14 June 2007

Ouch

On Tuesday night, I went to a fantastic birthday party for a coworker. I was enjoying some punch (that crazy punch with sherbet in it! I hadn't had that in ages! From a glass punchbowl and everything!) when I looked up and saw my former boss.

I have not seen her in over a year, since she left the company where I still work. She and I had a great working and personal relationship. She mentored me in the workplace and was invited to my wedding. She knew and loved John. She was extremely supportive during John's illness. That said, I recognize that she is not an easy person to work with or be friends with. She is a strong person who is not afraid to express her opinion or ruffle feathers. When she left the workplace, she was not on good terms with many of the people in the office, and I felt that our relationship had become more tenuous although in an intangible, gut-feeling kind of way. We parted on good terms and said that we would keep in touch. She wanted to meet the babies and keep tabs on how our family was doing.

I assumed (a bad start . . . ) that she was a part of the Yahoo group that I use to keep people up to date on what's going on with our family. Since I figured she was getting regular updates from us, I thought it very strange that I never heard from her after the twins were born, never heard from her as John got sicker and died. Not a peep. Even if she was not on our Yahoo group, I knew that she was in touch with other people who were and thus must have known what was going on. I could have picked up the phone, of course, but excuses, excuses, excuses, and she was never at the top of my call list. Besides, I really felt like the burden of responsibility rested on her to call and check in. As we all (or at least most of us) learned in grade school, it's a two-way street, right?

So it was quite a shock to look up and see her on Tuesday night. I went over to her and gave her a hug; it seemed to make her a bit uncomfortable. I gave her husband a hug too, and got a whispered, "I'm so sorry." So they must know of John's death. I was glad not to have to tell them at a birthday party.

I chatted with them for a good ten minutes. My former boss never said one word about John. Never asked about the twins. Frankly, she appeared totally bored by talking to me. Not to sound like a five-year-old, but it really hurt my feelings. I finally excused myself to get some more punch (with sherbet!!) and spent the rest of the evening talking with friends.

At the end of the party, I went to say goodbye. I said, "Have you seen pictures of the twins on the Web?"

"Oh no," she replied. "We're not part of your group."

Well, that explains it. Kind of. I showed her a picture I carry in my wallet and told her that I'd love to get together to show them off. She said that would be nice. I jotted down her number just in case, though I was sure that I had it.

As I walked to my car, I felt more and more annoyed, hurt, and angry. Sure, she wasn't getting our messages, but why did she never call me? She's retired, for crying out loud! She knew I was having twins, she knew John was sick. And why do I now have to be the one to call her? Why could she not even ask me about my life as I stand there and make queries about her trips to Italy, her dinners at fancy restaurants, her kids, her life?

I feel like she believes—and wants me to believe—that I'm the one in the wrong. That I should have been calling her. That I now owe her something. I know in my head that's not the case. But in my heart I feel badly that our friendship soured. I'm torn about calling her. Part of me wants to just kick her in the teeth. Part of me wants to repair what was lost. But I can't do that on my own and I'm just not sure she wants to help.

43 comments:

bg's Little Sis said...

I don't think you're in the wrong, with all you had going on, I agree that it was her responsibility to call, it was no secret that you're plate was so full at the time of her departure, she could have kept in touch if she so chose...I'm sorry that it was akward and that your feelings were hurt.

I do think that after so much time she probably felt akward and hurt that she didn't know a lot and is more than likely more upset with herself for letting it get this far and not reaching out...at least I hope that to be the case...with the personality type you describe I imagine it's difficult for her to admit she may be in the wrong and try and repair the damage on her own.

Good luck with it, I don't think you have to try, but if you do good for you for being the bigger person, after you reach out though if she doesn't reciprocate in anyway I'd let it go..but I'm sure you've thought of that already too:)

Glad you had fun otherwise, how cool and old school the sherbert punch!

Klynn said...

Ouch is right. I've known some people like that. Folks with "strong personalities". Most of them are very self centered, and it's all about them. From your description, it sounds like she may have felt slighted by not being included in the yahoo group. Of course she'd never say anything about that, because that would make it look like she *cared*.

I think you did the right thing by showing her pics and getting her number. If I were you, I might make one or two small efforts. Add her to the yahoo group (if you want), and maybe call to meet for lunch or something. From that point, ask her to contact you when she'd like to get together again and let her make the next move. If you don't hear from her, chalk it up to different people moving in different directions with their lives. Then you can move on, knowing that you made an effort to salvage her friendship, and she didn't. Just a suggestion, of course. You have to do what you feel comfortable with.

