WRITING & RELATIONSHIPS
I Wrote an Article That Ended a Friendship and Also, Good Riddance
How my triumphant return to writing and one well-meant article became the straw that broke a friendship’s back.
As the story goes, I retired from writing in 2015 after the conclusion of the tour for my fifth book. After three New York Times bestsellers, years of press engagements, and interviews with nearly every highly sought-after outlet in the world, including the Oprah Winfrey Show with its infamous “Oprah Effect,” I was spent. Somewhere along the way, I lost my love of writing and became disenfranchised from the publishing industry as a whole. I’d been mistreated by editors at top houses who strong-armed me into writing about events and people I didn’t wish to and refused to allow me to grow as an artist as I grew and aged as a woman, insisting I continue to write the same sort of material in my later thirties as I wrote in my mid-twenties.
I felt there was no place for me in publishing as it leaned strongly toward celebrity-driven content and social media shenanigans to inform which books would be published. I was done being “famous,” and instead, longed to focus on healthy lifestyle and wellness content, which wasn’t en vogue at the time. So, I just quit, or rather, I retired and focused on The Gorgeous Girl’s Guide –– a company and brand I founded back in 2013.
Put Me back in the Game, Coach!
Five years after leaving the industry, my friend Jermaine Hall, the Editor-in-Chief at LEVEL, a Medium publication, gave me a shot at writing my first article for them, entitled, Are You Married to Your Mother. It took me over a week to trust my voice and bang out an article of which I could be proud and one worthy of LEVEL’s standards. This was a task that should have taken maybe a full workday, but I was rusty, and I was broken.
This year had been difficult for me, as it has been for us all. I lost a lot early in 2020 and was still reeling. I was unsure of myself and my ability to keep breathing, much less writing anything substantial for the first time in five years. But, Jermaine believed in me. He’d seen me at my best over the past fifteen years of my career and knew I could be “her” once more. So, with Aliya King as my editor, I struggled through several drafts of what eventually became my reentry into the literary atmosphere.
That was in late July.
In August, as I waited for the final draft of the LEVEL article to be published, I began writing new pieces while bringing over most of the posts I'd written for The Gorgeous Girl’s Guide over the years and making our blogs into a publication here on Medium. I was feeling good about myself and my ability to write for the first time in years. This was my lifeblood, the thing I’d done almost every day since I was five years old, but had given up thirty years later. Sure, I was banging out articles for The Gorgeous Girl’s Guide, but I was phoning them in, feeling strained and belabored with each post. I wasn’t feeling inspired, and words no longer flowed from my brain to my fingertips like so many rivers writers mention when waxing poetic. Writing was never just something I did; it was and is a large part of who I am, and without it, I’d been lost.
Divorce As a Form of Self-Care: A Retrospective
Feeling more like myself than I had in years, I was inspired to write an article about the joys of divorce, entitled, Divorce as Self-Care for Women Who Thought Forever Was a Destination. In it, I discuss several fundamental points:
- The difference between being married and finding your true husband
- The importance of moving forward
- The concept that relationships never end; they only change
- The concept that there are only two ways out of a relationship
- The concept of making your current circumstances “un-happen”
- The concept that marriage is not forever and divorce is not failure
- The concept that, in fact, divorce is an act of self-care when marriages hurt
I loved what I’d written. The article was based on my personal experiences with divorce and with always being able and willing to shift. I wanted to encourage women to let go, to focus-forward, and move toward a future filled with possibilities for infinite growth and change.
And the response was encouraging.
The date was August fourth, and I was feeling proud of myself after publishing the article, so proud in fact that I’d just slipped into a lavender bath with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It had a light, crisp apricot bouquet with a clean finish. It was lovely, and I fucking deserved it. I’d overcome years of blockages and self-doubt. The writing was coming as easily as it had in my youth, and I already had many more articles in the queue.
Naturally, I sent Divorce as Self-Care to friends, family, and Jermaine for feedback, all of which was favorable and encouraging, except for one person –– my so-called best friend and self-appointed “sister.” Now, here’s the part of the story where someone who has never written a meaningful word in their lives tells me…three-time New York Times bestselling me… how to write articles. Jesus H. Christ.
