It’s an awful parallel, but it will have to do, because I have both a headache and low verbal SATs. I have a pair of shoes, ones that fit like a dream. Unlike most every other pair I’ve owned, they don’t incessantly rub my heels, don’t make my little toes ache. They’re more versatile than favorite espadrilles or flats; I can wear them to work, I can wear them to baseball games, I can wear them to lunch with my sometimes all too observant mother. Their color makes me beam, their style fits me perfectly. When I get up in the morning I can’t wait to wear them and sometimes in a tipsy twirl I forget to kick them off before bed. They draw warranted compliments no matter the occasion.
But one day last season I felt a sharp pain. And out of nowhere I was bleeding, a cut so deep and swift I was in disbelief. How did this happen? When there’s no logic, no linear relationship no matter how obvious, I simply plug along, and this was no different. I put on a band aid and went back to business. And then it happened again, leaving little cuts and bruises, and I was left telling friends I was perfectly fine while they rolled their eyes and noted my limp. These perfect shoes, no matter their value, were biting the foot that filled them, the next time before the last nicks had healed. I wept with disbelief, and was given cause not once, not twice, not even just three times. And it really, really hurt. I’m not sure I can stress that last part enough.
The moral of this stumbling, hypothetical, not particularly applicable, frankly tortuous story? I’m forced to put them back in the closet. Because when it comes down to reality, a girl’s best shoes shouldn’t fucking bite.
I told you it was an awful analogy.
I lost a very important friendship recently, and distressed doesn’t begin to cover the feeling. I’m devastated at times, vacillating between sheer anger and confusion, then onward toward independence and defiance. I can’t believe I had to lose him. It’s more honest to admit that I let him go, feeling ultimately forced to make a decision I did not invite, because in my world view he wasn’t playing by the rules. Rules sounds too definitive, too harsh, but that’s indeed what they are. They’re my dealbreakers. Rules that seem to me to be a part of the canon of personal relationships, something as intuitive as a do unto others.
I don’t think my rules are all that hard to follow. I don’t require friends let me bed their fathers, and not just because I’m not sexually attracted to even a one. (No offense.) I’m much more old school in my absolutes: Respect those most important to you. When you make a mistake, apologize and move forward, doing your best not to make the same error in judgment again. It’s more than just lip service; it’s giving where giving is due. It’s making room for more than just you and the flatterers, thinking outside your own head. To me, it’s about avoiding avoidance, even when your history tells you it’s the natural thing to do. It’s choosing fight over flight. Over the easy way.
There was a time not so long ago when I didn’t play by my own rules. I loved people deeply, but I didn’t care all that much about how my actions impacted some of them. They were responsible for themselves, after all, and frankly, if I didn’t care for me, there wasn’t a chance in hell the ones I kept closest were going to get anything that was in my reserves. Those on the outside got all of that. Because you know what? I could push the ones close to me to amazing extremes and they'd never leave. And the ones on the periphery? They didn’t demand anything more. They were accepting of me on autopilot, indulging my occasional plunges into the depths. It was gloriously comfortable in its counter intuitiveness. It was safe and easy. And it was all things bad for me. And just because I did it and sometimes fall back there, it doesn’t make it right.
Things are different for me now. When you don’t meet even the most basic of the dealbreakers, when you don’t treat me with consistent respect, you can’t be part of my inner circle. You simply cannot.
(Notice how I have to keep telling myself this? It isn’t yet reflexive. Wash. Rinse. Repeat, Kris. Begin again.)
I love this man. Love - as in the present tense - and have sometimes foolish faith in his ability and depth, his potential for giving and friendship, his gift for telling a joke when I flub each and every one. Despite everything, he’s always represented a peach in an orchard of dusty apples. And when a friendship ends, the pain is in remembering the peachy times, in the details. I want to tell him about the latest with a friend’s sick pup, want to mock just how poorly I know his baseball team is doing, want to report back on a recent rash of DHL truck sightings. There’s a lot to share, to tease about, to tell to someone with whom I shared many, many, many hours. And so it sounds unfair in my head, and unfair as I write it, as if I’m doing something wrong, but I can’t budge. Because in recent years my values have begun to dictate more and more of my decisions, and if I do what it is that I want rather than what I need, I open myself up again. I lower the walls that are now higher than ever, that were scalable not too long ago, the ones that were leapable given the right situations. Too much risk. I avoided the easy way, chose fight over flight, and it bit me. That isn’t ok.
I just want to scream and shake him and tell him this simply can’t be. I want to bellow and bawl. Why can’t you get it fucking right? Why do I have to be a casualty of a world of which you can’t make sense? Why do I not get the best of you? It’s fourth grade again, and I’m flailing and screaming because a choice is out of my hands. Not fair!
I’m screaming with almost no voice, only there’s no one to console me now, no mother to stroke my hair and tell me just to wait because things will be different down the road, you’ll see.
Because as much as I’m kicking and screaming against acceptance, I’m beginning to think these things just are what they are. It’s the way the world goes as an adult, and by now I know you can’t change people, can’t heal them to be who you want them to be. Even who you know they can be. I’m a woman and a friend who deserves more than the safe and the comfortable and the all things bad for him, the ones which somehow end up being bad for me.
This loss still seems inconceivable right now. But it’s reality. And I’m not sure if I mentioned it, so let me say it again, although this time I’ll leave the awful, gratuitous, painful analogy out of the equation. No matter how far I feel I’ve come and how I know what has to be done to take care of me, right now? I just really, really hurt.