I feel like I should have some kind of tag or content warning here: ahoy, personal post about Me and My Life and Things That Happened In It. But I guess that’s most of the posts on this blog, so you should be used to it by now. I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this. I think it’s because it’s something I would have found helpful to hear a few months ago, and I’m hoping that it will be useful for somebody to read my experiences. But I also just want the chance to put these feelings into words and get them out of my head, where they’re currently whirling around like bees.
Something we’re taught a lesson a very long time before we actually learn it. One of those, for me, is that it takes time to get over people. Friends, not just lovers. People you’ve cut out of your life or lost for whatever reason, no matter the circumstances of that change, no matter how angry you were at the time — it takes time.
I want to tell you a story about a former friend of mine. It’s difficult for me to explain the circumstances of our argument without telling a story that dates back to 2011 and involves far too many people, most of whom are still my friends, for me to feel comfortable sharing it on such a public forum. It isn’t just my story. It’s theirs, too, and so I’ll keep that narrative to a minimum.
But this friend of mine, let’s call him Alec. It’s not his real name, but it’s one I’ve used for him on this blog before. We didn’t know each other long before we became close, and spent a considerable amount of time in each other’s company: spending days during the holiday or at weekends watching multiple episodes of a TV show like Torchwood; dropping round to each other’s houses on weekday evenings; texting or chatting on Facebook late at night…
Our friendship became that quite intense all-consuming type of friendship fairly quickly, even if I probably wouldn’t have classified him as my best friend. We were, to put it simply, close, and because we had a number of mutual friends and interests, there were plenty of reasons for us to hang out.
And so for the next year or two, despite some rocky periods and a number of fallings-out (some of them fairly serious), we did a great number of things together, whether they were playing in concerts, going to markets in London, or filming videos in the woods. He became a part of a great number of my memories, a central figure in photographs of birthday celebrations and orchestra tour snaps.
But that didn’t last.
After tensions and negativity built up (and it was a slow process that had been an underlying factor throughout most of our association, fading into the background most of the time but coming to the fore every now and again), we had a couple of big arguments. And we made up. But then, in December 2013, we had one that didn’t end so happily.
He never replied to my last message, never defended himself against my last accusation, and that was the end of it. About a month later I unfriended him on Facebook. We never spoke to each other again. Just like that, it was over.
(Okay, in July 2014 I caved and sent him a text message, an olive branch if you will, but he never replied to it. I suspect he’d changed his number by then, or deleted mine. I don’t know which, and it makes no difference.)
That friendship was abruptly and completely ended, as though he had been sliced out of my life with a blade. And I was happy, because I was angry with him. So furious, in fact, so that all I could feel for a while was relief. A little guilt, for having blown up in his face, but mostly just gladness that it was over and I’d finally said what I’d wanted to say for months and I didn’t have to deal with it anymore, or make excuses for why I didn’t want to hang out with him, or explain why I rarely replied to his messages.
It was over and I was glad.
But the gladness quickly soured and I couldn’t understand why. Okay, so we hadn’t got the closure we needed. So I still wasn’t okay about the reasons for that ‘break up’. So I was dealing with a lot of stuff from 2011 that I’d never ever resolved and that I didn’t fully understand but all the emotions were piling on top of me in a way I couldn’t deal with. So I couldn’t even bear to say his name and I kept trying to cut him out of my memories when retelling stories and my friends were afraid to give me photographs that he was in just in case they upset me and every time I got off the bus near his house I would glance around just in case he was there and — fine, I was a mess. But that made sense.
I was allowed to be that kind of upset, because he’d done something to upset me. Occasionally I was angry at myself for reacting so strongly to something that had happened quite a long time previously, but on the whole I accepted that I had issues which I needed to work through, and with help, I thought I’d managed to do so.
What I wasn’t allowed to do was miss him. Or ask my friends for news and updates about his life. Or occasionally attempt to internet-stalk him, with absolutely no success. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the songs he wrote and alternate between wanting to throw up and wanting to cry and I certainly wasn’t allowed to write so many poems that wavered between fury and heartbreak because I — I was relieved, wasn’t I, that he was gone from my life?
It’s been over a year and a month now since we last spoke, and I’m still fighting with those feelings. But I was discussing them earlier with one of the university counsellors and through the conversation I gradually realised something I hadn’t really internalised until then.
I was so busy being angry at him for what he did and so fixated on cutting out the toxicity that was our relationship that I never stopped to mourn the friend I’d lost, and everything of myself I’d lost with it.
There’s a line in a song by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo that says, “Thank you for the good times, damn you for the bad.” I think I spent too much time damning him for the bad that I was effectively forbidding myself from thinking about the good, and from grieving for what I no longer had.
It takes time to get over people. That’s socially acceptable when they’re ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, but it’s sometimes important to remember that it can take just as long to recover from ‘breaking up’ with a friend, too, and it hurts just as much.
Hopefully now that I’ve learned that, I’ll finally allow myself to move on the way I should have done a year or more ago. It’s a work in progress. I think I’m getting there.