Staying in contact

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but, far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
~ Benjamin Franklin
It is an odd line we are walking. We haven't seen each other in person in almost a year, and the phone calls and e-mails are pretty infrequent. We really only contact each other when there is a topic that seems legitimate enough to break through that real or imagined barrier that has come between us.

But niether does it feel like we are entirely avoiding each other. We just seem to be keeping our distance as we try to put together a new life. I have no idea what is normal, or if there even is a normal. Even if you parted on friendly terms, how often do you touch base, if at all?

There is no venom when we do speak, just an awkward veil of pain and regret. For my part, I have never said those hurtful jabs that seem so clever and appropriate in the moment, but with time seem petty and hurtful. I have certainly made her aware of how I feel, even if I haven't passed along the descriptive details and metaphorical images. Making someone else hurt doesn't do much to lift you up, and for me it would only drag me down further.

But there are still the other connections that seem to bring our paths together and peel back the sheet we've hidden things beneath. Of course family and friends are the most significant crossroads. The last time I saw her mother, it was this awkward time I was staying at her house with friends for a bike ride. It was only a couple of weeks before J asked for a divorce. I am sure her mother knew what I did not (or did not want to face), and in retrospect it is even more painful than it was at the time.

Her mother accidentally dialed my number a few months ago. She hung up so quickly that the only thing missing was an exclamation of "Shit!" (but she doesn't swear). I don't begrudge her, and it didn't make me mad that she hung up so abruptly upon realizing her mistake. What would we talk about after all? It just made me sad, that this was one more level of discomfort surrounding our split. If her Mom and I committed to an hour over coffee, maybe we could have an honest discussion. But the benal small talk would have been painful for us both. At the same time, I have a feeling that she may check in to read my blogs from time to time. In some way that makes me glad, for at least there remains this tenuous connection that can bypass the awkwardness. It is one-sided and not a real conversation, but it is there, odd as it is.

Then there is the stupidity of Facebook. J and I are still "friends" in that realm, but unintentionally, updates in our own lives can make the other feel like crap. I had "hidden' her updates, because I didn't want to see posts pop up at random moments when I was unprepared to see them. But I didn't "unfriend" her, because I guess I wanted that same tenuous connection that these one-way conversations could provide. I stayed away from her page, but it was still there lurking for good or ill.

But even though her posts remained hidden, there was a recent misunderstanding online. A mutual friend posted something on her wall, and when that feed popped up, it led me to check out her page. What I read sent me into a tailspin as my mind filled in blanks the posts seemed to imply. Rather than stew on it, I reached out to her and spoke to her on the phone. It was an emotional conversation, but we cleared up any confusion the bits and bytes produced. It was one of the rare, unguarded conversations we have had in the past couple of years. Though there were tears on both ends of the line, it felt good to be speaking from the heart once more. Of course when we hung up, it left me feeling ever whistful over what we let die, and not surprisingly, we haven't figured out if we should "unfriend" each other.

We spoke a week later, and unfortunately the uncomfortable, awkward wall was back up, and it lead to a stilted conversation. A friend asked recently if I wanted to see J in person (everything in the past 10 months has been handled by phone or e-mail). I didn't have a confident answer, but with all that it would bring, I think I would still like to see her in person someday soon. I am sure that awkward wall would be there in the beginning, but I would hope that with time over cups of coffee we could let our guard down and really talk.

The money and paperwork issues that still tie us together are beginning to fall away. There will continue to be the random crossing of paths, but soon it will be only be our desire to make it happen that will keep us in contact. I don't know that we will ever have that conversation I imagined a year ago. Most of me believes I will never get the answers I seek, but another part of me wants that unguarded moment in the sun with a friend you haven't seen for years.


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