As social beings, we have all experienced the rise and fall of close relationships over the years. Playmates in elementary school that made way for cliques and teams and groupies in middle school. The in-crowd vs the uncool in high school. The BFF who has known you the longest, and the ones you suddenly realized were way more into the same band than you ever would have guessed and never thought you'd wind up being friends.
It's a certain rite of passage to experience losing a friend over something silly, or to have those friends who fade in and out of life as circumstances change for both of you. It's an experience that we have all come to know throughout our formative years when someone is no longer meeting our needs, and it's time let it go.
But the further we get from forming those lifelong friendships with people who have known us forever, the harder it is to open up and trust another adult to join our inner circle, to see who we "really are" in our grown up life. Finding someone later in the game who just seems to "get you" is special.
As women, I think we give more deeply, we invest more emotionally in our friendships than men do. When we finally do trust someone with our vulnerable selves, we expect that it will be worth the investment because it has been crafted so carefully and with such deliberate action.
But what if that person eroded the trust you built? What if that friend you carefully selected and groomed before letting her in fully, suddenly decided to go in another direction...without you? It can be a unique and incredibly lonely experience to lose an adult friendship. One created after the frivolous nature of childhood, never had to be sustained through puberty, after college, after choosing your careers. One where you both decided to go deeper, because you valued each other for who you are as women, at the point in time you are both standing in.
Losing a friendship that became a part of your daily life as a adult is like rubbing salt in a fresh paper cut...it stings with a surprising jolt when you least expect it to. When you hear a song you danced to together on a rare night out, or you long to eat at that restaurant again, but it feels like cheating not to go there with her. When your child wonders where "her friend" has been, and you have to choose between honesty and saving yourself the wave of emotions when you answer. When you look into your Timehop folder and realize you won't have any new memories going forward that include photos of you together. When you see the remainder of the bottle of her favorite drink you bought to keep at your place for her visits, and know you'll never drink it without her. When you see someone driving a car like hers and think for a moment it might be fun to run into each other, catch up, and then think about all the reasons why that would actually hurt more than not seeing her...to realize you have been expertly left out of her new life. To know that part of the reason is the new life growing in me, who she will probably never snuggle and love the way she did my first.
As a full time working mom, making friends as an adult has been a difficult feat for me. I feel like an outsider to my SAHM friends, and to be honest I'm a little bit jealous of them. They have time to cultivate relationships to carry them through the long days of being home with kids...and I trudge off to work, missing my baby, wishing I had more time for myself, my spouse, to meet my own needs. I have my "core friendships" of life well established - those girls from home who have known me forever, and who will always be there to mark the passage of time along the way; those from college who met me as I was becoming more "me" than I'd ever been before. Those from grad school who saw me through existential growth and self reflection, there with me as I watched my parents divorce as I was on the cusp of marrying my own husband. Those friendships have the ties of time holding them down like anchors. But then, those friends move and have families and careers to chase and lives to solidify. And we come back to each other, to mark the time, to remind each other of the anchors when the waves seem high, but then we go back into our own daily lives.
So what about the friends we seek to buoy us through the daily realities of life as we know it? The new "BFF" to call/text, make plans with on a Thursday, routinely see on the weekends, stay up too late on a weeknight chatting with? To share the truly awful parts of a difficult career choice with when the going is tough. Who sees you through some
pretty bad nights, and for whom you've done the same. The one who loves your kid, who enjoys making last minute plans with you, who loves to let you cook while she cracks you up in the kitchen? The one who gets you, when it feels like you've almost forgotten what it's like to be an independent person aside from being a wife, a mom, a career. What happens when we let someone in, and sooner or later, without the history and the anchors...they walk out again?
It's a new kind of loneliness. When it feels
as though someone you chose, not because of history or shared time, but because of who they are in the here and now, used up all that you invested and gave and offered, and decided to move on anyway? Nothing hurts quite like that for awhile. And it's true, pain eases with time, and new people will come and go, but sometimes? You just really miss your friend.