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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Faithful Friends...pain and perspective

***A really long post - just some stuff I have been going through and some thoughts

This holiday season brought many wonderful moments...Ivie's first Christmas and snowmobile trip. A sweet surprise gift (or two) from Trevor, and lots of time with our families who we simply do not get to see enough.

It also brought the end of a friendship that was very dear to me, and a lot of struggles associated with that. It has been a good cause for some serious introspection and behavior adjusting. But it has been sad and hurtful and hard.

I met C during school. She was there for some of the most pivotal times in my life, and was a crucial shoulder to lean on, lean with and match in shaking with uncontrollable laughter. We shared many moments that were vulnerable and important to both of us. I have always thought that we would remain this close.

When I moved to St. George things were different. It is always expected that they will be to some degree when you move away. It was hard to know that C still met up regularly with our old friends while I was feeling far and away down south. I knew it changed some things, but I didn't realize how much it was changing. I have had many close friends in the past. Inevitably either they or we have moved away. We don't see each other as often as we like, most of the time we only even talk a handful of times a year, but we have stayed close. Since this was how most of my other friendships have been, I assumed this is how all would be. But things and people change.

In July as I was riding to Idaho with my sister in law for her wedding. C called. I answered the phone and after a few short minutes of chit-chat she said, "So I think I am leaving the church." I didn't really know what to say. It took me by surprise. I told her that I wanted to talk with her more, but that I was with my sister in law and would call her again after the wedding. Our phones cut out - we didn't really even get to say goodbye.

I thought about C and her situation throughout all of the wedding craziness in Idaho. I have lots of friends both in and outside of the church I belong to. I have friends who are catholic, atheist and even one who believes in a polytheistic system. I have always been okay with this. I think that spirituality is deeply personal and have always tried to accept everyone. But, something about the brief conversation with C made me massively uncomfortable. I thought in our brief conversation that it had felt like she wanted validation for her decision - and while I believe all men and women can and should worship how, where and what they may - I couldn't possibly feel good about telling her that I was happy for her decision. So I never called. I didn't know what to say. When I finally made it back to St. George, I sent the following email:

I have meant to call you back....the road to hell is paved right?
Anyhow - as to the crossroad you mentioned, between the church and you. I have always thought that spirituality is a very deeply personal issue. I don't think that any individual has the same relationship with whatever faith they practice as other members of that same group.
So - if you are disengaging because your basic spiritual beliefs (there is a God, there is a Saviour, life after death, plan of salvation, etc.) are completely different, that is one thing. If you are disengaging because you have issue with how the church is run or people in the church who tick you off, I think that is another issue that has less to do with religion and spirituality.
Everyone's interior landscape is entirely different and no one can judge what is right for anyone aside from themselves.
For me, I do believe in the basic doctrinal principals on the church. I believe in a God, Savior and Holy Spirit that are separate beings. I believe in the process of the creation, atonement, fall and restoration. I believe that beings must make a conscious choice to accept the atonement and be held accountable for any action that hurts others and is not rectified. I believe the Bible and the BOM to be inspired spiritual works, written by enlightened and poetic individuals. I believe in modern day personal revelation and I accept the idea that one such enlightened individual who generally leads people in a pretty good direction can act as a voice for group revelation. I believe there is a destiny and path for this earth and its inhabitants. I believe that the relationships we create here among family and friends - lds or not - have a place and are maintained in that destinal journey. I believe the knowledge and experience we gain here stays with us in the next place we go. I believe in a personal, human and natural eternal progression of things. And I believe that if you try to live a good life, are honest, respect everyone and mostly focus on just improving yourself in any way rather than worrying about controlling other people then you are on a good path. Above all, I believe in free agency.
Of course, I also believe in a lot of naturalistic elements to Eastern Buddhism. I believe in literal and emotional meditation. I believe in karma. And I believe a lot in the natural world.
And I also believe that there have been stunning individuals throughout this human history that some call saints, I share my birthday with Saint Bertilla's feast day.
I believe there is truth in all things.
I like the lifestyle of the LDS faith - I think no drugs, drinking, promiscuous sex and following word of wisdom etc. works pretty well. I love the sense of community. I like the familial focus. And I would donate 10% of my income to another charity if I wasn't a member - so I believe in the tithe. I don't feel like I am giving anything up in order to be a part of this religion.
Most of all, I really believe those words in Moses - Men are that they might have joy. I have found joy in this lifestyle because of my relationship with it - I don't see it as a burden, I don't see it as a hypocrisy, I don't see it as a zealot. I am simply happy.
And I think you have to follow your own heart and your own joy. Folks who stay in any religion or worldview for the wrong reasons aren't happy. But nor are those who leave for fashionable or simplistic reasons.
That's my two cents - I love and respect and support you in whatever way you go. And I trust that you love and respect me for my views. If you want to walk through anything you are thinking I am happy to listen. Know I am not trying to persuade you in any direction. Like I said earlier, I am really working to just focus on my own life and path. Thomas Jefferson said that "the only men who will ever agree with you are those that already do." And I think there is a lot of truth to that statement. So I am not here to convince or advise. But I am here to listen, 'cause along with all of the above, I also believe in you!

I received an icy two line reply "I'm glad you are so happy in your membership. You're right. Spirituality is a very personal thing." No signature.

