Be Who You Are and Be That Well

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
A Farmgirl friend and I were discussing loss of friendships. I haven’t lost a lot of them; as a matter of fact, I can count only one. I am not talking about the kind of friendships that just fall away, or those whose purpose has played out according to the old adage that people come into our lives for “a reason, a season or a lifetime.”

I don’t count as a loss those friends who came for a reason, or a season either, and then depart. I am grateful for them and the lessons and strength they brought with them. Rather, I am referring to those who came into our lives and whose purpose wasn’t truly played out…those who don’t fall into the three categories. I am talking about friendships that didn’t come to a natural close, but rather died without warning.
Sadly, I know that I am not alone in this phenomenon. I have sat and listened to many friends “recount” their own stories, trying to wrap their heads around what just happened, with no answer presenting itself. I can honestly say that it doesn’t become any “more clear” through the eyes of experience or by watching someone else go through it.
My own experience happened years ago, and it has taken that amount of time to finally be okay with it. This person and I were inseparable. I really, genuinely loved spending time with her and we were in every way equals, both bringing a balance to the friendship table. She was the “ ying to my yang”. Our husbands were even friends. It was glorious, or so I thought. I could have not been more shocked had I been hit by a bus when the day came that we “broke up.” Okay, it wasn’t even a breakup…I was dumped like a hot potato.
To this day, I can’t tell you what happened. Every attempt to make it better just seemed to make it worse. For years, the pain was so bad that I literally didn’t think I could breathe. In the rare instances that we ran into her and her husband, I found myself in desperate need of a brown paper bag to breathe into. I would have done anything to fix it had I been given the opportunity. In the months and years that followed, I was deeply affected by the loss, so much so that I wasn’t really sure my heart would heal. But of course it did. We are very resilient aren’t we? I never did understand why it happened, but here are some valuable lessons that I have learned from the experience. (Yes, I can now say she was a friend who came into my life for “a reason”.)
The first thing that I learned is that true friendship forgives anything. I cannot imagine not forgiving a friend for anything they might say or do or be, if they came and asked for forgiveness. We all have those stupid moments. Blame it on hormones, or past experiences, or insecurities or whatever. If the friendship had meant to her what it did to me, there would have been a way. I believe that there had to have been something harboring there, but either way it was mine left to deal with.
Secondly, true friendship is always a two-way street. A forever friend sees you through the same lens that you see them. Your brilliance and talent and glory needs to shine, as brightly in their eyes as theirs does in yours. They have to know your heart like you know theirs, and they have to be willing to filter things based on who they KNOW you are.
Lastly, you can only be who you are. If the friendship requires you to be anything less, then it isn’t a friendship. My healing moment came when reading a simple quote from St. Francis de Sales that read, “Be who you are and be that well.” I found so much freedom in those little words. I had gotten to the point where I felt so misunderstood and misjudged by her and by those that she was willing to draw into the drama that I was frozen in fear any time I saw any of them. “Do I say something or not say something?” “Do I approach them or not approach them?” I knew there would be no right thing to do. I hated that she/they had painted me to be this person that I and those who truly loved me knew I wasn’t. It about broke me.
But then, from out of nowhere, there it was—the best advice I had received during this whole mess (and counseling)…JUST BE ME. I could do that! I let that little phrase govern me all the time now. I don’t act guilty if I am not, I don’t back down if I shouldn’t, and so on. Not that I am perfect. I am not. Yet, I know me. I know that I am willing to change the things that I need to change, and I have surrounded myself with people who love me without conditions…people who I trust to tell me where the rough edges are. I know they know me by heart.
At the time, I couldn’t see that this person possibly was never meant to be here for a lifetime, that her friendship was for a reason. The experience showed me that being accepted for who I am is really the only way that true friendship can grow. I can’t be someone I am not, not even for someone that I love. It is a disservice to my own spirit to place someone else’s view of whom I should be ahead of who I know that I am.
My heart has completely mended, although it has taken time. Life has provided me with a best friend who gets me. She calls me on my “stuff” and defends me to the death. There are not words to describe the freedom that comes from the lack of judgment in those types of friends.
Any of us who have been around for a while have loved and lost at some point. So here’s to us—to those who have woken up on the other side of the loss and learned that we are okay. And if you’re still in the healing process, I am handing over my little healing salve. Take the time to write it out on everything you have…your bathroom mirrors, your refrigerator, your car’s dash…stitch it on a pillow that you rest on your bed. We all know, somewhere in us, who we are meant to be. So BE that.
“Be who you are and be that well”  ~ St Francis de Sales

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  1. rene says:

    I wrote this post in response to an email I received from a farmgirl who was just going through the early stages of this kind of hurt. My heart broke all over again for her as I remembered the pain associated with the insanity of this kind of loss. SO here’s to you (you know who you are), may it be as a reminder of better days to come.

