I need a forcefield


I need a force field. I used to have a really good one before the stroke, one that helped me foresee and evade hurtful people, and manage painful comments lobbed in my directions. They would irritate, but they would not wound me. But these days, my force field has gone missing (apparently it is in the thalamus), and so I stride into social situations, only to be stung.

What am I talking about? I am specifically referring to my MFA program–the last time I stepped onto campus, I emerged stunned at my inability to deflect or respond to hurtful comments.

Today, I stepped onto campus again. I was feeling stronger, but the tide overwhelmed me quickly such that I assumed a heads-down pose, trying to stay focused. I left campus briskly and if you were to judge me from my pre-stroke behavior, probably uncharacteristically.

Late tonight, as if on cue, I got another email from an MFA peer that said the following:

First, let me thank you for your good intentions and greetings. That was very nice of you to wish me well. Thank you. I am well. I have been very busy with teaching and studying. I am totally blessed that I have been keeping up with the pace of things and very happy.Because of the intensity of the circumstances in my life, I’m not able to reach out to everyone I’d like to be able to. I apologize that at this time in my life, I can’t maintain our friendship. Perhaps in the future we will find that our paths cross once again, and we will perhaps try then.

I need to remain absolutely committed to my process, and that means that I can’t be in this now. I hope you understand and respect my decision.

Of course I wish you peace and wellness. I always remember you in prayer. Hope you are making a steady recovery. Take care of yourself!

I didn’t understand, but of course I had to let her go, even though I had all this faith and hope in a burgeoning friendship (did I tell you she emailed me everyday for 3 weeks as I recovered? I thought that was truly awesome, and so now I am stunned. In fact, she was responding to an email of mine that thanked her for being so kind to me as I recovered. Did she really need to write an email with this sort of tone?) This was an abrupt, surprising, and hurtful end at a time where I need friends. She signed the email “Sincerely,” an awfully cold sign off, and after I exerted all my effort to write a kind response, I was left feeling very…empty. But the email g*ds were looking out for me, because right after that hurtful email, came two emails from two close friends with random words of encouragement. I was not, as I was immediately reminded, alone in the universe.

Life is insane. In a way I’m cherishing this time without the force field, because I really feel like I am touching things that I have not touched in years. (Of course, I also end up quite hurt). On the other hand, this sends me into retreat, both subconsciously and consciously; my life these days are selected family and friends.

I’m looking forward to the material that this all brings to my writing–I discussed with a good friend tonight the good changes to come. These last few months have been a big shift, but I have all hope and faith that they are for the better.



Filed under MFA, The Stroke

11 responses to “I need a forcefield

  1. I am so not sure if I’m overreacting or not, but that’s my self doubt creeping in, as it does often these days. I am only sure that her email hurt my feelings and that it is just yet another “friend” who has abandoned me.

  2. Thank you for including me in letting me see this post.

    All I can think is how I would react, if I received this email from a friend, and given the circumstances I know about your situation…

    I would also be very upset. I don’t understand why your “friend” would send such an email. It seemed cruel to me, and cold. I think it is very understanding that you’re upset—how would she think you’d react to something like that? I hope my saying that doesn’t somehow make it worse.

    I often find that people disappoint me. Maybe I set my expectations too high. I won’t go into detail about it, but that forcefield you’re seeking, I could use a bit of too.

    But right now, I just hope you make it through okay. This time of retreat could only be good for you in the long run, I would think. And I agree that all of this will become some major fodder for your writing.

    I’m sorry you got this email. I hope your visits back to campus get better each time.

  3. Drana

    Just think of yourself as smart and lucky… smart in that you realize you cannot control those who are not your friends and have the ability to let them go, even though you don’t understand nor do you want to. It hurts and again you’re going through part of the grieving process, in losing a friend, something else you weren’t expecting to have to deal with. You can do it and you’ll grow because of it and be able to protect yourself or at least be aware if this situation happens again in your life. And in a strange way, you’re lucky because in this complicated process of grieving, you’re growing and learning and redefining yourself. It’s not easy. Sometimes it takes a crisis to help you shift gears and to find a deeper connection to those you love and to give you an out, maybe form some new friendships that you might not have had time to explore before. It’ll be a great experience for you to write about as you figure out what it all means as you go through it. Just accept it for what it is, and be thankful that you now know she is not your true friend. You know that you will not invest any more time than you need to with this person, even though you may have to deal with her on occasion. And just know that some people are selfish or have their own pain and cannot take on more. Forgive her and let her go so that you can focus your energy elsewhere. She is not worth it. I have a saying I use, “Bless her heart, she just doesn’t know any better.” It kind of lets me excuse someone else’s actions and not dwell on it as much, or to feel like it’s not a personal attack on me. Bless her heart, she just doesn’t get it.


  4. What a painful letter to get, especially in a response to an email thanking her for being such a good friend. Wow. It’s such a weird thing, “breakups” between friends. I remember once, one of my closest friends and I decided we needed to “break up” for a while. It was devastating, just like a love relationship would have been (well, it was a type of love relationship). We had a hiatus for three or four years and then realized we had missed each other terribly and “got back together.” Now we are super close again, godmothers to each others’ children, etc. But there was a period when we couldn’t be friends to each other, for a variety of complicated reasons.

    There was an anthology that came out a few years back – I can’t remember the name of it now – The One Who Got Away? about women’s friendships and how losing them can be just as bewildering and painful as romantic ones.

    I know this all feels horribly vulnerable and painful when you don’t have your Force Field. Just keep turning to the people you know you can count on. You are NOT alone.

  5. Yes, I know, you’re all so correct! And thank you for being there for me and for the support. I feel better already and hope these disappointments pass.

  6. thanks for letting me read your post. i am so sorry this person wrote and sent this to you, and futhermore that she seemed like real friend before this. i can’t imagine what would prompt someone to express something in such a manner and at such a moment. it hurts me to read it, and more so to know you are the recipient.

  7. mel

    This almost sounds like a form letter – awful. I’m sorry you had to get an email like this, especially associated with the MFA program and all the things you’re going through right now.

    When you said “forcefield” I immediately thought of the daughter in “The Incredibles.” (She could create forcefields and also make herself invisible.) I guess we all could use a little bit of both those powers; relationships are tough and like Susan said, can leave us vulnerable.

    Wishing you strength and thinking of you.

  8. i think the people in my MFA program are CRAZY, is how i sum it up (at least superficially). i can’t say she was a “real friend” (at least in hindsight) but she certainly behaved like it. boy, i feel like a chump.

    i definitely could use a force field. and invisibility! yes, that’s a good skill right now, too. i could have sat, invisible in that room, listening to the literary agent panel. i sure would have LIKED to have been invisible.

    now, i have to focus on the friends i do have and appreciate them for standing by me.

  9. What a horrible and painful letter to receive at at time when you need people the most! I am also intrigued by friendship “breakups” and will look for the book Susan mentioned because, although this wasn’t the case with that particular friend, it’s true that breakups between women friends can be as devastating as romantic breakups. I hope you know this is about HER, not YOU.

  10. bustopher–thanks for the encouragement. Yes, I know it’s about HER, but boy it still smarts. What an untimely end, yet also…timely.

  11. Pingback: What is the question you ask yourself « Writing Under a Pseudonym

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