Sunday

When is a friend not a friend?

Emery,

It's been a while, and I apologize. I've been busy with my latest project, so I've designated just one day -- Sunday -- to responding to letters and emails.

I know it's wrong to have put you last on the list, and I'm sorry; I've been answering the emails first, because they are short and therefore they have become tasks that are quick to complete.

Remember the gal I mentioned who was always giving me jobs? They were never positions that I would have applied for (or been hired for) on my own, but the real problem was that it was a friend I needed at the time, not a job.

I love and admire the women in my life. I don't refer to colleagues, associates, co-workers, or close acquaintances as "friends" like some folks do. I want to save it for the special women in my life, rather than apply it to everyone I know. Some friendships are deeper than others and I wonder if the one that you have with your gal Pam is one that is superficial. And by that I don't mean that either of you are superficial women, I just mean that your friendship may not be based on solid foundation. Friendship involves give and take, and Pam seems to be on the receiving end quite a bit.

Remember my friend Caroline? I'm pretty sure that you met her on one of our trips here.

A few years back she told me about a friend of hers whom she'd nurtured through a lengthy illness. She was in dire need of a break after spending weeknights and weekends sitting up all night with what she soon came to think of as her patient (Caroline is not a nurse by professional), but the woman would call and ask her to stop by for a visit. After a year of taking the gal's laundry to the cleaners and picking up groceries for her, even cleaning her house.

It's this kind of loyalty that makes me love her, but when she told me what she'd be doing this for more than a year, I became angry at the woman for taking advantage of my friend. But it was her choice, wasn't it? Caroline became mildly defensive when I told her how irritated I was by a women whom I'd never met. Clearly, it was her choice to help out a friend, an ill friend. (Before you ask, yes I am ashamed of my jealousy.)

Caroline's friend was taking advantage of her. But it wasn't that which irritated me so much. What really bothered me, I realized later, was that Caroline was so busy tending to her friend's needs that she hadn't much time for me. Selfish, I know.

A year or so later, Caroline began having trouble with her relationship and she felt that this woman, who had become so needy and dependent, wasn't there for her.

And that made me angry, again.

Caroline had given up two years of personal time, and sacrificed other friendships for to take care of someone who wasn't there for Caroline when she needed it. This woman seemed unable to reciprocate with friendship. And that sounds alot like your friend Pam.

While friendship can be cyclical, can you see similarities in Caroline's story and the one your current situation?