I unfriended someone. Maybe the more correct term is defriend like devalue or demerit, to lessen importance, to remove. In some ways it was an easy decision. We ceased being friends a while ago in real life, it made sense to round off those corners in the virtual universe and untangle myself from newsfeed updates and comments piggybacked onto posts of people that orbited both our circles. But my palms still dampened when it came to the act, reminding me of the first time I slow danced with a boy in sixth grade, the way my hands stuck lightly to his cheap, cotton collard shirt. It was the right call for me even as it felt so dicey, this weird business of erasing someone from your life in such a public, pronounced way.
I breezed through the mess of dating and break-ups long before the Internet and mobile tech made a blood sport out of shunning, rejecting, dumping, and all the other ways we screw each other up out of fear or insecurity or (in some cases) general douchbaggery. Rejection is a loaded weapon in any form. I don’t deploy it casually. As I clicked the “unfriend” tab I felt a small surge of relief mixed with something else: guilt. Social media is not real life. You can’t do that thing you did when you were four and close your eyes to make something bad go away, to play the “if I don’t see you, you don’t exist” game. Too bad. If that were the case, I would happily shut my eyes and ears to a certain billionaire bigot running for president. The journey is about learning from each other, from the people who make your life difficult as well as from the ones who deliver nothing but pure joy. I was so disappointed with myself that I couldn’t reconcile this person’s toxicity and the ways they had damaged the friendship with our mutual higher right to love and happiness. I tried. Hurt, disappointment, and boring old anger were a team of defensive linebackers in my way.
As much as I wished it (talked about it, journaled over it, straight up whined about it), I couldn’t just “let it go” as someone advised, I couldn’t smile, shrug, and say “It’s all good. No biggie.” I was so not the Buddha. I am so not Mother Theresa, so not Ghandi. I was not even one of Oprah’s spiritually evolved self-help-live-your-best-life shiny happy gurus who talk blithely about forgiveness and compassion like they’ve had their egos lobotomized, like they never suffered from being on the receiving end of someone else’s shitty behavior. I want to be farther along in my process (whatever the hell that is), I want to be at this point where I am walking emotional Teflon and the embodiment of acceptance and compassion. I doubt Zuckerberg, the boy genius, forsaw his “unfriend” feature sending people spiraling into existential crises.
A couple of weeks before I decided to cut the cyber chord, I came across this great interview with singer/songwriter Patty Griffin in Paste Magazine. Patty is one of my all-time favorite musicians. Her writing is equal parts unforgiving heartbreak and unapologetic truth. She was discussing some of her philosophy in approaching the songs on her new album:
You have to face yourself and face what you’re made of, or turn away from it. And people turn away from it in a lot of different ways, usually looking for safety. But the road is not easy or casual. Life requires things from you—if you’re really living it and are really alive—that are really difficult and painful, and you can’t avoid those things if you’re really participating. Because the alternative to serving what we’re made of—which I believe is this energy, and I guess you can call it love—leads you away from feeling alive, and wisdom, and it leads to destructiveness. So I guess if there’s something I’m trying to say, it’s that.
Well that’s super, I thought. How fantastic of her to boil down the human experience to the exact thing I had been losing at: give love, get your hands dirty reaching out to the challenging people as readily as you reach out to those who make your life blossom. Awesome.
I left the page open and kept returning to the interview to read the quote. At some point the words changed focus the way pointillist paintings drift into their structures. There are many paths to serving your energy, loving yourself is a good start.
This should be a no-brainer, put your oxygen mask on first as the speech goes. We all smile and get the metaphor. However, in life lived out of the skies we rarely act on our own wisdom.You can’t heal anything in others if you’re not whole. You can’t extend the olive branch if your hand is a fist.
I know I am a flawed traveler on this leg of my journey, others are lapping me when it comes to serving their energy in bigger ways. “Unfriending” someone, as childish as it feels, was the best I could do for now because it was the best I could do for me and that alone is something worth serving.