One of the sweetest memories I have of my son is of him as a 2 year old chasing birds and genuinely wondering why they wouldn’t let him catch them. He would turn his large, warm brown eyes towards me and look truly baffled by the fact that no matter how softly he approached them or how kindly he asked them, they would still fly away when he went near them. That image can very well sum up the way I approached a number of relationships in my life. But no more. I am done chasing birds.
What’s interesting is that I didn’t come to this decision after drama or heartache. I simply fell out of the pattern as easily as a perfectly baked cake slides out of a well-greased pan. And it happened over the course of a phone call.
For years I had tried to get this friend to connect with me. When I spent time with her, I would share very freely of myself, hoping she would open up. Sometimes she did, but never truly. I like(d) her a lot, so I kept trying.
She recently became a mother. I thought for sure motherhood would be the common ground on which we could finally touch something close to bottom. But when I spoke to her four weeks after the birth of her baby, she continued to say things like “this baby is perfect!” and “I am actually sleeping!” and “my life really hasn’t changed much! I’m still getting my nails done and going out for lunch.” It’s possible. I must allow for the minute possibility that she’s the one person I know who has not endured the shock of parenthood--the realization that we no longer belong entirely to ourselves and that we don’t have full control over our time and space. However, despite this possibility, the desire to be close to her completely slipped away from me. I am simply not interested in being friends with someone who is seemingly always gliding through life untouched by the human experience.
I also feel this way about having people agree with my perspective. I had an abusive boss in my late 20s. We were a team of 6 working under her. We all felt emotionally battered on a daily basis. Colleagues outside our Communications team often talked about how difficult she was to work with, how insufferable she was as a human being. But few outside our immediate team could understand what we were experiencing. Through their expressions and comments, they would let us know they didn’t get it, or that they gave our boss the benefit of the doubt. This, even after we went to Human Resources as a unit and then every one of us quit. To this day, despite the continued turnover experienced under that director, friends from the company still do not fully understand what we lived through. It used to bother me that they couldn’t or wouldn’t receive us fully. But I got to a point where I let it go. I am done chasing birds. If they can’t understand, then so be it.
I am also no longer interested in trying to be something I am not to better meld with people I love.
My husband has a friend he’s known for years. Since the day I met her one summer afternoon at a sports bar, I have been in awe of her. She is brilliant, strong, funny, a good cook, has a huge heart and strong sense of justice, and can command a room like no one else I know. And no matter how much we have shared over the past 10 years, we still don’t have the smoothest rapport.
It used to bug me. How can I like her so much and still draw blanks when I am around her so that at times I can’t come up with anything to talk about? I would love to know what’s going on with her, but our chemistry is such that the sharing just doesn’t flow.
I used to think maybe I was the problem. Maybe she finds me annoying in some way? Maybe I should try to focus my conversation on politics because she likes politics? Maybe I should keep asking about the things in her life that make her happy? But now I don’t think about it anymore, nor do I make an effort to be anything but real. I actually arrange most of our get togethers with her because I like being around her. I like listening to her talk and watching her be who she is. Will our dynamic ever match the depth of affection and admiration I feel for her? Who knows--probably not! But as I am done chasing birds, I no longer worry about it.