Saturday, October 10, 2015

Day 10: Friends for a Season {31 Days of Friendship}

I don't remember when or where I first heard about the concept of seasons. Not the seasons of the year, or the seasons of a person's life (which is where we get the idea of a May-December relationship, for example). What I mean is the idea that we are in certain times of life where things are busy, or slow, or crazy, or whatever--the season of having babies, or the season of parenting toddlers and never going to the bathroom alone, or the season of being a working mom. The concept of seasons of life feeling like they'll go on forever, yet they do not, was a game-changer for me. It moved my cheese, to borrow from the title of an erstwhile-famous corporate book I was assigned to read by my principal in 2000.

If something is only for a season, I can get through it. Deployments, while they feel like forever, are only for a season. Parenting littles, while it feels like you'll never have a moment alone again, also lasts only for a season.

In the same way, some friendships are only for a season. Sometimes this is a good and right thing, and it's understood and it's great. Other times, though, it can be painful.

First, a short story of a season that was good. I had a friend in one of our small town churches whom I'll call Mary.* As teachers, we immediately bonded. Over the course of the years we lived in this small town, she and I became close. We had many common interests and worked well together at church. We were each others' confidantes. After our family moved, it seemed as if Mary was feeling stuck. She sought counseling and joined a support group in a different church, and seemed to get better--but she continued to fight the same demons she had been fighting for years, depression being one of them. It's really hard to support a friend fighting depression over long distances, and so our friendship has drifted apart. I have tried to keep up with her, but she has moved on to find other friends in her trusted circle. This is right and good, and I am happy she has support around her. If I were to run into her again, I know we would still be able to talk and we would exchange a warm hug. But we were friends for a season, and I count that as a treasure.

Now let me give you an example of a friendship for a season that was painful. I met a group of women a few years ago who immediately bonded and were best friends within about two weeks of all of us meeting one another. I won't go so far as to say that they were a clique, but they sort of were. I was happy for them, but also being new to the area I was jealous that they were able to bond so quickly. They all had tiny children--toddlers and preschoolers and primary grade-schoolers, while my children were in middle and high school. I'm sure if you're a mom, you can see where this is going: babysitting. Often they would plan an outing with "just the moms" because the dads were deployed to the sandbox, you see. They would pool their kiddos together, hire my girls to babysit, and go off on their adventures to which I was not invited. I tried very hard not to let this bother me, but because we're a ministry family, I looked at it as ministry and service.

One of these gals (let's call her Henrietta**), while I got along with her quite well, was apparently telling my older daughter exactly what she was doing wrong while babysitting her children (one of whom exhibited bully-like behavior). My daughter, being the sort of girl who wants to take care of things herself, kept most of these sidebar conversations to herself for months. This was all while Henrietta would talk to me often about Bible study, or her problems while her husband was gone, that sort of thing.

I gave, and gave, and gave to these women, while most of the time they did their own thing. I was invited on a couple of outings, and was able to attend one in particular which was quite fun. But after awhile I felt used.

Fast forward to my own husband's short-term deployment, to a location other than the sandbox. Did these women check on me? Help me? Offer any help?

I'm sure you can guess that the answer was no.

So why am I talking about this group of sometimes-catty women? Well, I count them as friends for a season. Individually, I had a relationship with each one of them. We shared common interests; I helped with different projects (one of them was finishing her master's in education; as a teacher and a pretty good proofreader, I was able to help her out quite a bit); and yes, I drove my girls to their houses to babysit for them while they went to do their own things. But after awhile, things really turned sour. One by one, they moved away, giving me hugs and saying they'd keep in touch. I will occasionally hear from one or another on Facebook, but they've moved on. I suppose I need to do the same. That season of my life is over. I wish Henrietta and her posse well, but it's time to say goodbye in my heart to this season.

Have you ever had a friend for just a season? Was it a positive or a negative experience?

* Names have been changed. I'm using Austenian pseudonyms, because it's actually rather fun.
*Mary is one of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice, not always seen kindly, but for whom I've had a good amount of sympathy. The "Mary" in this story is actually a combination of more than one woman I have known in more than one church we have been a part of.

**Henrietta is a character from Persuasion. It is also the feminine of Henry, which means "estate ruler." This gal was the unofficial leader of this group, as her husband outranked all the others' husbands, so I feel it is fitting.

To read the introductory post and find links for my whole #write31days series, click here.


Sarah Koontz said...

I am proud of you for being brave enough to write your truth as it pertains to friendship. This is the post of your series that sticks out to me the most, simply because it was a lesson that took me far too long to learn. But once I realized that all friendships were not meant to last for forever, I embraced the seasons of friendship with far less fear and trepidation. When friendships come and go, I don't take it so personally any more. When I lose touch with someone after they move away, I find myself thankful for the time we had together rather than resentful that we are no longer close. Understanding this changed everything for me, and I believe it is a very important subject to talk about and bring to the light. Best of luck with the rest of your series from a fellow "Too Awesome to Cagetgorize" #write31days blogger!

Ebony S said...

I'm loving your posts, Pattie! Friendships are difficult to navigate sometimes, especially for those of us who have to start over and over and over again. Your words hug the part of my heart that doesn't always understand how women can be so mean, so thank you <3

Mary Hill said...

I have had friends or (not friends) like the group of women you described. I don't think they really considered me a friend either. I was just available to be used and then discarded when they were done with me; so I understand your pain there. I come to realize though my true friends are so much more. I have one friend that I have known since college. We unfriended for a season, angry at each other. One day, however, I called her and she just said she loved hearing from me. We are friends again the past forgotten and forgiven. We talk almost weekly now. I wish I friends in my area, but I am a transplant here and cliches are hard to join.

Robyn said...

What a wonderfully honest post! I really appreciate you sharing. I have had friendships like both you described. I have also kept calling friends when clearly the Season was over for them.

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