  2. Boy, did I need to read this today! I’m grieving what seems like the loss of a friendship and I’m very sad because I don’t know what else to do about it.

  3. Shirley says:

    Thank you…

  4. Linda says:

    We just had a dear friend and neighbor die suddenly. For my husband especially, that was a too-early and unnatural end to a 20+ year relationship. My Dh retird 2 1/2 years ago, and our friend, just this past Jan. They had plans together, my Dh feels lost without him. Not to mention this guy’s poor family. One future joy for them, grandbaby number 5 is due this Fall.
    I know this may not be what you meant when you posed the question, but this is where we are this week.
    Thanks for listening,
    Linda

    Linda~ I would suspect wrapping your head and heart around any loss would have some similar hurdles to get over. I am so sad for your and your hubby’s loss~ true heart friends can’t be replaced just taken with us on our continued journey.

  5. Gary says:

    Very well spoken/written Rene’…
    These losses are dificult to form thoughts about, and even more difficult to write about, because there is literally nothing to write about. It’s like trying to write about a fall… yes it happened, but sometimes there is no clear reason why.
    In all of Life’s Journey, I find that five people have turned out to be True Friends… can be asked anything, and will respond as well as their resources allow, listen, and have proven the capacity to accept, understand, overlook, forgive, and ask right back with no "balance sheet" implied. Family is not included, as they are… well… Family.
    Five… in a Lifetime… I am Blessed.
    GodSpeed to Y’all…!
    Gary
    in Tampa

  6. lisa tillisch says:

    I have always loved that old saying, "to thine own self be true" . If you know you have always done the right thing, you can sleep at night. You never know what anguish or secrets people hide from you, only to put a wedge in a relationship later. I am not saying to be selfish, just that accountability can be a tough mirror.

  7. Lisa Z says:

    Thank you so much for that. Those are healing words for me. It’s been several years now, but I’m still grieving over a friendship I never thought would end. I could really relate to your story!

  8. Gail says:

    Ditto, feeling like I’ve just lost a friend that I’ve only begun to know. It truly saddens me and makes me ask "what happened?". Your article reminded me of a saying I wrote on an art project in 8th grade that has stayed with me my whole life. It says "I am what I am and not what others want me to be". It’s all I can do.

  9. lynne says:

    This has happened with a family member to me and the " not knowing what I did " has been driving me crazy. Thank you
    for this article- it has helped me put it in perspective.

  10. Debbie says:

    Rene, once again you have put into words what many of us have experienced but could not define. Thank you for being so willing to share your heart with us. "I am who I am and that is who I want to be, if I were you then I wouldn’t be me".

  11. Reba says:

    I have been blessed with such a good friend, that my own daughter will call her even when she is down or has a question. That is a testimony to how true this friendship is. She will answer my daughter honestly and will keep her confidence if asked. That makes me respect her even more. I could not ask for anyone better to give advice or just listen to me or my daughter. I have however experienced hurt from a friend before and never want to experience it again.

  12. sallie says:

    Your words are so true. I recently went through this very thing. The hurt was so bad because I had truly poured my heart into this friend and her family. I still love her and her family but know that it will never be the same again. Thank you for expressin this process so well.

  13. Grace~katmom says:

    Thank you so very much,,,I recently put my foot in my mouth and in doing so may have hurt a very dear lady….something I would never have done if my mouth had not been in gear.
    I think I need to heed your advice and send her an apology, long over due.
    Thank you so very much for getting my brain in the right direction.
    hugz to you,
    >^..^<

    Gracie~ You know I love you with ever fiber of my being~ as does most people that get to know you up close and personal… You will, as always, make it right…

  14. dot says:

    This one hit way to close to home for me to objectively respond to. The hurt is and confusion over the loss is way too hard to put into words. I am still trying to figure out…what I said, did or didn’t do and if this division could have been avoided…apparently not is all I can come up with. Moving on…being true to myself and being the best that I can.

