Dani Shapiro, author of Still Writing and Devotion, packs powerful thoughts in describing the 7 people will all lose in our lives. And then teaches us how to accept it with compassion and bravery.
1. The Friend Who Let You Down
We all have one of these. Some of us have more than one. By which I mean, a friend who we may laugh with, cry with, work side by side with, but who we know way deep down in our gut, in the place where intuition is, doesn’t wish the best for us. This friend may be a very good person in all sorts of ways. She may not even mean to hurt us. But hurt she does.
So it went with Helen, my friend of 15 years. One afternoon, Helen came by the house for a visit. She brought along a woman I didn’t know. My son was having a big old toddler tantrum at the moment and I was delighted by the tantrum. He had been terribly ill as an infant and had very nearly died. I was all for normal toddler behavior. He was red-faced, screaming, stamping his little feet.
Alive! Healthy! As I scooped him up in my arms, I overheard Helen’s companion ask her how old my boy was. And I caught Helen’s reflection in a mirror as she mouthed: He’s two, rolled her eyes, and shook her head. It was a dreadful moment—a reckoning, a realization of her judgment, her lack of empathy. I called her on it, eventually. But what was there, really, to say? She apologized profusely. I accepted that apology, but I knew that things would never be the same between us. Helen was part of my learning curve about who can be safely let into my inner circle. Lesson learned.
2. The Friend You Let Down
Sarah and I met in college and instantly fell into an intense, sisterly friendship. I thought I would know her forever. After college, our lives diverged. I moved to New York City and started a career. Sarah moved back home, down south, got married and had kids way before I did. As the years passed, we had less and less in common, it seemed. I drifted farther and farther away. I stopped answering her calls.
I was too young to understand that old friends are the ones who can remind you of who you once were. I was too young to know that while we may grow up and shed our younger selves like snakes molting skin, those selves are still important and we should keep close those who knew us when and remind us of the distance we’ve traveled. I didn’t yet know that there are many aspects of a friendship far more important than sharing a career, a neighborhood, a kid’s school, a life path. Sarah and I were connected on a level deeper than all that, and the fact that I’m not going to be pulling up my rocking chair next to hers in a nursing home some day makes me sad. I blew it. Sarah, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.
3. The One Who Was Just Too Close for Comfort
Close your eyes for a moment. You’ll know just who I mean here, and it’s okay. You don’t need to say his name aloud. Maybe you’re married. Or he’s married. Or both. But you’ve envisioned a parallel life—one you will never live, and won’t ruin your perfectly wonderful life for—with this one. And this is no idle daydream. It’s just a little bit dangerous. When your eyes meet, you both feel it. Some small part of you wants to know what it would be like to be with him. You find yourself thinking: what harm could there be in a stolen afternoon? Of course you know the answer to this. So you need to keep your distance. A friendship doesn’t feel safe or possible.
Dear ones, you need to lose him. You can’t keep him around. Okay. Now open your eyes. And count your blessings.