I’m known for being pretty open and honest. It tends to be the first thing people say about me after we meet. But I’m not known for that quality on my blog. There are huge portions of my life about which I would gladly enter into discourse with anyone who asked in person but about which I have never blogged. Partly that’s a fear of being misunderstood. Partly it’s out of respect for other people whose stories intersecting mine might be involved.
But today I’m going to be honest.
I had a bad day today. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, then in some respects, I’ve had a bad last six months. December 13, 2010, is a day that broke me in a way and to a depth that few people know. I realized how few people know it yesterday in conversation with a good male friend.
He mentioned something about the relationship that ended for me on that day in December, and I said to him, “I don’t think you understand how completely that broke me.”
And he responded, “No. I had no idea. You never told me.”
No, I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone. Not even myself. Not for a while, anyway. The thing is, a romantic relationship wasn’t all I lost on that day. Unfortunately, due to some odd circumstances, I also lost five of my closest friendships—for sure my closest friends in Kansas City. Lost is really not the right word. The loss was merely my perception. But the bottom line is, these friends were not present in my pain.
I can handle a breakup. Though this particular one tore my heart up a bit more roughly than past ones have, I still knew I would get through it. However, what I perceived as the loss of not only a relationship but five close friendships along with it is what really hurt me the most. I tried to deny to myself that it had happened. I made excuses for why they didn’t call, why they no longer invited me over, why they didn’t ask me to hang out anymore. They’re busy. They are comforting him. They felt like they had to choose sides. It’s tough to know how to handle a situation like this. Nobody knows what to do. They have a lot going on in their own lives.
Today, though, my pain from the damage these friendships endured as well as my denial about said damage finally confronted me, and I broke down. I wailed, to be accurate. And I felt completely forsaken. My best friend in the whole world lives in Austin. The friend in Kansas City who would have been my first choice to talk to about all of this because he is the one I would’ve had to explain the least to is, unfortunately, the ex-boyfriend and therefore a friend whose solace is unable to be sought at this point, mainly because the definition of friend between the two of us is something we’re still trying to figure out.
I felt like there was no one else. So I drove. I grabbed the dog and drove. I intended to go to an old, familiar place. A comforting place. A place I have cried in before—a cemetery the dog and I used to run in together. When I reached it and pulled in, there was a prominent sign that had never been there previously that read, NO DOGS ALLOWED.
I angrily drove through the cemetery to the other exit. As I pulled my car up to the road to wait for traffic to clear, I noticed something I had not noticed on prior visits to the cemetery. Another cemetery was situated just across the street from where my car idled. It looked considerably smaller, but as they say, “It’ll do in a pinch.” And I sure felt like I was in a pinch.
I pulled in, drove to the very back, and parked my car. Got out, walked around, cried, prayed, cried some more. Asked why. Asked what now. Asked when. Asked irrationally, If I’m not going to have friends, why did I move to this stupid city in the first place?
A nagging voice that I ignored for the time being said, Not have friends? Are you kidding me? (It seems that even God calls me on it when I’m being a tad over-dramatic. I’m fine with this.)
Then I dried my tears and walked around, reading gravestones. Only then did I realize that this graveyard seemed to house principally Jewish occupants. Names like Stein, Katzenberg, Gretzel, Rosenstock, and Hurwitz stared up at me from the stones, some of which were green, indicating their age. I began to read death dates.
One in particular I found arresting. A Jewish private in the army. Fought in WWII. Died in WWII. May very well have been imprisoned. Twenty-four years of age.
I’m twenty-six years old. Already I’ve been blessed with two years more of life than he was. And to top it off, none of those twenty-six years has included a personal, front-lines involvement in war; no religious or racial persecution; no hardship more severe than broken emotions.
So, thanks to Private Joseph Liebman (or at least his gravestone), I walked the rest of the cemetery focusing not on what I’ve lost or what’s been done to me or what hurt I’ve endured. Instead I focused on the brilliantly red cardinal that landed just a few feet in front of me on the ground. I focused on the playful squirrel that made a leap so daring that, when he landed on the flimsy branch he had aimed for, a leaf fell off and the branch dipped dangerously low.
I focused on the love and friendship of new people in my life—new friends in Kansas City to whom I owe expressed appreciation and gratitude. Old friends in Texas and Oklahoma and various other parts of this stupid-big world (“small world,” my foot—not when you want to visit a friend!). Family members who have always been there. And five friends who have perhaps made a mistake but deserve forgiveness and grace whether they’ve asked for it or not.
After all, if the worst that Private Liebman ever faced was some strained friendships after a bad breakup? He probably would’ve been the happiest guy alive.