Three years ago, over the course of three months, I lost 3 friends. They didn’t die, they dumped me. All of these relationships ended abruptly and each one of them came as a surprise to me. I’d love to have a nice new age explanation for why these friendships ended – like, it was time for anything and anyone that doesn’t serve to end – but all I really know, is that they did. End that is.
I didn’t want anyone to know that someone I had considered one of my closest friends no longer wanted to be in relationship with me. You know that phrase “You’re only as sick as your secrets?” well I kept this a secret for a long time. Only my husband and one or two close friends knew. Recently, as I was confessing all of this to another friend, she shared that she had recently had some friendships end too. “There’s no term for friend divorce.” she said. As we spoke, I realized that I’ve been carrying a sense of shame about these endings and feeling very secretive about it. I can feel guilt and hurt, but carrying shame is toxic. Why is it that the very thing I am embarrassed about in myself, I can accept and understand in somebody else? I wonder if other women are walking around feeling shame about friendships that have ended.
A few weeks ago, I was in a group that was studying with Ann Drucker, and we were discussing the shaman practice of “dismemberment.” In a shamanic journey, it can be common to experience dismemberment by one’s spirit guide. This is a unique experience for each person, but it’s common to be literally torn apart, limb from limb, or eaten/ingested so that there is nothing left of you. The spirit guide does this with great intention and service to the individual, in order to tear down and clear away the old, what no longer serves, ego.
Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true. – Adyashanti
I started thinking about my past relationships and wondered if on some energetic, karmic plane, these particular friendships were dismemberment gifts to me. I have no idea, but I can say that looking at these endings with this lens is comforting. I felt totally naked, exposed, raw when these friendships ended – one in particular. She wrote me an email and said terrible things to me about my character – things I would never have thought a friend would say – I did feel like my heart was ripped open – the same way a Jaguar spirit animal might eat my flesh. But what if that was the gift? I hardly ever know why things happen the way they do…that’s actually one thing I’m looking forward to when I die – I hope I get let in on the mysteries of life! But I do trust the universe. And I do trust that these friendships ended for a reason.
Fast forward to last week, sitting in my car, on the phone with a friend, both of us confessing about our ended relationships and both of us realizing that we carry shame and secrecy around this. As we talked, she gave me a gift. She said “People are complex. We have our faults. We’re not perfect. But I know this, if any one of those people reached out to you today and asked if you would meet with them, you would say “yes”, wouldn’t you?” I said “Of course!” and just like that, I re-membered myself. I RE-MEMBERED myself! All the shame, all the embarrassement, all the secrecy I’d been carrying for years started to lift. Yes, I am imperfect. I am horribly hormonal sometimes. Ugh. I am flawed. But I am also unflinching in crisis. I am always, always willing to try again. I have a gentle and kind heart. And my friend reminded me, to re-member who I am. I AM. And that is another gift of the shamanic spirit guide, after they dismember you, they re-member you so that you are complete. Whole. It took me awhile to remember myself, years to be exact, but I am more whole today because of those friendships.
These days, I am filled with gratitude for the women in my life. I am blessed to experience the level of intimacy in my relationships that I do. I feel humbled with the abundance of love that is beamed at me, regularly! I’m still me, I didn’t suddenly become the greatest person in the world. I do keep working on myself and try to own my shit, when I’m aware of it. The one common thread that all my relationships have currently is the quality of “leaning in.” I can truly lean in to my friends and they can lean in to me. Each of them have seen me in my rawness, my vulnerability and my imperfection and loved me anyway. Inspite of. Because of. Deep gratitude to the women in my life – all of them. Past. Present. Future.
and PS – thank you to my husband who midwifed me through all my grief during that time, even as he struggled to understand what the big deal was. I love you.