Breaking Up with Friends

Have you ever broken up with a friend? I have, though it was never dramatic.  I went through a phase (namely, my entire childhood) when I didn’t ever want anyone to know I was sad or that they’d made me so. Unsurprisingly then, friendships that ended died slow deaths due to lack of oxygen. There are things I wish I’d done, words I wish I’d said.

My-Other-Ex-final-3-266x400Enter My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friendsa volume of essays from the editors of The HerStories Project, now on my To Be Read list. In the anthology, 35 women tell of their own friendship breakups. (Women have a wonderful way of banding together, don’t they?)

One contributor is writer Hallie Sawyer. She’s got a big heart and writes fearlessly. I look forward to reading her essay. For now, she shares some answers to a few of my questions:

1. What made you decide to submit an essay for this book?

I had learned about submissions for the first book, The HerStories Project, but I didn’t have an overwhelming story at the time. I was bummed to miss out on that opportunity but told [editor] Jessica Smock to let me know if there was ever another book in the works. I was partially joking but sure enough, I heard from Jessica a few months later! When I learned about the theme of this new book, I knew I had the perfect story to share.

2. Without getting too detailed for those reading the book, how did it happen to you? Did you do the breaking up or were you broken up with?

It happened rather abruptly when she moved to a new city but when I examined it more closely, our friendship deteriorated over the course of a year. I think we were both to blame but in the essay, I could only explain my side of the story and tried to assume more of the blame because of my über crappy friendship skills at the time.

3. Did you change names for the story? Does this person know you wrote about her? 

I emailed her the essay once I had submitted it but I didn’t hear back from her for quite some time. I began to worry that she hated it but when I let her know about the upcoming publication, she opened up about how she felt about it. She loved the piece but didn’t love reading about herself and she requested I change her name. As writers, we put ourselves out there all the time but that’s not how most people operate and I totally get that.

4. Do you feel vulnerable having it out there?

Not really. I actually felt more vulnerable with my friend than anything else. I worried that I hadn’t remembered it right or that I hadn’t honored the friendship like I wanted.

5. Have you been wanting to write about this? Did it help to write about it or do you still feel like you need closure?

Yes and no. Yes, because the pain of that experience has been there for a long time and too much a part of me to ignore. I’ve always dealt with my emotions through writing but this was an area of my life that I had shoved away for some time. I was ashamed, simple as that. It does feel good to have it out there but I didn’t want closure on the topic as much as I wanted to honor our friendship, scars and all.

6. Many people often let friendships passively die; it’s somewhat of a taboo topic—to proactively end a friendship. What’s your take?

I’m not sure there is a right way to end a friendship. For me, if the connection no longer feels genuine, I usually pull back. No one has ever confronted me with, “Why don’t you call me anymore?” but really, it would be a fair question. The passive approach seems like the less painful one but ironically, when I think about it, it hurts more.

7. How is losing a friend like losing a boyfriend? How is it different?

I think it’s just like losing a boyfriend if you are the one rejected. You have all these unanswered questions and left wondering what you’ve done wrong or what the other person doesn’t like about you.

But boyfriends can come and go. Friends are for life. When you go through a friendship breakup, it can be such a deep hurt that you feel like part of you is missing.

8. What’s your advice for someone going through a friendship breakup?

Whatever the reason for the breakup, learn something from it. Let the experience change you for the better, not bitter. No matter whose fault it is, the important thing is that you find a way to forgive them…and yourself. Also, you are not alone in your feelings. This book is a testament to that.

9. Has your daughter suffered through a friendship breakup?

There was some typical seventh grade drama and she saw an ugly side of friendship. I was so proud of her because she did differently than I did at her age. She confronted one of the girls and it instantly deflated the situation. This girl had been a teammate for a number of years and my daughter let her know if she continued to act a certain way, their friendship was over. The girl denied everything and tried to point the finger at others and it changed things instantly. My daughter decided she didn’t have time for the drama and their friendship dissolved into more of an acquaintance.

10. What did you learn after the breakup —do you see friendships differently now? Do you look for certain signs or red lights when choosing friends?

It’s crazy to realize that our breakup was almost 20 years ago! I think the most important thing I’ve learned about friendships is that life is short. I’ve learned to spend my precious time with those who lift me up and bring out the best in me. Hopefully, I do the same for them.

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A Year of Moments

I was born on the 13th day of February (a Friday to boot) so I have an affinity for the number 13, especially since so many people say it’s unlucky. I’ve always been crazy rebellious that way.

2013 went fast, the fastest year yet. In fact, it was hard to think back on what happened, so I read through this blog and searched through my planner for reminders.

Some of what I found:

January: I read The Snow Child, my favorite book of the year. (You can read about that and other Great New Books here.) I also rang in the New Year in a small, London pub with some of my favorite people.

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Sister, husband, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law at a pre-Liverpool football game celebration on New Year’s Day.

February: I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild, my favorite movie of the year. I also began contributing to PDXX Collective—check them out—and passed the 1-year mark on this blog.

March: We traveled to Naples, FL with my husband’s parents, the only major travel we did this year after a 2012 filled to the brim with trips. It made me realize four big trips in a year is too many; one is too few.

April: Got to see Vanessa Diffenbaugh speak at my local theater, the Metropolis Performing Arts Center, five blocks from my house. She was charming and smart and funny. If you haven’t read her book, The Language of Flowers, you should do so.

My son started t-ball. Bestill my beating heart.

