The Art of Losing (or The Anatomy of a Breakup)

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

-- Elizabeth Bishop

I think I have mastered the art of losing friends. It seems to be a theme in my life. Sometimes it is by wrongdoing on my part, sometimes it is just time to part ways, then there are those (rare) instances where the breakup hits out of nowhere, sudden and violent, blindsiding me and leaving me trembling in shock and sheer lack of comprehension. Such is the carnage I have experienced this week.

I have a friendship of nearly five years that has been, well, unique. It has been the most demanding friendship I've ever experienced, due to issues upon which I won't elaborate, but the bottom line is that over the past five years I have poured much of myself into my friend -- we're talking blood, sweat, tears, prayer, fasting, sleepless nights, countless hours of counseling her, listening, etc. Used to be that we were inseparable, but our time has been scarce since I've been working full time. As far as I knew, however, everything was fine and dandy.

Last week, however, what started out as (what I thought) a simple misunderstanding turned into a battle of catastrophic proportions. And I'm still scratching my head, incredulous, thinking, "What the heck...?" I literally had no idea there was a problem. I'm still not sure what happened. All I know is that on Sunday, everything was great, and by Tuesday I was the most hated individual on the planet.

After regaining my senses after the initial shock, I realized that my friend had just shown me, in one 3-minute phone call, her true feelings about me and about our friendship. Knowing that I have been stressed to the max, she created a situation for me that not only has now added to my stress, but she has also decided to go out of her way to hurt me deeply in the process. I have always suspected, and others have told me for years, that this friendship was rather one-sided and that I was doing most of the work. It was unhealthy, but my fear of losing the friendship trumped my desire for sanity, so I kept spinning my wheels trying to make it work. On Tuesday, I realized that I had been given the truth in neon lights that I couldn't ignore, and so I made the decision to walk away, cut my losses, learn from it, and move on.

And so now I am left pulling out the shrapnel and readjusting my focus. I've done this before, so it's not quite as horrific as it was the first time, but it is so very much like breaking up with a significant other. I live in a small town. We have the same friends. It's only a matter of time before I run into her at Walmart or HEB. It's only a matter of time before our mutual friends start asking me for my side of the story (and for once, I don't feel the need to give it. I don't need to be justified. I know in my heart and before God that I have done absolutely nothing wrong, which is why this situation is so absurd). It's only a matter of time before casual acquaintances ask me how she's doing. These things are always awkward. They are never easy. I have had that fluttery knot in my stomach and sweaty palms for a week now because I hate conflict and because it's just weird. I find gifts that she's given me over the years and want to smash them to pieces because they seem to mock me now. I find myself muttering "should-have-said-phrases" like George Costanza: "Oh yeah? Well, the jerk store called..." I keep finding myself forgetting that she is gone from my life, and I'll think, "Oh, I need to tell her about that thing I saw today...." and then I realize that I can't. And when do I take her off of my speed dial? When do I erase the text messages? It happened so suddenly -- one minute we were friends and the next we were enemies -- but those old friendship habits and patterns don't immediately die when the friendship does.

I'm okay with it, though, really. Maybe I'm still in shock and I'll shed some tears once reality hits. I don't mean to sound callous. I just think that it was time to move on, time to get healthy, and God allowed this to happen to get me off my butt and get on with it. I feel free and really have peace about it. I wish things could have ended a little more gracefully, but how do you end a friendship gracefully? ("You know, everything seems great between us, and I've had a blast being your friend for five years, but I'm really feeling like it's time to stop being friends now. Thanks for all you've done. I really appreciate it.") Maybe we'll talk at some point and there will be some closure, but I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to having more time to spend on my husband, my other friends, and my writing. Life is good.


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