Choosing friendship

April 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

When did friendships become such hard work?

I remember how integral friendships were to my life when I was a child, a teenager, even a young adult & full-time yuppie.  My friends were my life.  There wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t speak to or see my closest friends.  They were intwined into almost every facet of my daily grind whether it was to do with family, relationships & romance, music, shopping, work or career, parties, money, holidays – whatever it was, my friends were in it with me.

One of my early jobs straight out of high school was at a financial/property company based in the CBD.  At first it seemed like just another low slung rung in the corporate ladder, but it quickly evolved from a job into a lifestyle – one of “work hard, party harder”.  My colleagues became my friends and, before long, my family.  We merged and moulded into a tight-knit circle of young, attractive, successful party animals who loved everything and everyone.  There was never any question of what was happening that weekend because I knew, we all knew that we would be together and if we were all together then we were going to have an amazing time no matter what.

When work circumstances separated us 12 months later, little changed.  We were all so fiercely determined to remain true to ourselves and each other and never lose contact, never let our relationships falter, to always maintain the greatness that we found in each other.  Eight years later and I find the last threads of those ties which were once so strong are now slipping through my fingers.  I look back and wonder how we landed here.

There are two parts of my conscious mind – the thinking part and the feeling part.  The thinking part knows that people change, therefore relationships between those people change.  The thinking part understands that life is dynamic and that things/people flow in and out of your environment depending on any number of factors like age, family, career, travels and so on and so forth.  The thinking part knows that there is nothing wrong with a friendship changing or dying off completely.  The feeling part, however, can’t understand or reason.  The feeling part can’t reconcile what was against what is; it carries memories of bonding emotions – excitement, fear, joy, reliance, love – and when these memories are no longer sustained it is left with hurt, sadness, disappointment and the dark, hollow void of loss.  The feeling part mourns while the thinking part tries nobly to let go.

This is my struggle.

To be honest, I struggle with letting go of practically anything – friendships, romances, physical possessions – it’s part of who I am.  I am a nostalgic that wants to preserve and maintain all the good things in life – I just want everyone to be happy and to have all the things they want all of the time (if only life were that easy, she says!).  Relationships (including friendships) have always been the hardest thing for me to release and there are several relationships that are well over that I suspect I will never truly let go of.

For some reason, my closest friendships have faltered and faded – over the last few years in particular.  I think this is partly because we are moving onto the next phases in our lives – no longer are bound by late nights and Sunday sessions, we are instead bound to husbands, wives and children, as we should be, over and above anyone else (this is the thinking part).  But another part of me knows that married couples and families still socialise and that I have seen many groups of friends grow up through their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and more together.  So when I ask myself the question “Why not me?” the answer, which varies with time and mood, invariably hurts (this is the feeling part).

Somehow I also find myself in friendships where I am very rarely called upon.   If I were to count the number of times over the last few years that a friend, any friend has called me or texted me out of the blue wanting to talk, to catch up, even just to check-in, I could probably do so on both hands.  There are some who do so more than others, there are others I have heard from of their own volition maybe once or twice a year and then there are others who have never done so, ever.  I, like most others I suspect, like to think I am a good friend.  I am a careful listener, I empathise, sympathise, like to laugh and talk.  One of the things I pride myself on is that I am the person that will drop everything in times of need.  I am the person that you can call in the middle of a meeting or at 2am in the morning – wherever I am, whatever I am doing I will drop everything and come to you if you are hurt or sad or in trouble.  I am that person that you can call and say “I need you” and I will be there.

The trouble is no one ever calls, no one ever needs.  If they do, they don’t call me.

The thinking part of me decides there can be three reasons for this:

  1. People (and/or society) don’t talk and reach out to each other as much as they used to.  In an increasingly busy, success-oriented, highly transparent & visible world, we tend so much more to suffer in silence, wanting Facebook to tell everyone that everything is fine and wonderful when really we are dying inside.  We live in a society that recognises the fact that I have 637 “friends”, that encourages us to compete with each other for more and then rewards with the resultant status and popularity, albeit often through fakeness and bitterness.  How often we say we are “too busy” when really we mean we are choosing to spend our time elsewhere.
  2. I have somehow magically managed to end up with a bunch of incredibly independent friends who all genuinely don’t need to rely on others.
  3. I am somehow epically failing at humanism and so I search myself, I search my relationships for failings, for flaws, for what I could do differently or better.  I ask myself, how can I be a better person?  How can I be a better friend?

Having three reasons does not, however, placate the feeling part of my brain, which still flails around feeling crushed and miserable.  Hence, the struggle.

In writing this, pouring out a jumbled mismatch of logic and emotion, feelings and thoughts, I have been trying to make sense of this conflict I have been feeling for the last few years, more so recently.  I have been trying to reconcile the two parts of my psyche, trying to find a way to guide my feelings with my thoughts rather than having them pitted against each other, constantly churning and churning.

And the result?  The answer?  In my never-ending strive for depth and meaning in life, I desire to choose relationships of substance and value, to exist on a two-way street where I am important to someone as well as having those who are important to me.  Too long have I been caught in wide circles, smiling with a glass of champagne in my hand, wondering what in the hell I am doing there and how much longer I have to stay for.  Too long have I slaved over handmade cards and gifted thought-filled baby items only to receive a generic bottle of alcohol or nothing at all in return.  Too long have I been the initiator, too many times have I tried and failed to pull together a weekend BBQ, too long have I been the one asking questions when no one I ask cares to answer.

Complacency has to be one of the world’s greatest evils; complacency in ourselves and in each other.  I’m not perfect, no one is, and I know I have my failings.  I take solace in knowing that I work to understand and better them but there are not many people I know that I could say the same of, people that would take the time and effort to say to me, “Hey, I don’t feel like you’ve been there for me…” or “Hey, I’m really disappointed that you did this…” or even “Hey, I feel like we’ve really grown apart, I need some time out to think about whether this friendship is worth reinvesting in”.  In all our haste and urgency to get on and have a wonderful and successful life, we take for granted, forgetting to look back, to think twice, to give a kind word that takes only a few seconds.  So focused are we on ourselves and getting ahead, we risk losing that which makes our lives wonderful and successful in the only real meaningful ways – love, laughter, family, friendship.

choose relationships which will fulfil me, that will fulfil my needs as well as someone else’s.

choose relationships in which I am important, as well as holding someone else as important.

choose relationships that will encourage and enact real honesty.

choose relationships that make my life wonderful instead of stressful.

I choose to listen, I choose to learn, I choose to try harder.

choose to be a better person and to surround myself with better people.

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