There are always two sides to every story.
When I was 16 and my brother – my younger brother – pushed me into the couch and I hit it in just the right spot to break three ribs, what never came out when I told the story to my friends was that I had patiently waited for him to get off the couch so I could steal his seat. When he came back we argued – because we were teenagers and that’s what we did – and when I stood up he simply pushed me back down. Crack.
When my daughter, then 3, would come crying to me because her brother pushed her or knocked her down, I didn’t know until I went to talk to my son that it was because she stood in the middle of the area where he was playing blocks or driving his Matchbox cars and then kicked all of his toys around.
Little Red Riding Hood would most certainly have a different version of what happened that day in the woods than would the Big Bad Wolf.
And when you hear, “People come into your life for a reason,” you never think that people also leave your life for a reason.
But they do.
Anyone who knows me or who has been a regular reader of this blog (or both) knows that we moved around a lot when I was growing up – and by “a lot” I mean that by the time I graduated from high school we had lived in 13 different houses in five different states. We weren’t gypsies or transients or, as one friend often accuses, in witness protection. My dad simply got bored sitting in one place too long. As a result I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. And while it was tough leaving friends behind, it was always good to make new ones.
I’ve carried that with me through my adult years. In college I think I lived someplace new every semester, and in the (gulp) 23 years since the longest time I’d spent in any one house was the one I bought after my divorce in 2002 – and we moved out of that one two years ago.
I’ve never really had a problem making friends – again, those who know me know I’m not shy. Growing up it was never really hard to “clean out the bad,” either, because if I waited long enough we’d move and those I didn’t want to keep in touch with just faded into the sunset. (Unfortunately many I did want to keep in touch with faded, as well, but thanks to Facebook and social media I’ve reconnected with many of them.)
As an adult, cleaning that closet is a bit more difficult. I can’t sit back on my laurels and wait for Dad to get bored and move (which, by the way, he stopped doing once we three kids graduated). When I need to cleanse, it’s got to be a decision I make, and it’s not always an easy one. How do you tell someone, “thanks, but it’s over.” Breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a boyfriend, I think, because the relationship is different. When you make a romantic break, there’s the possibility you can be friends, or maybe without the romance there’s not much reason to be around each other so it doesn’t matter. With friends, it’s different. There is no, “but we can still be friends” – that defeats the whole process.
I’ve only made that cleansing move twice in the last 25 years, both because it is so damned hard and because, well, I generally love my friends. I don’t get to spend as much time with a lot of them as I’d like, but I do still like having them. What usually drives me to that point is how that person makes me feel. I don’t need to be coddled and given warm fuzzies by any means, but if I’m constantly left with a negative self-image after talking with the friend or just feeling badly about myself because of them, I don’t need them nor do I want them around. In many cases, these are the friends who use a revolving door – they come into your life for a while, then leave for a while, then they eventually resurface.
I do believe people come into our lives for a reason, but I have to remember that people leave our lives for a reason, too – and sometimes that reason has to be because we tell them to leave.