I lost a friend this week. Not to the hereafter, but to the great abyss of broken relationships. It has happened before and I am no stranger to the signs of dissolution. Ignoring little things can sometimes add up to big things.
I am not the easiest person to be friends with and some would say I occasionally trip over my own principles. I know that being who I am means standing alone sometimes, but I prefer that over the hypocrisy of conformity. Nevertheless, it still hurts when the final blow is delivered. Of all the casualties accumulated during these trying weeks, I never considered that a friendship might be one of them.
Like conversations about politics and religion, navigating the nuances of a global pandemic have highlighted fundamental differences in some of my relationships. I value opposing opinions, and when I disagree, I make an effort to articulate why in a way that is honest and respectful. I don’t make it about me being right and the other person being wrong and there are no lines drawn in the sand. In this case, there was no conversation, just an action and a reaction, followed by silence. That in itself speaks volumes about the lack of mutual commitment in our relationship.
Under the Microscope
Relationships take time and effort to develop into bonds of friendship. I have a handful of those that I cherish, but they need very little care and feeding at this stage of life. I know that they will always be there.
Since entering retirement, I rarely get beyond the ‘casual’ stage of friendship and have stayed in that stage for years with most new people I connect with. Connections during retirement have been more about socialization, entertainment and well, convenience. I really do not want the additional responsibility of being someone’s ‘person.’ I already have that kind of relationship with my husband.
That attitude may sound selfish, but at sixty-five, I have aged into a place of emotional security, I live with my best friend, and my casual relationships are very satisfying. There are no expectations beyond what we currently share, so when they become complicated or filled with drama, it is time to move on.
I don’t always make the most graceful exit, and therein lies the flaw in my philosophy. The action (hers) caused a reaction (mine) which did not have to happen. I could have ignored the action and moved on gracefully, (with my opinion sequestered forever), but as I mentioned, sometimes my headstrong principles get in the way. When the action is fundamentally different from what is professed, I call bullsh**!
While I am not suggesting that all my relationships are homogeneous (they are not) I do wonder to what degree you accept or overlook fundamental differences. It is one thing to unFriend someone on FB who constantly shares negative news or images, but how do you accomplish that in real life? Do you ignore the early warning signs that things are going sideways in a friendship, or do you clear the air with honest conversations? Have you had bad breakups that could have ended differently?
Thanks for listening to my whine today. I am done now. Please give me a second to pour another glass of wine and I’ll be back to listen to you.