Throughout my 35 or so years of being old enough to develop friendships, I’ve had 3 close friends move out of my life. Interestingly, all 3 have moved to different states, which is how my very first best friend and I lost touch when I was in 3rd grade. But with 2 of them, our friendship had already fizzled and then totally dissolved after the move. During both friendships, I had wanted to be closer than we were, I felt lucky that I could get close to these people “everyone” seemed to want to be friends with, and both left the relationship without my desire to end it.
Cathi and I were friends when I was in my mid to late 20’s and she was in her late 30’s to early 40’s. Though we were 12 years apart, we had such a close bond, I believe because we had been going through similar circumstances. My boyfriend of 5 ½ years had broken up with me and she was ending her around-20-year marriage, so we were both suffering loss. One valuable difference in our circumstances was that when I was feeling like a victim being broken up with, she could share her experiences breaking up with her husband. We were playing opposite roles. Talking about how we felt, helped us understand what our partners were likely going through. For example, when I heard Cathi talk about how hard it was to break the news to her husband that she wanted out of the relationship, I could imagine how hard it was for Seth to break up with me.
Cathi and I worked together, so during the work day, we would snatch a few minutes here and there for quick but in-depth conversations about our relationships. Then, we started doing lunch together, and I even started working out at the gym across the street from our employer at 5:15 in the morning. She was the entirely-too-early bird, but man, I needed her support and the gym was a great place to talk. What I remember most about those days at the gym is that one or both of us would end up crying by the time we left. We’d do our cardio separately and then come together to stretch and talk. One of us would have something difficult on our minds and through talking with the other, we’d “crack” and just cry—a healing cry to be sure—I just thought it was funny one if not both of us always left with red, puffy eyes.
It was really difficult to break into Cathi’s outside-of-work life. She eventually left the house she shared with her soon-to-be-ex, and when she had an apartment large enough to have both children living with her, is when she invited me over from time to time. I’d feel so lucky hanging out with her because everyone at work loved her and invited her to lunch, to hang out, etc.– she’d often complain about this to me–and I was the only one from work who would get her attention outside of the 8-5 workday. I attended her church a few times, met her family, and for quite a while after my dating break up, she was my only friend.
I left our employer first, but I visited her often. She worked in 3 different locations after she left our employer, and we’d get together for lunch regularly. I’d bring my lunch to her place of employment and we’d talk non-stop for 45 minutes and she’d head back to work and I’d head out to my job. Our conversations were always intense. It seemed we were both curious about each other—I was always curious about how she was doing, how her kids were doing, how work was going, whether she had seen her ex or how her relationship with her new boyfriend was going.
I found myself contacting her more often than she contacted me and our lunches would become more sporadic. I felt like I was the one who had to make the effort to get together; when we were together the desire to be together “felt” mutual, but when apart, I was the one who wanted to see her. This grew painful and I didn’t have the skills to talk with her about it so we started seeing each other even less often—maybe 2-3 times a year.
I drove past the last place she worked every day to get to my job. I’d often think of stopping by but would either be tired and wanting to get home or not sure if she’d be at the office that late or sad that she hadn’t called me back, or there were probably plenty of times when I didn’t even think about it.
This last summer, I decided to stop in. I talked with a co-worker of Cathi’s who I met while visiting Cathi for lunch and she told me Cathi had been gone from town for 3 years. Three years! She had moved out of state to be with her kids. I can’t say I was surprised. That had been her plan and I hadn’t seen her for so long that I don’t think I was particularly sad at the time.
Since then, I have tried to connect with her on Facebook. Here’ the message I left:
Hi Cathi, I stopped by Conference Services last Friday and I can’t believe it. You’ve left town! Ok I can believe it, but I can’t believe it’s been 3 years–at least that’s what the woman I spoke with at conference services said. I forgot her name, but you worked with her when you were in the Main St building. Anyway, I hope you love your life down there. I wish you the best of luck in all you do. Love, J
I’ve not heard back from Cathi, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not on Facebook much. But man, I miss her.
This past week, I was woken up by my dogs, and I didn’t get to sleep right after coming back to bed. I ended up praying for her and her new-ish husband and her daughter and son. After praying for them, I felt at peace. Writing this blog now, though, the pain is still there.
I don’t know what to think about my friendship with Cathi now. Part of me wants to let go completely, and the other part wants to reconnect.
Have you had similar experiences to mine? Have you struggled to let go of a friendship after the other person has let go? Have you accepted that the person was not meant to be in your life for your whole life? How have you healed?