Yankee T said...

Fer chrissakes, Snick, anyone who expects anything of you other than doing your best to hold it together and care for your children is totally off the mark. I don't blame you for being hurt. If contacting her is something you WANT to do, then go ahead. If it isn't, nobody would blame you. It is everyone else's job to come to you right now, not the other way around.
Compassion is sorely lacking in this world.

C. said...

In no way defending her actions, just putting this out there.

Often times people with the personality you described are hard on the outside and a pile of mush on the inside (I am one of those people.) She may not know what to say, or afraid she will say the wrong things and it will upset you and she wouldnt know how to deal.

If she is anything like me (and she sure sounds like it) she got depressed when John died, i sure did and I dont even know you. She felt terrible, and stuck as if she were in concrete because she was trying to give you space and really didnt know what to say.

You have every right to be upset and hurt. Just please remember that some dont deal with death very well. A very close friend (and co-worker) of mine died in december and I could not bring myself to go to the funeral. It meant no disrespect, I just dont deal well with death, and afraid I will say or do something that will upset the family.

KAT said...

My family has always felt that one of the positive things that came out of my mom's illness and death was the opportunity to see relationships in a new light. Some of the people we thought would be the first ones to step up to the plate, never showed. And completely random people who we didn't consider close friends were some of our biggest supports during that time.

That being said, people deal with that kind of thing in different ways and I think it's sometimes difficult for people who perhaps haven't been through something similar to know what to do. A friend of mine lost his mom recently and I was calling all the time asking him what he needed, offering to do little things like pick up his mail because I knew they were some of the things I didn't have time to think about at the end of my mom's life. But I know others stepped back to "give him space."

Perhaps your former boss just didn't know what to say or do when she saw you? I would give it a shot if you feel like it's a worthwhile friendship-- ask her to join your group or invite her over to see the twins. But if you're not getting anything out of it? Well, then I use another lesson I learned from my mom's illness. Life's too short to have people like that around.

Hope this helps from someone who's been there.

Christine said...

I agree, big ouch. In situations like that, I try to console myself with the fact that maybe it has nothing to do with me. If she left your office under bad terms, maybe being around you reminds her of all that.

You did your part, Snick. Now the ball is in her court. Good luck with it all. And I WOULD like to get together for coffee!

Jolene said...

I'd like to think that she was at a loss for words when she found out about John and couldn't muster up the strength or courage to reach out to you. You should in NO way feel you were wrong. She should be making every effort to contact you right now, not the other way around. If you feel as though your friendship could be restored, I would say call her, but there is no obligation. You have so many other things on your plate.

erk said...

I gotta admit, when I leave a job I want nothing to do with former coworkers, especially if the leaving was bad. And I don't always do it in the best way (screen calls, don't return emails, etc.) I'm not saying this is the way one SHOULD deal with it. But it can only get more awkward, if you are that way AND terrible things have happened since you last talked. (Although why she would COME to a party of old coworkers if she felt that way is not clear.)

Julia said...

I had to go back and re-read your post to make sure I had not misunderstood... you did not receive a single word of condolence from this woman over the recent loss of your husband? Nor congratulations and interest about your one year old children?

This is a very selfish person. I do not care what her needs or comfort levels are... there are certain situations for which you simply MUST be present. You rise above your own issues. You say you are sorry. You express concern and sympathy and a willingness to help. Anything less is inexcusable and I am not surprised you were hurt.

My dander is up over here. Crisis should never be used as a test of friendship, by which I mean if she was hurt that you did not turn to her sooner in the past year that is her own damned problem. You are dealing (so graciously it amazes me, by the way) with the very worst thing a person can face. If you inadvertently slighted someone in the process it is only to be expected.

Bah.

As Yankee Transplant said, if you want to reach out to her than by all means do so. But if you decide that she requires more energy than you have to give right now I would forgive yourself for letting that relationship slide.

PS She was standing there with an old friend who just recently became the widowed single mom to twin babies and the only thing she can find to talk about is her trip to f*cking ITALY?

Bah I say again. And I am sorry that you are upset by this encounter. I love it when you write about the various friends and fathers of friends and friends of friends helping you out with little and big things. I am glad that you are generally surrounded by such caring and helpful people. You deserve to be nurtured.

thrice said...

