I was a sparkling, outgoing little thing as a child, and various events around the ages of four and five changed that. I twisted down and inward, learning to distrust friendship and limit the risks of connections. Being a Third Culture Kid exacerbated that, "gifting" me with the dichotomy of going deep quickly (because time with people may be limited) and yet holding back from true connections (because everyone says goodbye.) My sister became the true extrovert of our family, with my brother at the other end of the extreme as one of the most introverted people I know. My parents are both introverts who know how to work with people All The Time.
Me? I was an introvert who wanted friends and didn't know how to make them. And as I gradually became more confident and entered my career, where I work with people All The Time, the extrovert within began to blossom.
It wasn't until my world fell apart almost two-and-a-half years ago that I started making stronger, more intimate friendships, however. When I had nothing left to lose, because I was on the cusp of losing everything anyway regardless of my level of honesty, I finally connected with people. Online, in real life...in both arenas, I reached out and gathered in and connected.
Not all of those friendships have withstood the test of time. Some had their moment in the journey, and they gradually faded away into the background. A couple have imploded due to argument and disagreement and hurt feelings. And a few...well, a few have been torn between then and now.
I have two friends who were the closest I had to best friends in the Before. Both women were married to friends of The Ex--this was, in fact, how I met them. Both women were there for me--oh, so very there for me--when my marriage was fatally wounded and then festered and decayed until it had to be amputated. They were there for me through some of the worst of it all.
C stayed by my side for more than two hours one night, listening and worrying and listening some more, as I rocked in a corner alternating between keening in agony and pouring out my pain. Then she tucked me into her own bed and fed me in the morning. She and her husband opened their house to me unconditionally. If I had needed it, they would have moved me into their spare room.
M listened and commiserated for hours over the phone and in person, despite the awkwardness of having been on the other side in her own marriage (which was mercifully salvaged) of the same sort of final disaster that tore mine apart. She stuck with me despite having to mediate between me and her husband, the closest thing to a best friend The Ex had or has. She loved me, she forgave me, and she cheered me on toward health and healing.
And now, in the After...Both women are still friends. They still love me, and I them. But the intimacy is slowly waning, replaced by an unspoken awkwardness as they--and I--are torn between two worlds, two circles, two friendships. It becomes easier and easier to not call, not email, not meet for quality time. And while I doubt that I will ever stop considering them friends, the reality is that they are no longer in my closest circle, nor I in theirs.
I am torn between whether to take steps to regain that old intimacy or continue with the status quo. I've never been extraordinarily good at making friends, although I have more close friends now than I've ever had before in my life. I've never been terribly good at keeping friends either, at fighting for friendships when they are threatened or begin to fade.
It is easier, after all, to keep a buffer between us, whether physical or emotional. There's less risk that way.
But isn't that what I'm trying to learn to do? Take the risks and hazard the pain?
Growing is hard.