready for when I find my tribe. I say ‘find’ as I haven’t actively gone out to find replacements yet. I will do but life is busy and it is something which I don’t want to rush into.
There are plenty of ways I could go about it in the real world – go to events and festivals and make contact with local groups to name a couple – but I am not quite ready yet. I have a few contacts with similar interests in the real world as well as people online and they are enough for me for now. I am comfortable with my level of social interaction, value the free time it has given me for my own pursuits and feel very content with my life in this area.
I can’t lie, I do miss having a real life female best friend I can tell all to but what I do have is a wonderful friend in the USA whom I have been exchanging emails with every day for about three years now. We have never met face to face as she lives so far away but she has been as supportive and meaningful to me as if she were simply living next door and I value her friendship as if she did. That’s one of the beautiful things about the internet…making friends with people who are in your tribe but whom you would have never met otherwise. I like that.