Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tonight, I had a difficult conversation. A friend and I have been drifting apart, and the process has been confusing and a little painful. There have been times in the past when this has happened in my friendships, with disappointing results. I've had friends disappear on me, with no explanation. I've cut people out of my life without explaining why I was hurt or asking for what I needed. And this time, I decided that I'm a grown up now, and I know how to have a difficult conversation, especially if it means showing someone I love some respect and giving them an opportunity to tell me how they are feeling.
The conversation was not perfect. We fumbled, we fell silent at times. I caught myself staring at my lap or focusing on bites of my salad, dissociating. I said things that I suspected my friend was not understanding, not sure whether my delivery, or her comprehension, or other factors (like the way our divergent paths have taught us different languages, codes) were the cause. She said things, and I saw in her face that she knew I was not agreeing, maybe not understanding. We tried anyway.
Even though I have felt frustrated sometimes at my inability to communicate well with this friend, or at the emerging differences in how we approach our lives, our relationships, and our worlds, I felt a space open up in this conversation. Before we spoke, face to face, I was thinking of the parts of my life I wanted to shut her out of, because I thought she didn't and would never understand. But sitting there, awkwardly, trying to find a common language, I found myself searching instead for the space she could occupy in my life.
At the end of our time together, instead of trying to tie everything up into a neat little package, we agreed that things were unclear. It didn't feel great, but it felt way better than the times that grown-ass people in my life have decided to communicate that they were ending our relationship by unfriending me on facebook, or by falling off the face of the earth. It felt human and messy.
I got in my car and saw that I had a voicemail from my sister - the person to whom I have been in relationship the longest, aside from my parents. (In the spirit of radical honesty), in some ways, she is my hardest and most strained relationship. She is someone else with whom I have recently tried to have this type of difficult conversation. "These are the ways your actions have hurt me. This is what I need." And her method is so different. It feels like we are on different planets sometimes.
Her voicemail was one of those gloss-it-over messages. Let's just move forward and not talk about the scars, the wounds that have yet to scab over and heal. And it elicited a sigh, a here-we-go-again. Yet, I found myself again searching for that place, that space. What space could she occupy in my life? Who can she be to me? What does it mean to truly accept a person, exactly as they are? And how do we go about creating and sustaining spaces in our imperfect and messy lives for other imperfect and messy people? What does it mean to love another as you love yourself? That is, not because you or they are perfect, whole, and complete, but because you or they simply are.
It's clear I have a lot more learning to do on this subject. I am looking forward to the wisdom that is to come.