Saturday, February 03, 2007

Pidge's Son

I don't know what to do now. For the last month, I have been living with hurt, thinking that some time would help. But it has just gotten worse the longer I've been ignored. Now, everything just got worse.

Some of you have been reading my blog from the beginning, when its purpose was to document the unique experiences I was having in a totally different part of the country. While I was having those adventures, I dated my friend Jeffrey and I loved him fiercely but it became clear over time to both he and I that love wouldn't be enough to keep us happy and he drove me home to Chicago as one of my best friends. I will be forever grateful to Jeffrey for providing a safe emotional space for me to heal from my divorce. Because he was my partner, I did not have to grieve and mend from a place of loneliness but felt confident knowing that it wasn't my unlovability that caused my husband to leave.

When I would ask Jeffrey why he loved me, he would tell that I had a nice ass and that I was from his home town. This was his standard reply. He said the former because it is absolutely the God's honest truth. Let me know; I'll send you a picture if you doubt me. The latter was important to him because he'd had so many girlfriends freak out on him once they broke up. On an island, that can get pretty messy. Because our parents were friends, he could relax into the relationship knowing that even if it didn't work, our hometown entanglements would keep it from getting ugly. And this turned out to be the case. We broke up beautifully, with respect and acknowledgement that we both wished it would have worked. We would talk about who he should date once I was gone and I actually cheered him over the phone when the first girl that he did date was a friend of mine. He and I spent a ton of time together when he was here to celebrate Christmas with his family last year and I went back to the island twice to visit him. We talked on the phone fairly regularly. Even in the dissolution of our romantic involvement, he gave me confidence because it was so healthy, especially when compared to the awful nature of my divorce that I was having to face again now that I was back in Chicago.

But because just-friends love each other, too, I've learned that my heart can be broken by them just as easily as it can by boyfriends. When Jeffrey was here this Christmas for three weeks, he didn't make time to see me once. We had spoken twice in the month previous about when he would arrive and he told me he was excited to see me and we joked about what kind of present he would bring me. But, he didn't return any of my phone calls when I called his mom's house. I even sent an email with my day-by-day availability listed out for the duration of his visit. Once, I must have called when he wasn't looking at the caller ID because he picked up the phone and we talked. Again, he said he was excited to see me and that he had a present for me and we arranged a date and time that I would come by. However, when I showed up on his parents' doorstep for that party, the house was dark. No one was home. I left a message with my cell phone but could do nothing at that point but go back to my apartment. A few days later, I left his present on the doorstep when I was in town again and dropped by one more time to see if I could catch him. I haven't heard from him since.

That hurts. One of the things that I loved about Jeffrey and was equally frustrated by while we were dating was that he never did anything he didn't want to do and everything he did do was on his own terms. This means that he didn't want to see me over Christmas. If he had wanted to, he would have. His whole life is lived that way, from choosing sea kayak guide and recycling artist as professions to forgoing deodorant and growing dreadlocks but remaining a staunch carnivore. So, if we didn't spend any time together, it was because he didn't want to. Once it was clear that this was true, because he had returned home, I sent a postcard in the same style of the postcards I had sent while we were courting (and that he still has stapled to the bathroom wall) that simply said, "Well, that hurt. What happened?" I was still hanging on to the hope that there was some other explanation for why I didn't see him. I got no response.

So, I have lived with this hurt, bewildered but hoping that time would reveal what I could do to fix the relationship. The tricky part is that there is no way for me to start a conversation with Jeffrey about how his behavior negatively affects me. We never had a successful conversation on that topic the entire time we dated. If I started the conversation in a business-like style, he got defensive. If I started angry, he refused to engage. If I started hurt, he got indignant because he felt bad for hurting me. I don't think any less of him for this. It was simply a disconnect in our communication styles and was the primary source of our break-up. We both realized that there were probably other people out there that we could successfully resolve the inevitable relationship differences with and that we should make an effort to find them. So, now I come back to the beginning of this post, saying that I don't know what to do now. My options are tapped out.

Yesterday, I learned that Jeffrey is getting married. From his mother's Christmas letter. The fact that he is getting married doesn't hurt me at all. There is a quiet happiness flickering in there somewhere that someone makes him that happy. He and I have talked about this woman on a couple of occasions and I have always been happy for him, even if it hurt a little to be reminded that I couldn't make him that happy. We would talk about that combination of happy and sad and it made me feel good that we had a friendship that could asknowledge that for life to be good, it must have a complexity of emotional flavor. She came with him when he was home for Christmas and I was looking forward to meeting her. When I played out the scene in my head, I envisioned the slight jealousy I would feel but usually figured we'd get along really well, since I got along really well with many of Jeffrey's ex-girlfriends when I was the current one hanging on his arm.

What hurts is that he didn't tell me. He let me learn second-hand. That tells me that there probably isn't a way to fix this relationship. My feelings and my friendship are no longer any kind of priority to him. He no longer needs whatever it was our continued friendship used to give him.

Now, this is the way of all friendships and I have learned to accept with many other people. It is a universal truth and one of the few pieces of wisdom I've picked up in my life. Often friends drift apart as life circumstances change. Admitting this here and now helps me recognize that this is just another one of those inevitable shifts. I just didn't see it coming. We all feel that we have certain friendships that will last forever. This wrenching feeling is just the result of my mistake in thinking that Jeffrey was one of those.

Jeffrey's mom changed my life a little when she said, "Just because I no longer ride my bike all the time, that doesn't mean that it wasn't important that once in my life, I did ride my bike all the time." It was a sentiment I had heard and read and zillion times before, but I must have needed to hear it at that point because I felt a palpable shift in my heart as I thought about no longer being married and no longer being a teacher and the possibility that I might not be on the island forever. She used to babysit for my younger brother and I when we were little and I supposed she's the only other woman that I've allowed to be any sort of a maternal figure to me other than my actual mother.

Just because Jeffrey and I are no longer friends, that doesn't mean that it wasn't important that once in my life, we were friends.

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