    I promise you, I can hear it in your words, I have been there. A friend to me when I was in this stage.. "you can’t wrap your head around insanity, so dont try". It didnt help me then as little did back then. Give it time~ one day you will wake up and discover how rich your life is inspite of the loss and how many people "get you".

  15. jill says:

    Boy, I thought I was the only one who had this experience. I had a friend all through high school, through marriage and children and then one spring decided she was done being my friend. We had a disagreement, yes we did, but over all that time we spend together she had decided she was done. What hurt the most is she went to other "friends" and told them and talked about it before she even actually talked to me. She new this would hurt me because I am a private person and believe in solving conflict rather than feeding off it. I don’t like gossip either. It did take a long time and still stings every once in awhile. But, like you I have accepted ME. This is ME and this is the way I am. If I can’t fit into her mold then we don’t need each other. I am much happier with myself since I have discovered ME. I still see her and when I do we make plans to get together but that never seems to pan out. But, maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Thanks for the post. It makes me feel "normal"!

    Jill~  Well I have never been accused of being "normal", but at least you arent alone LOL

  16. Catherine says:

    I love that quote, thank you!
    Blessings,
    Catherine :)

  17. Diane says:

    Has this ever hit home with me. I lost contact with all my friends from high school due to constant moving. In February, I noticed a classmate on Classmates.com. As this is the 40th year after graduation, I sent an email to her. We were the last graduating class of a small Catholic High School in Cleveland. There were only 95 of us. I asked if she knew of anyone was planning a 40th reunion. Well . . .through her efforts, it’s going to happen. The response has been great. I may not be able to attend due to health reasons, but I have renewed friendships that I thought were forever lost. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, how much I’ve changed over the years, and that my adventures in life are quite unique. Most ask, "What are you doing in Idaho?" My answer is complex but it boils down to loving a simpler life and being out of the race called "rat". All it took was an email. I dance!!

  18. Terri says:

    The tears are rolling down my face. The "break-up" was ten years ago for me and still hurts. Thank you for putting into words the pain that I didn’t feel I could acknowledge.

    Sorry the pain is still there…just goes to show how deeply you are capable of loving…

  19. Rene,
    Wow, I had to realize this recently, not just with friends, but with acquaintances or people at church or other walks of life. "I am Me, who God made ME, I’m sorry if that doesn’t live up to your expectations." is what I have to tell myself so often.
    I have a BEST friend. But to describe her, I tell people she is my sister. I choose sister because we have so many areas that we are different, but we are still friends because we respect each other’s differences and we have been through so much together and still love each other. We were roommates in college, were in each others weddings, attending the births of each other’s childrens, and my children call her Aunt Peggy and I’m Aunt Carol. To me, that is is the best friendship anyone can have.

  20. Ann says:

    I have a friend who has not spoken with her daughter in more then five years. Not to see the grandchildren for that length of time breaks my heart…so very sad…

  21. Linda says:

    Hi
    Thanks for the support.
    I’ve been reading your posts, and I’m thinking about what I’ve learned as people have come and gone in my life. I agree that all we can do is be the best us we know how to, live in such a way you can sleep at night, face God. And the rest we have to let go. We can’t control another. I’ve seen people make what I think are strange and tragic decision in their relationships, and it seems they felt entitled or were self-protective in some way. No matter, it never made sense, and their was pain in the wake. They are the ones who lose the most.
    My own story involves my dad. He seemed to like me less and less as I got older. I tried to get him to like me, it just never happened. We had never had words, so there was not an event I could point to. Our relationship just started downhill and never recovered. I really don’t know what happened. He died over 20 years ago, and it was never resolved. It took me a long time to realize and say it was his loss, and take the blame off me. You know that prayer
    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. that works for me.
    Linda

    Thanks Linda~

    The loss of a parent either through death of through choice is a painful event for sure. I have had to remind myself, that "people cannot give, what they dont have". Often times we want people to give us what we need ~ knowing full well they don’t have it to give…and that is sad for them.

  22. Ahrisha says:

    Hello Everyone,
    I find it interesting that all of your responses are from gals who have been gilted. I come from the other side of the fence. There were 2 times when I had to break off a relationship with a friend. It was not a decision that came easy but I have to say that the relationships were literally making me ill. Like I have seen a bad marriage do and the woman contracts a horrible disease.

