My general awesomeness is really not so awesome as all that. Apparently, I’m “freeloading” and “getting in the way.” Whoa.

To say I was surprised is to say a tropical storm is a drop of rain. But, but, but… so many points to argue with! I just spluttered and stared, I think. She pointed out that she’d told me that I wasn’t even paying half the utilities since prices have gone up, and I didn’t even manage to respond that I thought she was asking me to use less water, not pay more rent. And it never remotely occurred to me that between her trips to dog training in Utah and walking tours of Great Britain and visiting friends in Germany, the thought that I needed to pay another, what, $100?, in rent would be festering. But I guess it was.

(When she broke her leg, I cleaned out her cats’ litter boxes, exercised her dogs, cooked her two meals a day, drove her to all her appointments and errands… was I freeloading then? I guess so!)

It all feels very surreal.

Sometime within the past year or so, I told Suzanne that I had nightmares about someone else doing to me what R. had done. Like, suddenly, I’d wake up and discover that a friend no longer liked me, that I had somehow so grievously insulted my brother that he was no longer talking to me, that my aunt’s not responding to my emails promptly meant she was tired of listening to my struggles to be positive in the face of depression. Her response felt cold, a “why would someone do that?”, not a reassurance that I was safe, that my relationships could survive conflict and mistakes. The nightmare is part of the long-lasting damage of estrangement, I think. If the person that I loved most in the world can decide I’m not worth interacting with, anyone else can, too.

But oddly enough, I don’t feel nearly as badly about this as I did about R. Part of it, I think, is that I idealized R. I truly believed that he was just a wonderful human being, emotionally mature and loving. Discover that he was capable of being cruel was like hitting ice water when you think you’re stepping into a hot tub. I still think about reaching out to him, of course, all the time, but one of the things that stops me is this paragraph from an email of his: “I know you tried to get my address so you could send your sad little suicide note. Why do you think you never got it? That is textbook emotional abuse and you know that.” 

This line flummoxed me then, and flummoxes me now. Why in the world did he think I would be sending him a suicide note? Zelda was still alive. I would never have killed myself when I had such a beloved dog to take care of. Leave her alone? Of course not! Unthinkable. And yes, I was incredibly suicidal in the spring of 2020, I felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore if the person I loved so deeply wouldn’t even reassure me that he was alive and well in the face of a worldwide pandemic… honestly, I am pretty sure Zelda was the reason I survived. But why would R have expected that from me? I’m not exactly a person who goes through life threatening to kill myself; I mostly keep my suicidal ideation to myself. I had no intention of sending him a suicide note in any way, shape or form.

But after I get past the “What? Why would you think that?” comes the, “Seriously? You view someone else’s pain and suffering as nothing more than a weapon being used against you?” It’s such an intensely self-involved view of the world, to think that I would tell him good-bye purely as a form of manipulation. It says so clearly, “I care only about my own feelings, not at all about yours. Your pain does not matter to me.” It stops me from reaching out again. It reminds me that he is not who I thought he was.

In this case, Suzanne apparently feels no guilt over broken promises, doesn’t care that I made choices and decisions based on her, yes, generosity, and is absolutely ready to throw away a 30-year-friendship as no longer having value for her. And I am somehow a lot less shocked than I should be. I’ve joked to other people that if Suzanne and I were married and the puppies were kids, we would probably be getting divorced. Our ideas about how to treat dogs and what to embrace as normal and to-be-expected behaviors are so very different. Over the course of the last year, since Suzanne got off crutches, we’ve spent less and less time together, largely because of those differing values, I think. So, we’re not married, but we’re getting divorced, and that’s sad, but, you know, it’s not the end of the world. I feel a little battered, but not broken.

The interesting thing is, although R broke me, and the mended pieces are just taped together with duct tape, the skills I’ve gained from surviving our estrangement are absolutely still with me. Yesterday, I took Sophie to Creamery Field and we played ball, and I played my mindfulness games. What beautiful thing could I see? What could I smell? What sounds could I hear? And I felt happy. Yeah, sad about this really unexpected and startling turn of events, but also just lucky. I’ve got a terrific little dog, I’ve got enough savings to survive until I find my next way station on the path of my life, I’ve got people in my life who care about me enough to reach out and offer sympathy and help, and I’ve got stories to tell.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next in the long-term. And I’m definitely still going to be grieving for a while; there’s going to be middle-of-the night processing for probably weeks or months, if not years! Much more for Suzanne than for Serendipity or Arcata; I loved my tiny house but at the end of the day, it’s just a roof. Suzanne was my travel buddy for so many trips, and there are so many good memories. Will they all be tainted now? Maybe, but I’m going to try hard not to let them be. Last night, I was remembering a camping trip we took where we sat at a picnic table and played games, and laughed and laughed over a word game that we were playing (badly!) and the memory made me smile; I hope it always does, regardless of what has happened since.

My dad called yesterday and said his first thought was, “God still has plans for you, Wendy, and this is just those plans in action,” and I’m going to hold on to that. Life is an adventure, and this is just my next big adventure. Wherever it leads me, I will still choose to be happy.