Being true to yourself

I finally essentially “came out of the closet” yesterday on Facebook to my former friends at the evangelical church I used to be involved with. I shared the truth about how liberal I am, which I kept hidden for the entire time I attended there. I suspected I would not be accepted for how liberal I was and judging by the unfriendings and messages I got as a result, I was right.

But in an unexpected sort of way, it ended up being just the thing I needed. It feels so freeing to finally be out there with who I really am, no longer hiding the aspects I thought people wouldn’t like.

I lost the friendships that weren’t based on who I really am or my real values, but I regained the approval of some friends I lost touch with when I started going to that church three years ago.

Facebook has good and bad aspects, for sure. But it always worked for me as a social connection before I joined that church. I had friends there who knew the real me and loved me so much anyway that they helped me move back down here. They were good friends I respected, who shared my interests in politics and modern literature and taking an intentional approach to how we live our lives.

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They understandably backed off from me when I started being my fake self, hiding my reactions to current events, pretending to be less liberal than I really was. I understand why they backed away. But I thought they were gone forever. It may take time to get back to the way it was before and some relationships may never be the same. But it was so encouraging to see that when I embraced my real self, so many still had my back.

Interestingly, this parallels something else that’s been on my mind lately. I know someone has been checking my blog to see if I’ll write about her because we’ve had yet another recent argument. And the issue is parallel to being my real self on FB, because both are about finding the tribe that “gets you.”

I’ve come to the painful realization that I have grown apart from one of my oldest friends. As cheesy as I think the source is, this article lists signs that you’ve grown apart from your BFF, and we fit several of them.

Neither of us really “gets” each other. And that sucks.

I’ve already repeatedly apologized to her for the things I recently did to upset her. It’s her choice about whether to accept that or not; it’s out of my hands now. I’m not going to let myself get stuck in old patterns of beating myself up over how other people see me. I’m imperfect; I keep trying.

But I also realized that it’s just kind of sad when you cling too hard to something that is clearly over and has been for quite a while. Like when the family members of a hospitalized loved one want the doctors to keep doing CPR long after it’s obvious to everyone else that they’re already gone. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

I was very happy to attend her wedding a few months ago. We’ve had a couple of pleasant meetings in person. But for the most part, our friendship is just not a lot of fun anymore. I think she would probably agree. Our friendship is not the same as it was when we first met and I don’t think it ever can be.

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The truth is that we don’t have a lot in common as people. We had a little more in common when we first met: we both had babies around the same age and were stay-at-home moms. We both liked to read pop-feminism books. We both liked pagan/New Age stuff like crystals and tarot.

I went one way and she went the other. I moved back to Michigan just a couple years after we met. By then, we had already had our first blowup of not speaking to each other and weren’t on speaking terms when I moved. I had never had that kind of tempestuous friendship with anyone else before and haven’t since.

I don’t think we ever actually had that much in common, though, even in the beginning. She liked going to movies, eating at specific places I didn’t like, getting makeovers at places like Saks Fifth Avenue, so we did all those things together. Those were not my favorite kinds of activities and I couldn’t really afford them, but I was just happy to have another mom friend.

In the Michigan years after that, I developed a new core of interests: discussing politics and books, learning how to make stuff (from soap to bread to sewing sleeping bags for my kids’ stuffed animals), finding cheap or free ways to have fun.

I had a very specific way I wanted to raise my children, which she thought was harsh because she was more indulgent. I wanted to raise respectful, responsible kids and to create our home as a peaceful sanctuary from the world (which is how it still functions and my kids are indeed respectful and responsible, so I’m happy about that.) I had very specific plans and designed my life accordingly.

Her interests couldn’t be more different from mine. She loves horror (which I intensely hate), Halloween, shopping, movies, nostalgia for her childhood and the 80s, celebrities. She would rather buy stuff than learn to make it, rather go shopping than sit at home. She is more free-spirited than I am, not much of a planner trying to achieve a specific outcome with her choices.

And that’s okay. It’s not a value judgment. We are just almost comically different. If you believe in astrology (which I don’t think I do), her sign and mine are even completely opposite each other on the zodiac.

I have other friends with whom I don’t share common interests, but we talk infrequently enough that we just have fun catch-up sessions every few months. Or we send brief messages when something reminds us of each other.

Trying to talk several times a week to someone with whom you have nothing in common is really hard. I wonder why we are afraid to let go of something that isn’t working.

There’s nothing wrong with what she likes. But there’s nothing wrong with what I like either. We don’t have shared hobbies or similar perspectives on life, which doesn’t give us much to discuss. The truth is that we don’t have much holding us together besides history.

Our friendship after I moved back to Michigan was still tumultuous, as it always has been. We’d be friends for a period of months or years, then get in a fight and stop talking for months or years.

We would miss each other and then start the cycle all over again without addressing or fixing the causes of the previous fight. I think those unresolved issues haunted us and still do.

I think in many of those times, we were probably at a point where the friendship was at its natural end because our values were too different, but we tried to keep it going anyway.

Most of our communications over the years have involved us talking about the problems in our lives. During the many long periods when we weren’t talking, I learned how to deal with most of my problems without discussing them in such detail or for as long. But focusing on your misery is such an easy habit to fall back into and that’s where I am again.

Ironically, as my life has gotten harder than ever in the past year with my illness, I want to complain less. And I want to listen to others’ complaints less. Not because I don’t care, but because my reserves are so limited. I need fewer crises in my life. I don’t want to make it such a regular part of my life to dwell on what makes me unhappy.

When I do that, it actually makes me feel sicker. That’s the absolute worst thing for my health. Despite my illness, most of the time I’m actually pretty happy.

It’s hard to admit that you’ve grown apart from someone you still love, that you’ll always care about. They become someone you once knew, that you still think of fondly in a past-tense sort of way.

You might catch up every few months to see how they’re doing, like you would with any other old friend from the past. You don’t want to lose touch completely, you just can’t sustain frequent contact.

After a long friendship that’s had regular problems, eventually you might look at this person and ask yourself, “if I met them today, would they still become my best friend?” You might find that you would say no. And they probably would answer the same about you.

That doesn’t mean that they’re bad or that you’re bad, just that it’s really no longer working and you’re too afraid to let go. Honesty with yourself is indeed brutal sometimes and it takes courage to face it.

You can’t try to keep a past relationship alive out of nostalgia alone. There’s no need for an ugly breakup because nobody’s mad, nobody’s fighting, just sad to let things fade into the background.

But you also know that it can’t really be any other way. The more you try to force a friendship that isn’t there anymore, it just prolongs the hurt.

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