I got an email today from one of my best and oldest friends. That was about 6 hours ago, and all I’ve been able to feel since then is rage. You see, this friend stopped speaking to me nearly a year ago without giving me any explanation. I spent the past year really hurting about this and wondering what I did and trying to figure out what was going on. It hurt. A lot.
And today she emails me and says it wasn’t really anything. She doesn’t know why she didn’t write to me (or call me or talk to me in any way, shape, or form at all) this year. The last time we saw each other, we had a challenging interaction–the first I can ever remember between us in nearly a decade of friendship. I don’t know what went wrong that day, but I know it was the day we stopped speaking. And I’ve spent the whole year trying to figure it out. Only to find out today after all that, that it wasn’t a big deal to her.
I think the rage is that after all that: she could afford to just drop me for a year. She has a huge family that all love her absolutely no matter what. She has a partner who she is building a beautiful life with. So when we had a challenging interaction, she could afford to just put our friendship aside for a whole year. The trouble is: nearly my entire immediate family died ten years ago. I don’t have anyone, so my friendships are so important to me. And hers in specific was really important to me.
But the thing is: it’s not her fault that she is surrounded by people who love her unconditionally and absolutely. It’s not her fault that I’m not. I know it sounds obvious, but this is something I have trouble wrapping my head around. This friend doesn’t owe me anything. Nobody owes me anything. So why do I keep feeling like somebody should?
This brings me to the ultimate question of this post. Do we as human beings owe each other anything? Do we owe children something?
I spent most of my childhood with my eye on the prize (which was surviving and getting the hell out of there.) But occasionally I would be nearly overpowered by this sense of injustice. But I didn’t really know as a kid that my life was so messed up, not really. You get used to whatever is handed to you as a kid. But as an adult, I have felt a lot of anger towards various people from my childhood. And not really, as you might suspect, towards the people who really hurt me–not towards the men who sexually abused me or towards my mom who let it all happen while she was completely ignoring me or picking on me herself. It never seemed worth it to be angry at them.
But my teachers. Those teachers who I loved as a kid. Who gave me the only sense I got as a kid that there was something worthwhile about me. Those teachers who seemed to think I was awesome and supported me. I have such anger towards them as an adult–because they saw me every single day. They heard more about my life than any other folks. Did they really not know that I was being beaten and abused at home? Did they really have no idea at all? And if they did know, how could they not have done anything to intervene? When I was a child, did anyone owe me that? Did I deserve to be helped? Is there a difference between what someone deserves and what others owe them?
And then my extended family who I couldn’t wait to visit every summer in the idyllic Virginian countryside. My extended family that I wanted so desperately to belong to. Did they owe it to me to make a point of knowing what was going on in my life and to do something about it? Maybe the answers to these questions are obvious to others, but I have no idea.
Do we have an obligation to the people in our lives?
But then I think about this blog and my writing and the work I do with children. Do I do that work because I feel like I owe kids something? No. I do it because I can’t bear the thought of any child living through the things that I did. I can’t handle the idea that any child could feel that alone and utterly unloved. I just can’t stand it. And I know they do every day. But it’s not obligation. I don’t know. As usual, no answers here.