When Virginia entered middle school, not only did she change schools, but she CHANGED schools. She left our zoned school and went to an academically advanced magnet middle school. At the time, I was both excited and worried for her. Worried for the difficultness of this school. Worried about the location. Worried about her leaving her good friends behind. In the past year and a half, we have adjusted to the changes. But I never dreamed her one change would result in so many changes for me. Most noteably, I never dreamed it would result in the loss of my friends as well.
Prior to the change, I rode a commuter train to work each day. On that train, I became good friends with a group of women. We were a fun group and got together quite often. We had parties for the big occassions: birthdays, Easter, Halloween, Christmas. We were together as a group often, but I had a closer bond with one of them. I wouldn’t say she was my best friend, because she pointed out she already had a best friend in another state. I just dismissed that, because we had a great time together. I was even asked once if we were sisters. There were a few times when get togethers with the entire group didn’t work out, but I remained loyal to my closest friend and still showed up for everything – like one New Year’s Eve party that was scheduled to be thrown. For various reasons, no one could make it. I was the only one present. Why wouldn’t I be? That is what friends do. Instead of a party, we rang in the new year watching movies. It was still a nice evening.
Then I had to leave the train. The location of Virginia’s new school required me to drive her to school each morning, after which I would go to work. I started seeing “the gang” less and less. Then the stress of life became heavier than I could handle. I rode the train a few times, when my husband would drive Virginia to school, but the dynamics were already different. My closest friend was now closer to one of the other women. In conversations with the two, I felt like an outsider. When I would speak up and join the conversation, I could see them exchange that look. You know, that look that just says, “why’s she talking?”, “she really doesn’t know much,” or “she needs to shut up.” When I would leave them, I would leave with negative feelings about myself. They made me feel like an idiot. Unintelligent. Unwanted. The support group I thought I once had just wasn’t there. Like a willow branch in a storm, it bent with the wind. So I pulled away more. I was wounded.
I found the support I so desperately needed in a new co-worker. Tina. A new friendship was born. As part of my stress, I started going to counseling. Between my professional counseling and my office counseling (Tina is very good at counseling), I started to accept that I was no longer part of the train group. It still hurt, but I learned that sometimes you have to let people go in order to move in the right direction. No one was contacting me, so I stopped reaching out as well. When the annual event invitations came, I turned them down. Part of me felt guilty for turning down the invitations. Part of me was validated when no one bothered to call me before, during or after to even check on me. Additionally I was validated by my counselor. She pointed out that unconsciously I knew what I needed to pull away from a group of friends that only made me feel negative about myself in order for me to start mentally healing. There was no reason for me to feel guilty. She was right.
Tina was there for me. Not just physically as a co-worker, but mentally as a friend. We spent our free time sharing. We shared ideas. We shared laughter. We shared sadness. Most importantly, we shared support. When I talked, she truly listened. She never tried to prove me wrong. She could share her side without devaluing my side of a point. She made me feel intelligent. Appreciated. Valued. Loved. They say when God closes a door, he opens a window. I was hurt that the door to my closest friendship in years had been closed. But the window He opened was wider than any door I had ever been through. I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve had a friendship this close since I was in school – a Best Friend. Hell, I may never have had a friendship this close. I am truly thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life. I learned just how blessed today.
As my girls and I were preparing Halloween festivities, we had to make a few last runs to pickup costume accessories. In the costume store, I ran into two of my train friends. They were getting costumes for their annual Halloween party. The conversation was pleasant, but mostly directed at my children. I chatted more with the second friend, whom I still see regularly, because we do work a little closer together. A sweet woman, who will always be “Switzerland” in my eyes. Still, the moment felt a little awkward. Fortunately for me I was on a time limit, because I was trying to run these errands before my girls’ piano lesson. We parted ways and I breathed a sigh of relief as we left the store. I was worried I would be asked to attend their annual Halloween party, and I would have to turn them down. Not because I disliked them, but because I am already attending a Halloween party with friends who do make an effort to contact me regularly. Friends who genuinely appreciate me for who I am, faults and all. As I walked away, it occurred to me, that even though I was relieved that I wasn’t asked, I WASN’T asked. I wasn’t invited. I guess I am no longer one of their group. That’s ok. It didn’t hurt this time. Even though you couldn’t see it, my willow branch has been replaced with a steel rod.