A New Core Anchor for a Different Voice: Connection

A New Core Anchor for a Different Voice: Connection

I have had a few best friends. My “true” BFF, Erica, has been my friend since childhood. Our parents were friends and political allies and introduced us. We are committed to seeing each other at least twice annually, although we have lived 3500 miles apart for forty years. We talk on the phone and text regularly. We have been there for each other’s weddings, divorces, pregnancies, births of children, illnesses and family deaths. On his death bed a week ago, her father said to Erica “You are lucky in this life if you have five people you can call friends, Erica. Suzanne is one of those friends.” His words meant a lot to me, as my commitment to my friendship with Erica is as important to me as my commitment to my marriage, son, or siblings. I have always felt this way about my close friendships and I am fortunate that my husband understands this essential value I cherish. At PSP I found my “BFF”, Ivan, and we have committed to see each other at least annually until one of us departs this mortal coil.

Another “BFF” was my Boston friend, Rebecca. When we met, we were both single parents, in fact our young sons who were friends introduced us as they “thought we would like each other.” We did! Not only did Rebecca become a dear friend, but years later, after my children had left home, I moved into a building her father owned. In exchange for my husband remodeling several rooms, he allowed us to live in this large Brookline apartment with reduced rent so that my husband and I could save to eventually buy our own home in Boston. Rebecca lived in an apartment on the first floor with her children, her father and step-mother lived on the second floor, and my husband and I lived on the third floor, along with my son, during his summer breaks from college.

Rebecca was from a close-knit, sometimes troubled, but warm and inclusive Jewish family who soon incorporated us into their family and community. We often ate together. I worked part-time for Rebecca’s small catering business. We celebrated all holidays together. Given that I live on the other side of the country from my family of origin, being included as part of their family meant the world to me. For years, while my husband was out teaching martial arts classes in the evenings, I hung out in Rebecca’s apartment. We drank tea, played Scrabble and talked, while our kids played together and sometimes hung out with us as well. We were family and I believed we would live like this forever. I was part of a rich community and was deeply content, connected and satisfied.

I was shocked to my core, when in 2005, Rebecca broke the news that she had decided to take over her mother’s business and would be relocating to Delaware. Although she had apparently been mulling over this opportunity for a year, she had not mentioned it to me, knowing I would be very upset. The withholding of such important, life-changing information to me was a betrayal. For the first time, I questioned the closeness of our friendship. If she considered me such an intimate friend, why would she have kept this secret from me for so long? I was deeply wounded.

Part of the incentive package for Rebecca to move to Delaware was that her mother was going to buy her a home, which Rebecca would then own. Rebecca felt it was an opportunity for herself and her children she couldn’t pass up. Although I understood intellectually her need to move, and wanted to support her, I was devastated. For days, I couldn’t stop weeping. I felt as if my world was collapsing. I felt as badly as I had felt when I divorced or relatives had died. I retreated from my life and did not get out of bed for two days. My husband tried to comfort me, but I was inconsolable. I could tell he though my reaction was extreme. “You can visit her.”, he said. “It won’t be the same.”, I replied. “We are together every day. And I know her. She is terrible at maintaining long-distance relationships. Everything is going to change.” “Life changes”, said my husband. “That is the one thing you can count on.”

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About the Author

Suzanne Brennan NathanDr. Suzanne Brennan Nathan is a clinical psychologist, clinical social worker and group psychotherapist recognized as a clinician, program developer and instructor in the treatment of trauma and addictions. For forty years, she has practiced psychotherapy in Boston and Newton, MA. Currently in full-time private practice, Dr. Brennan Nathan has been the clinical director of several group practices specializing in the treatment of addictions. Suzanne has been on the clinical faculty at numerous social work schools in the Boston area, including Smith College, Boston University, Simmons College and Boston College. She was the founding director of the Family Crisis Team (Child Sexual Abuse Team) at The Cambridge Hospital and was a Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She divides her time between Boston and Northern California.

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