Nobody tells you how hard it is to climb out of a rabbit hole.
Then again, the entire story of Alice in Wonderland was nonsensical and bizarre in every aspect, except of course that it seems to have been a mirror for my own life over this past 2 years. At times I feel like the construct of sanity is a ludicrous pipedream and that the quote “You are entirely bonkers, but I’ll tell you a secret, all the best people are” is actually the reality
There is a quote in Alice’s story that I have always tried to stand by. “I can’t go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then”, and whilst I do agree with this sentiment, I believe it is important to acknowledge and pay respects to what was so you can move forward with what is. I can see clearly that I was so invested in my hurt, and my anger, and my need for closure, that I robbed myself of the opportunity for reflection. Reflection allows us to stand back and with fresh eyes and a fresh heart, and empathise with the painful parts, be grateful for the lovely parts, and allow true healing to occur.
Quite some time has passed, and I probably need to pick it all apart a little more to really gain some closure once and for all. In December of 2017 I made the incredibly difficult decision to walk away from a friendship that was no longer in the best interests of either party, and it was the most gut wrenching things I have ever had to do, particularly because this person had been such a large part of my life. I thought I had dealt with it fully but since moving to England and having the opportunity to really evaluate my life and where it is going (maybe turning 40 does this to you), I can fully acknowledge that I didn’t properly address this and many other aspects of my life. One could say that I have spent the last 2 years trying to climb out of a rabbit hole that keeps crumbling away at the sides.
As a family it has been a really rough year, having moved my husband and children to England for what was to be a 3-year adventure. What I didn’t know (or didn’t want to see), is that “every adventure [has] a first step” but is also followed by stumbles, trips, potholes, crappy hotels, strange people, and uncertainty. I wouldn’t go back and change my decision to do this, but maybe I would have gone about things a little differently but hey, nothing can be changed from this side of history but our perspective. Most recently we have considered coming home to Australia, and the strain on our family unit has almost drained us of everything except our dedication to each other – I am truly grateful for that. Fast forward to right now and I’ve chosen to spend my annual leave days writing again and reflecting on what needs attention and resolution.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the beautiful relationship I had for the longest time with this person, because not everything should be forgotten when relationships break down. I remember the time I met this person (lets call her Kate), and the almost instant connection I felt with her, we had only been on the Sunshine Coast for a little over a year and had moved schools. I often come across as really confident, however I am just as shy and nervous about meeting new people as the rest of you – I have just learnt how to appear confident in social situations because as a nurse we are meeting new people and interacting in much more sensitive situations every day. Kate was one of the only people to really embrace me at this school and make me feel welcome, and it sparked a really beautiful friendship.
Over the years we knew each other Kate introduced me to blogging, and the writer that I have always been had suddenly found somewhere to just be me and delve into the world of the written word again. It’s always something I have loved since I was a little girls and my mother would always find me reading or writing – in fact my first ever idea for a career was to be an author and I was chosen to attend a paid-for writers camp where I was taught how to write in different formats and had the pleasure of meeting a great Australian children’s author. This area really did solidify our friendship a great deal.
We also bonded over our upbringing and experiences as young people in the church – turns out we went to the same church at similar times when we were young – and we had an understanding and compassion for those experiences. In fact, Kate was the one of only a couple of people I felt comfortable talking about the intricacies of my experiences as a young person with – both church related and other complex personal circumstances. Many Thursday nights were spent at a local coffee shop by the beach, talking about everything from husbands and children, to Miranda Hart and fruit friends. Mondays mornings at around 530am were reserved for walks at sunrise at the beach followed by the occasional swim (okay it was more me that did this part), but this started our week off with a positive note and our walk consisted of us sharing what when well the previous week, what didn’t go well, and what our focus was for the upcoming week. Our connection was food for the soul, and I felt refreshed spending time with her.
Quite suddenly the friendship began to shift and despite my best efforts to keep us and our families connected, Kate no longer had time to catch up with me and time between conversations (even social media ones) began to expand and lengthen. No longer were important life details shared, and when asked I was told that “everything is fine”. Suddenly our friendship was no longer a place a I felt safe having opposing views and this created the biggest gaping hole that despite my best efforts over a period of months, was unable to be repaired. At this time, I began recognising that this friendship was no longer serving either of us in a positive way, and I ended the friendship as kindly as I knew how to do and was not made lightly. It was met with resistance and I was eventually removed from the writing community that I had been part of because Kate felt that being her group, it was the best thing to do. However, there was no happy ending in this story – just two very hurt people – and I for one have not properly grieved for the ending of this friendship despite the fact that it was the right decision to make.
I recently watched a TEDx talk titled “Frientimacy: The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships” by Shasta Nelson where she highlighted the loneliness within the space of friendships, and I realised that this is what had led to my decision. I had plenty of friendships, but what I needed was to feel connected in those friendships and when reflecting on this one in particular there was an essential component that was lacking. Shasta shared that Frientimacy “is a relationship where both parties feel seen in a safe and satisfying way” – and I too did not feel that way. Apparently, I am not the only one and this is becoming an issue worldwide because people lack the ability to reflect on their relationships, in particular friendships, and address that which is lacking.
In her talk Shasta talks about the three areas being POSITIVITY (the positive deposits you put into the friendship to keep the bucket full), CONSISTENCY (the cumulative hours spent in the friendship – rituals, those walks on the beach, coffee dates, phone conversations, messages, family catch ups – this builds trust but needs to be a two way street), and lastly and maybe the most importantly VULNERABILITY (sharing the wins in life, our history, our difficulties and struggles). Spending time with this knowledge has helped me to recognise that the lack of consistency and reduced vulnerability in our friendship all but decimated the tight bonds that had held us together for so long. Unfortunately, whilst you can recognise these, others may not until it is too late.
I don’t regret the decision I made, it was important for my own personal wellbeing and boundaries, but I miss the great parts of the friendship Kate and I had, and do acknowledge the underlining sadness and grief I have felt over the past two years but have tried to hide or cover with anger. I think all great things should be celebrated for what they were and should be given the opportunity to be grieved for when they are gone to give real closure. So, I guess that is where I am now, allowing myself to feel that and reminding myself of the important aspects of friendship so I can ensure that any breakdowns are dealt with openly in the best time for the preservation of mutually nourishing connections with others. I can say that it has been much more difficult being in a different country to maintain some of my friendships back in Australia, but I try to facetime, or write, or send care packages whenever I can and try to keep people updated about our daily life. Its those small and seemingly insignificant moments that build on the foundation of friendships and in fact any relationship.
Time spent in relationships is important so I leave you with one more quote from Alice in Wonderland “if you know Time as well as I do” said the Hatter, “you wouldn’t talk about wasting it” – so I am off to use my time wisely and have tea with someone special to me.