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Monday, December 30, 2013

Deleting Old Emails and a Rant

Do you ever go through your emails like once a year and delete a lot of them?  And feel sad about some?

I did that last night.  A lot were routine emails of blog comments.  I keep the most meaningful ones.  But some were from a friend I had to give up on in early 2011.  In a practical sense, some people just change over a few years and you are not really friends anymore.  But this was someone I had known since college days 40 years ago. 

The break came when he wanted me to drive him to a place with A-rated plywood for his new toy train setup in the basement and carry the plywood into his basement.  I have always been helpful to him and done the hard work (he says he has a "bad back" which I have reasons to doubt) watching him do things he enjoys.

But when I sat down and thought about it, I realized that he was asking me to drive my trailer 30 miles to his house, 60 miles to the wood place, 60 miles back to his house, and then 30 miles back to my house.  I checked the wood at the place he liked and found it was the same as could be ordered from the local Home Depot.  "A" grade is "A" grade.  But he would have none of that.  He likes the wood store 90 miles away from him.

I mentioned that in an email (I had to mention details in email because he just evades conversational disputes of any sort).

He responded that I was "mean and hurtful and don't contact me anymore".  OK, he does this every few years.  I usually reply in a way to jolly him out of his unhappiness.  He HATES having his plans questioned even when all the work is being done by others. 

And my initial reaction was to get him "happified" again.  But you know what?  This time I didn't.  I unloaded the personal shotgun on him.  I told him how insensitive he was, how demanding, and how unreasonable he had become over the years and had become worse.  I told him that when he needed help around the house and yard, he had me.  But when I needed help around the house and yard, I still only had me.  He eventually replied "How do we re-engage"?   Re-engage?  That was "goodbye jerk" and I made that clear.  And that's the last I heard from him.

But as I was going through the old emails, I found a few from him still there.  I deleted them.  A part of my life over.  But it also felt sad doing it.  The last one I deleted was where he criticized me in return.  I paid great attention on to those 6 things a last tine.  One was even accurate (I am not really good talking on the telephone).  But that was about all he could say.

He complained that I never took him fishing in my boat the last few years.  Well he was inept and useless in a boat.  You know those cartoons where a person has one foot on the pier and another in the boat and the boat slowly moves away from the pier?  He actually did that.  And I had to to do all the work unloading and reloading the boat on the trailer every single time. He couldn't. 

He tipped over our canoe once leaning way too far over the edge in uplake Canada.  When I saw what he was doing I yelled and grabbed for the other side, but 225 pounds beats 160 pounds every time.

After I got the canoe righted and mostly bailed out, I got him back in on one side while I held the other.  I then spent an hour going down to feel around for our gear and retrieving what I could.  He couldn't because he "couldn't swim well".  The water was shallow enough for him (at 6' 4") to stand in).  He wouldn't.  He didn't have to swim, because *I* could.  

And along that line, we had to canoe back 10 miles on the open lake on the last day of our vacation to the camping station when a storm came up.  He had no idea what to do.  I did.  I was in the back of the canoe (of course) and drove the canoe quartering the waves to the lee side of the lake.  We hit shore and waited for the storm to pass. 

He complained that I wasn't a very "neat" person.  OK, My floors weren't fit of to eat from.  He used to clean his baseboards once a week and his floors daily.  Well, yeah, I'm not like that.  I'm pretty sure you can't eat off my floors safely. 

He was also angry that my family doesn't have big funeral ceremonies.  Never mind that that was none of his business, we just don't do that.  The family habit is cremation and no ceremony.  You were alive, you are dead, nice to have known you, good life and all of that.  My own expectations are the same.  Distribute my ashes around the yard, raise a glass of wine in my memory, and history goes on. Glad I was part of it.

And finally, he repeated again that I was "mean".  By that, he meant I was honest.  I told him what I thought for 40 years, I explained what I meant, and I gave reasons.  That was too straightforward and he never liked it, I guess, and I suppose it wore him out over all the years.  He considered honesty to be "mean" in that what I said sometimes didn't make him feel good about himself.

He was a constantly annoying person.  He never kept a job in one office for more than a few years because he utterly aggravated every co-worker and supervisor he encountered.  But he always had a great technical resume, so he could move on.  Every place he worked at was "corrupt" and "incompetent".  For all I know, he was right, but he never gave much actual evidence of that. I suspect mostly that he was a real "pill" to work with.

So last night, I deleted the last of his emails and went to bed.  I slept well.  Sometimes, you just have to cut connections.


Megan said...

Mark - I think you and I must be twins separated at birth. Really!

