Stories that Matter

Don't Talk To Me, I Don't Want To Be Your Friend!

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. That’s a really weird title for a blog post. What kind of person writes something like that on a Monday morning? Maybe she needs more coffee.

I do. I always need more coffee. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about making friends. Or not.

I live in a transient community. No, I don’t live with homeless people, although we do have a lot of them in Bermuda. I live in a community where people move in and out on a whim. Here one day, gone the next. Or so it seems. We have a lot of big business companies in Bermuda and most of them bring in their employees from overseas. Folks that fly their families halfway around the world to work on a tiny island for two or three years. Folks that might be moving back home or to some other country on a moment’s notice. Folks I really don’t want to be friends with, no matter how nice they are.

I suck at saying goodbye.

Over the last eighteen years, which is how long we’ve been back in Bermuda, I’d wager I’ve said goodbye to over twenty families. Families that we interacted with on a regular basis. Watched our kids on the playground together, hung out at the beach with, spent many hours together, investing in one another’s lives. At least five women I considered my very best friends have left my life over the last few years. Some of those friendships have remained strong, others have not. One of my first questions now upon meeting somebody new, is, “Are you Bermudian?” In other words, are you sticking around? Because if you aren’t, I don’t think we can be friends.

I am a self-preservationist.

And I know this is wrong. I know that I would not be who I am today were it not for many of those people God placed in my life for a particular season. I learned so much from them. We laughed together, cried together and did life together. And it was good. But I miss them too much when they’re gone. I miss not being able to pick up the phone, jump in the car and go hang out together. I hate that they’ve moved on to live a life I’m not really a part of anymore. I hate that I never got to see their kids grow up. I hate that aching feeling that something has gone missing, you want to get it back, you need to get it back, but you can’t. Skype and Facebok are fine at filling in the gap, but nothing compares to simply sitting in the presence of someone who totally gets you. Someone you don’t even need to talk with when you have no words to say. Those friendships are rare and beautiful, and I have been blessed with them. But they’re harder to let go of. Harder to grow and nurture when we’re separated by thousands of miles.

But I am so grateful for them.

I suppose it is the memories of those good times that prod me toward new faces. As much as I don’t want to invest emotionally, I am drawn to them. Because I know they’re probably feeling a little out of place and they might need to see a friendly face. And maybe they need to make a new friend. Maybe I do too.

But I hold back because I am afraid. What if we really like each other? What if we connect on that deep level and end up with that wonderful kind of friendship that only comes around once in a blue moon? What if a year or two from now, they are gone.

It’s a risk, isn’t it? Anything that involves matters of the heart carries a certain amount of risk. Vulnerability. Sometimes I’m just not willing to take that leap of faith. Sometimes I feel like it’s more important to preserve my heart rather than open it up to more pain.

But I know I’m missing out on a potential opportunity to connect with someone God might have put in my path for a specific reason. Someone who has a place in my life journey. Just as I have a place in theirs.

And so I risk it. Risk loving, risk losing, risk it all really. A simple “hello” can change the course of someone’s life. It’s changed mine many times over. And I have no regrets.

Even if we have to say goodbye.

What about you? Have you experienced the loss of friendships? How do you handle saying goodbye?

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  1. Michelle Sutton on March 5, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Interesting topic. I feel that way sometimes about saying goodbye to my characters at the end of a series, but that’s an aside… Anyway, Arizona is like that as well, especially if your friends are a military family. And yes, I do find myself asking how long they will be stationed here if they are. I used to avoid making new friends because I got tired of being sad when they moved (especially when I lived in Phoenix) but I don’t do that anymore. The internet has made things easier. I had a friend move to Korea. We were able to stay in touch. Same with N. Carolina. No matter where people live now, I can still chat with them or tweet, so it’s not so bad. Not like it used to be. I still get bummed when people move, but I’ve learned to love people like they are staying and keep in touch when they go. That’s just how God work. There are seasons in my life where I’ve needed people and sometimes that changes. If I was always only friends with just a few people then God couldn’t use them the way He wants to. So I allow myself to get close now. I am much happier in my life because I am not holding back.