She's obviously hurt, from the "I'm not in your group" comment. She's probably socially retarded, like I am. Maybe she didn't know that you felt close to her, 'cause of her own insecurities. Or maybe she didn't know how much you appreciated her mentoring and/or support during John's illness. She might not know what to say, and chooses to say nothing, 'cause it's better than saying something stupid.

That being said, there are times to reach out and your husband's death is one of them. Sometimes the situation goes beyond what is right and what is wrong, because it just doesn't matter and I think that she is missing that.

laughing mommy said...

I am unfortunate to know a few people who also feel that they should be contacted frequently but do nothing to contact me. Their feelings are continually hurt by my lack of communication. I realized a while ago that this is not true friendship. This is not worth my time.

It seems especially cruel that this woman would not cut you some slack considering that you are taking care of twins and in light of the loss of your beloved husband.

I wonder if she is really worth your time. If you contact her, will she continue to be needy without giving anything in return? Or will she be a good, true friend once the fences are mended?

yasmara said...

Oof, reading this is so familiar. I recently had a very close friendship (over 10 years) implode in a very similar manner.

I don't have much advice (nothing worked for me), but I do have a lot of empathy for you in this situation. Make like Oprah, I guess, and let go of the people who bring you down while holding on to those who lift you up.

Anonymous said...

Don't waste your time on someone so not worth it.

I would call her a good time Charlie. She is only there for a good time, networking, and what you could do for her.
Death and illness does tend to separate the men from the boys.

You are the one who has suffered a grievous hurt not the other way around.

Amy said...

You hit it dead on with "it's a two-way street". You had enough on your plate, and it would have been simple enough for her to pick up the phone and say "I'm sorry" or "I don't know how to help you" or whatever...don't try too hard, she should be trying too.

Carla said...

All I can think is that this must just feel like one more loss on top of everything else. It's always painful when a friendship falls by the wayside, but I can only imagine how much more this hurts because of the recency of John's death.

Like the other commenters, maybe it's best to move on and leave this old friend in the past.

Mel said...

It is time to break up with her for good. I did a post about this the other day... being a friend and what I expect from mine. She didn't contact you on the 2 hugest events of your life. I know it sucks and hurts a bit but she is clearly not a good friend to you. She's gotta go!

Indie Mama said...

It is hard to have a friendship dwindle. She obviously meant a great deal to you, so you should do whatever *you* need to do to set your own mind at ease, and then let her go if she doesn't show more initiative and interest. = )

Lisa said...

I agree that in your situation the burden was on her to keep in touch with you. And since you are still so very recently widowed and grieving AND getting the hang of single momhood to twins, the ball is still in her court.
I've had somet hings like this happen to me, where I thought someone was in the loop during a stressful time, but unbeknownst to me, they were not. Most people will understand that you can't keep track of every little thing when times are that stressful. If she is offended that she wasn't in the loop, I think that is a little immature of her.

Also, if she is talking about italy, she does seem like she just can't deal and may be just a fair weather friend. Call her if you want, but I wouldn't make an effort after that. Seems to me that she should be taking your number and being the one who makes arrangements with you, instead of again putting the burden on you.

It is always interesting to me how you find out who your real friends are at the hardest times.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Julia. Bah.

halfmama said...

I too think the burden is on everyone else around you to contact YOU; to make sure YOU are okay and to see if YOU need anything. You should not be worrying about anyone else's feelings right now except your own and your kids.

That being said, maybe she was at a loss at what to say, like C said. From what you describe, she doesn't sound much like a people-person. As uncomfortable as it is, and even though I don't feel at all it is your job to do this, if you think the friendship is worth it, maybe you can call her and gently ask if everything is okay because you felt a little strained when you saw her. And if you don't think it's worth it, then let the relationship go and know it was her loss for not making the effort that she should have. Either way, I still think she should be the one calling you, but sometimes people are just too self-absorbed to do the mature thing. Maybe she'll take a cue from you and realize she needs to grow up and think about what you may be going through.

And if you do call her and she chooses to remain cold... whatever. Her HUGE loss! I mean, look at those kids. Who could resist them??

denise d said...

Oh.My.Gosh.
You have More than enough on your plate than to worry bout someone else's issues.

Keep lines open Just In Case. But remember - some people are only meant to pass through, once their purpose has been fulfilled, they will move on, so let 'em go.

