This morning I sat crying, feeling left out and confused. It was like eighth grade all over again.
When I was in eighth grade my group of friends ditched me. They “ghosted” on me individually and as a group: stopped talking to me, ignored me when I was around. It was confusing and very painful.
Here’s the rub: I still don’t know why. Did I do something? Was there a way that I could have been a better friend? At the time I wondered, and eventually asked. I never got an answer.
I couldn’t learn from it. I couldn’t get anything productive from it - just pain and fear of it happening again.
I know this has impacted me in my life. I am prone to feeling left out, unwanted, ignored even when that’s not actually what’s happening. It’s really hard for me if I’m unsure of friendships.
Since I moved to California a year and a half ago, I have been homesick, friendsick, and familysick a lot. I miss my tribe! Yes, we moved to a beautiful place, love where we live and our jobs, and now have a sweet baby - and, to not have close friends here is really hard.
I also just left the classroom after nine years of teaching. I miss interacting with scores of fun, engaging high schoolers and kind colleagues. I miss being part of the action, part of a group.
To top it off, being based at home now, with a little baby, can be very isolating. It helped when a few months ago I started hanging out with other new moms who live nearby.
We spent time at each other’s houses and got together at local bookstores and cafés. It was lovely to share this stage of life together, and Alicia adored her baby friends. It felt like we were all “in” it and all on the same page.
Then something shifted. Recently I noticed less texts being sent and invitations going ignored. I felt like I did eighth grade: like I did something wrong, but I don’t know what, and now people don’t want to be friends with me.
This morning while my husband got ready for work I sat in the living room thinking about it and feeling sad. I whiled away the time questioning and analyzing my behaviors, trying to see where I could have gone wrong.
I realized as I sat there that I was caught in a trap: worry, wonder, blame myself, and never find out.
It’s like eighth grade all over again, except I’m not in eighth grade anymore, I’m thirty three years old. Time for something new.
First, I remembered to recenter in my self-compassion. I have been training myself in this recently. “Sure, I probably messed up somewhere. I know that whatever happened, it was not mean-spirited on my part. I am human and make mistakes like everyone else.”
I felt better with myself having forgiven any past mistakes. That was only keeping me in my head and in a self-critical loop. Now, these friends who I see acting differently. What to do?
I saw different possibilities:
A. Complain to my husband about what’s happening.
B. Create a defensive narrative, building myself up as the victim.
C. Create a judgmental narrative around my friends, with labels for them and their actions.
I didn’t see how any of that will help my inner peace nor my friendships, though.
D. (very tempting) "Ghost” on my friends too, stop texting or inviting or trying, just give up. It would be easier, in a way.
I would stay disappointed and sad, though. I really want to build community here.
Then I recalled my Headspace tutorial from yesterday...
E. Practice mindfulness to help me respond, versus react.
I thought for a moment. I took a breath. I thought about what it is that I want - direct communication with my friends.
My Lenten promise this year was to start with the woman in the mirror. (Michael Jackson’s invitation was stuck in my head for weeks this winter.)
So this means I have to do what I think is right, even if other people aren’t.
This feels harder than criticizing my friends' actions or giving up. It’s also empowering, in a way - I can be the change I want to see.
How do I start with me? I thought about it and talked to my husband about it.
In the end, I wrote each friend a short email. I shared how I had noticed a different vibe recently.
I told them that I appreciate clear lines of communication and honesty in my friendships. I asked that if I had offended, to let me know.
I hit "send."
I felt peace and forgiveness, toward myself and them, as I did so.
It is off my mind, and I have my energy back. Whatever happens, it will be OK.
Food for thought:
Kristin Neff's guided meditations on self-compassion
The musical invitation from Michael Jackson to start with me: