Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
An article about the nature of friendships drifted in front of my face the other day—specifically about how some friendships naturally fade as time goes on. It prompted me to think about a number of old friends of mine who gradually slipped away, sometimes in spite of my own efforts to keep things going. It’s like blowing on embers in the fireplace to get the flames to kick up again. Usually you just make yourself dizzy and the fire goes out anyway.
As we get older, I guess our perception of a lifetime’s worth of friends morphs a little bit. Just as the prescription on our bifocals needs changing, ideas blur, memories subside, absence makes the heart grow nonchalant.
I used to have a conception of friendship that went like this: Two people are points on their own side-by-side rotating circles. For a time, the two circles appear to be in sync, the points traveling along together (almost touching at one significant moment), but then they begin to pull away from each other as the circles keep rotating. In that sense of it, I’ve had a lot of great friends whose circles coincided with mine at different times of my life, but the wheel keeps a-turnin’, and we’ve all had our separate lives to see to. Once in a blue moon, a friend like that comes back into sync, and you get another go-around, but it’s rare in my experience.
I’ve had friends who changed midstream, or maybe it’s that they let their true selves come into the picture and that wasn’t compatible with me. I’ve had friends who, in retrospect, put less value on the the friendship than I did. I’ve had friends who shared a particular interest with me, then went on to something else, or I did. I’ve had friends who didn’t like my girlfriend (and I wasn’t hot about theirs either), so we nixed it. And I’ve had friendships made possible by proximity or work, but when one party moves out of town or gets a new job, the friendship is hard to sustain and ultimately becomes moot. On the other hand, some friendships survive vast distances and long periods between face-to-face contact. Go figure.
Today’s idea of friendship bears no relation to my personal one. There’s no way someone can have thousands of friends. “Someone to do something with” doesn’t rate as friendship to me. There has to be some meat on the bone. A connection deeper than “I like Green Day, do you like Green Day?” Maybe I’m old-fashioned.
Finally, I’ve had friends who drifted—or ran headlong—into Trumpland and wound up living in a universe that I can’t see. I wonder what color the sky is there. Puce? Pea-soup green? I can’t picture it. I don’t see how friendships get past that kind of dissociation. It might make me a smaller person, but once I know someone thinks Trump is the man with a plan (much less a “final solution”), I don’t see much room for a rewarding friendship. You gotta draw the line somewhere.
I’ve had a number of one-sided friendships too, and they wind up fizzling when I run a little experiment and lay low for a time and the friend doesn’t think to check up on me, wondering if I’m OK. That usually means it didn’t occur to the person. What can you do? The only thing you can do is accept reality. Sometimes the other friend might have been running the same experiment and I failed her. Thing had doomed written all over it.
So the article was right about how life is long (if we’re lucky) and friends show up, stay a while, then recede like tides. It’s perfectly natural. We don’t need to beat ourselves up about it when they go away, but I will say this: Great, lifelong friendships don’t come along every day, and when one wanes, I can’t help feeling a dab of honest grief for the loss.