I’m just recovering from a serious emotional hangover. It is much like the alcohol-induced kind – my head feels foggy, I’m physically exhausted, and feeling a little regretful, but I also know it was worth it anyway.
I got into a massive, tear-filled, voices raised, let-it-all-out argument Tuesday night with one of my oldest and closest friends. This has happened only once before in our entire 15+ years of friendship. It felt like the wind being knocked out of me.
I debated over how to write about this. Do I write it couched in generalities so as to not actually reveal anything at all, except that friends have arguments sometimes and that it hurts? Or do I give you the honest picture of how unspoken expectations can wreak havoc on even the most thoughtful and well intentioned among us? I do not feel comfortable sharing the details of my friends’ lives, so I will try to maintain a balance. But the truth is I’m utterly humbled today and I think I would like to write about it. So I will.
I have been feeling so righteous these last couple of weeks. Despite being loaded up with work, social obligations, family matters, our sick dog, and general life, I really thought I was not only managing it, but kicking ass. I was, as I always pretend to be, the unshakeable one. The one that pulls through with a smile, even when she is crying/raging/freaking out on the inside. But this week, I had used up my arsenal of fake smiles and I just didn’t have any left to pull out. And I’m glad I didn’t. There is something to be said for honesty, even if it is ugly sometimes.
I learned the hard way that there is no such thing as a wedding free of expectations, even if you elope by yourselves in New York City like my friend did. In fact, that can make it worse because no one has the script for how that goes. I didn’t know how I was supposed to show my support for their marriage when I didn’t have the lines in front of me: throw a bachelorette party and a bridal shower, bitch with her about people who won’t RSVP on time, help her pick out fun centerpieces, and wear a satiny bridesmaid dress. Instead, I assumed her to be the expert of her own elopement and followed her cues. I honestly thought I was doing right.
Unfortunately, in her eyes I failed. And in my eyes, she failed a bit too.
Looking back, I would love to say “we just needed to talk more” or “we just had to be more considerate of each other”- and yeah, perhaps that would have prevented some hurt feelings. But the truth is, even now that I see her point of view, I still don’t think I actually did anything wrong. Even if I was given the chance to think through my decisions again, I would have come to the same conclusions. Neither of us intentionally set out to hurt each other. We were both right and we were both wrong; we were simply looking at the scene from two very different points of view, neither of which the other will ever truly understand. My expectations were completely coloured by the fact that I made a different life choice – to throw a wedding – and hers were coloured by the fact that she didn’t.
The knowledge that I unintentionally hurt someone is very humbling. I remember learning in psychology class that we all tend to excuse our own behavior as being a product of our circumstances, while the behavior of others is attributed to their intentions. I realize now just how much I have fallen prey to this tendency. I have been feeling very righteous that I was being A Good Friend even in the face of challenges, but in reality, I’m just another flawed human trying her darnedest to preserve her self-esteem in a confusing world that is always trying to tear it down.
Being humbled feels like shit, but I realize now how much I needed it.
And my friend and I, we’ll be fine.