“I don’t understand why she doesn’t like me, Momma.” My daughter looked to me to answer her question even though she phrased it like a statement. Her nose starts to crinkle when she is about to cry. I saw a single tear avalanche down her face. She did not understand why this once good friend did not want to play with her anymore.
“I try to play with her, Momma, but she keeps ignoring me. It hurts my feelings.” She wants an explanation of her “friend’s” behavior, but I have none to offer.
“Play with someone else, honey. There are other friends that love playing with you. Try and hang out with them.” This is the best piece of advice that I can give her, but I know it probably does not do anything to alleviate her worries.
Even though I am thirty-two years older than my daughter I’ve learned that navigating friendships can be difficult. In the last few years, I made the hard call of letting go of 2 friendships. When a conflict arises or a friendship strays in a negative direction, my default is to analyze every detail of our history together and usually I blame myself for “something” I did. I hate the thought of being a vessel of someone else’s discontent and until I find closure to “why” the fissure happened, I contemplate all of the things that I could have done differently. The endless analysis starts with, “Did I say something wrong? Did I do something wrong?”and ends with my desire to fix or mend the relationship.
In these two friendships that are now a part of my past, I embraced the concept of vulnerability. I am a fan of Brene Brown’s work, Daring Greatly, where she advocates that “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”
In that vain, I asked the individuals what, if anything I did to cause this rift. I pushed for an answer. And I was met with a few excuses and silence. What I did gleam is that these friends moved in other directions that did not include me. For months afterwards, I sought an explanation, coming up empty. To be truly vulnerable I needed to question myself as well. “Was I being a good friend? Did I miss something that was obvious?” But because the other two parties did not want to pursue a conversation regarding this subject, the dialogue was one-sided. I made the decision to be vulnerable. But I still did not understand the reason for the rift. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never really understand what happened.
And that is fine. That is part of the letting go process. Some breaks happen. Letting go is a philosophy that continually teaches us to detach from our expectations. I am still working on practicing this ideal. My world is full of attachment to people, their feelings, and outcomes. Even with these entrenched attachments, there is still a way to move forward. Focusing on the circle I do have in my life is my salve. I am blessed with good friends who love me and I know exactly where I stand.
My daughter will learn that lesson, too. She will find her circle. It may take a cycle of letting in and letting go. But eventually we find our tribe.