Shamed by a good friend Part 1

My second example involves engaging with and handling the recent shaming behavior of a close friend. Maya and I have been friends for nearly three decades. We have many professional interests in common. I am 25 years her senior. And, while we have had a challenging relationship over the years, we are good friends. I share my cares and sorrows with her.

Well, I used to.

Until this week.

This week was one of the most potent times since Karl died more than two years ago. I came to a financial settlement with Karl’s vehicle insurance company over my compensation claim. And I received news that Tweed Shire Council is repairing the rural road where Karl died. (I doubted they would ever do it!)

I feel confident that I am nearing the end of this phase of my healing journey. Many close friends have been monitoring my progress, holding me in their hearts, and showering me with blessings, support, encouragement and, occasionally, advice. It’s been a warm and heartfelt time if a bit stressful.

Maya and I GO out to dinner

Maya and I go out to dinner. We find a secluded table in a new local restaurant that has the perfect menu. The weather is balmy for Vancouver, and we walk there with our coats unbuttoned, delighting in the pleasures of an early Spring. We are sharing stories, and she is offering advice about fixing my tiny, inconvenient kitchen. Maya has recently been feeling prosperous. She is wearing stylish new clothes, and I compliment her on her fashion sense. Everything is going fine.

And then it Isn’t.

We pay our bill and are lingering over our flower teas. Then, somewhat abruptly, Maya leans over and takes both my hands in hers. She looks intently at me. She has the most beautiful, loving expression in her eyes. I am a bit startled, and I think maybe — finally — we have connected on a spiritual level. I think that maybe Maya is going to tell me how she admires my struggles in the past two years, how well I am traveling, and how resilient I am. I dream of hearing words of compassion and empathy from her. I look down at her beautiful, slender fingers, her perfectly manicured nails.

I breathe in anticipation.

Wrong again.

So wrong again.

“Wendy,” Maya begins, her eyes now locked on mine.

I know you are about to get an insurance payout. And I sincerely want you to do what I say: put it – all of the money – into a bank account. Just a regular bank account. That’s what my dad told me to tell you. Don’t invest any of it. Not one cent. It’s too risky. We both know that you have made a lot of poor decisions about money in your life and particularly in recent years.

And you have had to call for help several times. Like when you lost your house and your so-called friend (what was her name, Morag?) abandoned you for whatever problems she had (was that online gambling or something?). You have been getting into risky situations for years, and things always go wrong for you. Investing at this stage of your life is just too dangerous. I hope you will listen to my advice. As my dad says, just put the whole lot in the bank and live off it.

(It’s not worth explaining that if I did that, I’d run out of money well before I died. That is not what this story is about.)

Maya barely draws breath before she continues. She enumerates the numerous occasions when I have made foolish financial mistakes. She tells me that I am making a poor decision. Again. She reminds me that it is a pattern with me.

(At this point, I notice another pattern: sharing my life with Maya and then paying for it.)     

I draw my hands back from hers and sat trembling, struggling for breath, tightness spreading through my chest and toward my throat. I feel like a punished child, slapped in the face, severely scolded, and told I am not all right.              

I am bad.              

Bad Wendy.

When I can speak, my voice sounds like a strangled rooster, words spewing forth in fragments. Breathless, I stare at Maya. But not in amazement. I have been here before with Maya. More than once. I realize – finally — that Maya has been doing this to me for a long time. Long before Karl died. And after he died, she repeatedly wrote to me to discourage me from moving to Vancouver. (She even contacted my spiritual director, asking her to convince me not to move to Canada.)

Now I remember those heartbreaking telephone conversations and her shaming emails.

Karl warned me repeatedly about Maya, including warnings that came after he died:

I’d advise you to be most judicious about who you ask for help in Canada because you don’t want to accept help that comes with a “sting”. It would bring anyone down and leave you feeling humiliated. And we cannot afford to have you brought down.

Toughen up

Further, Karl declares, “With Maya, you now have a taste of Vancouver. Not everyone will be welcoming to you – and you need to ‘toughen up’ a bit, so their indifference does not hurt you.”

I respond to Karl with even more requests for his support: “Really, I need some help with my radical trust – since Maya, for one, does not believe that I can manage a move to Vancouver. And I feel humiliated by what she says to me! I do! It makes me feel terrible when I read what she writes.”

Two days later, I add to Karl:

The blaming tone of Maya’s email stung me. I did not realize that I’d been bad to my Canadian friends – or overstepped some invisible line. Oh, dear! This has been a real hit to my self-confidence!

Two days later, I exclaim:

Part of me wants to show nonbelievers like Maya that I do have God – and you – on my side. It’s not ego. It’s just a belief in miracles.

And a little later, I say to Karl, “Please keep the blessings coming. They bolster my confidence and say a gentle ‘fuck you’ to the naysayers. Maya, for starters.”

Sadly, Maya is not satisfied with delivering dire warnings about winter snow and my Vancouver friends’ inability to care for me. When I email her ecstatically in March 2017, reporting that I had rented a suite in Strathmore Lodge in Vancouver’s West End, she fires back with a website report about bedbugs in that building.

Karl is right onto that:

This is a most important lesson. You must accept (and honor) that you simply march to a different drummer. Others (like Maya) will never be able to get it. Do not worry about them.

A postscript (September 2019):

Two years later, I must confess that, on one level, Maya was right about the investment. As the Aussies would say, the Florida-based property developer was little more than a dodgy sleazebag, and I barely escaped.  But I did survive, and no losses were incurred. (In fact, I made a nice profit but only for 18 months.) And, as I told Maya at the time, and I repeat to myself today, I did not escape from a submerged car to be untouched. I need to live in the world, to take risks, and to experience the consequences.