Wiggle Your Big Toe

Sometimes you don’t get the happy ending you’ve always dreamed of.

You don’t get the apology you deserved.

You don’t get the goodbye they always promised if the time came.

“Lots of excuses come from lots of fears,” someone once told me.

You don’t get a consolation prize.

What you do get is the freedom to move forward.

To forgive without ever knowing if you were forgiven.

To fill that numb void with other things.

To convince yourself that it didn’t mean something.

Smile and don’t let anyone see that you are like the Cheshire Cat and the smile is the last thing to fade once the rest of you is gone.

To stop bleeding on other people who didn’t cut you.

To wiggle your big toe and start walking again.

Now.

Wiggle. Your. Big. Toe.

Unfriend

What a horrid word, yet seeming so soft and simple for what it really means. It contains the word “friend” yet like the word “unwind” it implies something else. It indicates an unraveling of something that bound you with someone else. Like an old sweater, being pulled until it is nothing but a length of yarn and no indication that it ever held any other form. To be able to burn a bridge because one little word is that tenuous thread that holds worlds together these days. That it has become the validation of who someone is in your life.

Friendship doesn’t work like this. Unfriend in this case is more like “abort.”

If you were my friend, you are always going to be remembered as such. I still care. I can’t help but care and hope you are well and safe and happy and smiling and laughing. I can’t help but love you. If it is possible to delete these feelings I had for you, the moments we shared, then it was never friendship.

It takes a lot to push that button. The one that renders so much of what we shared to digital vapor. If I pushed it, know that it was a decision I did not make with a light heart. My finger flinched. I had doubts. If we didn’t have the “friend” button would we have ever been friends? My stomach balled up with a fist of acid. I fought anxiety attacks and made myself breathe long and slow and steady breaths until my heart calmed itself again. It took a while–not like the way hearing your voice could make it beat normally again in seconds. I stopped sleeping.

But looking at you through that digital glass was more than I could take. Pretending things could go back to “normal.” Convincing myself that I wasn’t in pain every moment I was missing out with you. Wondering why I couldn’t come with you, or why you didn’t want to come with me. Why I didn’t make the cut. Why I was an option and not a choice.

In pushing that button, I have erased myself. I understand that. It wasn’t to send a message. It was to stop me from hurting myself anymore. Like a missing tooth, eventually you stop putting your tongue in that space where it once was. It was never done out of anger. It was done out of love because I could no longer continue to walk down that path of resenting the times we shared. Knowing that I would get to hold onto a piece of something we shared for many, many years. Just like I promised. To always be yours.

I chose to love you unconditionally. Which isn’t the same as turning a blind eye to watching someone unravel themselves, or waving at them from the shore as they drift away and pretending you don’t know what is happening. Validation is accounted for with how many “likes” or hearts you get from other people, when I could only give you one heart: mine. I made a boundary with myself when I touched that unfriend button, that I wasn’t going to let my love for you become something awful.

It can also mean that the little spark that you ignited in my heart gets to burn forever. With or without you. Outside of the parameters of an app.

I’ll keep it safe.

You were never my unfriend.

How to Lose Someone Important to You

Shut them out

Communication is key, and non-communication is an even better key! If you do find yourself in a situation where you are opening up and communicating, be sure to have a supply of things that come up that you can use to avoid any further communication. Emotional neglect and giving the bare minimum is also a good way of letting them know how clingy they’ve been.

Ignore apologies. What matters more is how much they hurt you, instead of a willingness to overcome that hurt. After all, apologies admit weakness, and you need someone stronger than that in your life.

Tell them you need to Process. And by Process, it means distract yourself with all sorts of other bullshit, hanging out with friends, closing down the bar, or doing literally anything else besides Processing. Your toxic friends will provide the right throwaway piece of advice your way because their lives are so stellar. Prefereably in meme or motivational quote form. Or wine.

Don’t box me in! Accuse them of lumping you in with their past while following textbook behaviors demonstrated by people in their past. Because all of us are a completely blank page who shouldn’t rely on past experience to inform us that things are about to implode. Especially if your own self-destructive patterns are right on schedule and obvious to anyone who knows you. There’s nothing worse than being lumped in with your own past behavior!

Remind them they hurt your trust: Tell them in very long text messages that there is nothing they can do to regain that trust. Make sure to repeat this process every week so they know you can never regain your trust. Repeat as often as it takes to explain in excruciating detail how they will never regain your trust. And how there is nothing they can do to fix it. Ever.

When you hurt yourself, make sure they see it. Even the closest people to us in our lives can’t withstand watching us dismantle all the progress we’ve made in our lives. Even the ones who love us will show their true colors when they watch you go off the rails and have to Step Away. Sad choices are the comfort food of emotional healing.

Push away the people who love you most. These people won’t always say what you want to hear. They see good in you, potential, and they will call you out when they are watching you hurt yourself. Being called out hurts, so why let other people hurt you when you are already an expert? If they decide to step back and let you do this, that’s on them.

Orbits are better than emotional investment. Why have one sure thing (that is sure to fail) when you can have four or five people in orbit around you that combine to make at least 1&3/4 of a sure thing! Like old scraps of cloth for quilters, or keeping a jar of bolts and screws, at some point they will serve some kind of purpose. Look at how much emotional support you get too! And if you want, you can always get laid.

