I held Athena’s face in my hands. I knew I was holding something precious. It was so good just to see her.
The week before she had a routine operation and because of some complications she almost died.
As I drove up her long driveway to her house in the woods where Mandy and Athena and I would meet for lunch that week, I was thinking of our friendship.
Although I never said the words, even to myself, I never expected our friendship to last.
I know people who have had the same friends since kindergarten, even some who knew each other as babies. Having friends from High School is not uncommon for many people. I never really thought about it before, but as I drove to Athena’s house it struck me how willing I am to let people in my life go.
Thinking back over my life, I’ve done it again and again, with friends and family. Not that I haven’t had any long term relationships. I was married for 22 years to my first husband and had friendships for almost as long. But when the friendships no longer work, and it seems it always comes to that point, I’m more than willing to let them go.
And I barely think of them once it’s over. Mostly, I’ve noticed, it’s mutual. Sometimes it’s a conversation that ends the friendship, both people agreeing it’s no longer working. Sometimes I just let them fade away.
So even though I wasn’t conscious of it, I was expecting, somewhere inside of me, that it would be the same with my friendship with Athena and Mandy.
And it may. So many different things can happen, from people moving away, to changing so much that the relationship no longer works, to people dying.
But I also began wondering how much of it is me. Maybe there’s something in me that doesn’t know how to keep a friendship going. Something in me that is willing to let go too easily.
I always thought the relationships that I let go of, were relationships that didn’t work anymore or were even detrimental to me. And I didn’t have any regrets. But I do wonder if there’s sometime else going on inside of me that I’m not aware of.
I can see that I wasn’t a very good friend in the past. I was always there to help, but had a hard time being honest. I had boundary issues and suffered from co-dependence. Something I was completely unaware of. Also, I was looking for my friends to fill an emptiness in me. An emotional space that was my responsibility to fulfill, not something that could come from someone else.
I do want to be conscious of not bringing the idea of the imminent end of the friendship into my relationship with Mandy and Athena. I’m a very different person than I was when before I met them both. I do feel like I’ve learned a lot about those things important to being a good friend such as boundaries, honesty, trust, acceptance and love.
And of all these, trust keeps coming back to me. Trusting other people has never come easy to me, and in the past few years, I have opened up to trust, and perhaps that has also opened a path to friendship.
Mandy and Athena and I have been meeting on Wednesdays for about three years now. Not an easy thing to keep going with three self-employed adults two of them with children. So I know we’re all dedicated to each other and seeing each other that often helps keep the friendship vital.
Athena could have died last week, and that made me think seriously about my commitment to the friendship and it’s importance to me. I think I allowed myself to feel the love and connection between us, test it out in a way I hadn’t before. Dying itself in not enough to make me love someone, or even like someone. But when I do love someone and death threatens her, it brings up lots of things, emotional and practical, that can help me understand just what I feel about that person.
Now in my mind, when I think of the three of us, I don’t see an end to it like I used to. I don’t know what will happen. Now when I think of the future of our friendship I see a soft white mist filling the horizon, like the possibility of the unknown.