Communication Subtleties

November 26, 2013

I sent my long-time friend a book I thought she would like. She had moved away more than a year ago. Six weeks passed and I hadn’t heard from her. I finally sent her an e-mail asking if she got it. Yes, yes, she did. She thought she had written me. No, no e-mail was sent. It stung.

I sent another friend the DVDs from the final two seasons of a mini-series I had introduced her to. I had been waiting until we got together, so I could hand them off to her. The get-together never happened, so I sent them to her. It turns out she watched the remaining two seasons on Netflix and thought she had told me. No, no she didn’t. It stung.

What happened to common courtesy?

Both relationships have held a lot of meaning for me. I’ve known my long-time friend for more than 40 years, the other for seven. In both cases, we’ve shared intimate details of our lives. I know their families, and I felt close to both of them. I thought they considered me a close friend as well. They probably still do.

Fine Points Worth Noting

My initial reaction was to stop initiating and pull back. I had to think about it more. After all, I am the common element in both equations.

My gestures of sending both the book and DVDs were well-intentioned. To my long-time friend I sent a brief note, saying I hoped she would enjoy the book. We had talked about the author, and she expressed interest in her work. But, here’s the fine point: I never asked her if she would let me know when she got it or, in fact, how she liked it once she read it. In hindsight, I guess no request for a response requires no response. I just expected she would let me know.

With my other friend, we had talked about the mini-series and how much she enjoyed Season 1. When we last spoke she was moving slowly through the episodes of Season 2. I had given her Season 3 and expected to hear from her when she completed it in anticipation of my giving her Seasons 4 and 5. No word ever came. I went ahead and sent her the remaining two seasons.

I looked forward to sharing our impressions of the characters, story, and acting. That sharing never happened. In fact, it seemed like a double-slight to learn that she had watched the remaining seasons on Netflix, when I said I would lend her them when she was ready. Here’s the fine point: I never requested she let me know her impressions or how she was progressing through the series. Again, I just expected she would share.

Healthy Interpretations

I wanted something from each friend—acknowledgement and appreciation. Only after I prompted them did a response come. The fact that these two incidents occurred in fairly close succession gave me pause. I started asking myself: Did they hold me as close as I was holding them? Probably not. Were they on to other things? Had these friendships lost a few degrees of intimacy? Probably yes, on both counts.

Even though both friendships still exist, their hue does not shine as bright for me. I felt a loss. Although no one has left anyone, I felt like I was the one left behind. Both women are married, rich in friends, interests and activities. One has moved far away, and the other doesn’t live all that close to me. Could proximity be another reason things changed? I wasn’t sure.

I’ve given serious thought to all of this and came to a few conclusions. All things, especially friendships, have a season. People come into our lives for a reason. When the reason has been fulfilled, the season has been completed. That’s just the way it is. The key for me is to see each friendship for what it was and is. When it no longer mutually serves both parties, it’s time to let it go where it needs to go—onto the back burner of my life. That doesn’t mean we don’t connect anymore. The connections become less frequent, less intimate, a few less fingers touch the pulse of the other person’s life.

In the past I would feel the loss and stew in the rancor of my perception of being left behind, wondering what happened and feeling pained by absent responses. Now I understand the purposelessness of wallowing in these emotions. It’s up to me to acknowledge the change, grieve the loss and open myself to life’s offerings and opportunities.


Right about the same time I sent the previously mentioned items to my two friends, I sent a gift to another friend, who lives several hours away from my home. The package was intended as a surprise. Upon receiving it, she wrote me a quick e-mail to tell me she got it and how much she loved it! Her response was a sharp contrast to the ones I’ve already mentioned. Her enthusiasm was palpable even in a short e-mail message. Apparently proximity doesn’t have anything to do with friendship. If someone cares about you, s/he will let you know.

Where does that leave me? Moving on…where the energy is flowing, where it feels good and where the relationship is mutually beneficial. One of my favorite authors Eric Butterworth clarified the whole situation when he wrote, “Sometimes the best way to get along with people is to get along without them. Let go…and walk on.” After writing this blog, I am ready to walk forward and that feels good.

2 Responses to “Communication Subtleties”

  1. Maria Mercedes Bejarano Says:

    Your message is very timely .. GRACIAS !! I am moving on and letting go !!!and I now reside in DC .. Let me know if you have any workshops scheduled ..I’d love to come . Blessing to you and your work ..

  2. Mrs Finkling Says:

    this was an excellent post – ya know, ive been in many a similar situations over the years, these days, im much less sensitive to others in that way – people come and go in life and they let you down – what i have noticed is, like your ‘contrast’ section – the most unlikely of people have come to the fore for me and those i depended on were just completely absent! keep your chin up – you sound like a good person with good intentions and i believe in the power of still being a good person…

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