Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Friendships Never Meant to Last

A movie title caught my attention a while back. At first I thought it was pretty dumb but upon further introspection I think they got it ‘spot on.’ The movie title was ‘She’s Just Not That into You.’ It was your classic New York romance about unrequited love, breakups and the eternal search for that ‘perfect’ someone…and in the end, one sided relationships. I thought it could easily fit another side of relationships - not the romantic kind, just plain simple friendships instead.

It sounds terribly harsh, haughty and perhaps even a bit cruel. I’m talking about people from your past who have since disappeared from your life. Friends and acquaintances who have faded away or didn’t live up to your expectations; real or otherwise. They may have been there for important milestones in your life but are no longer are even a smudge on the relationship radar. What happened to those folks? Perhaps they didn’t follow through or fell short of what you expected from them. Perhaps you failed them and the ending was mutual. As disappointing as their absence is, their memories can still bring a smile to my memory.

Of course, no one can make someone else their friend if they don’t want to be. It’s terribly subjective and handicapped by a less than thorough knowledge of their motives. Were there extraneous factors, whether recognized or not, that contributed to the demise of that friendship? Was it something you did or didn’t do? Was it something you said even in honesty that was taken the wrong way?

When I first came back from Europe, I lived on couches for a while. There was a guy from Tennessee who took me in. He was brilliant and funny and I thought we really hit it off. Then he suddenly announced one day that he was moving back home. He never wrote and that was that. The ancillary friends I met through him remained but he didn’t.

No matter what the contributing factors might have been, I came to the conclusion that whatever friendship I once had with that guy had now’ left the station.’ On one hand, it was sad. On the other, it was just life giving me a poke on the backside and reminding me that nothing and no one is perfect.

Some folks can be brutally honest in terms of their relationships. They separate family (with all those obligatory ties) from friends and acquaintances (where they get to decide whom they want to be associated with.) They pick and choose their friends based on connections, associations and tie-ins all for their own self-benefit and satisfaction. ‘It’s nothing personal,’ as my boss used to say, ‘it’s just business.’

Friendships and relationships can be by their very nature a very vapid and elusive bond to attain and hold on to. Fleeting friendships based on circumstance are easy to recognize. An MOS partnership in the Armed Forces evaporates as soon as discharge papers are served. That’s understood, accepted and welcomed for a return to civilian life. A close relationship in the classroom can wither away and die when outstate jobs or opportunities beckon. Neighbors and neighborhoods fade from memory after the moving van has arrived. It’s all part and parcel of the ebb and flow of normal life.

Photo Credit: Jerry Hoffman

But what about those friendships you thought were meant for greater things. Something special you wanted to hold on to but couldn’t…her fault or yours, it doesn’t matter anymore. The clich├ęs are rampant when describing what happened or might have happened. ‘There were promises not met or kept.’ ‘We were moving along in life.’ ‘People change.’ ‘They/she just wasn’t that into you.’ And the one that best describes them all because it tells us nothing: ‘Things happen.’ Whatever once was had become vaporous and vague. Then like the morning mist wrapping itself around a tree trunk it slowly slipped away.

It seems to me that some folks go through life on autopilot. They never stop to question any-thing that life throws at them. Instead of designing their life as they would want it or like it or wish for it to be they simply accept what is lying there under the morning covers. I think that’s what happens to a lot of friendships. They’re taken for granted until those innocuous bonds that held it together have slowly unraveled and broken apart, leaving nothing but memories where a welcoming smile used to be.

A mental-meandering trip back in time usually reveals very little. So what happened to those folks? Did they change or did you? Whose expectations weren’t met? Was it your baggage or theirs? Did they move on or did you move on with your life and in the process leave behind what once was or might have been. Did they disappoint you or did you screw up and lose what might have been a wonderful friendship or relationship?

Two pals from grade school
The Barracks Boys

Marie, A wonderful confidant in that Danish laundry

My Roommate in Danmark who we all called ‘Animal.’
A Danish University student who wanted to get close
A potter from Amsterdam

A painter from Amsterdam

A pen pal from Lincolnshire, England

It’s been several lifetimes since I’ve seen any of these folks. I assume I never will again. So I wish for all of them health and happiness and good memories just as mine are. It’s the Great Go-Around and in this Circle of Life a few old friends will occasionally reappear after fifty years. I guess that’s why reconnecting with old friends is so special.

Like most mysteries of life, there are no easy answers…if any at all. What once was is no longer relevant and if that bothers you then the onus is on you to make it better the next time around.

As the saying goes: “To have a friend you must first be a friend.” They’re still out there…those wonderful folks who could be your friend. You just have to be generous in kindness and spirit.

I guess we (or perhaps just I) have to make the effort and accept the fact that we might be disappointed in the process.

Nevertheless, it’s still worth the effort.

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