I don’t know if I’ve talked about this in public before, but a few months ago I had a very painful breakup with a close friend. At first, things felt okay. It felt inevitable almost. It’s been nearly five months and I’m still grieving. Hard. I don’t think we talk about this enough: what it means to end a friendship with a close friend. It’s devastating really. I trusted her with my life — truly. Like, one day, I was having chest pains and she stayed on the phone with me until I got to the doctor. We called one another in moments of vulnerability. C and I met on Instagram last March. It was a fast friendship. The first night she fell asleep on the phone while I spoke to her for over two hours. We talked nearly every day until things broke.
I wouldn’t dare blame my therapist, but sometimes I want to. My therapist of five years disappeared on me last November. It broke me in more ways than one. Our last conversation was about how I should proceed in my friendship with C. I was feeling like there was a disconnect with who she was in real life and how she acted on the internet. Did I just tell her that? That answer, I learned, was no.
But, I think she’d argue if she was here, That I didn’t give her a chance. It was our first fight and I came in guns loaded, giving no fucks. I was vulnerable, drinking again, and very emotionally beaten down. I should’ve preceded everything by being honest, like I always had been with her. Telling her I’d recently lost my therapist who was like a mother to me (I know) and that this is how I felt, but I wanted to fix things between us. Maybe it would’ve made a crack in the friendship, but I don’t think it would’ve broken the entire thing. I did that.
I experienced disassociation for the first time on the phone with her. All I heard was, after some minutes of, I think, rightfully yelling, “I fucking loved you.” The past tense. We did. We loved one another kind of like schoolgirls who hold hands and giggle behind their books but also like the mature, brilliant women we are. We helped one another believe in themselves again, affirming one another on the rear. We strove to prove that the internet was a wonderful place at times — afterall we had found one another. But, I guess in writing this, I see how ironic it is: the internet ultimately was our downfall too.
Do we ever present ourselves the same way publicly as we do in the privacy of our homes? Do any of us know how to advocate for anyone different, perfectly? I attacked something she was trying to do because I was failing in doing it. I never felt comfortable advocating or making loud proclamations in a public space. This is as loud as I have gotten and I lost a good deal of family within the first two days of this blog. Do you see why I was weary?
I think C knew she was doing the best she could. How did I make her feel when I called her out for shortcomings she openly awknokwdged? I would feel horrible.
The breakup has been gut wrenching at times. I dream I’m apologizing to her and then I wake up. We had a mutual friend and she got in the crosshairs of it for me, simply because I associated C with her. They’re from the same geographical place and I just couldn’t hold onto our friendship without mourning C. And that’s not fair for anyone, especially the mutual friend.
Friendships with women can be so beautiful, but when they fracture… there’s nothing like that pain. Maybe you think I’m being melodramatic, but I think if you too have broken up with a friend, you know where my heart is at right now.
On my first night staying with C, we sat outside on a picnic blanket, ate popsicles, and watched the sunset.
“Did you ever think you’d be here?” I asked her. C looked at me and smiled. “No, life all works out differently than I could’ve imagined.”
Does it though? Do we lose parts of ourselves in the people we push away or break up with? Why is it all so devastating?
I try to “live in the questions,” as the great poet-philosopher Rilke said. Those were the first words C said to me that truly struck a chord — I’d been living in the questions forever, I just thought it was a bad thing. Rilke knows it isn’t. He also knows that living the questions is one way to live yourself to an answer.
Maybe in writing this, I’m trying to live my way to an answer. I need to write honestly about the broken parts of me, and things with C, that’s a big crack I hope one day can mend.
This morning, I texted another Instagram friend an affirmation. I loved her and I hoped she would have a wonderful day. Those exchanges were commonplace for C and me, and yet. And yet, this feels different. I mourn who I was with her as much as I try to celebrate who I am without her — I’m different, I feel older, wizened, and aware that sometimes you do irreparable damage and the world refuses to end. We keep going. You keep going. Hoping, eventually, we meet again.
I want to end on Anne Lamott, who I really want to refer to as “Annie” because I just love her so much. This is what she says:
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
I think she was talking about a death here, but so am I. A death of a friendship. That can feel the very same. I just know it.