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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Have I Done a Bad Thing?

(Oops! This is NOT a poem submitted to The Poets' Pantry at Poets United! I posted the wrong link; if you came from there, try the next two links.)

It felt like a necessary thing. And wasn’t at all premeditated in the first instance; it came upon me suddenly. I hung up on him.

The wonderful poet Pearl Pirie recently titled a blog post: My Give a Damn is Busted. And so it was for me. After seven years of listening to his dramas and supporting him as best I could; counselling and advising when it seemed necessary, from my much longer life experience — suddenly I ran out of steam, just like that, mid phone-call. I put down the phone instantly, spontaneously, without stopping to think: not hard, not in anger, but in the realisation that he’s locked into a pattern which is probably never going to change — certainly not in the foreseeable future — that he goes his own way whatever I say, despite professing agreement, and that I have no more energy left for this.

That of course is partly because I need all my energy these days for things going on in my own life, mainly caring for my Beloved (who is 83 and has health issues to be managed). It is as much due to realising that there was simply no point any more to this friendship. And I heard too, how cold and selfish he has become, as he justified dealing unethically with a couple of people in his life. One of them had perhaps treated him badly too; the other not, quite the reverse.

A day later he emailed: ‘I don’t know what happened; we must have been cut off.’ Which told me he did know; otherwise he’d have rung back immediately. So I explained as best I could, apologised for my rudeness, tried to point out to him his pattern, and announced my unwillingness to continue the friendship. He justified, denied, declared that he can’t change himself and that people in his life will have to take him as he is, and said he didn’t see why the friendship needed to end. He asked why I hadn’t said anything before about getting tired.

I reminded him that I had spoken many times in recent months of being tired, busy, overstretched, having low energy.... I refrained from adding that he obviously hadn’t been listening very hard, and suggested at least a long break from the friendship. And that’s where it rests. When I told my Beloved, who in the past has been fond of this lad too, expecting that he might say, ‘Hey, that’s a bit harsh’, he said, ‘YAY!!! About time!’

When I told my psychologist, who has heard much of the young man and his dramas because they so affected me emotionally, she too said, 'YAY!’ (then clapped her hand over her mouth and added with a grin, ‘I didn’t say that!’).

So why am I wondering if it’s a bad thing I’ve done? Because he is only 21, and after being an emotional and sometimes practical support since he was 14, almost in the role of a surrogate grandparent, I’ve pulled the plug very suddenly. But I remind myself that over the last year his circumstances have changed for the better, partly his own doing and partly with help from others. He has made some big mistakes along the way, but has managed to correct them after a fashion. I remind myself that he does have at least one other support person now. Also he has learned exactly where and how to obtain professional help of all kinds, if and when he thinks he needs it.

My Beloved exclaims approval for a tasty meal of curried sausages — which I made from a recipe the young man gave us. After dinner he uses his laptop — which the young man offered him free (secondhand, in good condition) though we insisted on paying it off at what we believed to be a fair price. He is not entirely cold, manipulative and draining; it wasn’t a completely one-sided friendship.

I feel as though I should have some guilt. Maybe I do, buried somewhere. I feel as though I should be experiencing twinges of reminiscent affection about the curried sausages and the laptop. Perhaps I will, later. At present I’m too darn tired. I just ran right out of puff. My Give a Damn is busted.


  1. no guilt necessary... the purpose for your paths crossing has been served and now you need to move on with the priorities in your life!
    Good luck

  2. Not at all...sometimes it's our own bodies that finally get it right and force our heads and hearts to move right.... sometimes you just have to ...need to...must disconnect! ...only you know when...but doesn't it just feel so darn wonderful inside?

  3. Brenda and Karen, your words are very wise and really hit home. Thank you!

  4. Rosemary, the young man needs to find out that people wear out (and maybe thing). And that friends will shuffle through his life. I.e. it is time for him to be getting and making new friends. He may have a hard time with the latter.

    Perhaps you can keep a relationship but with different intensity and character. Like you are a senior citizen now with needs instead of him needing you. It sounds like he has helped you in the past so this might work.

  5. I'd say if he is draining you then maybe you should do like Jim said, keep a limited relationship with him until he finds some new friends. I don't know, talk to him about it. : )

  6. Glad.

    Yes, agreed with Jim. And about body doing what it will to protect itself. There's no malice in disconnecting sometimes.

    There are a number of people I know who are "locked into a pattern". The time on those can be better applied to people who give energy back, to getting one's own energy back.

  7. I thank you all for caring and offering your thoughts. I think I need this break before even contemplating a less intense relationship. I am not sure he is capable of that, and I have enough stress at home these days. Part of the problem, perhaps, is that he has moved further away and all recent contact was by phone and email, so it became restricted to tales of his ongoing sagas — and became clearer that there is a repeating cycle.

    I remember being told by a wise person years ago that putting energy into helping people without any result is a recipe for burnout. The example used was nurses of dying patients, but I think it applies also to counselling people who won't learn and grow.