May: I submitted my manuscript to She Writes Press and later that month it was accepted. The first person I told was my husband (he was next to me as I read the email on my phone). I tried to call my mom but she was in the middle of Wisconsin so I had to send a text. My sister was in Ireland; as soon as she received my text she sent a video of her and her Irish friends cheering for me in a Dublin pub.

June: Signed the contract with SWP.

Attended Printer’s Row Lit Fest and stood in line for Colum McCann to sign my copy of Let the Great World Spin. I sweated and stuttered as I told him that my sister was in Ireland (he’s Irish). He wrote an Irish blessing in my book.

July: I spent one week at the Northwoods resort I went to every summer as a child. Everything was the same, down to the swingset. It was fantastic and trippy, and I’ve never tripped before.

August: My son started kindergarten. It was hard, but I have a feeling 1st grade is going to be much harder. Gone all day? No thank you. The day before school started, I took him on a date, his choice. We ended up at a local heritage farm, walked the grounds, petted the animals, and Henry picked up a leaf from the ground that he thought was pretty and gave it to me. It’s now pressed between the pages of my journal.

I road-tripped to Troy, OH, for Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road tour, which is becoming an annual tradition with my husband and sister, and an old friend from elementary school.

September: My husband and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. I gave him tickets to Macklemore. (He’s a born-and-raised Norwegian-Minnesotan who loves rap.) He gave me a writing desk.

I also ran a half-marathon, which my knees still seem to be recovering from.

October: 15-year college reunion. It’s hard to write that.

November: Thanksgiving in Minneapolis. 10 degrees.

December: The HerStories Project published. It’s been remarkable getting to know the fifty writers involved, and it’s a remarkable book on friendship. You can buy one for your friends HERE.

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And last but not least, I received in the mail the advance copies of my book, The Rooms Are Filled (April 2014). It’s also up on NetGalley.com, for all you book bloggers and reviewers. If you’d like to read and review it, check it out and download a free e-copy HERE.

Honestly, though, when I think back on the year, I think of my children, and of mothering. I think of teaching them to bake cookies, playing dinosaurs, riding bikes on our dead-end street with neighbors, lying in bed with them after story time, watching them sleep, kissing their soft cheeks, wiping their bums, wiping their tears. I think of sledding and strollers, discovery walks in the alley, gummy worms piled on frozen yogurt, first fish and life jackets that are too big. Sidewalk chalk and pretend lawn mowers, library books and lunch on the front porch, blueberry yogurt dripping down shirt fronts.

There are so many details in a life; the highlights tell only a small part of the story.

This week we will host Christmas dinner. My children will spill milk, they’ll talk over each other, my daughter will hold up a finger and say “Ackashee” instead of “actually,” my son will complain he’s bored and do a dance that makes me laugh, they’ll flip over their kid chairs and make a fort. And many, many other things.

Cheers to life’s moments. I hope each of you find happiness in them.

HerStories, Our Stories: the Importance of Friendship

When Jessica Smock emailed me a few months ago, asking to use one of my blog essays in an anthology she was editing, I said of course. I was happy the piece would get wider attention–it was not only a fun piece but an important one, I think.

I received my advance copy of The HerStories Project about a week ago. I don’t usually read anthologies and so as I read this one, I considered it in piecemeal–“That one is funny….this one made me sad…” Etc.

Over the course of the book, a funny thing happened. Continually reminded of various friendships past and present, old memories, and remember-whens, I realized the point of this book is not to represent 50-some different friendships of 50-some different writers. The point of the book is to honor friendship in such a way that the book becomes our own story. The essays are a reflection of us collectively and individually—reader as well as writer. Of course.

IMG_1337And so this week, I’ve been thinking of Michelle, my first friend. I moved next door to her when I was two and she was three. I walked up to her in her backyard sandbox, according to my mom, and asked if I could play. She said, “No,” and I said, “Yes,” and sat down. We became sisters that day, and I cannot think of my childhood without thinking of her. She is my childhood.

Eric, Jess, KateI’ve also been thinking of Katie and Eric. We were born into the same family but that doesn’t mean we had to become friends. But we did, and we are. There are few people it is possible to drive across the country with without going insane, and my sister is one of them. There are few people you can count on for help fully and without caveats, and my brother is one of those.

Kel and DanielleI’ve been thinking about college friends, especially Kelly and Danielle. They are sisters to me for a different reason–they have seen me at my worst and my best. Soul-baring conversations and embarrassing moments, crazy alcohol-fueled hilarity…I’ve broken many boundaries with these two and several others I shared the college experience with, one of my favorite periods of life so far because we were free and happy and lucky.

232323232-fp8-4-nu=32;--65;-47--WSNRCG=3239747752;;;nu0mrjMany of the essays in the anthology are about the loneliness of new motherhood. It’s the kind of loneliness that echoes. I cannot imagine surviving that time if I hadn’t been going through it right alongside Heather, Ginny, Melanie (yes, the Melanie), and others in the mom group run by the hospital. We had babies born within weeks of each other. They were the ONLY people in the world who knew, acutely, how I felt. Having that outlet is probably the one thing that kept me from suffering depression.

There are many, many others–around the periphery or smack in the middle for a time, these people have filled my life. There were seasons of friendships, some lasted, some glimmered brightly for a time but passed. Some were lost but, thankfully, found again. All are important for their role in filling my life with happiness and substance.

The HerStories Project goes on sale today. Here’s to friendship:

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