Sometimes, I say too much. I’ve always been a reflective (self-obsessed) person and I’m very open and honest about my shortcomings. I usually think the worst of myself and am very blunt and brutal when I talk about my own behaviour. I am finally beginning to realize that it can be very off-putting for other people to listen to my self-flagellation. I never really understood that. I guess because the reasons I freely shared those things was not for someone to correct me or turn it back around and compliment me. I was never fishing. And in fact, I’m quite uncomfortable when someone disagrees with my negative view of myself. I suppose I was just putting my thoughts out there as a way to release them from my mind and have someone understand.
More and more, I have come to find that we aren’t supposed to do that. And people don’t understand because I seem to be alone in how I feel about myself and the willingness (or even need) to share it. Most people don’t like to see themselves that way or try to hide it.
When I was younger, I spouted off stuff like that (and other inappropriate things) all the time. As I grew up, I started noticing other’s unfavourable reactions and tried to rein it in. I don’t think I figured out the why part until much later in life, and am still struggling with that. All I knew was that I shouldn’t talk so much, especially about myself.
I learned to be silent.
I gradually stopped telling people how I felt about anything. This has ended up hurting me much more than having some people misunderstand me. At least I had had a handful of people who sort of got me, even if they didn’t fully get my feelings. It’s gotten to the point where I have distanced myself so much from others that when something actually matters, there are only a few people I feel I could turn to.
I lost many friendships. I let a lot of really great people leave my life. I didn’t get rid of friends because I didn’t like them. There were no big fights. I just slowly let them fade away until we didn’t have contact anymore. I did that because I didn’t know how to keep talking. It was never for my benefit, always the other person’s. I didn’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable by forcing my presence on them.
I’ve done this to so many people over the years. One particular case stands out and hurts me the most.
Tara was my best friend in high school. We were pretty much inseparable. I even lived at her house for my last few months before graduating. Her family was like my other family (and in some ways, I was closer to hers than my own). She was like a sister.
After high school, I moved away but we still talked almost every day. We did our best to stay close and keep each other up to date about what was going on in our lives. But over the years, we slowly began drifting apart. We stopped calling each other, we made seeing each other less and less of a priority. It got to the point where we would only send a message or two back and forth once every few years.
I guess that happens with a lot of friendships, but I feel like the reason why is different. I could legitimately say that we just grew up and developed different daily lives and drifted naturally. That’s true. And I am okay with the fact that our priorities changed and other people became more important. But if feels like there was more than that. I always felt like she was upset with me for being such a crappy friend and that she didn’t want to make any more effort if I wasn’t reciprocating. I felt like it was all my fault and if I had only called her back, we’d still be in each other’s lives.
I know this is an immature viewpoint and that I’m probably being a lot harder on myself than reality demands. But I still feel it and can’t help it.
I would often think of Tara and want to check in with her to see how she was doing and what was going on with her, but for reasons I don’t really understand yet, I felt insecure and uncertain of how my messages would be received so I hardly ever did it. I reasoned that if she wanted to hear from me, she’d ask. That if I left the last message, not to bug her again until she responded. I felt like I should reach out, but rarely did and always felt guilty about that. I was sad that I didn’t really know her as an adult. I loved and missed my friend but I didn’t say so. Now I don’t have that chance.
Tara was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago. Although we all know cancer is serious, due to the fact that her mom also had cancer several years ago and was fine, I guess I just thought she would be okay. And she was, for awhile. She was in remission for what seemed to me to be a long time.
And then she messaged me at the end of February – only 5 months ago – that the cancer was back and had spread and she was now Stage 4. You hear that and the fear floods through you. We know Stage 4 is not something people live with very long. But the thing about Tara is that she is ferociously positive and it’s infectious. She knew that her time was limited but I don’t think anyone realized how quick her time would pass.
Her battle with cancer ended one week ago.
And now I realize, too late, that regret is a horrible, horrible thing to live with.
I was taken aback at how intense the sadness immediately hit me. I was devastated. Even though I knew it was coming eventually, since we hadn’t been close for the last 10 years or so, I thought, sure, I’d be sad – but I had no idea just how sad. I was not prepared for the effect her death would have.
I felt like a complete asshole for wallowing in how it affected ME when there were so many people who were still in her life that would be altered completely – her husband, her children, her parents and her brother, and all the friends she was still close to. I felt like I had lost the right to be as sad as I was because I hadn’t made an effort when she was alive. I wasted all this time. I didn’t even tell her when she was sick how much I missed her or how I felt about it. I kept my mouth shut. I think that’s the worst part – she died not knowing that I even cared at all. I hate it and I have to live with that regret now for the rest of my life.
I guess it’s human nature to make shitty things into something we can learn from. I know now how awful it feels to have something you truly regret and wish you could fix but the person is gone. I want to do whatever it takes so that I never feel this again. People in my life will continue to die but I can see now that it must be easier to let them go if you have a good relationship with them rather than to have your grief added to with all the things you left unsaid.
Just a few days before she died, she left these words. She knew the most important lesson of life and shared it with everyone. I’ve taken these words to heart and will be doing my best to live better.