Tuesday, 14 February 2017

On the death of friendships


I've experienced most types of friendship breakups there are, as I'm sure many of us at my age have. I've had the jagged, abrupt loss of friendship after a row or misunderstanding - the burst of terse words and the bereaved feeling that follows it. I've had real bereavements - dear friends who've died suddenly, leaving important words unsaid between us. I've had friendships that have become extinct because of geographical distance between us or lack of time together. The only kind of breakup I've never experienced is one where one party suddenly stops communicating with no explanation, leaving a lack of closure and wondering what went wrong.

I think the most awkward of all lost friendships are the ones that aren't completely lost yet. The ones you can feel slipping through your fingers, where it's too painful to say 'What's happened to us?' When you can feel a friendship changing from 'We tell each other everything' to a lunch a few times a year it can be hard to accept and let go, but it can be done.

As the saying goes 'There's a friend for every season' and I really believe this. Some friendships exist for a good time, not a long time. Just as it stands to reason that you may not stay friends with old workmates when you've moved onto a new job, if your lives take you in different directions it's OK to part with love, or transition into a more distant kind of friendship.

I know I'm not always the easiest person to be friends with, especially since I've had Fibromyalgia and ME. My mental and physical health are affected so I'm not the most social of people, especially since I've had anxiety disorder. I hate a lot of things that other people love. Noisy places? Hate them. Busy pubs? Hate. Nightclubs? Hate hate hate. Meeting a lot of new people at once? Hate. I would much rather see people in small groups than a gaggle as it's too much for me to deal with. Bright lights, strong smells, loud noises, too much movement around me - all these things make me feel sick, dizzy and disorientated. I'm a shut-in who has to give myself a pep-talk to leave the house, and I'm married to a man who'd rather deal with computers than people 8 days a week. We avoid people-y situations and we're boring shits. Honestly, my idea of fun is going around a graveyard or somewhere with lots of old things for me to coo over. Churches, castles, stately homes, historic villages - these things are my porn. I love being in nature so gardens, parks, beaches and woodland excite me. A nice gentle walk is about as rock and roll as I get.

It's more than that though - I left my hometown aged 19 with my dad and my brother, but after a couple of years they moved back home. I stayed behind and became used to spending most of my time alone. If I had problems I sorted them out myself as my family weren't there to help. I became insular to survive and I can spend days, weeks in my own company without feeling lonely. Since I've had Fibromyalgia and ME every day is a challenge and I may not speak to friends for weeks or months except for online. Time flies so fast when you're battling your mind and body and it means I'm not the most solicitous friend. I have strong views too - I lost a friend a year or two ago because she thinks fat people should diet or get off the internet otherwise they deserve to be abused. As I've gotten older and more sure of myself it seems easier for me to lose friends - not easier to bear, but easier for them to walk away. I know I'm not easy to deal with, and I understand why my friend may feel like I'm too much work and too little fun.

This friendship I can feel slipping through my fingers? It's OK. I will always love this person for the times we shared, but I can tell we're no longer on the same page. We're moving in opposite directions and that's completely fine. I can look back on the laughs and tears we've shared together with fondness and some degree of regret that things will never be the same again, but we've had a great run together. I'm not sorry it's over (or changed beyond all recognition), I'm thankful that we had time together at all. Sometimes when an animal is dying the kindest thing is to let it go, not put it through unnecessary and unwelcome attempts to prolong its life. The same is to be said for friendships. Sometimes letting go is a kindness.

Even if I never say these words to my friend and we just fizzle out wordlessly, I think the most important thing for me to realise was our close friendship had ended, and it's OK. I've been unhappy because I've been trying to suppress the inevitable, but I've accepted it now and I can deal with whatever comes next. Whatever bound us very closely together up until a couple of years ago has gone, but I will always be thankful for the things they did for me, the person they are. We'll never be what we were, but that's OK. 

I've decided I'm not a 'best friends' kind of person. I've had so many friendships throughout the years which have ended for various reasons and I can't commit to that kind of intensity again. I have great friends, yes, but I think being your own best friend is admirable too. It's the most enduring relationship we'll ever have, after all. Friends leave, family will eventually die, spouses too. We're going to spend more time alone than with anyone else. It's important to be able to rely on yourself.

If I can offer any advice at all from my history of losing friendships it's to part as kindly as you can. The friend who thought I deserved to be abused online? I gave myself a few weeks to calm down and then wrote her a nice letter because holding onto malice is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Parting with harsh words can lead to such regret. One of my friends who passed on did so after we parted acrimoniously, and I'll never get to tell her my ego got in the way of making things right. Part as kindly as you can - if you were good friends once you both deserve it.

Have you had a friendship 'break up'? What happened?

Thanks for reading.
Leah xoxo

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