“I don’t understand why she doesn’t like me, Momma.” My daughter looked to me to answer her question even though she phrased it like a statement. Her nose starts to crinkle when she is about to cry. I saw a single tear avalanche down her face. She did not understand why this once good friend did not want to play with her anymore.
“I try to play with her, Momma, but she keeps ignoring me. It hurts my feelings.” She wants an explanation of her “friend’s” behavior, but I have none to offer.
“Play with someone else, honey. There are other friends that love playing with you. Try and hang out with them.” This is the best piece of advice that I can give her, but I know it probably does not do anything to alleviate her worries.
Even though I am thirty-two years older than my daughter I’ve learned that navigating friendships can be difficult. In the last few years, I made the hard call of letting go of 2 friendships. When a conflict arises or a friendship strays in a negative direction, my default is to analyze every detail of our history together and usually I blame myself for “something” I did. I hate the thought of being a vessel of someone else’s discontent and until I find closure to “why” the fissure happened, I contemplate all of the things that I could have done differently. The endless analysis starts with, “Did I say something wrong? Did I do something wrong?”and ends with my desire to fix or mend the relationship.
In these two friendships that are now a part of my past, I embraced the concept of vulnerability. I am a fan of Brene Brown’s work, Daring Greatly, where she advocates that “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
In that vain, I asked the individuals what, if anything I did to cause this rift. I pushed for an answer. And I was met with a few excuses and silence. What I did gleam is that these friends moved in other directions that did not include me. For months afterwards, I sought an explanation, coming up empty. To be truly vulnerable I needed to question myself as well. “Was I being a good friend? Did I miss something that was obvious?” But because the other two parties did not want to pursue a conversation regarding this subject, the dialogue was one-sided. I made the decision to be vulnerable. But I still did not understand the reason for the rift. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never really understand what happened.
And that is fine. That is part of the letting go process. Some breaks happen. Letting go is a philosophy that continually teaches us to detach from our expectations. I am still working on practicing this ideal. My world is full of attachment to people, their feelings, and outcomes. Even with these entrenched attachments, there is still a way to move forward. Focusing on the circle I do have in my life is my salve. I am blessed with good friends who love me and I know exactly where I stand.
My daughter will learn that lesson, too. She will find her circle. It may take a cycle of letting in and letting go. But eventually we find our tribe.
I find a lot of wisdom in this post, Rudri. Friendships change when our lives going through significant upheavals (having children, divorce, job loss), but also when we – or our friends – undergo more subtle shifts and simply growing pressures on our time.
It’s the not knowing that plagues us, wondering if we’ve done something to push a friend away or hurt them, or if they’re judging us. Sometimes we push people away and don’t realize it when we think we’re simply building a few walls for protection.
Friendships – and other relationships break. Yes. The letting go… harder with some than others.
I really like this post, Rudri, and I appreciate that you showed your vulnerability here, your honesty.
I admire you for being brave with your friends. You showed the qualities of a real friend, and sadly, they did not. I don’t know anything about what happened beyond what you described here, but if they were not even willing to meet you halfway in response to your question, then they were not really well suited to you to begin with. I’m sorry for the hurtful turn of events.
Friends and friendships can be so difficult to figure out. Like you, too, I’ve come to rely on a very small core of true, time-tested friends. I have one wonderful friend whom I’ve known for just a couple of years, and another friend whom I’ve known for 20+ years whose friendship I’m starting to question. I guess these things don’t ever really become all that much easier, though we at least know ourselves better and better as we get older. Your daughter is just starting out, but it looks like she has a good model in you.
It’s amazing how the simplicity of friendship can become so complicated. I’m a strong believer that the people we need in life are there at the time we need them…thus the drifting of friendships. I’m sure you’ve read the poem about some friends are here for a reason, others a season, and some a lifetime. That’s a difficult explanation for a child as it takes adults a long time to realize it. But no matter how old we are, we question ourselves when people leave out lives.
So glad I stumbled on your blog through SITS; your post is indeed insightful and thought provoking. You are indeed right, we do choose the emotional uncertainty we subject ourselves to when we wonder about our actions or non actions in friendships, or any relationships.
Great post – I hope to visit again 🙂
Hi Rudri, I am stopping by from SITS, but this topic is so close to my heart in so many ways. Not only this I have a almost five year old and I am a preschool teacher/Montessori, I hear this all the time among children and I ask and observe why. I can write a post about this, I seen so many vicious things come out from little guys and I wonder too. Thanks for writing this post.
It is always hard to find friends…
Great post Rudri and great words of wisdom on embracing vulnerability…it is human nature to like to be in control of everything, including emotions and to some, vulnerability is perceived as a sign of ‘weakness’ but it too, is an emotion and it is okay to allow yourself to be vulnerable to a situation in order to accept it and let go. Thank you for sharing, I do identify with this having had a similar experience.
Hard lessons to learn. I had to cut a couple friendships out of my life and it was a painful task. A great post, we all go through this. You are right, your little one will learn and she will find her circle. Hugs to both of you.
Detaching is key. As is letting go of expectations. You are wise to realize them both.
Navigating friendships can be difficult…. But when you find a good one its so worth it!
Tender timing on this one. A friend and I are drifting apart. Things are changing. And I’m not sure if I want to save it. Thanks for your thoughts on the loss of friendship.
Friendships aren’t always easy…through the years I’ve discovered that true friends are gems and I’ve been lucky enough to find some of those. It’s hard to explain that to kids sometimes though! We do sometimes grow apart from friends, and that is understandable, but unfortunately there are also people out there who collect friends for self serving purposes. I would have thought we’d all have outgrown this in high school but it’s not always the case. Visiting from SITS Sharefest!
The complication of friendship is that it’s a completely voluntary – there are no family ties to keep you connected. If you’ve lost two friends, two new ones are waiting to be found.
I’ve always had a hard time truly letting go of people. Things usually just fade off as we go our own separate ways, but I usually have a tough time coming to the reality that we aren’t in the same place anymore. While I have a few friends that will always be there if I need them, I think I’m still looking for my tribe.
Visiting from SITS, following you through Twitter now.
Thank you for a lovely post. Your words rang so true to me. I have had similar experiences with a few friendships through my 47 years on the planet and I too have found it so frustrating when a friendship dies and the other person does not want to share what it is that stopped the friendship. I also look at my side of things. I will say though as I get older, I am getting much better at letting friends die a natural death when they need to. I feel for your daughter though. It can be so complicated, and extremely hard to understand at any age, but certainly heartbreaking when you are younger. Thanks again for a great post. I am so glad I found you though the SITS Sharefest. I look forward to reading many more lovely pieces from you.