Your Life No Longer An Option. Don't Look Back
"If you don’t grow together, you grow a part."
I believe people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. As we grow and evolve friends come and they go. Often times, we don’t know whether the reason or season has concluded and it’s time to let go and move on. But, we do know that in a relationship, regardless of the type it is, if you don’t grow together, you grow a part. That’s a given.
But what about an old high school friend who resurfaces in your life, seemingly, hopeful for your future but has a depressing, dismal outlook of her own future? Can you sincerely trust that she is onboard with your joy when her own words about herself are always negative and self-defeating? She constantly compares her situation to others and makes assumptions about their lives when she has no facts to support anything.
We can't always go back.
That scenario played out in my life in 2006 with an old girlfriend that I’ve known for at least 46 years. We went to school together from elementary all the way to high school. After twenty years of separation, fate brought us together once again. We shared childhood stories and talked about life. I found her outlook on life to be negative and her control drama was that of a "poor me." She blamed everyone else for her failings and seemed quite envious of her own sister and other high school friends who had achieved career and financial success.
One night while talking with her, she asked me to tell her the truth about an idea she had floating around in her head to start a school for teenagers from dysfunctional homes. I commented that it was a bodacious plan and she would need a lot of support and resources to get it off the ground. I did not volunteer any other comments than that because she was drinking at the time and I didn't take her seriously. As a matter of fact, I intentionally refrained from offering any ideas or suggestions. That wasn’t good enough. She wanted to know specifically how I felt. She even said, “Why you think I called you? I know you go’n tell me the truth.”
So, I did what I didn't want to do. I painted her a business picture of what that type of venture would entail. But, my truth wasn’t what she really wanted to hear. She wanted me to say something like "Oh girl, that's great…you can do it girl." And, I would have said those things if I believed she was sincere or capable of assuming responsibility for something of that magnitude. I thought that I was being sincere by not feeding her ego with bullshit.
WARNING…NEVER asks someone to tell you the truth if you’re not ready to hear it.
She took what she considered my lack of support for her idea dramatically and accused me of undermining her confidence. BUT, before her irate, she touted how confident she was and no one could undermine her confidence. Well, I guess I have super duper powers because my truth sent her into an emotional tailspin.
“I just want the girlfriend I had as a child,” she wailed.
“Well, if that’s who you want then we can end this call right now because she's never showing up again,” I yelled through the phone.
“You’re not the same person,” she continued.
“You got that right,” I fired back. “It wasn’t some fluke that I changed. I worked damn hard at it. And I’m not going to let your low self-confidence and self-esteem cause me to dishonor what God has done through me.”
I heard a click. I thought we had been disconnected so I called back. Her fourteen-year-old son answered the phone. I could hear her in the background wailing like a wounded animal. He didn’t know what to do. He was growing fond of me, but now his mother's tantrum was causing him to rethink his opinion of me.
She gets on the phone yelling, “What do you want?”
I’m rather cool because I knew her tears had nothing to do with me, personally. My truth should not have held that much value to her.
“I called back because we got disconnected,” I responded, “and I didn’t want you to think that I hung up on you.”
You know what she said to me? “I hung up on you!”
“Whoa! I thought we were disconnected. Okay then, God bless you…and…ah…good-bye.” I hung up on her.
WARNING…NEVER asks someone to tell you the truth if you’re not ready to hear it. At least, don’t ask me. The truth is not always pretty, and it’s only subjective. It’s simply what you perceive it to be. When you ask for someone's opinion, you don’t get to control how he or she expresses it or perceives the situation.
Don't get stuck in the past
Instead of tears or regret, I exhaled because I had held my breath waiting for the fallout that would sever our relationship for good. I could never be the childhood girlfriend that she wanted, and I could not accept a relationship held together by the past and not rooted in the present.
The most valuable assets anyone has to offer a friend is compassion, fairness, and truth. I have worked way too hard and too long to put my past in right perspective and move on from a seventeen-year-old wounded girl to a confident and focused woman to give it all up because someone can't accept me for me. I like being called “girl”, but I’m not a girl in the literal sense.
When I was much younger, it seemed easier to walk away from a relationship of any kind when the reason or season had concluded. Somewhere I lost it and for many years I became a person who thought every relationship was to be held in a safe deposit box forever. But, over the past fifteen years, that outlook on life has changed. My life philosophy now is live and let live, accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, let go and move on.
A few years ago, a girlfriend gave me a pillow embroidered with "Your Life No Longer An Option. Don’t Look Back." Staying stuck in the past with a friend who doesn't want you to change or move forward is not an option. You have a choice when it comes to who sits in the front row of your life, who sits in the balcony, and who gets uninvited. My old childhood girlfriend was uninvited from being in my present life because I can't live in the past, and she didn't seem to be able to live in the present.
Copyright © 2006 Shar'Ron Maxx Mahaffey