Saturday, April 17, 2010

Judas and the Deafening Sound of Silence

This person, we'll call him Judas, since I do not know anyone by that name and, at its heart, the issue with him is a feeling of betrayal. Judas was one of the first friends I made in college and was truly the first friend that I made after a particularly traumatic time in my life. Though fodder for another post, I will say that I suffered an anxiety attack towards the end of high school and had no idea what was happening to me. I thought that I was going crazy and, as a result, I spent most of May - August 2001 at home, trying to figure out why I was feeling like everything around me was unraveling. Leaving the house was quite difficult but I knew that there were certain things that I would absolutely have to force myself to do. One of them was attending an orientation for the Macaulay Honors College. It was there that I met Judas.

Judas was everything that I needed in a friend at that moment. He was witty and charismatic. He was into the same things that I was, from music to movies and television shows. We struck up an instant bond. Every moment I spent in his presence was one in which I didn't have to face the terrible reality of the anxiety I was dealing with. In an ironic way, I suppose that I granted him saviour status; after all, he was delivering me from the hell I was experiencing--so why not?

Fast-forward nine months to April 2002. Heather and I had been flirting (a fact that had been obvious to everyone around us save ourselves) for a few months and it had become clear that there was something more going on than simple playful banter. On April 9th at 1:51 p.m. I asked Heather out and she said yes. Among the first things we spoke about that first week was how our dating would affect my friendship with Judas. Heather is an incredibly intuitive and compassionate woman, demonstrated by her desire not to interrupt or interfere with the activities that Judas and I did together. She would purposely refrain from accompanying us out for lunch on most days so as not to make Judas feel like he was a third wheel.

Ultimately, it was inevitable that the three of us would be spending time together. We did everything that we could to ensure that Judas did not feel uncomfortable and out of place and, for his part, he claimed not to feel strange. He still maintained his friendship with me but he felt as if he now had an additional friendship with the two of us. We were, in his words, "his favorite couple."

Over the next few years, the three of us spent a great deal of time doing things together. On more than one occasion, Judas told us that we were among his best if not his very best friends; things did not seem like they could be any better between us. Then, in 2004, a series of events unfolded that forever altered the way that I looked at Judas. All of the terrible things that people said about him, about his being selfish and self-serving, about his inability to care about the interests and desires of others, suddenly gained credence with me. Where I had spent three years defending him vigorously and vociferously, I found that I was a fool. Where I had felt like I was held in higher esteem than the other people he mistreated, I found myself rudely awakened to the reality that I was no different; consequently, the saviour fell from the pedestal I had erected for him and I saw him for what he was.

In 2005 we graduated from college. I harbored a great deal of hurt towards Judas and he was either unaware of this or uncaring about it. I spent some time apart from our friendship, not actively pursuing it, as much for the sake of confirmation than for the repairing of my bruised heart and ego. A number of people had said that they felt like I was more of a friend to Judas than he was to me. "If such was the case," I reasoned, "then if I stop contacting him and pull back from propping up our friendship, then he won't make the effort on his end." I was right.

Over the next five years (2005 - 2010) I saw Judas a total of maybe twenty times. If he lived in Wyoming and I in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland then this would be both understandable and acceptable. The truth of the matter is that we have lived no more than forty-five minutes apart, separated by one borough for the bulk of that time and then two. He was involved with the wedding in 2007 because of the fact that he had been there from the beginning and appeared to know Heather and I better than most. During the twelve months following that blessed event in our lives, Heather and I saw Judas two or three times. I confronted him on the issue, asking him if there was a problem and, if there was, what could be done to fix it. I suppressed the hurt that I felt in the interest of saving the friendship but was met with either silence or "Nothing's wrong," which, more often than not, was his passive way of saying that he didn't want to talk about what was actually wrong.

I spent the bulk of 2009 attempting to reignite and rebuild my friendship with Judas. Having held the hurt of previous years in my heart for so long, I tried to be like Heather and to forgive and forget without hesitation. I made more than a dozen attempts to set up activities ranging from brief outings for dinner or drinks, to trips out to his place or invitations out to mine. Most of these inquiries went unacknowledged and the few that were responded to were batted away with vague sentiments of "thanks but no thanks."

I suppose that it appears like I should have gotten the hint but I tell you that this was not the case. As much as it might seem like he was attempting to distance himself from Heather and I, he took a number of actions that spoke to the contrary. On one rare occasion that he did go out for drinks with me, he spoke about some serious things coming up in his life--things that he wouldn't tell a random acquaintance. Just when it would seem like he would fade off into the sunset, he would send some sort of communication indicating that he was still interested in our friendship. Still, I knew that something was bothering him and I began to sense that I knew what (or rather who) it was.

