When I was in my twenties, I worked at a magazine with a person who became my best friend. In the beginning, we didn’t realize we’d get close. We simply shared an office and tossed story ideas back and forth, sometimes grabbing dinner after work to bemoan our editors tearing up our stories with a red pen. But then we were in each other’s weddings. We held each other’s babies. And we went on vacation together; our kids started to call each other cousins.
Then in our late-thirties, we started to change. She struggled with depression, her husband cheated on her and she turned inward. I started making new friends and after being pushed away, I stopped working as hard to stay in touch. And over a complicated couple of years, defined by many insider friend things that doesn’t make sense to share, we grew apart. Which is crazy to me now. There are so many days that I want to dial her number and tell her something.
But this post isn’t just about that friend – the one that got away. It’s about all of my friends over the years – and how time or geographic distance or simply just being busy raising kids – pushed us apart. Sometimes I long to be closer to all of them, like the kind of close where you admit you cried in the shower the night before, but keeping up with everyone is really tough. Loving everyone is really tough. Am I the only one that is sometimes exhausted by simply maintaining my female friendships? I don’t know where to begin when it’s been awhile, so sometimes I don’t do anything at all and then I feel more distant. Or, I just bury the emotion away and ignore it. Which doesn’t help either. (And it’s not that I have oodles of friends; we all collect friends over time and then time takes its toll. That’s all I’m saying.)
With my birthday (and the holidays) coming up, it got me thinking about the friends that pull through for you and the ones that don’t. I mentioned this to my husband the other night, who is honestly one of the greatest human beings on this great green earth (and anyone who knows him can attest to the truth behind that statement). He considered what I was saying: That sometimes I feel loved by my friends and sometimes I don’t. That sometimes I have lots of love for my friends, and sometimes I don’t.
“Friends come in waves,” he said. “You need to be okay with that. They go up and down. You can still count them as good friends. There are just going to be times when you’ll feel closer than others.”
So much has been written about female friendships, but my husband’s 30 second pep talk made me feel better. Because he’s right. There are times you’ll call one friend when you try to return jeans to the store and you’re handing them to the cashier and you notice a pair of your – ahem, discarded, dirty – underwear in the bag. (This happened yesterday.) Maybe another week, an old friend gets in touch and you dive into what’s been going on over the last year. And it’s 100 percent normal to feel into some friendships more than others at different points in time. As I type these words, it seems so obvious. Yet, I have to say it anyway: Just because you’re not as connected as you once were doesn’t mean you can’t be close again. And just because you’re close now doesn’t mean you always will be. It makes me feel better to think that way; it means that distant friends may someday come back.
As I was addressing my holiday cards last night, I texted my friend. That friend. You know, the one that got away. I needed her new address — and it was a good excuse to reconnect. To stop the march of time from interfering in our lives any longer. My words to her were simple and true — and I knew I had to say them so I did. I wrote: “I miss you.”