It's difficult to deal with a long-time friend whose behaviour has just become beyond the pale. Like you, I much prefer to 'talk' about such things by email, rather than phone. (I've actually told some people over the years that I have a phobia about making phone calls so that they lower their expectations of my using the phone for a chat! LOL)

All friendships are give and take. It's not that things need to be even at the end of every day, every month or even every year, but over a long period of time, it doesn't work if one person feels that the friendship is very lopsided (in the other person's favour).

One wonders what kind of upbringing your friend might have had to have developed the mindset and behaviours that he has. In the end, you simply can't change people; only they can choose to change themselves. And if this chap didn't value your friendship sufficiently to reflect on your feedback in a mature manner and talk it through more with you, then it's probably better for you to lose that friend than continue, feeling as though you're always subsidising him (so to speak).

But perhaps you could give me his email address. I want to invite him over: I'm prepared to tolerate his irritating ways for a few hours while he cleans the baseboards and floors at my place!

Sydney, Australia

PS. My father died in June. We didn't have a funeral. My husband and I met my mother at the funeral parlour and swapped stories about him for about 20 minutes. He had a cardboard coffin, which I wrote a farewell message on, and then we left and the funeral director organised the cremation (with no family present). My brother and sister-in-law live on the other side of the country and didn't come to Sydney. There were no floral tributes, no memorial service, no nuffink.
I believe that quite a few people thought our approach bizarre and even insulting to my father's memory. However, it was what my mother wanted. I was very proud that she was strong enough to do what she wanted to do and didn't feel obliged to conform to 'everyone's' expectations.

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

Megan - after realizing that 99% of all the telephone calls I received were scam advertizment calls, I switched it to go straight to voice mail so that I could just delete them the second I heard the familiar recorded ad.

My friend had a hard life. The only child of a demanding jewish father and very christian mother. They were divorced when he was young. My only experience with his father was that he was cold and dismissive of his son (and pretty much anyone else).

My only experience with his mother was her screaming at him (and him in return) at every visit (it was so expected that I wasn't even allowed into the house on the rare visit). She had John Birch (crazy lunatic right wing) bumper stickers on her car.

Both his parents were crazy, and both died young (no great surprise at that). I sure gave my friend a lot of tolerance over the years because of his weird parents and his "only child" status.

I spent years being his friend, to help him get along with life, and to not be judgemental to the best of my ability.

There were other problems. He had a terrible motorcycle accident (I think he was slightly suicidal) before I met him in college that left his face scarred. It never bothered me (and it was less bad that he thought), but he wore a ski mask for a couple years.

But sometimes even the best of efforts get worn out. I did my best for 40 years, I wish it could have been another 40. I just wore out and finally had to just protect my own self.

I'm sure that he could say a lot on his side. And against me. I'm sure not perfect either. But I did just have to finally give up.

Katie Isabella said...

Mark, I had a friendship (I thought) that I finally slammed the door on 3 years ago after years of being the one (as were you) to do it all. And get insulted in return.
Folks will and do use you in such a manner that you are unable to really see it for what it is until perhaps the so-called friend commences to even pretend to be a friend. I have and give a lot of latitude but my eyes were wrenched open...finally. Good riddance to nothing.

Megan said...

Thanks for the background info about your friend's family, Mark. You sound as though you were a very good friend to this chap over an extended period of time, and I imagine it was a difficult decision to cease the friendship: it probably resulted in some introspection about the kind of person you are. I hope you weren't too hard on yourself.

Sydney, Australia

Mariodacatsmom said...

I'd say good riddance! It's too bad tho, but I think you were in a no-win situation with him. I hate to see old friendships die too - I've lost a couple due to death, but not because of "words." It must hurt - at least I would be hurt if someone pulled that on me.

Katnip Lounge said...

Good for you. I have had a couple of emotional vampires in my life, and it's hard to deal with them, because the passive-aggressive thing always ends up making YOU feel like the jerk. Well, that ain't so!

Happy (unencumbered) New Year!


Andrea and the Celestial Kitties said...

I had a user friend too. She thought nothing of asking me to drive her anywhere at any time and she'd cry if I couldn't do it on her schedule. I like the term Trish used, emotional vampire, very fitting here. She wouldn't drive, too scared to learn and her husband wouldn't get a job to so he could get a car. Eventually we gave them a used car and all the sudden she didn't have time to talk any more.. Every time I called she'd ask if she could call me back 'in a few' and I'd say fine. I'd call back in a week or so and get the same thing. Finally I told her that I wouldn't call again, that the ball was in her court and when she had time and wanted to talk, she would have to call me. That was 20 years ago. Sometimes it makes me sad, but not much. Guess I finally helped her enough that she didn't need me any more. Life is better with out leaches.
Hope you have a wonderful new year free of aggravation!

Katie Isabella said...

LOVED reading these knowing I am not the only one and Trish's word is great!