Old-friend blues

Joey Garcia

I am estranged from a friend that I’ve had since elementary school. Last year when I called her to help me through a devastating divorce, she called back weeks later and left a breezy apology for the delay. I was nearly suicidal after my marriage ended. I really needed her. She is a psychotherapist and knows the right thing to say when I’m struggling. I felt totally abandoned and that got me thinking: she lives out of state and often visits her family here, but is never available to visit me. I hear about the trips once they’re over. She also visits a high-school friend in Montana, but never visits me. I admit that I have not been consistent, but I have been trying to change. I have not responded to her call or holiday card. What should I say so she understands how painful this is?

One benefit of writing to an advice columnist is that the dramas that normally ricochet around inside us are forced into the stillness of black and white. That allows us to see what they really are: a perfect example of how poorly we allow ourselves to be loved and how poorly we love others. So while the content of our lives does include the experience of suffering, we must remember that some of that pain is informed by our own choices.

Let’s examine yours: you assumed that your dear friend deliberately did not call you. But when I asked you about the content of your initial message to her, you admitted that you said, “Hi! I would appreciate the chance to talk to you when you have time. I’ve got a lot to share.”

If you’re trying to sound chipper when you’re actually in the abyss, don’t expect people to see through you just because they’re old friends or because you think there is a spiritual connection. Friendship is built on truth. If you’re lying about how you feel or what you need, you’re not being a good friend. And that makes it difficult for someone to be a good friend to you.

Your lie was inspired by your unprocessed resentment about not being a priority in your friend’s life. You want to punish her for abandoning you. The reality is you abandon yourself when you think you should rank higher on her list of gal pals. Especially since you say that you haven’t been fully present with her in the past. I suggest that you call your friend after working through your neediness, jealousy and resentment with a spiritual director or psychotherapist. See this experience as a profound opportunity for your growth toward God, not as an excuse to validate your wounds.

I encouraged my son to leave the area to attend college because he’s extremely introverted and rarely had more than one friend throughout high school. He usually spends his free time with his much younger brother. I want him to socialize and expand his life. I thought going away to college would help, but he’s either home on weekends or in his dorm room alone. Does he need counseling? My husband thinks I’m “over-involved.”

Your son may be in the arduous process required to bloom or he may be suffering from social anxiety. The latter is marked by severe physical reactions to, or avoidance of, social situations. Does that sound like the young man you’re describing? Or is he simply different from his peers? Talk to him directly about your concerns after you have socialized and expanded your own life so that you don’t project your needs on to him.

Meditation of the week
I spied a bumper sticker on the Bay Bridge that had been altered to read “Hate is NOW a family value,” and thought about the common ancestry between the Israelis and Palestinians. How do you treat your family?

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.