This is going to deal with some sensitive personal areas. But I have a reason for making it a public post.
At least one of the people mentioned besides my brother reads this journal, and... read to the end before you say a word.
Once I had a friend. Call him PT. (The only legitimate initials in this whole thing will be my brother's. Most people who matter will know why I picked the ones I picked for the others.)
This friend was dating another friend of mine (Call her BB.)
They broke up, as people do. partly because after a few months, he felt ready to commit and clingy and mentioned the M word. Please note we are talking about people around 20 at the time.
She was not ready to commit to anything.
A month later, and much to their sincere surprise (Especially as, less than a week before, he'd been telling me something that strongly implied that he didn't expect it to happen), my brother, JH, started Dating BB.
I was asked by BB to break it to PT. Cowardice on BB's part? Maybe. But we both knew he was still hoping to get back together.
That was a painful conversation, and yes, it involved weeping on my shoulder. Or near enough as makes no difference.
But after a few days/weeks, PT got it into his head that my brother (Who had been crushing on BB, yes, but said nothing, as he knows not to do these things) had been the reason he and BB broke up; had somehow "Stolen" her by making himself a more attractive option. (Trust me. BB has agency and knows what to do with it.)
So at that year's Fringe Festival, PT spent a day following BB around the various parks and squares (BB could not listen to the Police's "Every Breath You Take" for a long time after without a shiver or five.), and culminated it in stomping up to my brother and threatening to beat his face in. (I should mention here that PT is about 6"1' and broad even when unfit. JH is about 5'9", and built like a long-distance runner. Or was then...)
PT told me later that he'd actually intended to just walk up and swing... and discovered that he hasn't got the violence in him to do it.
Here's the thing: LATER.
I was on the phone with PT for about two hours that night telling him what a Fuck-up he'd been.
And again when I got together with him later that week to figure out how he'd got himself into a mental state where stalking seemed like a remotely good idea. I thought at the time that it was better for him than losing all his friends at once. And maybe it was, in some ways, and decidedly it wasn't, in others.
PT was not cured; he never to my knowledge stalked anyone again, and I don't think he threatened anyone either. But he didn't fix the underlying possessive streak (NAme a thing what it is.) I broke up with him twice AS A FRIEND, because he was growing romantically attached and clingy, convinced we should be a couple regardless of what I said about the matter, jealous if I talked about liking anyone else. (This was not helped by the fact that I flirt with my friends without thinking about it; and I didn't *want* to have to be on my guard with someone who was legitimately a close friend, and with whom I could hash problems or life - as long as it wasn't romantic. So I would absentmindedly flirt. I confess my culpability that far.) In both cases we got together again, at first warily, because he showed sincere effort to mend his ways. Heeven pursued another couple of vague romantic lines (Some of which required the same clue stick dropped on his head of him making bad choices, longing for commitment too early, getting attached any time a female friend showed friendship... turning possessive about any woman about). For a while, he even tried to encourage me in a (vain) romantic pursuit I was following - except he *showed* me the effort, which meant he was acting the same jealous role with a veneer overtop.
And years later, when I thought he was over the worst tendencies to see (almost) any female friend as a romance, I did date him. (Weirdly, I think this was the time his behaviour was the *least* manipulative and borderline.) We both decided it didn't work, then. The most painless and mutual break-up of the four.
Yup. Four. The last one was when I started dating Colin, and KNOWING we had tried it as a couple and failed, he STILL threw a jealous fit. (Well, jealous sulk.)
And talking to someone else a little later, at least one more relationship with one more female friend went sour the same way.
But this isn't a story about the lie that a good woman or a good friend can change a person. This is a story about forgiveness of fuck-ups.
I talked to him again last year. Nothing too personal or intimate, but you know something? It felt nice to not have to fear running into him in those places our social circles overlap. It felt nice to know we might actually sit down and blather sometime at a con. Not in private, and I'm not sure I trust to get remotely close to him again. Forgiveness doesn't mean failing to recognize signs, or letting yourself get into a position which could become that of a victim. But it does mean forgiving.
I should also say, because it matters here, too. JH put pressure on me to break off the friendship. Quite justified on his part, I'd say. So did mom, for that matter (And BB, though I didn't live in the same house as her.) But both of them let me make the choice, and while they let their opinion stand, they eased off the pressure.
Had JH ever declared, "Us or him. really." I would have dropped PT. I would ahve told him why, but I would have done it. And tried to make it stick.
And it would have hurt worse than the years of breaking apart, trying to patch it, up, breaking apart again. Worse. I still don't doubt that, actually, any more than I doubt that I would have caved. Forgiving PT enough to keep talking to him wasn't easy, either internally in the doing, or externally, in the pressure.
I have another friend. Call him RAF.
RAF is stubborn. RAF is by his own comment, "The most stubborn person you will ever meet."
I have dealt with RAF through *more* nasty social altercations than anyone else, some small, some bigger, some very very big indeed. I've watched him rewrite the facts of an event (Once within the same evening) to suit his side of the story. (He does it to books, too, but books don't get hurt by it. However, reading Left Hand of Darkness after hearing his version was... telling.) I've watched him fail to notice clues and warnings given with everything but a club, then profess surprise when everything came together and hit at once. Hurt him, yes, but he hit back at least as hard, and hurt a lot more people, including me, in the process.
That could be a description of two different events. Ouch. Both times, I stopped talking to him for a while; once for weeks (Less, maybe, if you count some wary exchanges. Well, wary on my part.), once for months.
