Nobody's perfect. We all make our share of mistakes. The key is knowing when you're wrong, being able to admit to it, and being able to ask for forgiveness or forgive yourself to move forward.
Earlier this year, I neglected a friend in need. She had some family problems. I allowed her to push me away because I was afraid. Afraid of the gravity of the situation. Afraid that I didn't know what to say or do. Afraid that I was unfit to support her emotional needs. Instead of calling her to chat, or just let her know that I was thinking of her, I waited until the situation resolved and she was back to her normal routine more or less.
But the thing is, these types of situations change you. Whether you know it or not, and she was not the same person after this experience. And since I hadn't been there to support her through it, I didn't grow with her. We grew apart.
Later in the year, I created a hostile environment in our friendship by pushing my dreams onto her. She is extremely talented in running and triathlon, and I envied her. I wanted her to want what I would want if I had her gift. But what she needed was an outlet for stress and anxiety through running. Not to win age group awards. She couldn't understand why I was competing with her, and I couldn't understand why she didn't want to kill herself in races to beat me.
The final straw broke late in the summer when we had a miscommunication. We were meeting at a race and staying the weekend together with my sister. She thought I wanted to have the time to spend with my sister who I rarely get to see and so she gave us some space, heading off on her own to do things. In reality, I was excited for the two of them to meet because they are my closest friends. Instead of communicating my desire to spend time with both of them, I allowed my feelings to get hurt because I didn't understand her perspective.
After that weekend, we stopped communicating. It wasn't long before we stopped emailing. Text messages stopped. We didn't get together to run or have coffee or a beer. There would be an occasional impersonal comment on a facebook post. But I missed my friend.
My other friends got tired of hearing me complain. They wanted to stay neutral because they love us both, but they couldn't understand what had happened. My husband listened to me, but secretly continued to encourage the relationship behind the scenes. But eventually it had to come down to my friend and I talking it out.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from her. It was a simple message. A congrats on one of the races I'd run. But it was a hand reaching out. I responded back, keeping it simple. Things were still awkward when we saw each other at events, but I felt her trying to connect and I wanted the same. I invited her to join another friend and I for pizza next week. She said yes, but she thought we should talk first. I agreed.
We met. We drank coffee. We talked. We talked about everything. We'll never have the last 5 months back, but now we have the future. The last two mornings I've woken up and looked forward to a simple text message or email. Just the daily communication between two friends that says 'I care.' Next week we're running long together. Like we used to do. I don't know what our future holds but I do know that I will be more open with my feelings and supportive of hers.
So why am I sharing this? Because it is Christmas. Because I feel blessed to have gotten an early gift this year. Because we all have a friend (or family member) that we've become estranged from. Because the holidays are a time for renewal, for love and friendship, and for forgiveness. Not everyone will be as lucky as I am to have gotten a second chance. Some ties will never be unbroken. Even if your fence can't be mended, you can look within to acknowledge your contribution to the severed relationship, understand how you would change things (if at all), forgive your friend and yourself for the mistakes that each of you made, and allow yourself to have the gift of closure.