    If either of these gals had come to me and asked what happened I would have, as gently as I could, shared with them what was happening. They must have been asking themselves all the questions your commenters have and more Yet, they had not the courage to come to me and ask what happened. Obviously they really didn’t want to know. The fear of learning that we are not perfect in our friends eyes is real. What does this say about the friendship? If I thought my friend could have heard me I would have choosen to speak to her about the issue. She was in a place of talking, not listening. Maybe your questions need to be targeted directly at the person. Ask for answers. Ask your friend to help you to understand. Even if it does not mend the relationship it will help you to see yourself in a new light.

    Usually we cannot see the things that we do that drive others away. We are just too close to see clearly. As to the comment, I am who I am like it or lump it, as we used to say. I believe there is something within us that calls us to be the best we can be. If I knew I was acting in an unhealthy way toward someone it would benefit me to attempt to change this. I can only change if I can see what it is I am doing.
    I have found that in my two circumstances both gals were unaware of these character traits but everyone around them was feeling the brunt of them. Some of us just had a longer fuse then others and I could tollerate it no more. I love myself to much to be treated in this way. It took me years to love myself and I am now at a place where I need to honor that love.

  23. Kimberly D says:

    Thank you this has helped, I like that saying. Two of my best friends since grade school stopped talking to me in 2006, we graduated from school in 1984 that is how long we have been friends. Even with my moving around the state to other states and back. To this day I do not know what happened. It was Labor day weekend and we all said see each other Monday. Monday came around and one friend didn’t show up, we called and called and called, stopped by her place no answer. Me and one friend kept in contact all through the rest of that year into the holidays. January 2007 came along and both of my friends went a way for a weekend. And after that I lost contact with both of them. I called the one friend, lets call her "Lara" by phone most of that year, but only by phone, could never get out of her what happened, why wasn’t we will call this friend "Debra", she talking to me, what did I do? She wouldn’t say. Finally Lara stopped talking to me. A year ago I ran into Debra, and she had this surpise look on her face, and I just cooly said to her, "hi, how you doing?, I see you are driving a different car now", and asked if she still worked at the same place. She answered me, didn’t ask me one question about how I was doing, got into her car and left. We all use to go to the same laundry mat, they both stopped going to it. Lara use to have bbq’s were she invited both of us to, she don’t invite me. Debra even has moved, and her own sister don’t know were she moved to. Another friend we all have in common since 2006 has her one brother die, and her dad die and had heart attack and neither one would go to the funerals or know about her having a heart attack. They have not just stoped being friends with me, but with her and Debra hasn’t seen her sister since 2006, and they both lived in the same town, well use to, like I said Debra moved.
    I think it bothers me more is Lara, she knows what happened and sided with Debra, and I am still in the dark in what happened. But once again thank you for that saying, it does really help.

  24. Sherrie Smalling says:

    This post came at a very appropriate time for me, and it brought tears to my eyes to see how many others knew exactly how I was feeling. The horrible hurt and feelings of betrayal and "how in the world could they?"

    It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you’ve loved like a sister for nearly 40 years, or if it’s your only daughter, it rips your heart out slowly and shows you the wound daily. It’s all confusing,especially when you don’t know what you did/didn’t do, or when you know you did the right thing and paid the ultimate price. I think of these people daily, and in the case of my daughter, much more often. Oh, I have hopes that someday it will all be "fixed", that they’ll see, that we will be close once more…someday. In the meantime I will continue to love and miss and wish.

    None of us have so many true friends that we can afford to throw away even one of them. And those of us who have been wounded must try to keep an open heart toward those who have wounded us. Not open to being hurt again, but open in the sense of treating them the way we would want to be treated.

    Thank you for such a wonderful "open window" on a painful experience. I’ll keep reading.

  25. lilwing says:

    Thank you. This brought tears to my eyes. I had a friendship like that. In fact, I met her when I was 15. I am almost 30 now, and a couple of years ago, it was heart breaking. It was just like that. But this helped tremendously… you won’t realize how many people you helped with that little healing salve. It’s very hard to get over. In fact, I may never quite get over it…well, maybe I will, but that did some help. Thanks so much, Rene.

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