There are all these clichéd quotes and cutesy little decorative tiles floating around out there with sayings like “best friends are the ones that know all about you and love you anyway” or “As we grow up we don’t lose friends, we just learn who the real ones are”. Is that true? Do we float along through life going through phases, losing and gaining friends and trading them like baseball cards? Is it like one big hockey draft where friends lose and gain value and my former best friend goes for a fourth round draft pick next season and I gain Sally-Sue’s old best friend and a bonus acquaintance? I don’t know if I’m just at some weirdo point in my life but it’s starting to feel like that’s all too true sometimes.
Some friends have moved away, some have committed themselves to relationships that leave no room for outside friends (or air apparently) and some have just decided they’re plain old not interested in making the effort. I’ve put a lot of thought into what this could mean. I’ve wondered if I’ve been a bad friend or wear a sign that says “Yes I would like you to stand me up, or constantly flake out on our plans” but I’ve checked with existing friends and they say no. I’ve sat baffled staring at my phone as the same friend who left me hanging around waiting for her call last Wednesday had the guts to text and ask me for a “giant favour” involving a ten page essay and my editing skills. My natural instinct is to pull through for my friends when they need me, offer my support and when that’s not enough show up with a bottle of wine and a tub of ice cream and drown our sorrows together. I’m that girl. I love being that girl. The problem is that some people have come to mistakenly believe “that girl” will always be there regardless of how she’s treated in return. It’s been the hardest lesson. I strongly believe you teach people how to treat you and if I don’t stand up for myself in some moments, I’ll be left with…the short straw. While I don’t want whatever the short straw entails, I also don’t want to alienate all those within a fifty kilometer radius of me, so finding the common ground on that is pretty interesting.
Don’t get me wrong- this is not all one-sided. I have some incredible friends that have been there for me through all the gloriously messy ups and downs but there are some that I’ve come to know as close, who perhaps don’t see it the same. These are the same friends I’ve let in and relied on and offered the same to, who have set off running in the other direction after such an alarming 180 degree turn that I believe I might be suffering from whiplash just from watching. One may see me only if her boyfriend’s schedule is free and we can make it a party of three (what is that about???) while another has decided lying for months to thwart our plans was too exhausting and she’s now just openly tired of the friendship…of almost twenty years. It’s like going through two breakups at the same time. Ouch.
I’m not kidding myself into believing people don’t change and grow apart but can’t we share time with the ones we have a history with, even if our lives start to look different? The thought that we can’t truly baffles me. Can’t we live without our significant others for an afternoon to have coffee and catch up with an old friend? I wish we could all understand that we impact each other in ways that are lasting and biting and real and learn to be amazed by our differences, instead of fearing them, because they are the components that make us individuals. I hunted down a quote that perhaps doesn’t fit so neatly on a fridge magnet or a cutesy decorative tile, but it’s comforting and it’s connective. Author Bruce Coville said “Nothing you love is lost. Not really. Things, people – they always go away – sooner or later. You can’t hold them anymore than you can hold moonlight. But if they’ve touched you, if they’re inside you, then they’re still yours. The only things you ever really have are the ones you hold inside your heart”. Thanks Bruce Coville, I’ll take it.