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2004-12-06 - 4:55 p.m.
You and I
And it's written in my heart
I don't know what to do
"Persuasion"- Tim Finn
This was the song I sent to Annie that I mentioned a couple of months ago, one that in hindsight was a pretty foolish choice. The lines I've highlighted are the ones which then and now describe exactly how I feel. It's hard to know what to do- after all the crap I still want *something* but we could never be friends like we used to be. The other bits are what made it a stupid choice of song- sounded like I wanted something more, that she just had to say the word and I would risk everything I had for another chance with her. Completely not what I intended. And in that context her reply was typically blunt.
But that was over two months ago. A lot has changed since then. About 3 weeks ago I recieved the following email:
for some reason you have been on my mind lately. hi. are you okay?
In a few emails back and forth I told her about about what I was up to, she said that she had to ask me a question, and it might seem out of the blue but she needed to know if we were in fact friends back then. I told her yes we were, and that for everything that had happened since I didn't want her to doubt that we were anything but the best of friends back then. I then asked her a question that i've needed to know since we fell out. Did she still have the book I made her?
of course i still have it:)
Two days later I got a very contrary email in which she appeared to take back her initial response and tell me she would like to believe what I wrote about being her friend but she didn't because of how casually I threw her away.
Disappointing, because it seemed to indicate that little had changed in two years as far as her mental state went. But I've grown immune to those sort of comments. Somewhere inside me I know I want to work towards repairing what was a potentially fatal rift in our friendship and make progress, so I take in the deeper meaning of those type of emails (ie that she is still sick and moreover finds it hard to deal with the idea of us being okay again because it's a lot easier to believe I don't want anything to do with her) and move on. Don't take the bait, and if she writes constructively again two months later I'm all ears.
Only this time I did take the bait in a way. I didn't feel like she should be exempt from the laws of cause and effect. You don't write an acidic email, then not have to deal with the recipient's reaction only to do it all again and feel like all has been forgiven or forgotten.
I'm not sure why you needed to ask if I was your friend if you weren't going to believe me.
I let her overreact to that and left it at that. I wasn't going to be drawn any further into her mindstate.
I was genuinely surprised to receive another email two days later titled "Annie Tries Again Now". I was even more surprised at the clarity of the email. It was the most coherent and constructive email I've *ever* received from her- including when we were friends. She was never good with emails. Always very to the point and almost child-like in response. She is intelligent and passionate but finds it hard to verbalise or write down her feelings. This was different. Firstly she apologised for her previous reaction, explaining that the real reason she had emailed was that there were two things she had wanted to tell me, but she wasn't sure I'd listen so I guess she was testing the water first, but she had got too upset so "I'm sorry I lost it with you". As I said before, sometimes the truth is harder to take, and it would have been easier for her to deal with if I *had* been unwilling to listen.
She went on to say that the first thing was that she really did miss me, and that while she has a long of gaps in her memory over the last few years for obvious reasons, one thing she knows is that I must be important to her and that she wouldn't miss me if she didn't care about me so much. And that, as I said months ago, she did want *something*, even just a chat once in a while.
The second thing was that she had managed to put a certain part of her life completely behind her, and she wanted to thank me for always believing in her, because she didn't always believe she could do it, but I did and now she had.
I told her I wanted *something* too, told her that there were random things I just had the urge to tell her, like how excited I was about the ucoming Finn Brothers' concert, or how I'd been to Liverpool for my Beatles pilgrimage. She felt exactly the same, when she was playing Beatles songs to a friend and he hadn't heard them before, or how she loved the new U2 song (ironically I think it's pretty average!)
We decided on a phone call. I talked about it a lot with Jane- not just the implications of a phone call but what would happen if we did become some sort of friends again, if it could ever work when Jane and Annie's friendship is broken beyond repair (on both sides now- Jane has no interest in being Annie's friend again after what she put us through), if she could handle me say meeting up with Annie for a drink one day. If it does get to that point it won't be easy but we'll manage to do the best thing for both of us.
So I called her. And she sounded amazingly well, and happy. In a job she loved, free of a part of her life that had been like a cancer and virtually defined her the entire time I knew her. But she wasn't making believe everything was fine. Told me how she was still "highly medicated" and "don't get me wrong- I still think I'm crap, only maybe now I think that 85% of the time rather than 95%, and maybe next year it will b 75%". It felt like such a positive outlook on her illness, which incidentally she recognises as such a lot more now (ie refers to "my illness"). I told her about my trip and I could hear the excitement in her voice, said that she'd like to see my pictures one day.
One step at a time. I wasn't ready to test the water with regards to how she'd react to me talking off hand about Jane. That's particularly important to me because that's how Jane would come up in a conversation with any other of my friends, totally off hand because she's an intrinsic part of my life- it actually takes a lot of effort to talk for 45 minutes and not mention her. You can't found or rebuild a friendship on shaky ground. If Annie is interested in being friends with me then she has to be interested in being friends with me, not in some alternate version of me who gives her selected highlights of the last two years. But it will take time to establish a comfortable rappore, and if we are going to stick at this (as opposed to this breakthrough conversation being enough for us to know each other is still there and getting on with our lives) then we have unlimited time really, because I don't feel the pressure of "if I don't say anything to her for another month she'll get it in her head that I hate her again". Maybe she will, but I'm a lot more comfortable with that possibility these days.
For two reasons- one was the apology for her outburst. That was something I never would have seen two years ago. She could have just as easily "tried again" but made no reference to her last email, blamed her addled memory if ever confronted with it. The second was the way she talked about her illness, as I already mentioned. She told me that she'd talked to her therapist about emailing me, and how she "stuffed it up", and how he'd calmly suggested she try again. She talked about how she still felt crap about herself but less so- she's learning to control her depression a lot more, or at least deal with it better- I think the same would go for her manic episodes, which 90% of her outbursts are linked to. Anyway, I said it before but things can only get better after last year, and they are. Yes the email about me casually throwing her away upset me, but the difference is I'm not letting myself get walked over. Rather, I've decided that this rebuilding process is important enough to me to develop a thick skin and accept that things with Annie will never be 100% smooth sailing. Take it or leave it.
So many little reasons make it important for me. I can hear a song like "Distant Sun" and smile rather than feeling a tinge of sadness because it reminded me of a fractured friendship. I can send an email out of the blue about a gig I went to that I thought she would have enjoyed, and not expect a caustic reply like "stop pretending to be my friend" (granted I have just acknowledged that that could still happen, but that's different to it being standard. Do you know what I mean? It's a positive spin on something that would still be bad, in the same vein as Annie's positive spin on thinking she's crap 85% of the time).
I'm not the sort of person to just accept a friendship is broken and move on. I've never had to do it before (though truth be told I did have to do it with this one for I while) so it's hardly surprising that I'm not about to do it now.