Today I was thinking, or rather obsessing, about a friend of many years who has been impossible to contact. I consider her a close friend, a confidant on whom I depended during the most difficult times of my recent life. She doesn’t answer phones, emails or voice messages. The last time I spoke with her was over half a year ago, but she was busy. And she never fulfills her promises to call me back.
Do you have a friend or two like that? Perhaps like me you’ve likely made dozens of excuses and justifications for their behavior. In the end I’ve felt forced to conclude that she just doesn’t value our friendship the way I do. Or more to the point she likely has a stack of values and priorities that come ahead of me.
What really bothers me is the way I feel, the obsessing about losing another friend, the grief and sense of abandonment. Why does it matter so much to me? Why is this a replay of other friends I’ve valued over the years and who are now unavailable?
Then I realized that the issue is mine.
Friendship is a way that we feel like members of a tribe. Even friendships that are not close or intense may fill a void in our hearts. After all, don’t we like to be liked, need to be needed? I’ve met people who do not seem to have the same need for friends as I do. They tend to collect acquaintances along the way, people connected to them professionally or personally. Many of these friends are there one minute and gone the next. And no one is wasting their time or spiritual energy trying to hold onto the past.
But that doesn’t explain the rest of us who are wired as I am, who grieve deeply whenever a true friend, a close friend, seems to shift out of our lives. We care when relationships are and are not working. We promote these connections, we try to fit our puzzle piece next to theirs, and use up a lot of energy in the process.
Maybe I work too hard on these kinds of friendships, out of my own need more than theirs: the need to feel appreciated, wanted, valued, uniquely a part of their happiness, as they are to mine. Certainly my husband is a prime example of this kind of intimate inter-dependence.
Yet relationships do shift and when I fret over them I can only look within to my own perspective and attitude. I hate admitting that people move on for a myriad of reasons and I dislike not being important to them anymore.
So what’s a better perspective? Gratitude comes to mind. I need to be thankful for momentary positive encounters I’ve had with all sorts of people who have befriended me for that short moment and for the love I still feel from my close friends. Living in the present also comes to mind. As wonderful and spiritually nourishing as past friendships were, there is no purpose in reveries and sentimentalism.
Rather than wishing I could revive a friendship, I need to appreciate those persons who want to befriend me in the present, the many wonderful people for whom I have room in my heart if I just stop self-analyzing enough to invite them in. This is my conclusion as I gazed upon the starry sky at 5 AM this morning.
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