I’ve been thinking about my friends recently – the good, the bad and the ugly.
(Actually I don’t have any ugly friends. I surround myself with only the gorgeous...naturally, dahlings…)
My list of my closest, most important friends goes like this, in order of length of friendship (my sister gets excluded because she’s my family and legally has to love and adore me and want to spend time with me…which luckily for me, she does):
- The HBFs
- The WBFs
- Cousin Z (see also legal family obligations above…heheh)
- The Prof
The list of who I interact with (which is not necessarily (but, slightly confusingly, in some cases is) a sign of the importance of the friendship) runs thusly:
- The Prof
- Cousin Z
- The HBFs
- The WBFs
I’d been mulling over this even before I had a recent spontaneous interlude in a evening’s text marathon avec Le Prof, in which we had a mutual unexpected “how have we got to be such great friends so quickly? It’s never happened to me before” “You’re actually, erm, cough, pretty important to me <English cough> <ahem well now>. I’m awfully glad we met” “Me too <cough>” sort of moment.
Which we naturally moved on from suitably quickly and will never mention again in the best standards of Britishness. It made me smile and gave me a warm glow, in a mildly nauseating-to-everyone-else kind of way.
The thing that I’ve been recently pondering on is the reactions of my friends in the face of what I can only describe as my necessary increase in selfishness (surely that’s why CFS is as known as M.E.? Because it’s all about me me me me me me? No?).
I know, they know, that my lifestyle has changed substantially. Quieter, less hectic, less trying to cram everything in, be everywhere at once, rush around visiting a, b, c and d. At the moment I simply can’t do it, and this is widely known.
I’m delighted that I can now do visits to friends, but getting the train is greatly preferable, and the friends have to not mind having quite a lot of down time while I’m there. A bit of kind looking after doesn’t go amiss either. Or they have to not mind coming here to see me (and my folks, who they all know, including The Prof now). They also know this.
It’s not how I’d wish it. I loved being that girl who zipped around southern England of the weekends, not thinking anything of driving two or three hours on a Saturday morning. It was a lot of fun. Required lots of energy.
It’s a fight to accept mentally the changes that have come my way, to try and be philosophical and patient about them. Sometimes it’s a hard fight and it makes me cross.
One of the things that helps me, keeps me anchored in a bit of normality, is to hear from and see my friends. For some that’s easier than others – having a family makes it less easy, but for the HBFs and FF I never mind – not one jot – because they are always there for me when the chips are down. HBF has been known to drive miles when I could do with a hug and an indoor picnic. FF is always there too. I trust both of them implicitly, and I don’t need to hear from them constantly to know they love me.
One of my other best friends, though, is definitely drifting, and it’s rather sad.
If you asked the rest of the group above (minus El Prof who hasn’t met them all yet) for some of WBF’s less than ideal characteristics, what you get most often is that “it’s all about her”. Telling, isn’t it.
And it always has been. Some friends you can just deal with this, accept it. It’s the dynamic. There are benefits which outweigh that little glitch. But things change.
Our particular friendship has matured from the early days where we used to email each other three times a day. It dwindled over the years to maybe once a week, then once a fortnight. I was still confident that we were equally important to each other, just that work got busier and more senior. We still had time to share what was going on and make plans to get together.
We’re down to once a month now if I’m lucky. No plans, other than idly “we must get together…”.
The thing that gets me – really gets my goat – is that she has, for years! had a selection of ongoing chronic health problems with her neck and shoulders and arms. Painful ones.
I have always – ALWAYS – been there to offer sympathy and understanding. Always.
I’ve been on the end of the phone when it’s been so bad she’s been in tears and she didn’t want to burden her husband with it yet again. I’ve been patient when I’ve visited and she’s been in pain and fucking crabby. I’ve made allowances and just accepted it, and empathised. I even forgave her, eventually, for the sin of snogging the guy I’d just snogged at the stupid ball of doom last year (although that was by far the hardest thing to do). I was there for her before that when she was busy being tempted and I was the only one who could understand and listen and offer advice – and felt very hurt that my reward for doing that was that she selfishly took what I’d been snogging, what she had pushed at me not half an hour beforehand.
It isn’t forgotten. Forgiven – yes, I did. Forgotten – oh no. No no.
But it turns out that what goes around doesn’t always come back around.
[Tiny interjection: HBF, if you’re reading – this isn’t isn’t isn’t and won’t ever be about you!]
Right now I can’t be the one chasing friends to make plans. I cannot be the perpetual organiser. I need a break and I need my mates to chase me and pin me down instead.
I understand that people have busy lives; busier than me, for sure. I also understand that people make new friends, friends where they live or have just moved to – and that time will be spent with them.
I don’t want to feel that some of my oldest friends don’t have time for me, though. Or even time to think about me and wonder how I’m doing.
A text at a party where there’s a silly DJ name – yes, that’s amusing, but it doesn’t make up for three preceding weeks without a word, and not being able to remember the last time she actually enquired how I was. I think I actually rang her last time she texted because it had been so long since we’d caught up that a text wasn’t going to cut it.
The thing is, you see, I’m a bit stubborn.
No….actually….I’m horrendously stubborn.
When I don’t think a friend is playing by the friend rules, I withdraw. Very rarely do I do this, because usually I’m all peace and love and concessions and understanding, and I love my friends to the ends of the earth.
But once I feel someone is taking the piss, or conveniently forgetting all the love and support historically shown to them – well, it’s only a short route thereafter onto the rocks.
I was quite prepared to let her go last year after the ball débâcle. I was talked down off my high horse by a couple of wise friends and family members, who cited our very long and usually great friendship as something not to throw away. So I swallowed my pride and she was tearfully grateful for it.
However, there is more than one way of being hurt – and slowly and insidiously being forgotten or overlooked is just as eventually toxic as the big betrayal.
So I’m sad to report that I’m done putting any effort in. She’ll have to come to me, if she can be bothered. An invitation to stay would be nice. Or an offer to come up here. After all, there are two of them, it isn’t like she’s ever been on her own trying to deal with her crap. Her lovely man has got her covered (and oh wasn’t she selfish when he had health problems recently!). If she does pull her finger out, then she won’t be getting as much warmth as she might expect. She might have a short memory: I have a scarily long one.
It’s not all about me. I do know this. I’m not unaware that things aren’t quite ideal just now.
I know at the moment it’s quite a lot about me, but friendships do require watering from both sides and I fear the line has been crossed where I’m just tired of making excuses for her, and playing the constant gardener. Is it so hard to make a few allowances for me at the moment? Is it? Really?
I don’t believe it’s that hard.
I’ll always remember saying to her, in the heat of that horrid time after the ball débâcle – “it’s always all about you, isn’t it? Always all about you”. I didn’t apologise for that afterwards, and I’m glad I didn’t.
I do wonder what it must be like to live at that level of complete self-absorption.
I hope that I will never find out. I also hope that my friends will call me out if I turn into that much of a selfish arse…