Roberta Branca

Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

Finding peace within by making peace outside

In Friendship, Private Musings Gone Public on December 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

This year has been one of making peace and refurbishing broken bonds. I have been making connections with people I had cut myself off from, or been cut off from, for decades. This Christmas season, I spoke by phone with an old friend who I’d feuded with years ago. First came the unbidden realization that I wanted to connect with this person. The angst about whether they would want to talk to me, or that the conversation might be difficult or awkward, simply was relieved from me. Somehow, I found the will to accept whatever consequences came from reaching out.

If this person, who was very dear and very close to me through our difficult adolescence, had chosen not to talk to me or had met my overture with silence, I was at peace with that. If they responded with acceptance and a mutual desire to renew our friendship, so much the better. But I held no preconceived expectations and it made all the difference. The words I needed just came to me as we talked; I had no plans ahead of time.

The issues that once divided us were substantive and real, but I can see now that my responses to them at the time lacked compassion and love, and respect for our friendship. Ironically what had festered inside me for a long time leading up to our final “break up” was the sense that the special bonds of our friendship were weakened by events that now seem like a normal part of growing up and breaking away. Yet when I was put to the true test, I did not factor that special relationship into my calculated decisions. I did not look at the full picture of the place my friend was in emotionally, even when she pleaded with me to do so. I responded with a 20-year temper tantrum, yet she responded to my overture with simple joy. What a blessing.

This morning I feel that I have washed myself clean of this cluttered past, like I can stop punishing myself in small ways and take care of me and connect to the world without falling apart. More importantly, I have the capacity to be a friend on whatever terms are available between us and I don’t need to direct those terms or have a road map handed to me.

This friend and I have decided on a specific form of contact: snail mail! I will send her a card so that she will have my return address, and the card will have my email address so that she can send me her email address — this was the product of a spontaneous plan that precluded having time to simply exchange addresses over the phone. I think the reality is that we were simply making a commitment to a “step two” in our contact chain.

Since I am airing my private affairs in public, I cannot let an opportunity pass to portray how bullying in our culture played a role in this friendship. We have many things in common: quiet natures, reading, writing — we would have found each other’s friendship regardless of our social or familial situations. But it has to be said that bullying from some peers also bound us together, sometimes too tightly for either of us to breathe. My friend and others in our circle recognized before I did the need to branch out to make connections separate from each other; as we grew up and our peers did the same, each of us found some connections that were the products of our own efforts rather than our group. I told myself at the time that I understood and respected this new reality, but in truth I rebelled in a vengeful way. I once believed that we were “destined” to be friends forever. The truth is the friendship is and was a garden and it was up to me to tend it, guard over it, and make it  a safe place to return to when the day’s travels were over.

Today I have cleared away the frost from that garden to find that my friend has been doing the same; we may have been hoeing and plowing in separate patches of the field, but the seeds are in place for wild flowers to grow.