There is a saying that when you get divorced from your spouse you also end up divorcing some of your friends. That was certainly the case with me, and even a few years out I find it curious to see who has dropped off the friendship manifest. Sometimes, however, one needs to be a bit proactive in divorcing the people in your life who have become deadwood. The problem is, however, divorcing, or at least separating from one’s friends can be as logistically and emotionally complex as ending a marriage.
I have a friend who is a bit of an ambulance chaser. When things are going badly or falling apart in your life, she is the first one in line with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a box of tissues. Mother died? She picks out the coffin for you. Child got rejected from their first choice school? She personally calls the admission office to pull a few strings. A family member has a catastrophic illness? You need never worry about a meal for your children or sitting alone in a hospital room. She has you covered.
It’s good to have friends who will drop everything for you and sit with you while you wonder what to do next. But I have noticed that when things are going along swimmingly, she is never around. Or if she is, rather than celebrating the joy that life has to offer, there is always something bad about to happen in her realm. Her husband might get laid off. Her father might be having heart problems. She has been up all night worrying because her daughter may be showing signs of dyslexia. It’s always about to rain on her parade, and she makes sure that the rain carries over to your parade as well. She makes you feel guilty about feeling happy.
Riding a wave of good energy the past few days, I was happily getting things accomplished, doing some pre-spring cleaning, going to the gym and seeing results, packing for vacation, and generally feeling pretty good about life. Then I got a phone call. She left me a voice mail asking me for a favor. Not a big one, but the kind of favor when you say to yourself, well, she has showed up every time I have been blue or needed a shoulder to cry on, so isn’t this the time when I say “…Absolutely. I am there for you in whatever capacity you need.” But something is holding me back from returning her call. It goes deeper than not wanting to burst my happy energy bubble, but I’m not sure what it is.
I don’t feel like I have the space to take on her malaise right now. It takes a lot of energy to pick yourself up, and twice again as much to pick up someone else. The people that I like to be with are pretty happy and upbeat folks. Sure, they all have the occasional shit storm going on, but for the most part the radiance in their lives touches mine and makes me a happier and, yes, better, person. I know I’ll call her back, and I know that I will come through with the favor, but it doesn’t feel good to simply accommodate.
I wish I could really be there for her. But sometimes you have to be there for yourself first.