Friday, August 31, 2007

Staying Too Long At The Fair

Have you ever been to a fair or amusement park and had occasion to see a child who has been told it's time to leave, but he doesn't want to? The child is in a fit of pique, maybe he's even throwing a rather showy tantrum digging his little feet in as he's taken from what must be the most fun he's had-ever. If you've been the parent in this scenario then you know what comes later is probably a time-out, a pout, a little person who makes himself sick with anger, or is sick from all the excitement and emotions of the day--someone who's clearly stayed too long at the fair.

Josie's post from her "Picking Up Pieces" blog talks about leaving relationships that no longer serve her and it brought to mind friendships in my past that had turned toxic and caused me to leave. I remember discussing this very subject with a friend. My friend stated that she pretty much knew how to end a relationship with a man that had gone wrong , but what do you do when a friendship is over, but you're still involved in it?

I have a theory about relationships, whether love relationships, relationships between employer and employee, or friendships, there are signs when it's time for it to end. It seems to me that friendships are the most difficult because there are no real examples of how to end one. We know how to look for a new job or breakup but how do you end a relationship with a friend? More than likely it drags on until all the sweetness of the relationship is gone until some catalyst causes it to end.

In my early twenties I had friend I met working as a cocktail waitress. She was effervescent and fun, with that somewhat crazy energy that is so typical of girls that age. We went out dancing, drinking, gossiping, shopping, and endless talk about boyfriends or the lack thereof. I was finishing a term at college and she hadn't finished high school, this didn't bother me because I never saw her as "less than", but she saw herself that way.

One day I had to go to school to pick up something and she came along for the ride. As she surveyed my university I felt a shift in her energy, later on the drive home, she was full of disparaging comments about "those people who think they're better than everyone because they're in college". I didn't address the subject with her, after all wasn't I one of "those people?" That was the first time I felt a thread unraveling in the fabric of our friendship.

We continued to be friends for the next eight years; she married and had children, I moved to another city, married and divorced. The girls who had been "best friends" years earlier no longer existed and there was no commonality between the women we'd become. Still, we hung in there like two punch drunk fighters who refused to throw in the towel. When phone conversations with her would end I'd feel like I didn't want to talk to her anymore, but how could I not? We were friends.

Over the years I had watched her other important friendships end badly; people who had been her "best friend" now were cursed. I knew that one day it would be my turn, and one day it was.

As she stood in the middle of the street literally screaming at me and repeating every painful confidence I had shared, I believe I left my body. I had seen this coming years before, this friendship began to die that day at my college but I didn't know how to stop it before now. There was sadness, but there was also relief.

I can see much more clearly when friendships have run their course now, and somehow they don't end with a big screaming match and such deep pain.

I'm not that girl anymore.