The Fluid Nature of Friendship

I was wiser in my twenties than I give myself credit for.

In an old blog, in another time, I remember writing, at the tender age of twenty-two, that some friendships had use-by dates. Sadly, I didn’t remember my own advice, and I’ve struggled with the act of letting go all my life.

It’s caused me nothing but heartache. I’ve clung to friendships that were clearly over, to people who clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore, and to scenarios where I was clearly the one without a clue.

I have often wondered, later, in the small still hours of the night, what on earth I was clinging to. Why, I would chastise myself, hands wringing sadly, head shaking sorrowfully, why, why, oh why did I put myself through that? In cases where I should have walked away a long time ago, I stayed; sometimes, inexplicably, I stayed for months. And then it suddenly hit me.

I wasn’t staying hoping to make things better, or hoping for good times to roll around again. I was staying because I couldn’t let go of the past.

It’s a common ailment that many of us face. Not being able to let go of the past. Not being able to bid adieu to the wonderful friend with whom I had so many good memories. Not being able to walk away from the relationship where love had clearly died – not just died, but decomposed – because I couldn’t forget the wonderful times when I had felt in love, and loved. It’s something that I’ve had to learn, and relearn, and constantly reassure myself that it’s okay to put myself first for a change.

Take a recent example of a good friend I’ve been friends with for years. We saw each other through some pretty horrendous times. She lifted me up when I needed it, and I did the same for her. We laughed, we cried, we connected, and we swore we’d be best friends forever.

About that last thing.

Yeah.

No.

A few months ago it became all too obvious that all the reaching out was coming from my side. I confided in her only for her to receive my news coldly, and to dismiss my fears and experiences outright because it happened to a lot of people, not just me. While I blinked in confusion, she logged off abruptly, leaving me to hold my head and ask myself what had just happened.

I sent her a message privately on Facebook asking her if everything was okay, and if I’d done anything to upset her. Typically, I put it all on myself, assuming I had erred in some fashion. Perhaps I had been negligent. Perhaps I had been too caught up with my life to be interested in hers. Perhaps I hadn’t responded to an e-mail or to a message. Perhaps it was me.

In the conversation that had preceded the private message, I had confessed to my friend that I was suffering from severe anxiety attacks as a result of certain stressors in my life right now. She knew that this was the case when she saw the private message from me and then proceeded to ignore it for 24 hours.

Yes, dear reader. Facebook informed me that she had seen the message, because that’s what Facebook does. Then my friend, or so I had thought until that moment, ignored my message for 24 hours, despite knowing I was suffering from crippling anxiety attacks at the time.

While I reeled, freaked out, hyperventilated, and freaked out some more, there was a voice at the back of my mind saying ‘eh, it’s over’. I knew it was. I had known it, I think, for some time. However that didn’t stop me from trying to salvage it for all I was worth. Never mind that the person concerned didn’t care about me or my well-being any more. Never mind that the effort was all one-sided. Never mind that I wasn’t the one with the problem; it was her.

She replied the next day with one line: Nothing is wrong, I’m just busy/having a bad day/ill. I can’t remember which of those excuses she used, and frankly, I can’t be bothered going and digging it up to look. All I know is that it sounded remarkably blase; it was a note from someone who didn’t care. It was also a note from someone who, cruelly, had kept me waiting over 24 hours in a state of panic. Not, as you will surely admit, the actions of a friend.

She had also told a mutual friend of ours that there had been ‘problems’ between her and I for ‘a very long time’. It was the first time I was hearing of it, and it astounded me. You honestly could have knocked me down with a feather. I hadn’t realised that there were problems, and when I’d asked if everything was okay I was told that everything was okay. I realised that you only do that when you no longer care to keep someone around. When you can no longer be bothered to salvage your relationship with someone, you lie. She lied.

I began distancing myself from her right then and there. I no longer acknowledged her, and I no longer cared to. I tried to stop caring, but that took longer to accomplish. In fact, I don’t really think I’m there yet. Perhaps I never will be. Perhaps I will always remember the good times when she and I were friends, and perhaps that’s okay. Perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

This morning I realised she hadn’t showed up on my Facebook feed for a long time, so I went to see what she’d been up to. Her profile was absolutely blank. I could see nothing except a public change of her cover photo, and a new profile picture which was also public. Everything else was a blank.

