Strong Will

“Well, I thought we were fine. I was just a bitch because you are so strong willed. What’s up tho?”

That’s the response someone gave me when I asked for their help in my divorce case. She and I were friends years ago. I had been asking pretty much everyone I’ve ever known (everyone above acquaintance-level) to write a letter describing me as a person, and I planned on presenting all these letters when my divorce stupidly went all the way to trial. Turns out, for complicated and frankly annoying reasons, it was recommended to me not to use any testimonies I collected and simply rely on the spoken testimony of a small few during court.

The former friend I messaged from above was in a really bad spot in her life 8 years ago. I had done everything I could to help both her and her sister during that time, for about six months. After those six months, I reached a point where I couldn’t help them anymore because I was too emotionally and physically drained from trying. The drain cost me my job and my apartment at the time. Plus, I realized those two needed to help themselves to at least some degree. A bringing-the-horse-to-the-water-but-you-can’t-make-it-drink type of situation. When I reached out to this former friend, I apologized that things weren’t all that great between us when we parted ways, and that’s when she responded with that message up above.

That message has been stuck in my mind more than anything else she or anyone else said to me, or about me, when I was spending time collecting testimonies. Honestly, I’m not sure if I fully understand it. (Part of the reason I can’t stop thinking about it.) And yes, I asked if she would explain what she meant by that, but she never did. She was far more interested in talking about what was going on with my divorce.

This former friend and I clashed a lot when she was in my life. Nothing severe, but it still happened frequently, and it was always about me pushing her to make better choices. She’s not a bad person – at least, I’ve never thought so. Still, we didn’t always get along because I really wanted her to be well, but all her choices were just terrible, and they were making her utterly miserable. So, I know that’s what she meant by saying, “I was a bitch…” I mean, I wouldn’t use the B-word to describe her behavior back then, but again, I know what she meant by that.

Also, I have to give her serious credit for the self-awareness there. I always respect the hell out of people who are self-aware like that.

The part that’s been stuck in my head is the fact she said it was because I am strong willed that she acted that way. Did she mean she didn’t know how to handle someone who pushed her so hard to improve herself? Was that a self-aware acknowledgment of how stubborn she is, even when it comes to a friend who deeply cares about her wellbeing? Did she mean that being stubborn is just her natural response regardless of the situation?

Maybe a combination of all those possibilities?

Sidestepping from this person, what I’ve mainly been thinking about regarding that statement above is the fact she was dousing my apology by saying I’m just a strong-willed person. Basically, “There’s nothing to apologize for, you’re just a strong-willed person.” It’s making me wonder if this is something a lot of other people I’ve known had/have this perspective as well. Like, maybe a lot of people don’t see me as a bad person, or see my past actions as problematic, they just had/have no idea how to react to such a strong presence? As if it’s not my actions that are problematic, it’s just my sheer willpower? Frankly I’ve never thought of myself as strong, or having a strong will. I just do what I do and people tell me what they see from the outside. But now I got an outside perspective that I’m not sure what to think of. Maybe I am strong-willed. Maybe I am, and people just don’t know what to do about it. It’s something that doesn’t disgust people or make them think less of me, but it still repels them nonetheless.

This also creates a conundrum. Strength is good. People need strength in their life, whether it comes from within or from someone they can rely upon. But it’s a problem, because when you are stronger than someone around you, your strength cannot be effective. It’s as if strength is both of greatest importance, and is utterly useless at the same time.

I don’t have any answers here, just guesses.

I call this person a “former” friend, despite the fact I don’t think she’s a bad person, and apparently she never had an issue with me either, because I found it impossible to have her in my life while she continues to make poor decisions. She’s one of those people who always needs desperate-level help, and I’m always finding myself wanting to help her. Hell, if she were a less than good person, I wouldn’t be inclined to want to help her. The problem is that it seems she’ll never stop needing help, and I am not strong enough to keep trying to take care of her, or especially her sister, who has even greater issues. Now that I’m a father, it’s outright impossible. This former friend would be a current friend … if I were made of steel. I wish her well, nonetheless. No hard feelings. I’m glad she was willing to help me with my divorce.