It happened so fast. Auto-pilot. There are these moments that occur when I’m no longer forcing my hands to do their task: they’re simply following pre-destined programming that understands my boundaries and understands when I have finally taken all I can.
The message came in, a flurry of letters and words and sentences and accusations and projections and insecurities and excuses. It filled my phone screen. It became the only thing I could see.
A 17 year friendship was ending. Over a photo.
We both held the gun. But her finger was on the trigger. The last three or four months before this I’d tried to point it in another direction, but she inched ever closer to that trigger, pulling its aim towards her. I tried. I really did. I tried to end it amicably at first. And then I tried to accept her for who she was. And then I tried to ask her to accept me as well. But, it was to no avail. Her finger was on the trigger. And with that final message, she pulled it.
And then auto-pilot.
I didn’t respond. I read the message and – BANG! – the gun went off. I tapped three dots, tapped a few more dots, and found the words, “Block Number”. I paused. And then I lay one final stroke upon the command, ending her ability to communicate with me. I set my phone down. I stared out into my living room. And then I cried.
The in’s and out’s of why it needed to end and why it had to happen like that are complicated, convoluted, and vary based upon perceptions. I understand where she’s coming from because she belongs to a faith system I once adhered to as well. But, I thought, perhaps naively, that 17 years of friendship could override doctrine and theology and legalism.
I was wrong, I’m afraid.
So, BANG! The gun went off. The number was blocked. The social media was blocked. I threw up my walls and never looked back. Even when she reached out a few months later, asking me to talk to her, I didn’t respond. This probably sounds like I hate my former best friend of 17 years, but I don’t. Quite the contrary actually: I love her more now than I did before.
Because I now understand that I could no longer be the kind of friend she wanted and needed. She needed someone who shared her beliefs and would never question them. I was not that person. She needed someone who understood her convictions and agreed with them. And I was not that person. She needed more than I could ever have given her again. At the end of it all, it wasn’t her.
It was me.
I changed. And she didn’t. I was the one who departed the path we’d both been walking for so many years of our friendship. The very core of our friendship was our faith and suddenly I no longer had that. I left her long before her message filled with righteous indignation arrived.
And through the eyes of love I see now that she was hurt. She was watching her best friend, a spirit sister leaving her and leaving their faith community. I see now that she had been devastated by this. And it all built up and it all moved her finger ever closer to the trigger.
In the end, it was a mercy killing. I released her so she could release me as well. I love her. Deeply. Even now, two years later, I think of her. I pray for her. I look at sea turtles, and graffiti art, and French horns, and guitars, and jean jackets, and beach waves, and visors, and Old Navy shirts, and Oreos, and tape recorders, and pictures in my phone of us and our children together, and I miss her and I love her.
And in all of that, I release her. In love. I release her to find new best friends who share her beliefs. I release her to new life experiences that affirm her convictions and passions. I release her to love herself in the ways she can.
And in doing so I also release me to do the same. To stand in love of myself. And sometimes to lay naked for photos in love as well.