I shrugged. What can you do? It had been done. To all intents and purposes, she had unfriended me, but she hadn’t yet hit the button. I wondered why she hadn’t done that. Perhaps she couldn’t let go of me. Hang on, I told myself. She’dĀ already let go of me. Perhaps this then was about being the bad guy. She didn’t want to be the bad guy, unfriending me completely. Perhaps she didn’t want to explain to our mutual friends if I made a fuss. Or perhaps, if I unfriended her, she needed someone to vent to and blame me, as she had blamed me all along.

I didn’t even hesitate. I hit the unfriend button. I moved on.

You see, twenty-two year old me had been right. Some friendships do have a use-by date. Friendship is not a static thing. This is because human beings are not static. We grow, and we change. Some of us change in positive ways, and some of us change in not-so-positive ways. When all is said and done, sometimes, ten years later, the person you became friends with a decade ago isn’t the same person as she or he was a decade ago. Now, some friendships survive this. There is real love and honesty, and you both grow with each other, towards each other. Some of my oldest friendships are testament to this. When you care so fiercely about someone else, you make room for them in your life. Sometimes, you just stop caring. Sometimes, things just end.

Endings are okay.

12 Comments

  • stace8383 16th December 2014 at 3:22 pm

    It’s very true, people come and go from lives, touching them sometimes intimately, but rarely permanently. Personally I’ve never found it that difficult to move on, I simply accept that people’s lives move in different directions and sometimes people’s needs and wants change. I won’t always be what that person needs, and that person won’t be what I’m looking for in a friend. I don’t see it as letting go so much as drifting apart. But I can understand exactly what you mean, and understand why it hurts – especially being lied to. I despise lies, I think that would hurt the most. *hugs*

    Reply
    • Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi 16th December 2014 at 3:35 pm

      Thanks, Stace. *hugs* I have always struggled with letting go, but I hope I’m getting better at it. I have no idea if I am; I still seem to struggle with it.

      I can understand drifting apart; that’s happened, but it rarely hurts with this searing pain that something like this brings. It’s more of a gradual ceasing to care quite as much. That’s fairly normal, I think.

      On the other hand, there are people who you just fit with; I think those are rarer, and therefore all the more special when you do find them. It’s also why I can still count how many of those I have on two hands.

      Reply
      • stace8383 16th December 2014 at 4:08 pm

        I have a different problem with friendships. I’m going to try to describe it and see if it makes sense; I haven’t put it into words before.
        You know me, and you know that I don’t have many CLOSE friends. It takes a lot for me to even acknowledge someone as a “friend” rather than “acquaintance”. So, when I see somebody I consider “special” or a “friend” becoming close and intimate with somebody else, I get jealous – it’s like, you’re special to me, aren’t I special enough for you?! It’s silly, I know, everybody has the right to make their own friends and not everybody is as picky as me. I accept that, rationally, but I still get upset sometimes!

        Reply
        • Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi 16th December 2014 at 11:47 pm

          I know! You’ve told me this before. It’s understandable, although, as I’ve tried to explain it to you before, it isn’t that you’re not enough. It’s just that sometimes you do connect with someone else wholly and grow close to them. I think it’s rather lovely; having more than one close friend to talk to and hang out with is just a blessing, in my opinion.

          I mean, it’s more people to love! It doesn’t mean I love you less; far from it. (And it’s not silly; it’s okay to feel like that. I think it stems from not having close or best friends as a child; you tend to feel possessive of the ones you do have.)

          Reply
      • Adventures in Anderland 16th December 2014 at 10:30 pm

        I have experienced both and there is a decided difference. The friends who have gradually drifted apart, it might cause melancholy but not usually physical pain. But I have had friends (and I’m ashamed to say I have done it twice in my life to others, a fact that still causes me shame) who suddenly, with no discernible reason, stopped talking to me, pretended I didn’t exist, ignored me even if I stood physically in front of their face, and that hurt with the searing pain you mention. Yes, some friendships have a use-by date, but it’s really hard to let go of them when it still looks and smells fine to you. *hugs* I’m not sure there is a way to just “let go” of friendships easily when they end in such a painful way with no obvious reason on your side.