Ma’am, What Exactly is the Problem?
As I lay soaking in the hot lavender bath, I so proudly prepared with homemade bath salts and dried lavender tips; I took great pleasure in the Sauvignon Blanc, I chilled for hours prior. It was one of those self-care moments that many of us live for during the most trying times of our lives. So, when Andrea called, I teetered on the idea of not answering. But, she was one of my oldest friends, and I knew she’d just read the article, so I presumed she was calling to tell me what she thought of it.
I was right.
Instead of recognizing what a great feat this was for me and congratulating me for finally being able to write again after years of blockages and struggles, Andrea thought it would be a better idea to not just harshly criticize the content of my article but the tone in which it was written –– the tone in which I’ve always written.
“You need to watch how you say things,” she said. “Some people aren’t going to like this. You’re too harsh, and a lot of people need to be treated more softly.” She was talking about herself, but I listened as she continued. “Like here in this particular paragraph. You should add a few more encouraging sentences, something nicer.” She went on for quite some time, and after interacting a few times, I realized it would be best just to let her hang herself. So, I listened intently as I slipped out of the bath and into a robe. She was ruining my self-care time.
Finally, when she finished, I was given a chance to rebut and what followed was the unleashing of long-held observations about my friend, her particular brand of one-sided friendships, and the way she’d lived her life for the better part of the past fifteen years. I laid into my “sister,” and none of it was pleasant, but every single word of it was earned.
Not My Monkey, Not My Circus.
Without going into micro-specifics, I knew why Andrea was upset. It wasn’t my article or my work in general; it was Andrea’s inability to shift and create a life and career of which she could be proud. It was her inability to support herself and her children, her refusal to work even though her absent ex-husband didn’t pay spousal or child support, and her daily dependence on her elderly father who had recently invited her and her two young children to move into his two-car garage as a way to save money –– his money. Listening to her critique my career, as she had done to me and others before, I knew my friend was in trouble.
I also knew none of that trouble was my fault or responsibility.
Over the years, I’d done all I can to help Andrea get her life together, but my alcoholic, weed-head, chainsmoking buddy was sinking like an anvil, one to which she and her kids were tied. Since meeting her back in 2006, she hadn’t done one thing that warranted a heart-felt congratulations other than getting pregnant. There was not one personal accomplishment in all those years that made me feel inspired by or proud of my friend, and this was the buried lede of what turned out to be the last conversation she and I would ever have.
Not Everyone You Lose is a Loss.
Before hanging up the phone, I implored my now ex-friend to use her voice for her own advancement and not for the tearing down or judgment of others. I informed her that one should never presume to tell an artist how to make their art. I recited the words of an ancient Chinese proverb that warns, Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it, and I reassured her after she suggested that we talk later that we never would.
It was time for me to shift, as well.
For far too many years, I’d been holding on to friendships I’d outgrown simply because I’d known each person for decades. Most of them were good people, at their core, but none of them had shifted. They were stuck in non-prosperous lives of their making, unable and unwilling to see their way through. They weren’t learning, working, discovering or following their passions, or pivoting in any way. Yet, I stayed, and the longer I stuck around, the more annoyed I became with their mediocrity, and the more I explored my own.
I came to realize that this group of friends was most comfortable with me after I'd given up on my writing career and stopped using my voice. They were most comfortable with me when I wasn’t so sure of myself and once my public roars had dulled to private whimpers. And even though it was Andrea who made the unforgivable faux pas, none of it would have happened if I’d walked away from our friendship years ago when I realized she and I were and would always be two different animals, unevenly yoked.
Ironically enough, the end of my friendship with Andrea was its own divorce. In the end, however, I’m glad my little article and my return to writing could be the catalyst for such a change. I’m happy to have my confidence in check and that I would never change my tone or writing style for anyone. I am proud of the fact that I am not afraid of being disliked or hurting feelings in the writing of my truths. And of all the things and people I have lost this year I am most grateful for the loss of crooked friendships, which, much like most divorces, aren’t losses at all, but gains of self-worth, self-care, and peace of mind.