“Fear wants us to act too soon. But patience, hard as it is, helps us outlast our preconceptions. This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other. In is the same with tired lovers and with hurtful and tiresome friends. Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.” – Mark Nepo
I have a friendship that is in trouble. When I ask my friend questions about herself, she doesn’t answer but instead redirects the question. This is change in our 10+ year friendship. I’m not sure the cause but I’ve supported my friend and her husband through some difficult issues so my suspicion is that it’s more important to her to have a seemingly friendly relationship where I remain “on her side” rather than an authentic one where she has to tell me what’s bothering her or what I’ve done.
Just writing about this makes me a little light-headed. Because it touches on the divide between barely living and living barely. That is to say, I spent too many years barely living when I pretended that life was great and I buried all suffering deep down. Then I discovered that living barely, trying to keep the thinnest possible covering between my heart and the world actually lets more things in and more importantly, more things out.
But just because I want to try to live without pretense doesn’t mean my friend can right now. And what I understand from my tentative attempts to open a space between us to speak is that she isn’t ready to talk.
So I’m trying not to break things in my impatience. To declare the friendship over because I can’t stand the uncertainty or to insert a defensiveness because I don’t understand. Or to assume or imagine anything.
My dad told me of a group of olive farmers he met who owned a prime piece of land in a contested part of the world. Even though they had a deed of property they were regularly hassled by local soldiers. They developed a motto, “We refuse to become enemies.”
That phrase has stuck with me of a reminder that no matter what the other side is doing, we can keep open the channel of our hearts. The motto tells me that we can be in conflict without stirring up that fear within.
When something reminds me of my friend, I’ve found that instead of ruminating on the problem with all the dark alleyways of anxiety I can say a quick loving-kindness chant: “May I be happy, may you be happy; May I be at peace, may you be at peace; May I be loved, may you be loved.” It helps keep me from closing down.
What do you do when things aren’t going well with a friend?
(featured photo from Pexels)