Offense and forgiveness seem to go hand in hand. I’ve never been one to take offense very easily. I tend to be pretty thick skinned and if for nothing else, I see the good in others almost to a fault (at least in the world’s eyes). There’s this naive side of me that chooses to believe the best, to forgive and forget each time the opportunity to take offense arises. I would venture to guess it’s one set of characteristics that allowed me to stay in an abusive relationship for sooooo many years.
I’ve learned that there is something about not being heard, truly listened to and heard, that over time begins to accumulate. It begins to build up and resentment threatens to take over. In that space, anger and unforgiveness also threaten to step in. I am in a space of learning to forgive souls that I once held precious in my life, who cut me deep. Individuals that I pray for each day.
The following is a letter I wrote to one of them this past August, in hopes of sharing my truth, from my heart and being heard:
My Once Close Friend,
I don’t believe that we’ll sit down and have a heart to heart any time soon. Maybe it’s better this way so you can read my words a few times instead of, if you’re like me, trying to replay a conversation in your head. It’s hard for me to express myself clearly, verbally. Words get all jumbled up or worse yet, I simply cannot find the right words to what I’m thinking and feeling. Maybe that’s part of why I stay quiet and to myself. I am far better versed on paper. I process through writing, I think as I write and I’m better able to express myself wholly and completely on paper.
I felt utterly blindsided when, after texting you to find out why you switched drivers in our driveway without so much as a wave hello, you told me you’d been upset with me for over a year! A year … let that sink in. A whole year! You said that I’d given you the cold shoulder when we all went out for supper together one evening and you were pissed about it. I explained that I couldn’t remember us all going to supper much less any of the interactions of that particular evening. I apologized to you and then replayed every interaction we’d had between the alleged incident and the present moment. Every ride we’d shared together, every puppy play date, events like the Parade of Lights and The American, you name it, I was replaying them all backwards, forwards, sideways and every direction imaginable for several days after our initial contact. I wanted to figure out how it was possible that someone such as myself that tends to be so sensitive to the energy around me could have missed something like this. I felt like an ass knowing that I’d been going along as if nothing was wrong when in reality everyone around me knew something was wrong … except me! How was it possible that I’d said or done something to upset you enough that you held onto it for over a year!?!
Feeling as though I’d exhausted my memory, I stood in the doorway in tears days later as I realized that no matter how much I abused my brain and tried to remember something I was totally unaware had happened, I couldn’t and even if I could remember the incident, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to change it all this time later. I went to bed that night feeling as defeated and shitty as a person can and I can’t help but ponder if that isn’t exactly where you wanted me …
The next day as I went about my morning routine, the phone rang. My person was upset that I’d spent several days beating the shit out of myself and wanted to share what he recalled. As I listened, I began to remember most everything. That nudge, that little jog in my memory brought things back clearly or as clearly as is possible after this much time has lapsed. One of the last things you texted me was, “Don’t quit on this friendship.” The thing is, I already had … the day I quit was the day you claim I gave you the cold shoulder. You see, you’d repeatedly rejected me and hurt my heart and though I don’t remember the evening well, what I do remember is that I’d tapped out. After calling you out many times and telling myself, “I’m out. I quit. I’ve had enough.” I finally meant it. This particular time, instead of calling you out, I decided I would save face and keep the peace. Not my way of going about things however I didn’t want to cause a rift between my person and yours. I’d learned that honesty isn’t taken at face value rather it’s spun up into blow ups and fighting as was the case when I was honest with our neighbor. What I learned in that instance was that within this group, talking shit behind everyone’s backs was perfectly acceptable. Being honest, forthright and speaking my truth wasn’t. You see, I said everything everyone else whispered behind her back however when the rubber met the road, I was the roadkill. Note to self, keep your trap shut and so I did just that. To keep the peace that evening at supper, I was cordial, I was polite, I wasn’t rude, nasty and I sure as hell didn’t call you out like I could have. I wasn’t overly friendly either and if that was interpreted as giving you the cold shoulder then yes, that is exactly what I did.
When you came over to the house, you said you wanted everything to go back to the way it was. How exactly was that? Me regularly being shut down, rejected and used? I’m out. That’s not even remotely my definition of friendship. It takes two for a relationship to be successful and I simply won’t do all the heavy lifting anymore. It’s exhausting.
What I thought you knew about me, though maybe you don’t, is that when I bolted out of my marriage, that split second decision completely changed the trajectory of my life. I lost the family unit I’d fought so hard to keep pieced together, I lost the home I’d made, I lost all of my material possessions, I lost just about everything including my friends. My friends, including my best friend and confidant of 15+ years scattered in the prairie breeze as that bomb detonated. People that I believed knew me, were the very people on his witness list, taking the stand and blatantly spewing well rehearsed lies under oath. I quickly buttoned myself up tight. I became leery of everyone I came into contact with and trusted no one. When I needed my friends the most, there were none.
When I met you and your now sister-in-law, I allowed my guard to come down a little. My person knew you and considered you more friend than foe and I trusted his judgement. I tried to be what I thought a good friend was. I’d check in on you when I hadn’t heard from you, I’d invite you to go ride, go camping, meet me for lunch or drinks, I offered feedback when the ex-partner of your partner was too much to deal with, held your drunk head while you sobbed, dropped everything to rush to your side when your sweet four legged companion died, I even ran a small gift over to your house when your baby was leaving for college, knowing how hard that must have been for you hoping that the small gesture would soothe your aching heart. I thought what I was offering was what friendship is supposed to be. Slowly though I began to realize that it was quite possible, I had been trying over the years to be friends with someone who didn’t want my friendship. Why else would you say one thing and do another, repeatedly?
And so, I tapped out. I figured you’d reach out if I was wrong. You didn’t and so I buttoned myself back up. I sat on the edge of the picnic table outside the reception hall at your wedding during the ceremony, meat thermometer in one hand, greasy paper towel in the other feeling as lonely as I have in a really, really long time. Checking chicken, putting the done pieces in a pan, I imagined what a spectacle I must be, pretty white paisley dress, heels and hair all done up standing in the billowing smoke of the Traeger instead of where I had once assumed I’d be, standing alongside you as you said your vows.
As badly as I would love to have friends here, I’m damn good at doing my own thing and being alone. I entertain myself for the most part and keep busy doing the things that need done around here. I’d take that over regular rejection and heartache any day. I don’t know where things go from here. My person encouraged me to send this in hopes that if nothing else, it eases the hurt in my heart. He’s a smart, intuitive man and so I’m following his advice. If I don’t talk to you again, I wish you the best of luck in your new adventures.
Forgiveness is a work in progress for me. I don’t want to forgive so much because I feel I should, as I want to be free of the offense, the hurt feelings, that I have been carrying for well over 6 months now. I want to quench the anger and resentment I feel each time I see or hear about those I once counted as close friends. And so, I will continue to pray for my enemies, not in hopes that friendships will ever be reconciled, rather because believing for blessings in someone’s life who’s bruised up your heart, takes far more strength and courage and results in far greater personal growth, than holding onto the hurt and pain.
What hurt and pain are you holding onto? We are all works in progress and the horses and I are here to support you as you navigate your own personal path, forgiving others and healing.
“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave” ❤