Again, I didn't know how to react. For reasons I can't even really describe, I was terrified to send the email in the first place. I have had other friends who have left the church. I have had these conversations before, and never was it so hostile. So I decided maybe that time and space were the best things.

Six months later I tried to contact C. I had a Christmas card and gift to send. Call after call, email and email there was no answer. I was blocked from her facebook wall.

Finally I caught her on-line chat one night. I asked if she was there, told her that I felt that something weird was going on, that I'd been trying to reach her. She didn't reply in the time that I was at my computer. And after leaving and returning I found a large open chat bubble with a response that said I was right to feel there was distance. She no longer felt that I was a good friend. I had not been there for her enough. I was too busy and selfish. When she tried to tell me about her struggle with faith I made it all about me. She no longer thought we were close. She did not feel she could talk to me about important things, or that I would be available to talk about casual things. She loved the good memories, and was happy to remain casual friends. But didn't feel we were close and didn't think a detailed conversation would change anything.

We had a couple of email exchanges from here. I repeatedly asked for her address for her Christmas stuff in every note. She only finally gave it in our last correspondence after I had already been to the Post Office and due to the crazy weather at the time, just after the roads in and out of our post office were shut down for flooding. So I never did send her a card. I donated her gift to the homeless shelter in town. And I feel badly about this, mostly because I assume that she will consider it another snub - when it was really just crappy timing.

I cannot even begin to describe how hurt all of this made me feel. I raged for days to Trevor. Why would she not say anything sooner? If we were ever really close how come she never bothered to tell me when she started to feel differently? Even if she won't admit it, don't you think it has more to do with my choice to explain why I do believe in the church and less to do with all the perceived snubs she thought I dealt out? And really, how many times did she call me when I had major things going on? How often was she there for me?

And because he is so wise. And because I am so lucky I married him. Trevor told me I had no control over C. He suggested I be grateful for the good friend I had for several years and then consider how I might move on.

So I started to think.

Maybe C had some valid points. How often did I think about emailing or calling an old friend only to decide I was too busy? And how many times do I read someone's blog or FB status and imagine that just because I know the published internet details of their lives I am still connected to them? I think sometimes the internet gives us a false sense of closeness.

And then there was this:

A while back I had a very dear friend get married. Getting married is something that drastically changes a person. I know this is true - still I was SHOCKED at how much my relationship with this girl changed. I thought that she became incredibly selfish and judgmental. I knew I wasn't on her fiance's list of favorite people, and I felt that significantly altered our interaction. I felt like she only called when she needed something. I felt used. I tried to talk to her about it several times, I even talked with her fiance about it and nothing changed. It just stayed awful. Somehow in a matter of three months her engagement literally erased years of bonds and trust.

To make a long story short...I felt like C felt.

Only, now on the other end of that coin, I knew that I never meant to hurt C. In the six months that she thought I destroyed our friendship I was simply busy learning how to juggle a new life that was made up of being a mom. I had experienced a huge life shift - the birth of my daughter, and it would be foolish to think that didn't change me. But I never meant to hurt C.

All of these thoughts made me see that my other friend probably didn't mean to hurt me either.

So, at the end of a lot of sleepless nights, many conversations with Trevor and loads of introspection, I came to this conclusion:

I do need to change the way I handle my friendships:

1- I need to forgive quickly. This isn't something that is easy for me to do. Remember this post? I wrote it while going through everything with my engaged friend this summer. I am working to truly let hurts I perceive go...after all, as I learned with C, the other person likely didn't intend them...and even if they did, who wants to hold onto sadness.

2- I do need to stay in touch with old friends better. Just before Christmas I promised myself that I would call two old friends during the week. I have done this, and continue to do this. And I LOVE it.

Honestly, I am really scared about half the time I dial a number. Some of these are people I have not talked to in literally years. And I am scared that one will answer the phone and rip into parroting all of C's comments about what a terrible friend I have been.

BUT - so far, I have had only lovely, reconnecting conversations. It makes my heart so happy when after about a minute and half of awkwardness, I realize that few things have changed. I am suddenly simply once more talking with D about how we both LOVE cats. It only takes moments on the phone before L - even after a year and a half - is spilling all the dirt on her sex life. A can't believe I called and was just thinking about me the other day. CB mentions Newsies just like when we were in high school.

So I want to say thank you. I want to thank these old friends for answering and for talking. I want to thank you for the friendships we shared in the past and the recent and promised more frequent chats. I also want to thank C - because even in the ending of our relationship, she has again managed to give me something that means a great deal to me. A fresh pair of eyes to look at the world around me and some motivation to adjust my behavior, and adjustment that has had the most wonderful consequences.


Shalee said...

Great post :)

ashley said...

i know the feelings! so much changes after HS, college, marrige, babies....and i think some people have a hard time with that. i had a friend tell me that she didn't like how some of these things had changed me, and that she wanted me to be the same person i was in HS, and because i'm not...we aren't friends anymore. i think change is good, it shows growth. i have thought a lot over the years how much i miss my friend, but as time has passed i believe that some people are only meant to be in our lives for a certain period of time, and maybe even for a certain reason. i admire you for trying to contact a few old friends a week...i think thats great! and isn't it amazing how, even after a long time you seem to be able to pick up right where you left off with some people...and that's when you find who your true friends really were?? It's crazy to me how life goes sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I love this. I love what you wrote and I love that you called me. I've had some similarly sad situations, but I never took it far enough to have the insights you got out of it. So thanks for sharing.