He approaches almost any situation with "My way or the highway" and then gets smacked with the highway... and always, always, declares it someone else's fault. (The time's he's right make it worse on all the other times, because they give him fuel to feel righteous.)
He admits culpability for minor things, and uses it as an excuse for refusing to move on major ones, even when facts are against him.
He still doesn't know how upset he made some people.
Important: In few altercations was he the only one at fault* (in one case, the "other people" don't know how upset they made some of his friends, either.)
Equally important: In at least one such altercation, my attempt to point out that both sides were at fault was taken as "If you aren't 100% with me, you're against me." And I was smacked down and hurt badly.
But you know something? I see him almost weekly. We talk a lot. We bicker cheerfully. I get exasperated by his bad habits (no doubt he does of mine), but I poke fun at him for them, more often than I actually berate him for them.
One of the advantages of stubbornness to that degree is... he's got your back, and he won't stop for anything short of you yourself telling him he's done enough.
And I'm sure there were other times I did something at least as egregious as any of his acts, and that he's had to find it in himself to cope.
We're not as close as we were before some of the problems went down. But that's not the same thing as saying I don't have his back if he's in real trouble.
Once my mother wrote a letter to BB that I thought a mite excessive, but important and useful and even the right thing.
I was WRONG. In that letter, my mother detailed everything she felt was wrong with BB's relationship (Not with PT; this was years later.) Including some, as it turned out, entirely unfounded concerns.
BB still talks to my mother, although immediately afterward, she was spitting nails. She still talks to me. The other party in that relationship still does, too, actually. Even though they knew that while I had no part in writing it, I had seen the contents and okayed sending it.
When I mention in passing that I'm glad I was in my mom's custody, and JH ended up that way, I'm not talking about which house had the better accoutrements. (In fact, most years, that would be dad's.) I'm talking about not having to live in the same house as my stepmother.
The person I had panic-attack level breathing problems for having to deal with for two weeks when I was about twelve. That's as much as I can say without violating someone else's privacy in public. Somewhere, I still have my fifteen/sixteen year old histrionics during one of our other visits, and among the melodrama therein, I - I have a hard time reading that, and not for the "OMG was I ever a drama queen!" of the others.
She and children? Not a good combination. (At least, children not her own. And even then... But again, not violating privacy.)
Colin likes my stepmother. More to the point, dealing with her as an adult, *I* like my stepmother.
One of my friends had me on hand to help him through the realization he was turning into an alcoholic. Though he'd hurt me and others, I was there, because that was a fragile point.
I didn't get to see the end of that route. I hope to God it kept on an upswing, or got back onto one. Based on some of the people he seems to have kept in touch with all along, I suspect he had more help.
I wish I were friends enough at this stage to at least be able to ask, even if I don't want to get close for other reasons.
I mentioned before learning that NL, a friend I'd drifted apart from, and of whom I retain fond memories, had talked some truly nasty smack behind my back, something I learned while considering getting back together with her.
We haven't seen each other often since, but when we have, it's seemed like a good thing. I miss NL, sometimes a lot. I made some bad mistakes myself in our friendship. But it would be nice to have the chance to talk enough to really find out if she can accept an apology, and the things I've been wishing I could share with her.
I once broke JH's nose. It wasn't a childhood accident. It was a willful swing of the hand (After a charge up the hall).
My brother is, and remains, one of my best friends in the world. I still don't know how he forgave me doing something so dreadful.
Forgiveness isn't easy. It's not pretty.
PT read at least one draft of a book I wasn't then ready to show to anyone else short of family. Which meant opening up parts of me I was a little scared to show in public, trusting him to accept those dark bits of me. I wrote a story only for him, one of my better short stories (Still unpublished. I should consider sending it back out). The story turned out not to be true in this world, but that's okay.
RAF - There have been a number of times he was the person who managed to welcome new people into our social circle, and to reach out and make connections. He used to accuse me of being the best person for finding things that didn't look like they'd suit him, but did after all (Like the movie Ever After, and a pile of books. I guess he forgot the near-misses.)
NL and I got each other through high school. WE collaborated on writing, shared art marathons, played together in RPGs, introduced each other to music. Created dragons and worlds.
The alcoholic - I can't say, not without cracking open a privacy. But I don't wish him ill. I hope in in a better place than he was then. With good people he can count on to tell him if he's fucking up again.
Do I have to say what my mom and brother and dad mean to me?
Heck, mom: "The song of my live will still be sung, by the light of the moon you hung."
JH is ALWAYS going to be one of my best friends. I don't like him being so far away we can't blather about whatever, whenever (At least since neither of us ever remembers to call the other.)
Dad: Dad is far away, a long narrow cord that has never broken. The classic family: "If you have to go there, they have to take you in."
My stepmother has grown calmer and wiser as well as older. She has never gone so far as to admit or talk about her mistakes. But she's given me advice on my own future family that was so obviously grounded in painful experience and awareness of how much she went wrong that I could admit some of my own worst fears in that area.
Forgiveness is hard.
But we're all humans. We're more than a flawed species. We're all broken and messed up.
And sometimes the best and least painful of the painful choices (though because it hurts in itself, we're leery of it, and can hide in the thing whose pain is more familiar) is to reach out again. Sometimes it has to wait until you're in a position of strength, or at least a position where you cannot be convinced that forgiveness means allowing yourself to become a victim. Sometimes it takes distance enough to look at your own failures, and know that their forgiveness is even more precious.