I’d like to think we can all relate to this topic, can’t we? It’s a sad time in our lives, when we lose a friendship that has become so important to us over time.
Friendships are such a funny thing. You meet someone, and when you’re young you just go with the flow, if they stick around – great, if not – that’s fine too. Drifting away is normal, losing touch is commonplace. As you get older, though, those nagging thoughts (voices) in your head become louder and more prominent. The drifting doesn’t seem so normal, so immediately I think it has to be something I did. These scenarios play out in any number of ways.
1. I think it’s something I did, or said. I haven’t heard from her in months, and calls go unreturned.
2. There’s a strange pause in the conversation, and then a quick subject change, and then the gaps between conversations grow longer and longer, until they stop.
3. A number of days pass where there’s no connection at all, then you talk but it’s rapid fire, and the fakeness is so thick you can hardly wait to get off the phone and replay the last several months in your head.
4. She stopped reading my blog.
Gasp! WHAT? She stopped reading my blog?! Of all of the sins of friendship, isn’t that one like, the most important? Even my mom reads my blog. C’mon. If you love me, you read my blog. That’s the only possible excuse you’d have for not calling. Right?
So all of these things are a good indication that something has gone awry. There are ways to handle it, however, it just baffles me that people choose to let it just disappear without a word. Don’t they have any idea the amount of wondering a person can do? Wondering is dangerous. Side effects include dizziness, stomach upset and in rare cases, vomiting. See? Nothing good comes from wondering.
Nothingness. And then if you happen to make contact? There are excuses. Are they believable? Legitimate? Do you hold your friendship at the same level as before the long absence? Don’t you feel like you’ve got a big “reject” stamp in the middle of your forehead when this happens? (Oh, please tell me it’s happened to you.)
There are a few lines in “You’ve Got Mail” that I love, and they are SO true.
Joe: It wasn’t… personal.
Kathleen: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?
Joe: Uh, nothing.
Kathleen: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a trend with me and my friendships. I’ve actually set some guidelines now before an acquaintance becomes a friend, and a friend becomes a cherished part of my life. This prevents a lot of pain, and it also gives my friends something to aspire to, if they can tolerate me long enough. It’s pretty simple, there are short-term, mid-term, long-term, and lifelong friendships. Yes, I split them up into categories. It helps me keep track.
Short-term friendships are those that last two years or less. (I can expand or reduce that amount of time as I see fit, of course.) In this amount of time, you can really determine if you have enough in common to go to the next level, or if you just cut your ties and call it a learning experience. Honestly? Too many people don’t make it past this stage. I must be really annoying. Or something. Most often? No explanation is required. I’m okay with that. That’s not to say it doesn’t hurt, because it certainly stings and makes me analyze myself. Okay, I over-analyze myself.
Mid-term friendships are 2-4 years long. If you make it past the short term, there’s a good chance you’ll make it – because anyone who knows me knows that one year should be about all anyone can take. If you make it past 2, you’re like, gifted. And special. You will get a Christmas card. If you vanish just before or after the 4 year mark, it would be really freakin’ nice to know what I did, because how am I supposed to NOT do that in the future? Really. Specifics are good. I call those losses a lesson in self-improvement. And I cry about them. Yes, I do. You might not THINK I care, but I’m over here caring like a banshee, I’m just not good at communicating that.
Long-term friendships, 5-10 years long, usually these people know that I’m not good at communicating that I care. I appreciate them even more for knowing my slanted sense of humor equals love and affection, and my aloofness is a result of having children and looking at my monitor for too long. I cry for them, with them, and sometimes, because of them. When a long term friendship ends, it’s like losing an arm. Or at least some fingers. These people are IMPORTANT. They KNOW stuff about me, because I don’t share that stuff with just anybody, and you HAVE to know that if you disappear after that amount of time, I expect all my dirty laundry to have it’s own place on the web that I don’t know about with thousands of commentors saying what an ass I am. I had to have done something horribly, terribly wrong for a long term friendship to vanish. Seriously. What did I say? What did I do? You can’t just get to this stage and exit stage left without leaving a note. These losses are heartbreaking, and sad, and mournful.
Lifelong friendships – well, obviously they never left. Beyond the stage of needing any explanation that life happens, comfortable enough for just 2 calls a year (as long as she never forgets my birthday, and I never forget hers, we will always be sisters at heart). Those are wonderful, cozy, giggly and loving friendships that you know will never end. I’m so glad I have these, because I truly cherish them. And I’m also very glad I haven’t mourned the loss of one of these friends, because that would only happen by death, and that would be so sad that I would be blogging through Kleenex. There would be no other way.
I do spend a lot of time wondering, though, about those mid and long-term disappearances. Why is it so hard to say goodbye, if you share so much? I have friends who have gone through this as well. One day you wake up and one of your best friends is just gone. Someone you let in a little more than others, someone whose friendship you thought you were building to go to the next level. No explanation, no forwarding address – and when you leave more than just a few messages you start feeling like a stalker. How can one person care so much more than the other? How can someone just let it go *poof* without a word?
What has to happen in order for it to be SO bad that a person doesn’t even rate enough for a call, an apology, a friendship breakup song on tape in a small brown box without a return address in the mailbox on a rainy gray afternoon?