A Song of Sorrow for the Loss of Old Friendships
I was sitting on the couch with my husband one night, browsing through my Instagram, feed when I saw it: a picture of four of my closest friends from college, including some of their children. The caption read, “Love my beautiful friends….. and their beautiful babies” with a kissy-face emoji. A huge knot formed in my stomach at the sight of it. My suspicion, that our friendship and their interest in being around me was fading, was true — or at least so I thought in that moment.
I had started to feel the tug of the friendships drifting away after my first son was born. Leading up to his birth, I had never felt so doused in their love and support of me, even in the weeks following. They checked in on me regularly and came to visit when we were home from the hospital, completely ignoring the dark circles under my eyes, hair thrown into an ugly messy bun (not the cute kind you see on Instagram models wearing printed tees that say “Messy hair, don’t care”), and stains on my shirt where I had leaked through my nursing pads. I was the first in our group of friends to have a baby, and even though I was a bit scared initially — having gotten pregnant at 25 while the rest of my friends were still learning how to go out for drinks without blacking out — I felt I’d be able to pull through, because I had my girlfriends and my new baby had his “aunties.”
We saw each other periodically through the following year, but getting out to see them regularly became harder and harder, as we were all dispersed throughout the greater Bay Area. Also, I was unknowingly suffering from postpartum depression, making it hard for me to leave the house for more than grocery trips and maybe a jaunt or two to the park.
When my son’s first birthday came around, like any new parent, I was so excited to celebrate that we had managed to keep this tiny person alive for an entire year. I wanted everyone we knew to join me in my celebration, especially his aunties. But as guests started to RSVP and the day drew nearer, their declines started to come in, one-by-one (I even received one the day before the party). I tried so hard to let this roll off my back because I knew it was a petty thing to stress about, but I couldn’t. That evening, after the decorations had been picked up, the food put away, the trash taken out, and our one-year-old put to bed, I flopped down on the couch next to my husband and reflected on the day. The first thing I recounted was how sad I was that none of the aunties came to the party. I didn’t even start with how well the party went and how blessed we were to have so many people show up and shower our boy with their love. In hindsight, I probably let it get too far under my skin, but even today it hurts.
To their credit, they did make it to most of my big events in the following year: a birthday wine tasting trip, my “bachelorette party,” and “wedding” celebration (my husband and I eloped in 2013 while I was pregnant, so we decided to have a formal celebration two years later, which included our respective “bachelor” and “bachelorette” parties prior to the main event). I don’t take this for granted, because I knew they still cared about me as a friend, but much like many failed romantic relationships, I don’t think they felt the same way about me as I did them.
As time wore on, we talked less and less unless one of us had a special life event (engagements, bachelorette parties, more pregnancies, etc.) or had a funny meme to share with the others over group text. I started noticing some of them posting pictures hanging out together to social media, while I sat on a park bench, watching my son crawl around in the sand. It stung when I wasn’t asked to be in any of their wedding parties, and when I wasn’t invited take part in a yearly beach house trip. One friend even moved clear across the country to Washington, D.C. without so much as a text to say, “Hey, I’m moving on X date. No time to catch up but just wanted to let you know!” I knew I had differing priorities at that time, making it harder to get together, and I even tried inserting myself back into the relationships when I could, but ultimately it didn’t seem to help; they were moving on together while I felt stuck behind in the depths of motherhood.
I question if there was anything that I did wrong, or maybe didn’t do (I know I could have been better about picking up the phone to call rather than text, but that’s easier said than done when you’re buried in a mountain of dirty diapers). I’ve tried to ask a couple of these women in somewhat subtle ways, but have always gotten the response of “No, not at all, we’re all just really busy.” These days, I know that’s a pretty lame cop-out.
When my sister and I were young, I remember sitting in the back of my parents’ car while they ran a quick errand, and my sister, looking out the window, said, “I think our lives are like stained glass windows.” When I asked what she meant, she explained that each person who comes into our life is like a piece of colored glass that makes up the greater picture. The bigger pieces represent the most influential people in our lives, like our parents, siblings, husbands or wives/partners, children, grandparents, etc., then the slightly smaller pieces represent people outside of that circle of family or familial relationships, like first loves, best friends, memorable or impactful teachers, etc., and so on and so on as the pieces get smaller for the people who quickly come in and out of your life but still leave some kind of mark on your life. It’s a beautiful analogy that’s stuck with me… and a pretty astute take on life for a fourteen-year-old.
So here’s where I’m at: I’ve come to accept that some of these friendships have an expiration date on them, and those dates have passed. It’s time to accept that not all relationships are meant to last, but to be grateful and happy for the time that I had in them. Maybe their pieces of colored glass aren’t as big as I originally thought they’d be in my window, but they’re still a part of it, nonetheless, adding more beauty and color to the overall picture. I’m sad things aren’t what they used to be, and still a little disappointed that perhaps I invested more emotional energy than I got back, but I’m happy for the memories I made with them, and the support and caring I did receive from them when times were simpler and the biggest worries we had in the world were scrounging up enough money for beer and getting a decent-enough GPA to graduate. I’m still proud of the women they’ve become as successful career women, mothers, wives, teachers, and even a homesteader. If these relationships resurrect down the road, wonderful. If not, that’s fine, too. I will always carry a little sorrow for what was lost, but I will always be grateful for what we had.