Every couple of weeks, the group will be issued a
"challenge entry". The site will post a excerpt from the challenge entries, as
well as the link to the complete entry found on the journaller's own journal site.
DO YOU STILL LOVE ME?
November 16, 2000
I wrote an e-mail to a friend the other day. In it I said something that I thought might not sit right. And then I said that I was sorry for writing something like that and that I was afraid that my expressing such open sentiment might cause feelings between us to change. I sent the e-mail and then decided to go for a walk to beat myself up for my stupidity in pressing the send button.
When I left the house, I noticed that our tree had shed a lot of leaves and that the sidewalk was covered with leaves. I decided not to go for a walk, and instead to spend the same time sweeping the driveway and the sidewalk. As I swept, I thought back over the e-mail. I also thought about all the psychiatric evaluations I type, Oprah Winfrey shows Ive seen, and all the self-help feel-good books Ive read over the years. I started doing my own psychoanalysis.
The first thought that came to mind was about something Id read just the previous day--fear of abandonment. At first I dismissed the notion as not applicable to me. Ive never been abandoned. Important people in my life have always been here for me, but then I thought about my always tenuous relationship with my father. No, he never abandoned us, but he was always emotionally unavailable. And I grew up never knowing when something I counted on would be snatched away without warning.
On Fathers Day this year, I finally put all of my resentment over our non-relationship behind me, and forgave him for being human. But as I swept the leaves I began to understand how my feelings and expectations about other people are rooted in my childhood experience of being emotionally abandoned over and over again by my father. I approach friendships tentatively and am always hyper-alert to hints that abandonment, whether temporary or permanent, maybe imminent. I want to be in charge of the situation so Im not hurt.
Sometimes I may create situations to test the validity of a friendship. This puts me in control. If the friend fails the test, it doesnt hurt as much because I knew that the friend wouldnt really be there for me and the failure of the test just proved what Id already known.
I wasnt ready for the abandonment of a good friend 15 years ago. Phil and I became quite close when he was having health problems and spending a lot of time in and out of the hospital. His partner Woody was an actor and I kind of got melded into their circle. I began writing letters to Phil to buoy his spirits when he was depressed. This extended to 10 years of daily letters. Sometimes more than once a day. When he and Woody went on vacation, he would give me their hotel address so I could keep the letters coming. It became a big joke, the letters that I wrote to him.
Unfortunately, what he failed to tell me was that as time passed, my letters and our friendship began to become an irritant to Woody. I guess Phil thought he could balance the two. I knew Woody had withdrawn from a lot of interaction with me, but attributed that to his being busy with this or that show. Things came to a head when I was suffering a major crisis. The biggest Id faced in my life to that date. I turned to my friend Phil. Woody made a very inconsiderate comment. I was feeling so vulnerable that I allowed my anger to show for the first time. Id swallowed a lot of stuff from Woody over the years under the guise of keeping peace, but this just hit me on the wrong day.
Phil followed me out to my car, gave me a hug, said Dont worry. Ill take care of it. Ill talk to him. Dont forget that Ill always be there for you. Two days later a letter came from Woody listing all of my sins and telling me I was forbidden to ever contact either of them.
I never heard from Phil again. Woody changed their telephone to an unlisted number, mutual friends tried to intercede and Woody remained adamant. When I asked a friend to get from Woody an irreplaceable cassette tape that he had borrowed, he refused, saying If I give it to her, she will never leave us alone. Tell her to go fuck herself.
The thing that hurt the most was that Phil never said one word. I had a report that he was too upset to deal with the situation. He completely abandoned me at a time when I was hurting more than I had ever hurt in my life and he left without so much as a goodbye. There was never an opportunity for discussion. He died several years later. I dont even know where hes buried.
I saw Woody in a play last year and could hardly bear to look at him. Hes still an excellent actor, but there was just too much history. Walt went to say hello to him after the show. I slipped out a side door and cried.
So yes, there are grounds for fearing that something I say will cause, as a friend is fond of teasing me, the heat death of the universe. But as I continued to sweep, I thought about this particular e-mail situation and realized how unfair I was being to my friend. The strength of any relationship lies in its honesty and openness. If I cant say what Im feeling to a friend without fear of losing the friendship, our friendship isnt really very solid to begin with.
When I finished sweeping, I went back into the house and checked e-mail. There was a message from my friend. Dont ever be afraid to say what youre feeling to me, it read. And I realized that this was a true friend, one who will not abandon me and one with whom I can really be myself, no longer afraid of what effect it will have on our relationship.
It was a very good feeling..
|created 11/5/00 by Bev Sykes|