The Ending of a Friendship

My girlfriend doesn’t want to be friends anymore.   Despite the loss I feel, ending this relationship is a relief.

My friend is a complex woman. She is intelligent, bright, attractive, creative, multi-talented, soulful. I have found her advice and support valuable.  Her creative life has inspired me and delighted me.

And she is particular. Very particular. Princess and the pea particular. She is an introvert who weighs and measures the time she spends outside of her work. She won’t try something unless she is sure she will receive the greatest reward for the time she puts into it.  Even if you travel  to see her,  she is still brutally honest about what she wants to do and when she wants to do it . She might be in the mood. She might be tired and need to take a nap. She might not feel like going out right then. She is being true to herself in the moment.

If you love her, you accept that.

I thought I did. I know I tried to.

The quality of her insight and her limited calendar had made my friend more attractive and important to me.

Maybe she is more authentic than many,  and honest enough to say what she thinks. Or maybe she is manipulative. I don’t know what the truth is.  But I do know I spent time, waiting and wanting her to be available. I told myself that she was worth it.

In the last few years, this on-again off-again availability became frustrating.  Her unpredictability and my desire for her time conflicted.  I felt resentful that she didn’t venture out to visit me.  I spent more time talking to her husband than I did to her.  That ended up being a problem, too.

When my husband griped about her specialness, I saw a new viewpoint.  I noticed that I was not okay with her unavailability.  I pulled back.

Still, I still considered her a good and worthy friend. I still sought her support, and missed her if too much time went by.  I should have known that something was wrong, but I didn’t.  In my world we (I) just had to work harder to understand each other (her). Or just live with it the way it was.

Then, her father died.

I didn’t show up the way she wanted me to.  She was disappointed and angry. And punishing. In response to her feelings, and for my sense of honesty and authenticity,  I soul-searched. I noticed my emotional sloppiness. I questioned myself. I know I was guilty of some lapses of awareness. I agonized about losing her as a friend. I was abjectly disappointed in myself. How could I have not been less than 100% truthful? I compared myself to her and came up short.

I wanted things to heal between us.  I tried to make amends.  Even though there were wounds, I felt that we were “getting real” with one another, “working things out.” In reality,  it was the beginning of the end of the friendship.

Her point of view had some truth in it. But I magnified that truth until there was no truth… there  was only the unforgivable fact that I was a “bad “ person. I had been unconscious. I was filled with self-loathing and shame. I lost sight of myself and went deep into the hole with no cheese.

As long as I focussed on my inadequacies, ( imagined through her eyes,) I was in a hell-realm of my own making. I was bad, bad to the bone, and deserved to be punished. If I could have had eagles eating out my liver, it would not have been enough. Once the mechanics of unconscious self-flagellation went into play there was no longer a witness to say what was fair or not.  I crawled around on my belly and took my medicine like a woman.

Over time, we seemed to make-up.

And more important,  I was done punishing myself. Regardless of what I did, my actions were forgivable.  I made a mistake.  That’s all.

Not in the eyes of my friend. Things were damaged. She said she couldn’t trust me any longer.

I couldn’t change what she thought. I had no control over whether she would accept my humanness, my inadequacies, or want to move forward.

But I did have choice about how I treat myself. Right now my well-being is more important than my friend’s opinion of me. I have to live with myself.

It is possible to forgive my errors without having to pay penance for several lifetimes. Enough is enough.

I made a mistake thinking my friend as a different person than she is– that she was my champion. A bad choice, because that is not her job. It’s my responsibility to keep my positive opinion of myself, not to expect it or need it from her. If you get strokes it’s nice, but don’t get addicted to them.

It’s important to abandon the illusion that there is a perfect way to be, where no one will ever get pissed off at you; that you will never again make an unconscious and messy mistake. Or that everyone will love you all the time. Forget about it.

At the end of this difficult time I got a great reward: rediscovering, remembering this vital connection to myself.

So here’s what I learned:

It  isn’t about whether you are right or wrong, although it feels that way.

