Apologizing doesn’t always mean you are wrong…it means you value your relationships more than your ego.
I value my ego. It’s not an attractive quality – I admit. But I am Midwestern and we are a proud, bootstrappy kind of a people. We don’t emote publicly; restraint and stoicism are respected. Of course, so are mullets, so take the culture with a grain of salt.
Just over six months ago, I had a conflict with a friend of mine. That’s about the understatement of the year. I had an all-out, screaming, name-calling, banging on the table, confrontational nightmare of a fight with a friend who has been one of the closest people to me for 15 years. I lost sleep. Lots of (private) tears. We became absolutely estranged – not a word or a glance was exchanged after the blowout. Not on Facebook; we avoided the same gatherings, I pulled out of the larger social group to which we both belonged. I grieved the loss of my confidante, my partner-in-sarcasm, gossip and dieting, the person who knew me before my days of diapers/naps/tooth fairy, my bridesmaid.
We lived side by side before we made Aliyah – first sharing a tiny Upper East Side studio apartment, then I moved across the hall and we shared a bathroom wall. We could speak while in the shower – the walls were so thin we could have entire conversations. She prepared coffee when I was late to work. We ordered takeout together as Manhattanites do – I remember her tofu sour cream based burrito order by heart. She taught me how to cook. She did a dance for me on the stairs of our apartment building when I got engaged and dutifully asked me to show off my ring. Every day. For months. We were young marrieds together, with no cares and no responsibility – it was a marvelous time in our lives and we recognized the preciousness of it all.
We moved to Israel within a few years of each other – she went first – and she showed me the ropes when I arrived. Who teaches birthing classes in English? Do I need a doula? Which gan is best? She walked me through decisions and life changes. I snuck food in and sat with her when her daughter was hospitalized. We counted on each other.
She became more religious, began associating with a monied, shul-based community. A crowd I called “The Kerchiefers” (the women wear little handkerchiefs to cover their hair) to whom I did not relate nor understand. It didn’t matter. We drove over to her place late on Shabbat afternoons (judgement-free) and drank coffee and played board games together between diaper changes and timeouts. Then my husband and I expanded our family and moved out of the city in search of greenery and space. Again, the change did not effect our friendship. We did not feel the distance and continued to chat while baking challah at our respective homes every Friday.
Then came the conflict. It was huge and deafening and righteous. I was right. I felt it. I knew it. I could not waver from my position since my professionalism, my pride, my reputation, my work ethic – everything I stood for – was on the line. The friendship was suspended, swiftly and immediately, and I didn’t know if it would ever – could ever – rekindle. I felt like I had lost a limb in some kind of freak accident – it was that immediate and final. It stung as badly.
I made overtures. They were rebuffed. I began to see both sides of the conflict – but still – insisted (to my husband, to myself) that I was right, and being right was the most important thing. I stood for something and could not waiver or I would lose sight of myself and my values.
Then, last week, while enjoying kabobim in a Bet Shemesh hummusia, I received a quick, casual text message from her. She invited me for coffee. I stared at my phone for about 1/10 of a second before accepting the invitation. Then I sent a joke and she vollied back an LOL. I showed up for coffee the next day. We hugged and we cried in true chick-flick fashion. We apologized. She explained to me (while I actually listened) how she felt, how she saw the situation, how difficult this year had been for her without me. I conveyed the mourning I felt for our friendship, for her camaraderie, for her humor, for her family. I missed her kids.
We talked about how to rebuild things genuinely, rather than opting for a sweep-it-under-the-rug method. She made respectful requests and I was up for the challenge. Not only did I leave my comfort zone, I basically catapulted out of it in a successful effort to win my friend back.
Not because I was wrong. Not because she was wrong. But because you cannot make old friends.