In the last six days, I’ve gotten dumped by a good friend and had a major spiritual breakthrough.
It’s very strange, especially because this friend is the one I first imagined telling about the epiphany when I had it. But three days ago, that friend dumped me, rendering that whole discussion (and any others) unwelcome.
It reminded me of how I felt when I discovered a box of stained glass pieces I’d gotten for Christmas from an ex’s parents, given at least 12 years prior. I thumbed through it, watching the light catch on each brilliant piece. And then I found the one I’d remembered as my favorite: a watery-looking piece with translucent splashes of royal blue and hydrangea pink. I instantly wanted to use it to make a vase. Delighted, I pulled it out, only to discover it was cracked into pieces. I wouldn’t be able to use it after all—at least not it in any substantial way.
Five days ago, my ex-friend had a seemingly minor disagreement with my husband that she and I agreed was between them, and that she and I were cool. The following day, after having left the topic amicably alone, she sent my husband vitriolic text. We were both so shocked neither of us spoke to her that day.
This was my friend with whom I’d discussed spirituality most frequently and fervently. We’d bonded over our shared love of mental positivity, compassion, manicures, and mental illness: she, a bipolar recovering addict and me, a terminally depressed and anxious incest survivor. We found a special understanding and admiration for coming as far as we had; I valued it immensely. I’d heard of her behaving strangely in friendships before we met, but everyone in our circle agreed it was due to her mental illness and substance abuse, the latter aggravating the former. That had made total sense to me.
But the hurtful, horrible, things she said to my husband were said in total sobriety and, as far as I know, a steadily monitored drug regimen. That meant there was nothing I could blame her behavior on. Nothing except her.
After an atypical day of no correspondence, I knew she had to know I knew about her text. It left my husband deeply hurt and shaken, not only because of its unexpectedness but its psychological potency. It played on his worst fears about himself and exacerbated the stigma and social isolation he feels as a stay-at-home, working class dad who’s unable to financially contribute to our household at this time. It read:
Your opinion of me means nothing. You haven’t been a contributing member of society for the last 10 years. You are worthless. You are a leech to everyone. You are a leech to ———, ——————-, and ————. If you think I am the only person who feels this way or has a low opinion of you, YOU ARE VASTLY MISTAKEN.
It was vicious.
I was already drafting my response mentally when I saw her email appear the following morning. I wanted to make sure I left her feeling thanked for the good times we shared, affirmed by the love. And, I wanted her to understand that her actions were detrimental to my family’s pursuit of a positive life. I’d no longer be able to have a friendship with her. I was half expecting an apology like the one she’d sent after she told me she had the initial, still cordial text confrontation with my husband and half expecting an explanation of where she was coming from and a plan to rectify the situation.
Instead, her email affirmed her love for me, clarified that it wasn’t personal and was a very painful choice for her to have to make, but she couldn’t in good faith continue our friendship given her freshly-declared hatred of my husband.
As far as breakups go, it was the best I could hope for—what I’d longed for in other relationships gone bad, but rarely received: Closure. Validation. Kindness. Empathy. Affirmation. And yet, 1) I wasn’t expecting it and 2) while I’m not proud to admit it, a sliver of me, the hurt one, felt like she’d beaten me to the Best Friend Breakup Email punch. She was the dumpee, and I was the dumped.
Even though the feelings and decision were mutual, they still stung. My glossy, pale mauve-lacquered nails hovered hesitantly over my keyboard. It was a color I’d gotten at her recommendation, Essie’s Ladylike, so unlike the bold reds and purples I favored, and I loved it. I sat with my sadness for a while before I responded similarly.
I knew then that part of what getting over her meant was the same as any other relationship: I had to adopt a new reality and routine, one that didn’t include her. And I had to do it from a place of loving detachment and compassion. For both of us.
I decided to take the time I would have spent emailing her encouragements, being her friend, giving and receiving advice and support, and devote it to myself and my family. I would offer my friendship to myself. Taking a walk around my office complex, writing affirmations in my journal, actively saying positive things to myself, and truly spending time with myself instead of just being.
I tried to be really present and engage with myself lovingly.
But celebrating things that I adore (like my new manicure) while being a friend to myself isn’t the same as being a friend to someone else. I felt sorrowful pangs intermittently for days whenever I saw the light slide deftly across my fingernails. I wished so badly I could text my friend to show her, knowing she’d love it. But then I realized that my nails were the spark of commonality I needed to truly launch my friendship with myself. And for that I am grateful.
I wish my ex-friend nothing but health and happiness. Of course, if I’m PMSing and feeling particularly blue, I may feel compelled to flip her off, lovingly and only for an instant. If I do, my nails are guaranteed to be perfectly manicured—for the occasion, probably Essie in Ladylike. Even in a brief gesture of goodbye, our shared love of nail polish connects us, and is one of the things that reminds me to always be the kind of friend to myself that I am to others. And I never actually referred to her as a c*ntface—until now. Namaste.
A bonafide country girl, Brook Bolen is a reluctant urban transplant living with her husband, daughter, and pitbulls in the heart of the Dirty South. She is routinely miffed to discover more people don’t count cornbread and beans as their favorite meal. Highlights of her life include being named Khia’s #wcw and having Larry Gaitlin as a follower on Instagram.
Image via Columbia Pictures