Apologize for your-less-than-perfect-ass.  Forgive her less-than-perfect ass.

Move to the center of your chest…that tender, soft, gooey place.

Say ‘thank you’, say ‘I love you’ to yourself.  Thank her for having been your friend. Send her love. Say goodbye.

And move on.

Silent Retreat of August 2014

Silent Retreat of August 2014

I have been attending a silent meditation retreat all this week. There is no outward speech, but by no means is it silent.

When Jesus got together with his disciples he said, “Whenever two or more are gathered in My name there is…”  The end of the sentence should have said , “there is disagreement,  doubt, fear, animosity, and lots of projection.”  I am right and you, (whoever you are,) are wrong.  And in retreat, not one of you says a word!

In silence with others you see the contents of your garbage-y mind. You begin by being unaware that you are commenting about everything and everyone.  The background mutterance (barely detected), contains all your continuing assessments and judgements.

A week of silence is a whole week where you look at and own your inner crap you project onto others (and yourself) every minute of every day. All the time. Constantly.

You might be the kind of person who placates, ameliorates, ingratiates– a beta dog crawling around on your stomach. “Don’t reject me, don’t hurt me. Please,” with a winsome, winning, smiley whine. In silence, this behavior is more visible, and harder to bear.
Or, possibly, you are the kind of person who ‘judges unto others’.  You might implode instead. ’God, these people are so weird. Look, this guy is taking up all the cushion space! He breathes so loud when he meditates! Sheesh! Some people!’

If you are not rendering the verdict or punishing yourself, you are mentally flipping someone else the bird.

In silence, in a retreat, you get to see every one of these moment to moment judgements, thoughts and boy, oh, boy. mmm. Some are quite astounding. And with no speaking, they lay where they lay. In your mind, not on others.
For example, I see this woman and just by what she wears I type her in less than two seconds. Wealthy, divorced, conservative.Even though we are on retreat, she is wearing Eileen Fisher quality, beautiful haircut. I have her pegged. Marin, or San Francisco. Or Santa Fe.
Then just before she eats her food, she bows her head. A softening of her face, and a long moment passes before she picks up her fork to eat. The projection I have held of her is blown.

 I may have been right about all the externals. I might be right that she is privileged and monied. That simple act of grace and bowing before she ate made those judgements irrelevant.

But maybe that is a projection, too. It’s a hall of mirrors guys.

As someone new walks by, the radar says: Straight or gay? Married or single? Holy or holier than thou? If I like them, I smile. If I  don’t like them, I imagine that they don’t like me. I wonder if I did something wrong. I cringe.
And how would I know the meaning of any of these projections anyway? It’s a moment by moment play of how my mind sees, filters, imagines, and daydreams.
And this is going on all day, every day, as the cast of characters at the retreat walk about on the conference center grounds, in silence.
It is as Rinpoche says,  “See the monkey mind, doing what it does.”

There are also my inner projections: “This was smart, that was dumb,” cringing with self- loathing at the ineptitude of this being called me.
Or … congratulating myself for being brilliant, insightful, having special effects like kriyas, or bliss bombs showering all over me and up and down my spine.  This means I must be very highly evolved. Or it just may be that my kundalini is out of whack and needs reé´alignment and I have gas.  Who knows what it means? You sit and see all of it. The fantasies of how I can be noticed by the teacher, or the flaws of the teacher or the teaching. Pay your ticket and you too can go to the movies. What’s playing? “The Life of Me”, starring me and everyone I know.

I – you– the drama unfolding– can be funny, sad, nervous, death-defying, all of it. The circus is in town.

That is why you may go (even though you don’t want to) on a silent retreat.

My knees are killing me, and I am falling asleep in half the meditation sessions. And there is something so important about getting close enough to your own inner landfill that makes all the discomfort worth it.

But I am not going to sign up for another retreat next week. I will wait until my knees heal. It make take a few years.

Meanwhile, back at the mindfulness ranch, awareness is corralling random projections into a big pen. The monkeys have crawled out of the mind and are serving the projections as left-overs, and they are all as happy as pigs in shit.