January 2010 rolls around and it is a few days before Timmy's baby shower. Out of everyone that we have invited to celebrate with us only one person hasn't responded. It is Judas. When I hadn't heard from him in the first week or so after the invitations went out, I had a feeling that he wasn't going to come and I felt that I knew why. It was a childish reason and I wondered if he would have the courage to broach the issue with Heather and I directly; he did not. When it got down to the final week before the party and I still hadn't gotten an answer out of Judas, I made a resolution to myself. If he did not respond one way or another to the invitation (he had already given two weak excuses, saying that he was "waiting to find out about another party the same day," one that Heather and I suspected did not even exist) then that would be evidence enough that he was not interested in being friends with us any longer.

Despite the history that we shared, as well as his involvement with the theretofore biggest event of my life (my wedding), if he chose to disrespect Heather and I by not extending us the courtesy of saying he was not coming, then I would have no choice but to terminate our friendship--something that I had been advised to do extensively by other friends that I had gone to for guidance on the issue. It was Heather's voice that stopped me from burning the bridge and cutting the cord. She felt it was better to leave things as they were, regardless of whether Judas came to the party.

A few days before the baby shower I got the message. He wasn't coming. It was the doubtful party that was getting in the way. That he had found out about after receiving our invitation. For someone he really wasn't all that close with. I was happy because I finally felt like I knew that he truly didn't feel the way about us that he purported to; he was a liar. Still, Heather's voice resonated in my mind. Could I really allow one party to destroy the meaning that the previous nine years had had? So I bit down on the hurt that tried to crawl out from deep within and said nothing.

Then Timmy was born. Over the first two or three weeks that we had him home, all of our closest friends and family nearby came to meet him. Everyone except for Judas. Sometime in February, a month after Timmy was born, we received a text saying that he was working hard at studying for an exam but that as soon as he was done he wanted to come by. I didn't want him to. Heather disagreed. I relented. And so we waited. A few weeks after the completion of his exam, we received another correspondence saying that he wanted to come by and bring dinner for us later that week. We gave him our times of availability and told him to let us know when he'd like to come by. He didn't. That was strike two.

Finally, last week I received a text from him (is anyone noticing a trend yet?) saying that he was going to be at a wake nearby and he wanted to come by. Again I told him when we would be home--Friday night, Saturday night, and all day Sunday. He said he would let me know for sure when he would be coming. This, our last weekend before Heather's return to work, came and went without a single correspondence. Strike three; you're out.

As I came around the bend for a second lap through Clove Lakes I had my epiphany. I finally saw the writing that had been on the wall for years: Heather and I did not mean nearly as much to Judas as we had thought. The conclusion I reached is logical and I believe quite accurate. If we were as highly esteemed in Judas' eyes as he claimed, would he have bailed three different times on coming to see us and to meet our son? Would he have twice said nothing at all, not offering so much as a, "Hey guys, sorry I actually won't be able to make it" note? For that matter, would it even be the middle of April that this introduction would be taking place? Nearly three full months after Timmy was born? No. If we were as close as the artifice of our friendship portrayed, he would have been among the first and surely would have come during that first precious week or two of Timmy's life.

I exited the park having conquered the hill a second time. I resolved to call Judas and to tell him everything that I just now wrote. I would give him an earful that he'd never forget. And then I spoke to Heather about it. Knowing the eternal pacifist that she is, I prepared myself for a debate about my course of action. She asked me why I had to make such a phone call in the first place. Why not leave things as they were? I could not answer the first question with any justifiable response ("Because it will make me feel better" and "Because he deserves it" sounded terrible in my mind and even worse coming out of my mouth). I argued with her, accusing her of always preferring to avoid confrontation rather than settle disagreements with cold precision. "I need closure. I can't just let things be!" I tell her, not without a tinge of indignant pride. She just nods her head, as much in agreement with me as in pity. I pick up on this. The conversation ends. In saying nothing she has said everything. Did I really need to blow Judas out of the water? No. Would it really make me feel that much better if I did? Undoubtedly. But would it be the right thing to do? As the Magic 8-Ball says: Ask again later.

I slept on it. I prayed for guidance. I thought about what Heather had said. I thought more about what she didn't say. I concluded that she was right. In the end, Judas isn't worth the taint that I would be placing on my soul and the karma that would be born from my aggressive action. Instead, I turn to the serenity that I finally encountered yesterday in Clove Lakes Park. The verdict has been reached within the court of my soul. Without sounding haughty and self-indulgent, Judas doesn't deserve to be a part of Timmy's life; he hasn't earned that right. Nor does he have any place in mine. Do I need to light him up to make that clear? No, I don't.

I can scream and accuse Judas until I'm blue in the face but all that I will accomplish is making myself look like a fool (as has happened more times in my life than I'd like to admit). Nothing can change what has happened and nothing can erase the hurt Judas' behavior has caused me. I have only one option: to move forward. It is my choice whether or not I drag the chains of his hurtful acts behind me; frankly, that is baggage that I do not need. If I make that phone call and burn that bridge, I will forever have that memory etched into my mind, my heart, and my soul. If I say nothing then I can let this fade away and focus instead on my wonderful son and wife, and those who choose to be a part of our family.

All the words that I have at my disposal will amount to nothing in Judas' ears. In the words of Billy Joel: my silence is my self-defense. And that silence will be deafening.