Enjoy your writings, thanks for sharing :-)

BTW - here's an Awesome recipe for Green Grog (lemon-lime rum punch w/sherbert) that we had at a Party recently...
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Houston-Social-Gamesters/message/30548

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

There are friendships and then there are work friendships. Work friendships begin and end in the workplace. This is a work friendship. You tried to make it more but she just doesn't want to. Otherwise, she would have been the one taking your number and making the effort with you. Move on. Life's too short for a loser like her.

Sandra said...

Oh man that sucks. I've had a friend from high school do something like that to me. I was supposed to tell her everything that was going on in my life, but I got nothing out of her. I was supposed to rearrange my schedule to make time for her, but she couldn't find time for me. Eventually we drifted apart, its kind of sad, I would love to tell her about my daughter and the things happening here, but I don't think I could bear holding up the whole friendship on my own any more.

Rachel said...

I think a lot of people really just don't know what the heck to say when someone dies, but that's no excuse. She doesn't sound like friend material to me. I don't know that I would call her, if I were you. And I'm sorry, because it sucks to lose a friend, especially after all you've been through thus far.

OTRgirl said...

I tend to prefer to build bridges and leave them intact behind me as I go, and I suspect you are similar. As many people have said, try once or twice, but don't carry the weight of the friendship--life has given you enough burdens at the moment...

mary said...

My heart aches for you. That she stood there and did not say a word! Horrifying! You have EVERY right to be upset and angry. This is a frenemy, not a true friend.
I think we all have “friends” like that – who we know we couldn’t rely on in a crisis. And friends who make YOU feel bad when it’s them that should be covered in shame. Clearly she’s put you in the “Too Hard” basket. She should get over herself.
I’m truly sorry you had to deal with this on top of everything else.

liz said...

Gah.

Kristen D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen D. said...

Had to delete previous post...too many typos!

As with the majority of other posters, I don't think you're in the wrong at all. And I would simply write her off...don't call her, unless losing this friendship would feel like a major loss to you.

I've heard some people say that it's really hard for them to talk to someone who has lost a loved one, and as much as I always try to empathize with others and be tolerant, I've never understood why. How hard is it to say, "I'm so sorry about your husband. He was a wonderful person." And, if you can't say it in person, at least send the person a card.

It wasn't YOUR responsibility to reach out to her. It was HERS to reach out to you. And she failed incredibly.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you are one of the blogs that allows anonymous entries 'cuz I don't have a blog and I sure want you to take the following, type it up and read it over & over & over until it becomes a part of your being. You're going to need it. We all need it:

Whatever people do, feel, think, or say, don't take it personally. Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system. Whatever they think about you is not about you. It is about them...and the reverse is true, also. = Author unknown

Isn't that something? A friend of mind sent me that when I was going thru some heavy stuff recently. I pass it on to you, gladly. Cece

Leggy said...

Ditto what Yankee T. said. I can't believe she'd give off the vibe that you were somehow in the wrong here. If I were her, I'd have been falling all over myself embarrassed that I'd lost touch with you given all the trauma/drama you had going on in the last 18 months.
Some people don't know how to deal with grief and pain very well and act badly. But whether you want to stay in touch with her should be about whether you still like her and still want a friendship with her, and not about feeling like its up to you to maintain this friendship.

Amy said...

Let her go.. If she could not contact you after the birth of your children and loss of your husband John she is not a friend. If she wants to make the effort let her. In my eyes she is simply rude and self centered!

MJ said...

I'd have to agree with the "let her go" crowd. You have tiwns. They're almost 12 months old. She can call you. (As the mother of twins, I feel I can say: the onus is on her.)

Tonight, I was talking with a friend about people we wished we'd invited to our respective weddings. Sometimes it's hard to tell who will be your friends in 17 years and you guess wrong. But I'd say the ball was in her court. You can find a lot of friends who will support and help you without wasting your time with those who need a lot and can't give too much.

buddha_girl said...

Self-absorbed.
Immature.
Bitchy.

That's the chick. If you want to 'renew' or 'repair' a friendship of sorts with that woman, have at it.

Me? I'd completely amputate her from my life.

You were having TWINS. You gave birth and nurtured two lives while having to let go of another.

I don't think that's a time to invoke the two-way street rule. It was one way - you were attempting to live some sort of normalcy while she was in her own 'feeling sorry for myself' misery.

For her husband to WHISPER his condolences...sheesh. He's afraid of the hussy, and I have no respect for him and his lack of compassion and humility. You lost the love of your life, your husband, the father of your children. You're still up and fighting. And he's farktarding whispering while she yammers on about her damn trip to Italy?

