It's been a rough year for friendships.
I found out this year in some not-so-nice ways that I get on many people's nerves. Like, a lot worse than I thought. And that a lot of people just plain don't like or respect me very much. I've had some ugly betrayal from family, and a couple of write-offs that both broke my heart and made me feel a sense of wrenching loneliness. I questioned my spidey-sense...why did I not see the handwriting on the wall? I grew mildly paranoid, wondering if I was not able to see the signs of a deteriorating relationship until it blew up in my face.
I wondered how many people have grown tired of me, but have been too polite to say so. I also wondered when the next surprise "Get Lost" was going to come out of that creepy spectre of the unanticipated, also known as Left Field.
I hadn't heard from a good friend for a couple months. We have never met in person, but have been active online buddies for about a decade. In fact, we met in an online support group for caregivers.
We've supported one another through raising our kids. She's kidded me through various relationships, and congratulated me when I finally gave up dating entirely. Her Vitamin-C-tart wit often left me gasping with laughter as I read of the latest events in her life. We swapped family pics.
Well, it may not be baseball season yet, but Left Field is looming large.
She and I were corresponding about Rat Pup. I sent a reply to her last email, and never heard back.
It was a bit odd...she'd asked me a lot about Rat Pup's arrival, and was delighted to notice that her daughter's son was born on the same date (not the same year, though) as Rat Pup. I answered that email, and that was the end.
Well, with all that's been happening around here, I chalked it up to her being busy with life. After all, she had husband, children grandchildren and siblings all living close by.
I didn't give it much thought, at first. Then I noticed that the group emails and forwards with jokes that she frequently sent out to her friend list had stopped arriving.
I sent an email asking if she was feeling ok.
Out of curiosity, I searched my inbox and discovered that her last correspondence had arrived more than three months ago.
I'd emailed now and then, and sent her any good forwards that I'd received, but realized that I had not heard back in far, far too long.
We hadn't argued. We hadn't had any kind of issue. In our last correspondence, she had even asked what kind of gift Teen Parent and Pup Daddy might like for their Rat Pup.
I went on FB to see if her profile held any clues...had she gotten sick? Was her family having trouble? With my own financial issues still looming large, I wondered if perhaps she no longer had internet service.
She is still on FB all right, but to my surprise, she was no longer on my friend list.
I'd been unfriended.
On my beloved Farmville farm, she was no longer listed as neighbor.
I was startled. Hurt. Baffled. Why? Why? I had come to enjoy her company so much, and thought that she also enjoyed mine. After the many years that we'd been in contact, I felt a closeness with this person I thought to be a kindred spirit. I also felt angry with myself for having emotionally invested in this electronic relationship. I believed that we mutually valued one another. I felt safe in this world of bytes and pixels.
More than I miss the direct company, I miss believing in the friendship. I miss the lift of spirit and smile of anticipation when I would see new correspondence from her in my inbox. I miss the cheerful feeling that this person just plain liked me. I miss the comfortable satisfaction of knowing that with all of the bills and nastygrams and court notices and shut off warnings that flood my life right now, I also had the warmth of someone I could count on for her unfailing kindness.
It bothers the heck out of me that I had come to need this friendship. It bothers even more heck out of me that I didn't realize how important it had become to me. Maybe I was too needy? I didn't think so, but now...well...I just can't be sure.
Denial is acting as a bit of a buffer right now. Maybe she will email next week to tell me that there was an earthquake in Canada that wasn't reported here in the States, but wiped out all internet service. That the unfriending was caused by malware. That her hard drive was abducted by aliens.
The fashionable way to live right now requires not putting too much importance on anything outside of ourselves. Using neutral terms. Taking nothing personally, even when it feels very, very personal.
This is a mindset I have not yet mastered.
I will go look through my yarn stash and start a new knitting project. I will finish putting buttonholes in the coat that I have started making. I will learn the software required for the new job. I will hang out at the monthly sewing club I've discovered.
While I am doing all of that, a quiet, unfashionable part of me will whisper the question, "Why did my friend go away?"