What have I learned? I have never been good at forgiveness. I have had always a hard time with forgiving someone who has hurt me. But I learned forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for yourself. If you don’t forgive, the bad feelings you harbor end up hurting you, not the other person, and they prevent you from moving on in a healthy way. So, back in June, I blogged about Marie one last time when I wrote her an email to forgive a long standing loan that was not fully paid back. I explained that we were moving to a new house and trying to simply our lives, and decided to free her from this debt. She read the email almost immediately and called me.
She started out by saying she wasn’t happy [about my forgiving the loan]. I was a little at a loss for words. She said she fully intended to repay all of it. I told her I knew that, but we felt this was for the best. We went on to talk for two hours, which I didn’t expect. It was a conversation that should have taken place four years ago. She opened the door to the past and I told her I really didn’t want to rehash everything. I had expressed myself quite clearly in a very lengthy email that was extremely painful for me to write. I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for, but I got the one I expected. She was defensive and made no effort to understand anything I was trying to say. There was nothing else for me to do at the time as I was too emotional to argue/discuss it at that point.
In our last conversation in June, I gathered right away that she still didn’t understand. In her mind I had ended the friendship in that email and walked away. Her memory of that time came across to me as a bit distorted and she really didn’t own her part in the breakdown of the friendship. I told her I hadn’t ended the friendship. My letter never said anything of the kind. I concluded the end of my letter simply saying that since she had been distancing herself for months and avoided my every effort to talk about it, that I now needed time to distance myself to the same degree she had. It was too hard for me to remain at arms length and be continually pushed away, caring as much as I did. She sounded surprised and said her feelings had never changed. I said your actions said otherwise. I explained that my long email, full of examples, was to tell her how things had changed between us, and not meant to be mean. It’s purpose was to express my feelings and to show her exactly what I was talking about with specifics. I told her I was too hurt to speak at that point and had to write it all out. She “accused” me of walking out at the worst time in her life. I told her how would I have known what she was going through, she wasn’t talking to me at the time, except for short, mundane, superficial conversations. She told me she didn’t have the words to explain what she was going through. I told her this had been going on for months, I was hurt, and no matter how I tried to talk to her about it, she would not allow it. I literally had no choice, but to write it out and try to get myself to a healthier state of mind, heal my heart and fill the void she had left.
I reminded her that one month after that email, in October, I wrote to her saying I may be able to talk if she wanted to, but I wasn’t sure if I was really ready. I wanted to be fair to her and so I forced myself to make that offer. I also told her that right after I sent that email, she read it and deleted it without even writing a response. She didn’t remember that at all. To be honest, I knew I wasn’t ready to talk and I felt a big sense of relief that I didn’t have to at that time. I didn’t push it.
In the course of our conversation, she told me a little bit about what was going on in her life. She had quit her teaching job and was moving to another city with her niece. Her niece was having a baby and she was going to help her for a year. I told her she should pursue some of the things she had always talked about doing, like teaching in France or joining the Peace Corps. She always had so many interests that she was passionate about and now she had the time to go after her dreams. She seemed a little happy that I was still giving her advice and said she was looking into some things already. She told me she had taken a trip to New York a few months earlier and had wanted to show up on my doorstep. I told her she should have come, maybe we could have talked face to face and resolved some things or understood each other better. I could tell she was surprised to hear that. I don’t think she understood that her happiness was always a priority to me and that hadn’t changed. I still wanted what was best for her and I always will.
As we got to the end of the conversation, she said she still wanted to repay the loan. I told her the offer stands if she changes her mind. She said she didn’t want me to forgive the loan, she would rather that I forgave her. That was the only admission of any ownership on her part that I heard. I told her I had already forgiven her and have no ill will towards her. I still don’t think she understood what I tried to say in the letter. I think she wanted me to forgive her for how badly she made me feel, but she still says that it was all unintentional on her part. At this point it’s not really important.
The phone call took me by surprise and I was happy we could talk without arguing. We made an effort to understand each other’s side of things, but I don’t think either of us got complete satisfaction. I wanted her to own the things she did to me and how her behavior towards me had changed, pushing me out of her life. She wanted me to admit that I walked away from her when I should have stayed, for as long as it took, to make things right. Where do we go from here? Is there too much water under the bridge? Can we or should we try to rebuild a friendship? Is it even possible? Who knows, time will tell.
Meanwhile, a fourth anniversary is coming up. It’s not a happy anniversary like the ones of the first nine years, but it’s not unhappy either. It’s just a marker of an event in the lives of two friends, who now have kind of settled their unfinished business, and may be able to have some closure.