On The Occasion Of My Upcoming Anniversary ...
No. A search of my email revealed that the date was October 15th.
The "10" in my mind must have come from "October."
It was this month, that much I knew.
How curious that I didn't remember the day.
You would think, wouldn't you, that I would remember the day I said goodbye to a person who had been in my life for more than 15 years.
You would think that I would remember the day that I had dreaded and avoided for so long, so sure was I that I would never be able to handle the pain.
And yet, in the end, I learned this: It is easier than expected to say goodbye to someone who wasn't really there.
I am not about all things being equal. I am not that friend who expects you to pay for coffee because, the last time, I picked up the tab. I reach for the check, always. I am happy to treat.
I bake for people because I love to bake. And because I love them. Sometimes, I do it to repay a kindness that they've done to me. But often, I do it for no reason other than to please them. Most people like the unexpected. Especially if sugar is involved.
But when a relationship grows too lopsided – that was his word for it, "lopsided" – it begins to teeter.
And then it falls.
It does not, however, vanish. It is still there. It may be lying in the dirt, but it is still there.
So, I could have stood there, standing over it, mourning it, rueing it.
Or I could walk away.
Which is what I did.
Now, the lopsidedness may have been largely of my making, but there was an insidious factor at play:
We never talked about it.
And one person's take on a relationship can vary greatly from another person's take on a relationship. But if neither of you are explicit, bad things can arise. Paths will veer. Assumptions will be made.
So, despite the fact that I knew, for some time, that it was best to say "The End," I didn't.
And I didn't.
And I didn't.
Because it never felt like the right time.
As if there is a right time to give up something – someone – you love.
But as many of you know, I am a firm believer in everything happening the way it's supposed to happen.
And context is a wonderful thing.
I had had a somewhat similar experience a few years before, having heard from a one-time friend who wanted to reconnect. That relationship, too, had been lopsided, though in a different way.
And it was extraordinary to tell him "No."
No, I didn't not want to rekindle our friendship.
Our friendship had, for years, been nothing of the sort. It was about him taking and my getting next to nothing in return.
Mind you, like I said, I am not the person who needs everything to be exactly equal. Far from it.
But the year he called me on my birthday (three days after his; rather easy to remember) to talk about himself, that was the beginning of our end.
And so when he resurfaced, years later, it was not difficult to tell him that I wished him well but that, for me, it was best to leave the past in the past.
When I tell mutual friends that story, their faces change.
Is their disbelief that I would do such a thing – that I am capable of such a thing? – or that any person would behave thusly?
I never ask.
It was the right thing for me. I never looked back. What could I possibly be missing? More of the same?
I'll never know, that's true. But so the saying goes, a leopard doesn't change its spots.
And so, in that way, I was a bit prepared for last year.
A bit, I say.
A tiny bit, apparently, as I literally shook as I wrote that letter. Not out of anger, but out of fear and awe. I was finally doing something I had known I had to do but had put off doing. For several years.
I could scarcely believe I was writing those words. That I was standing up for myself. That I was saying, verbosely, "It is not all right for you to treat me this way." That I was revealing, fully, nakedly on the page, how much he had hurt me.
And in the end, he had no idea.
Or so he said.
His reply was one of surprise for what I had written.
But then, assuming he was being honest, of course it was. I had never spoken up. I had, by not condemning his behavior, condoned it.
The timing, it turned out, was not ideal. For him. And I felt bad, slightly, for unwittingly piling on.
But it had been the right time for me. And that was my foremost consideration. It had to be.
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways.
And it is fitting that my brain, just now, would recall a lyric from The Beatles' "Help!"
Because it was exactly that that I had needed and didn't receive.
And so I moved on.