ABA: Always be assuming! Actually talking to the other person rarely accomplished anything. You know they are talking shit about you with their friends! What about that song they put on their Facebook! It was a dig! Fuck them! Why aren’t they texting back? Why did they text back?! What are they saying about me??!!

Change the nature of your relationship. Always roll back the nature of your relationship. After all, don’t all people who are “just friends” do these kinds of things with each other? You’ve probably got half a dozen “friends” who stuck around for the breadcrumbs you’ve been throwing them. Hell, they probably told you how much of an asshole this person was too (they are totally objective, btw). If they read too much into things, that’s on them!

Here are some examples of rolling back:

  • Parent = Sperm/Egg donor
  • Valuable employee = Former person in that position
  • My dream job = What I wanted to do when I grew up
  • Lover = Friend with benefits
  • Fuckbuddy = Somebody who keeps bugging me
  • Boy/Girlfriend = An old friend
  • The One = Someone I used to hang out with
  • The One who got away = That motherfucker

Commiserate with enablers

  • People who still want to bang you: You’d be surprised to know how supportive someone you used to sleep with will be when you are in a crisis. You’ll soon see that you were right! It was the other person’s fault entirely! What a good listener.
  • Just any random person: They will see things only through their lens and if you curate the information you give them, it’s pretty certain they will see things your way. If they don’t, then there are other random people to commiserate with.
  • Have a heart to heart with the most toxic person in your life: You’ll see how honest, supportive, and hopeful for your well-being someone is who has completely fucked up the lives of others for their own amusement. This person might have also come pretty close to endangering your safety, your job, and never showed any remorse for dragging you into their drama. Your pain couldn’t possibly just be entertainment for them.

The Process of Healing

Take the high road. Don’t unfriend them. Don’t get angry. Don’t express your frustration. Tell them they are important to you without actually trying to fix anything. You’ll be the good guy. And if there is a good guy, then somebody is the bad guy. Especially when they unfriend and block you, because that’s what bad guys do.

Self-medicate. Spend more time at the bar, or drinking at home. You know, rather than spending an evening hashing things out with someone who you considered important in your life. Alcohol and drugs are great ways to numb any real feeling you might have.

Use your words. Or rather use someone else’s words, and motivational pictures, and TikTok videos, because there is no better way of expressing how you feel than sending someone what somebody else has said about what they feel.

Build walls, not boundaries. Boundaries keep the toxic people out. But walls keep everyone out! At some point everyone will betray you, so build those walls thick and high.

Second chances. The second chances already got used up by everyone else who came before. Their first chance was already their second chance. Or third. Or fourth.

Write your feelings down

Write passive agressive shit about them on the internet. Get angry with them. Write where you know they will see it. Make it bitter. Put it down in words that can’t be unsaid, that will damage the trust between you that was already broken because why the hell not? You didn’t know the secret combination to their heart–Right 26, Left 17, Right 4–to open it. Or was that the combination? Did they even know what it was? How were you supposed to?

What have you got to lose? They walked out of your life. Say the thing. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be mean. It won’t win them back. You lost them a long time ago.

Even though you still love them, even though you want someone who comes home instead of just comes over, even though you know that things can’t go back to how they were, but you can’t help but wonder how things ever were anymore, not now, you don’t trust that anything was real anymore and what was just playing out a fantasy that you wanted and thought they did too. Maybe your finger still itches from where you used to wear their ring. Maybe you still haven’t taken it off. Maybe you see pieces of them in someone else’s smile or laugh. Or when you are scrolling through your phone and you see a picture of them staring right back at you and have to look away because it fucking hurts. Maybe you hear their Name and think about how that special word used to play on your tongue, how you would sometimes say it, just to feel how it felt in your mouth. This is what you get for making plans or daring to daydream. For going past the routine and comfort zones and experiencing actual growth instead of replaying old reruns.

Was it all just a waste of time? Why let anyone get close, ever? Is this why we can’t have nice things?

Sitting there second-guessing your gut. Second-guessing the second-guessing. Keeping your mouth shut even when they were screaming all the warnings at you and waving the red flags and you just watched them drift away. Even when they told you you were overthinking. When they said to stop fishing for assurances. When something was off, but fit perfectly with their old patterns which you had watched before. And yet you had to be right instead of being happy, didn’t you? When you mistook that moment they reached out as wanting you again instead of just…

Stop. Breathe.

Take time to sit in this mess and acknowledge that sometimes things aren’t healthy and that you did enough. You were enough. You were courageous. The only shame you really felt was not feeling worthy of connection with someone who disconnected. Paranoia never brought you happiness. Overthinking is self-harm, just as much as cutting, drinking too much, suicidal thoughts, or alienating yourself from those who truly love you and care about you.

Vulnerability made you beautiful. In spite of your trauma you decided to trust. And you’ll do it again. And again. But each time that weight will be heavier and there are fewer years ahead of you now and we aren’t promised tomorrow. And we are all a little beat up at this age. It doesn’t get any easier.