You opened the floodgates, woman. Arghhhhh! I'm irate.

Wabi said...

Oh crap, why do people do this? Seriously, there should be a PSA out there that explains how to react in this sort of situation:

--Apologize for being out of touch

-- Apologize for the person's loss

-- Follow the bereaved person's lead about whether or not they want to talk further about it

I am continually amazed that people think NOT extending condolences when you know someone's spouse recently died is acceptable. It's just plain rude.

Casey Hart said...

There are some people who make life tough on themselves and everyone else around them. With so many wonderful people in the world - why share what precious time we have with someone so sour.

From what you say she soured most of the people that you both used to work with - so don't take it personally. It's who she is it's not about you.

Stay away from poison.

Denise said...

Is there any chance she is having a major life-altering event of her own that she expects you to know about?

Or, more likely, a major mental-health event? When people have issues at work and leave on bad terms...sometimes, that is the case.

Even so...very bad behavior on her part.

Anonymous said...

When my mother lost my father (my siblings were very young, then, too) she learned that you really get to know people. She says there are people of whom you wouldn't have expected it - but they were empathic and knew how to react. And then there are others who you thought are your friends. And they don't know how to deal with death and loss, they can't speak about it, they even shun you as though tragedy was a personal flaw.

In short, my mother says, her circle of friends changed quite a lot in the aftermath of my father's death.

I think you met a woman who showed a side of herself... which you probably don't need right now. She might be sweet to you again after she feels she can expect you to be "normal" again.

But you know now her real face. It's really her problem because it doesn't bode well for the day she may have to deal with tragedy, loss and mourning herself....

Lila

Sunny said...

Well she is not a true friend. True friends are understanding and seek you out. If you really want to 'fix' things you could email her or send her a card letting her know that life took over. She didn't make the list on accident.

I am so so so sorry.

Galen said...

It's not you. Someone called it right - narcissism. For Christ's sake, couldn't she at least have sent a card? Nothing that has happened to her since you last saw her excuses her insensitivity and self-importance. So many people love and care about you. Who needs her?

Angela said...

Oh Snick, that really sucks! The onus was on her to keep in touch, you had and have so much going on.Who knows the reasons why she didn't call or keep in touch. If you feel up to it, you can make a small gesture, call and see if she wants to see the twins, and go from there. But on the other hand, you have so much going on, do you need to have that kind of stress or the bad feelings she has created in your life right now? Only you know whether the friendship was strong and is worth salvaging...I know you will make the right decision whatever it may be, please take care of yourself!

B.E.C.K. said...

What a thing to encounter at a party, especially when you weren't expecting to see your ex-boss. I would feel hurt also in your situation. I hope your ex-boss' coldness has more to do with her thinking that not being part of your Yahoo group was somehow intentional on your part (i.e., maybe she thought you deliberately excluded her, and she felt hurt or like she'd misread the friendship), and less to do with an inability to reach out.

As for her husband's whispering, I don't think it shows cowardice at all; rather, I just assumed he wanted to say something but wanted to keep it a little bit private and also not upset you.

If you feel like you have something to gain, or want to get some clarity on the relationship with the old boss, by all means call her and set up a coffee meeting or something. There you can tell her you meant to include her in the Yahoo group and that you were too overwhelmed to keep track of the members. Then it'll be up to her to respond. If she doesn't explain her reticence, or if she merely absorbs your explanation but doesn't show compassion for your situation, well, that'll be information, although unfortunate, and you can decide what you're willing to tolerate then.

I think a lot of people get awkward around death and emotions and staying silent about all that (on both your parts) leads to more misunderstanding. I hope the situation turns out for the best, but only you know whether you're willing to take the next step; taking it or not taking it are both okay. Sure, it may not be exactly "right" that it's up to you to contact her, but you may be the one who's better able to do that, and it would be a pity to possibly lose a friendship because both parties felt it wasn't their job to contact the other. Someone has to get the ball rolling in any situation.

I feel like my comment is awkward and I hope you understand what I mean here. I've read your site for a little while and send good thoughts to you often. *big hug*

shauna said...

There was too much going on in your life (and still is) to worry about who is or isn't in your Yahoo group. If she feels hurt or slighted, that's her stuff. Don't spend too much energy on this. I'd suggest calling her, but only if you want to mend the relationship. If she continues to give you the cold shoulder, I'd say let it go. Your twins need that attention more than she does.