    • Cathy West on March 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Michelle, I’m learning that sometimes, even if we avoid making friends, it happens anyway. Right now I’m facing saying goodbye to another ‘soul-mate’ – someone God only put in my life a year ago. But she and her husband have gotten real close to us in that short space of time. I want to scream and cry whenever I think about them leaving. But I know it’s something I have to accept, because eventually it will come. And though it’s hard, I know they will always be in our lives whether here or elsewhere.

  2. broadsideblog on March 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I’ve found a different challenge, living in NY for the past 20 years (originally from Canada) which is how hard it was to break in socially (we have no kids) and how quickly (?!) people ditch friendships. I am still friends with people in Canada I’ve known for 30+ years and it takes a lot to make someone walk away from an established friendship — where, here, I’ve lost three women friends, even after five or seven years, I thought were close. But when it came time to discuss or resolve conflict, they fled for good. In that case, saying goodbye was sad, but not really — any intimate relationship over time is going to involve tough moments and ditching someone over them shows you it wasn’t much of a friendship to begin with.

    • Cathy West on March 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

      Oh, that is tough! I’ve been in those situations as well, and it’s an eye-opener for sure! But hopefully it won’t stop you from reaching out and making new friends. And I hope you find a jewel amongst the plastic beads! Keep looking!

  3. Elaine Stock on March 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

    What a very interesting subject, Cathy. Also interesting insight to life in Bermuda.

    I am finding the same angst in the work place. I just began my 7th year in my outside-of-writing job and have seen so many people come & go. I’ve tried being friendly, reaching out of my more normally reserved and introverted self, but then see these newbies leave. I’m presently facing that same scenario once again, and hoping this potential friend sticks it out because we seem to have a lot in common. Then again, I have this uncanny knack for making dear friends who seem to to live a minimum of 20 miles from me, and often more like a whole coast away.

    Don’t know why. Just figuring that God knows what He’s doing.

  4. Lindsay Harrel on March 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    One of my best friends moved to Virginia (I live in Arizona) about 6-7 years ago. It was really hard, going from being roomies to being across the country. We still try to talk every 1-2 months, and we do have a relationship that can pick up where we left off, but it’s still not the same. I miss going to the room next door and sitting on her bed and chatting the night away. I miss Starbucks dates and all of that. So it’s not the same, but at least we’ve been able to hang on to some of the friendship we had. Praying God sends you some friends who stay put! šŸ™‚

  5. Beth K. Vogt on March 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Powerful post today, Cathy.
    I married a guy in the military — and had to learn how to say goodbye while at the same time learning how to continue friendships long distance. Interesting dance, that.
    I discovered long goodbyes are painful, so I keep them brief and say, “I’ll see you as soon as I can see you.”
    There’s a bit of hope tucked in that statement.
    And I’ve learned that some friendships stand the test of geographical distance — and some don’t.
    And sometimes it’s my fault.
    And sometimes it’s no one’s fault.
    And then there are friends who you can not talk to for months — years — and when you get together again it’s like you’ve never been apart.
    Pure gold.

  6. cecelia dowdy on March 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Hi, Cathy. Nice blog post. I haven’t lost a friend, in the manner that you’re describing, since I was a young kid in elementary school. Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve found my friendships just kinda get a bit “stale?” or falter for some reason. Sometimes the seasons of our lives change. I keep in touch with people, but it’s not as if the friendship dies because one of us moves away. Sometimes, my outlook/goals change. I know my life has changed DRASTICALLY since I’ve had a child – the last six years have been a rollercoaster ride and with a full-time job and writing, husband and child, it’s hard to squeeze in time for friendships. I have one good, solid friend whom I really talk to, but we don’t get together as much as we should. Your blog post makes me stop, think, and wonder about the nature of my past friendships. I hope you have a blessed day.

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