I only ever tossed one friend in my life. At the time, I viewed it as more or less as “shelving” not out right permanently tossing.
My GF was bio-polar and occasionally went off her meds. One day, I met her in my driveway as I was heading to an out-of-state writer’s conference, extremely late. She pulled up and got out of her vehicle, visibly agitated.
“Where’s Sierra?” she demanded.
“In the house. What’s wrong?”
“A lot. We need to talk right now.”
I explained that it was impossible and to call me later that night to share what was on her mind. She was being very cryptic about the topic but was angry and very upset.
I left but my GF did not. She found my daughter inside our home, got in her face with a pointed finger and proceeded to yell at her for nearly half an hour. She told her what would happen to her at Temple University where she was heading in only a week or two as a freshman.
My GF’s son attended the same school and made very poor choices while he was there- became addicted to drugs, slept with a prof, got in trouble with the law. It wasn’t the university’s fault nor the city of Philadelphia’s fault and his choices had absolutely nothing to do with my daughter.
In an attempt to get away from my friend, Sierra ran out of her home, into the forest and hid there sobbing until my GF left. Sierra tried to call me, her father at work, many family friends trying to get help.
I was pretty upset when I found this all out. I know that a person’s tongue responds to the condition of their heart and I knew this was about my GF’s personal pain and fears. My GF soon realized what she did and wrote a 6 page letter of apology. I didn’t need to forgive her, I already had but I did want some space. Sierra and I both felt raw.
Time got away from me and after 1 ½ years, I heard that my GF hung herself. The pain in her heart and in her life exceeded what she could handle. I felt partially responsible. No one commits suicide if they feel loved and needed. I vowed that I would never do anything even remotely similar to tossing a friend again, not even part-time.
Interestingly, when I look back on 2014, the thing that stands prominently out is tossing. I was tossed multiple times.
At this time last year, I was deeply involved and committed to a veteran’s organization that helped struggling veterans transition from the war by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. I became the director’s assistant and dedicated much of my energy promoting the organization and writing about it. But he derailed in a mean and hurtful way and so I was led to begin my own organization, River House PA for hurting veterans. I believed that I knew a lot about the healing peace found in the natural world and had dedicated my life to pursuing it and writing and encouraging others to do the same. But through this process, I lost two very good friends of over 25 years, for reasons, I am not sure of.
No matter how many times I apologized for the possibility of hurting them unintentionally, my friends have decided that their lives would be better with me not in it, as I decided of my bi-polar GF years ago. I must honor that. We cannot be expected to change who we are after decades.
My kids say I needed to get rid of a few to make room for all the new veterans who have come into my life but I don’t buy that. There is room in a person’s heart for everyone. My kids question if this new endeavor of helping veterans is responsible for losing my long-term friends and if it is worth it. Sometimes, I allow that thought to pass my mind and wonder what I am doing. I am very glad that none of them ask me what I think about war and killing and all that horrible stuff, these new friends who are usually conservative Republicans. I am glad we never go there. I read over a dozen books about what happened in the Middle East and what is happening to these suffering Veterans now and I have even less of an understanding of WHY and if it was worth it and is still worth it, when I see what it has done to our young people.
But thankfully, no one is asking me. My family and I (as well as all of River House PA’s supporters) believe we know how we can be of help to them. By taking them out into nature- in a boat, on a trail, by a campfire, and allowing the peace of the natural world help soothe them. I’ve spent my whole life discovering the natural world and writing about it so others can learn too. With my children grown, River House and my veterans seems like a very good purpose.
I see some of my blog subscribers discontinued following me. I figure they grew fatigued of hearing about the plight of our veterans. But they who have nightmares every single night over and over or who struggle with learning how to live without limbs, they don’t get much of a break. The least we can do is be there in the darkness with them and try to lift them towards the light. Sometimes I go to bed feeling very sad and think that I spent 58 years being a happy positive person and this doesn’t feel good but they aren’t feeling good either.
So here at the turn of the year, I am reflecting on tossing and that empty feeling of abandonment but also the uplifting feeling that we can work together to make it better. With 22 veterans committing suicide a day, if I can buoy even one of them up enough to not feel hopeless and alone and learn of a place in nature where they can find peace, to be a friend, then it is worth it. I do miss my friends and wish I could bring them back, especially the impossible one who decided to toss it all.