I’m writing letters this week: to people who will never read them, to my younger self, to you. Because we all have things we wish we could say to someone.
To the best friend who left:
My thirties have been a decade of letting go.
A resigned opening of clinched fists, realizing I can’t keep things together, can’t keep things from hurting, can’t keep things from going away.
Yet you accused me of trying to control things which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Telling the truth isn’t controlling people. Telling the truth is loss of control and acceptance and free falling.
It’s been one year since you texted me to tell me we were no longer friends. It’s been thirteen months since you stopped talking to me, and here’s what I finally figured out: It’s you, you who has to control. You who controls people by only telling parts of stories, only parts of the truth. You who control how other people think, what other people know, how other people see you.
You are the ultimate puppet master, stringing people along as you need them, using them, and then discarding them when they don’t follow your will or plan.
You texted me that awful night and said I was dangerous for you–toxic is what you said. But the truth is I’m only dangerous because I stopped believing your lies, started seeing the parts you didn’t want me to see.
(I’m sure in your head you convinced yourself that I was un-accepting or judging. You know that’s not true. Do we need to go back through the last few decades and list out all the things I wasn’t necessarily a fan of but kept loving you through anyway? Your rationalization skills are above average, I’ll give you that. We rarely agreed on things, but it didn’t stop us from finding value in each other.)
When people stop believing your lies, they are not worth keeping around. They are no longer useful to you, they don’t fit into your plan. I didn’t realize me getting healthy and recognizing red flags would end our friendship, but it did.
You saw it coming. You knew the jig was up and there was no where left to go. I had stopped believing your lies, your half-truths, your manipulated version of reality.
One day your husband will stop believing your lies. When he does, he will leave you.
One day, when your children are older and get the help they need to recover from being mothered by you, they will see your lies too. And they will leave you.
You could stop all of this but you won’t.
You can save yourself by telling the truth. The whole truth, every last part of it.
You are a coward who pretends to be free and uninhibited and living your best life, but if you were, you wouldn’t have to lie to everyone, control everything.
Mostly you lie to yourself.
When I realized that, it made letting you go easier. It seems almost comical now that I got upset with you for lying to me when you don’t tell yourself the truth. How in the world could you tell it to anyone else? Suddenly this whole thing has become sad instead of infuriating.
You talk bad about all your friends to your other friends to create division; it is easy to shape and manipulate stories when none of your people talk to the others because you make them all hate each other. For you, it is scary for your friends to be friends with each other because we all know different versions of you, different versions of your life, and it would all blow up in your face if we all realized it.
You saw that coming too.
I understood that pretty quickly when your little friend commented on my Instagram post last summer defending you for something that didn’t make sense, something that wasn’t the reason we weren’t getting along, or the reason you said we couldn’t be friends anymore.
It was the perfect example of how you tell everyone different stories.
I’m so glad I don’t have to listen to your stories anymore.
Last summer I had asked you to dinner, I missed seeing you and thought we could have chips and salsa and margaritas and hang out. My girls were with me, because Chris had been working second shift for a few months.
You came to dinner 45 minutes late, told me you couldn’t stay long because you had a last-minute concert you wanted to go to, and spent the majority of our short time together on your phone.
When we ordered, you said you were starving and all you’d had to eat that day was some veggie straws. I commented that didn’t sound very healthy and you should eat more food.
Shut the fuck up, you told me, barely looking up from your phone.
I glanced over at my daughters—my daughters who loved you, who always thought you were fun and kind—and they both looked away, confused and embarrassed.
The rest of the dinner went about the same. At one point, you told my girls to put earmuffs on, but for the most part, you spoke like they weren’t sitting at the same table with us, like they enjoyed hearing the f-word every sentence or two. It was a horrible dinner; thinking about it now and how I let my daughters sit through it makes my stomach hurt.
You ate half your meal and left. I felt relief when you were gone.
On the way home, Ellie asked what was wrong with you. I said I didn’t know. Maybe you were just having a bad day.
The truth is, I did know. I was beginning to understand some heavy things that weren’t worth sharing with my nine year old. They’re not worth sharing on the internet either.
But I hope you get help. I hope you get the professional help you need. I hope you stop running away and looking for quick fixes. I hope you stop finding new things to consume your time and energy, things to obsess over so you can avoid the actual hard, healing work you need to do. I hope you stop the cycle of chaos and calm you’re addicted to. Fixing it will involve mental health professionals, medication, and lots of therapy. Anything else you try to do instead of that will always lead back to the madness and violence simmering just below your surface.
A year ago, I was so, so sad. You knew me well enough to say all the right things to cause the most pain and heartache in a text message. Nice work. You were always good at that; that’s why it always felt so unsafe to tell you things, because there was no doubt it would later be used as a weapon.
But now? Now there is just relief. To be out of your tornado, to understand why there was so much drama, so many people always out to get you. I had no idea the vacuum you created until you left and things settled down. Like when you don’t hear the air conditioning running until it turns off and then you realize how quiet your house is.
Things are quiet and good now.
I didn’t realize how much noise and destruction you carried with you all the time. That must be exhausting. I am so sorry.
In sixth grade, we became friends as I wrote a fictional story in homeroom about you and the older boy you had a crush on. We’d stumble into the lab at 7:30 each morning, open my yellow binder, and read what I had dreamed up for the two of you the night before.
All these years later, I would not have written this ending for us. I would not have dreamed it this way, wanted it this way. We could have done this better for all the people we love who you hurt by just running away.
But that’s not your style. You chose to write harder, more damaging stories for your people. A story I no longer want to be a character in.