        Reply
        • Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi 16th December 2014 at 10:43 pm

          Thank you for your thoughtful comment. ‘Hard to let go of them when it still looks and smells fine to you’ – YES. That, a thousand times over.

          You’re absolutely right. I can’t understand what happened, and the more I think about it, the worse my headache seems to get. Actually, that’s why I’ve decided to move on, and as painful as this is, it’s a conscious decision, and one that I back myself in one hundred percent. I simply can’t sit down and try and analyse it anymore; suffice it to say that I have realised that it’s over, and although I do not know why, it’s not important. What is important is that I continue to surround myself with friends who actually do care about me, and I’m rather blessed in that regard.

          Reply
  • Logan 19th December 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Unfortunately I’ve to agree with you. Some friendships come with Use by dates. And we always try to ignore it, cause we still want to have good time with them, and they treat us like we don’t even exist, and we are forced to move on.

    I’ve moved on this Monday. A close friend of mine, who has always been very close to me, don’t need me anymore. She have found someone else she can rant to, some one else she can go out with, and hence, the best friend is not needed anymore.

    I read her message, multiple times, asking myself, is it really that? Was that what I was for all these years? Just a guy she needed when no one was keeping her happy, or entertaining her. And looking back, I’ve realized that yes, it was that. I was just too blind to see it, and when I saw it, I was too afraid to act on it. And she did it, without even flinching. As she will have someone better, more funny, more outgoing with her.

    Reply
    • Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi 19th December 2014 at 5:47 pm

      I’m so sorry that this happened to you, Logan. I know how badly it hurts to be treated like that. You wonder if you ever really meant anything; it’s an awful way to feel.

      It constantly keeps on at you in the back of your mind as well. I’m glad you have moved on, because, much like my former friend, it sounds like she doesn’t deserve you. Here’s wishing you better friendships with people who are infinitely more worthy.

      Reply
      • Logan 22nd December 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Thanks. I wish the same to you. šŸ™‚

        Reply
  • VroonMenon 20th December 2014 at 1:37 am

    First a big warm hug from a very cold and smoggy Gurgaon.
    Second I have never met you, all I know about you is from the blog so let me leave you with a Breaking News worthy of making the headlines on BBC. You are truly one of the few people I know who is willing to go out of their way and leave a smile on another’s face. What your friend has lost she may not realize now but in time she will. It’s hard to find people who wear their heart on their sleeves. Everybody is a wolf disguised as a sheep. I know it’s hard to let go *trust me, this is coming from someone who finally let go of someone after 8 years of holding and waiting. That is a different story*. Since you have such a wonderful soul you will never be short of well wishers around you. Cause…..
    Third I think this tops the second one in terms of Breaking News Stories. I’m not going to go anywhere. Who do I share my dog and food stories with? Also at times my sad sobby love life? And have I told you about I recently got short listed to become a Radio Jockey? See. Now if I bail who will I talk to about these things? Here’s to a long lasting friendship. And don’t forget you promised you aren’t bailing on me. I’ve had enough of those. I hope you are smiling at the end of this cause you deserve nothing but lots and pots of happiness.
    P.S: Somebody used to write letters to me and always wrote P.S and she use to leave it at that. So I wrote back to her and asked her why she never followed it up with whatever she had forgotten. She wrote back saying it was a message for me and it stood for PLEASE SMILE. So…
    P.S šŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Awanthi @ I Speak Awanthi 21st December 2014 at 10:46 pm

      You are sweet! I am certainly smiling now; you know, you always find a way to make me smile. šŸ™‚ You really are the little brother I never had! Here’s to hopefully meeting some day and swapping stories for real, and yes, a long friendship that lasts all our lives. Much love.

      Reply
      • VroonMenon 28th December 2014 at 11:27 pm

        So as the younger brother I would hate to see my elder sister feel sad. I take it as my personal responsibility to ensure that she is always smiling and happy. I hope to see you soon as well and trust me we have lot of catching up to do. šŸ™‚

        Reply

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