WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Friend slips

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. 

[Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.] 

9 comments on “Friend slips

  1. kingmidget
    July 17, 2021

    I’m totally with you on the one-sided friendships. I put effort into my friendships. At some point, if it’s not reciprocated — if I’m the only one who reaches out to maintain the friendship, for instance — I just fade away.

    I think a lot of “friends” are really just acquaintances. My friends are those people with whom I can sit down and have a conversation about anything and everything. The type of people with whom, no matter how much time has passed since the last time we spoke, we can settle down as though no time had passed at all. It’s a select group. Everybody else … well, they’re just acquaintances.

    • BestSpiritualPath.com
      July 17, 2021

      “. The type of people with whom, no matter how much time has passed since the last time we spoke, we can settle down as though no time had passed at all. ” – Exactly my thoughts!

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 17, 2021

      I totally agree on the acquaintances front. And that level is fine for a lot of people. I’ve always been one with a small number of really deep friendships rather than lots of acquaintances.

      Hope you’re having a great time on your Oregon trip!

  2. islandeditions
    July 18, 2021

    The term “Friend” has been greatly distorted by the advent of social media. I mean, who can possibly have 5328 ACTUAL friends in their lives? And during this current pandemic and the need to isolate in place, hunkering down with those who truly are friends, or at least relatives, and not being able to get out to meet with others (or, in my case, being “stuck” on this island and unable to travel back to Canada at all – finally leaving here at the end of the month!) we’ve lost physical contact with too many true friends. I know I have become an isolationist during this time, have stopped writing my blog or contacting and connecting with people I might have otherwise been checking in with on a more regular basis. But perhaps,given what I said about social media having distorted the meaning of “Friend”, the pandemic, and now your blog post, Kevin, are giving us a bit of a shakeup, and we’ll go seeking out those true friends we’ve lost contact with over the years. Pardon me now as I have a few emails to write!

  3. Marie A Bailey
    July 20, 2021

    Sunday, I had a two-hour FaceTime conversation with a friend in CA, someone I’ve been friends with since the early 80s. We haven’t talked in several months, and it’s been a couple of years since we saw each other. Yet, we dove right in. I have a few other friends like that who live in other states that I met way back when and, yes, when we do manage to meet up or “Zoom,” it’s like no time has gone by at all.

    I haven’t been that fortunate here in FL. I don’t know if it’s the culture or my introversion, but most of my “friendships” here have not lasted. In most cases, they just faded away. (There was one that “blew up” but I have no regrets about that.) It’s left me feeling like I really don’t even want to try, at least not here.

    I’ve made new friends, mostly through blogging, and I do believe some if not many of those friendships are sincere, are more than just acquaintances, but it’s tricky for me. Interacting solely through social media doesn’t give me the same warm and fuzzy feeling that a one-on-one conversation, even if over Zoom, gives me.

    I’m grateful for the handful of friends I’ve known and loved for close to 40 years.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2021

      I’ve also found, after leaving home long long ago, that it’s been harder to make friends of that deeper kind. Then again, I live with my best friend! 😉

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2021 by in Et alia and tagged , , , .
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