When you unintentionally do irreversible damage to a friendship, how do you move forward? 

When I become close with someone, I am an “all in” kind of person. My “I love you’s” flow freely, my teasing increases, my protection grows stronger, my heart gets big enough to make room for the new roommate. That is all to say, I don’t take my friendships lightly, and I don’t take harming those friendships lightly either. I recently was put in such a position. And I am at such a state of knots and anxiety about it because it is completely out of my control and ability to fix it. 

When I was in college, I was extraordinarily angry at a dear friend who was continuing to harm herself daily. I remember one such time she had locked herself in a bathroom and wouldn’t come out. I was worried and scared. Instead of being gentle and guiding with grace and love, I let my anger lead my word choices and my fear control the situation. I said some very hurtful things that I could NEVER take back. We were unable to repair the situation and could not be friends again after that. Years later, she was in a terrible car accident and completely lost her memory. She did remember me, but not the horrible things I had said. She called me and we talked for hours. I felt like my slate had been miraculously cleared. Trouble was, MY memory hadn’t been lost. I still knew what I had said. I made a point to remind her and apologize in a way I should have years ago. Anyway, because of that event, I moved forward in my friendships much more carefully, knowing that I could be very horrible with my words if I so chose, and that was NEVER a person I wanted to be again. Only one other time did I experience such a hateful side of myself in my late 20’s and knew I would not ever be immune to the dangers of that part of me, no matter how “mature” age or time implied I was. 

My point in all of this is to say that I am so hyper-aware of when I speak with hurtful intentions, rage, or ugliness, that in a situation where something I have innocently said inadvertently produces the same result as something spoken with malicious intent, I am at a complete loss. Where was the disconnect? Why was my awareness not on high alert? A full spiral and loss of control of the situation ensues and then I just feel hurt and shame and find myself fumbling for a quick method of repair. Unfortunately, when it comes to a deep wound in the heart-o-sphere, there is no “quick” recovery. A wound made with intention will obviously take longer to heal, but there is still no way to measure the length of time required to mend a hurt that was never intended to be so.

And so now I wait. Maybe weeks. Maybe years. Maybe forever. 

It’s the looming “forever” that keeps me up at night, or wakes me early to ruminate on. It is a wildly uncomfortable visage to wrestle with. It stares me down and continues to ask the impossible questions. “Why couldn’t you have just picked up on the signs?”, “What if had just stayed quiet?”, “Why do you always feel like you need to…X, Y, or Z?” You name it. I’ve asked it. I’ve gone over and over the event in question, standing watch and trying to scream to my past self any advice or help. None comes. No relief. I keep waiting for a text, an email, a call. Anything. The worst part is that in the end, my friend wouldn’t even talk to me. They never spoke a word. Never said good-bye. Never spoke their truth and got to express their hurt and anger. It was all relayed through their partner, who cried and embraced us and apologized for the horribleness of the situation. That is the truth, isn’t it? The side casualties of the fallout can be as devastating as the loss of the friend themself. The whole thing has just been devastating and there is literally nothing I can do. 

So, we drive. Away. Onward. Forward. Putting distance and time between us to cushion and salve the wound and, in time, even heal it. What a ride. I need something beautiful…

Ok. I will accept this. Even amidst the lightning and storm we are leaving behind, this small rainbow makes itself seen. There is always hope. I will focus on that, and I am grateful. Changed forever, but grateful, hopefully.

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