The art of true friendship requires the capacity to flexibly give and take and to evolve. Relationships form during our lives, beginning from birth, extending through socialisation, education, sporting and recreational pursuits, employment, marriage and through unique and sometimes random circumstances as our lives unfold. People however, actualise at different rates, and a seemingly unified pace of friendship is often by life circumstance and intellectual growth wrenched apart like the earth’s crust is by an earthquake.
In some relationships the art of give and take is an effortless waltz, as both individuals harmoniously move according to the dance of need. For others, there is an established imbalance of give and take, with one party offsetting the deficit by providing more support or effort in keeping the friendship alive. This becomes the accepted and expected dance. It is only when through circumstance, that the need shifts, that this relationship type is truly tested.
I am not the first person to have experienced the distressing absence of a beloved friend at the point of crisis, or the last. I have watched as another friend was abandoned by her ‘closest’, at the death of her child. These ‘friends’ crossed the road to avoid speaking to her and one, openly envied her svelte post baby body, as if this was a consolation for the loss of a child. I questioned her definition of ‘friend’. This brave woman, held my new born son, three months after losing hers, remarking that it was great to have a life filling her arms. I marvelled at her warrior spirit and generosity in the face of loss.
I have experienced this abandonment myself, after my breast cancer diagnosis from one of my oldest friends. Someone, with whom I shared 20 years of growth and change. Someone who holds shared memories of joy, laughter, regret and tears, who witnessed my life and can speak in authority of my triumphs and struggles, as I can of hers. To me this act of abandonment is incomprehensible on a soul level. She proclaimed that she,”didn’t think it was that serious, I had my new partner so I didn’t need her and that she couldn’t cope as she was ‘low’, with depression”.
I struggled to make sense, to forgive her and sought assistance from a counsellor. There is an acute pain that accompanies deep loss and as such heartache is not confined to sexual relationships alone. I intellectualised her actions, through the lens of the lack of capacity to witness my struggle to survive, her own burdened psyche unable to extend beyond the current weight of her life challenges and a propensity to depression.
I battled with dark thoughts that condemned her as a limited selfish person accustomed to drawing upon my energy and unwilling or unable to extend outwards. These thoughts were irreconcilable with the same person with whom I had shared so intimately, who had given of herself generously, that I had assisted unselfishly and without agenda, laughed deeply with, consoled with during relationship breakdowns and loved unconditionally. Until the ‘great abandonment’, that is.
I reached out several times, extending the hand of friendship creating the opportunity to explore her absence. I did not expect her to apologise repeatedly but I felt that we needed a chance to discuss what happened and to recalibrate our friendship so that we could move forward. Her response to a belated birthday gift and card, was to post a friendly thank you via Facebook. I was surprised and hurt, that she did not telephone, using this as a springboard to bridge the gap. Unfortunately her Facebook updates of social events and travel, further served to offend me. It seemed time could be found for others, but she could not spare 15 minutes enquiring on the well being of someone she called ‘bestie’.
I have shared the concept of ‘reason, season and lifetime’ to understand the depth, length and breath of relationships in my teaching career. This construct proposes that relationships are formed often by a specific reason, which lasts for a specific season of time and for the minority of friendships, this season lasts a lifetime. The trick to letting go of lost friendships lies in the identification of the reason that connected the individuals and to accept that the season of time has reached its natural conclusion. This is easier said, than done. It is perhaps easier to simply de-friend someone on Facebook.
It was once said of me that being loved by me, was like being in the warmest spot in the garden, and if one found oneself in the dappled shade that it was wise to find a way back into sun. If one was unfortunately in the darkest dampest part, it was likely that there, one would remain. In that brackish water, my once beloved friend, sits her long legs framed by knee high mud. I continue to mourn her loss as if she has died, as if in her absence she holds a key, tight fisted. A significant key to a shared past that is futile in unlocking the door of a changed present.