This has been a year of transitions. Or changes. Or losses.
Or simply choices, depending on how you look at it.
Several years ago, I had a really big “aha moment.” It wasn’t the kind I really wanted but I definitely needed it.
This aha moment happened when I read a quote about how I would become most like the people I kept closest to me. So then I couldn’t resist taking a look at my close circle.
To my horror, I discovered I did not want to become like some of these folks. And every time from then on I grew more and more aware of our dissonance whenever we would hang out together.
This was a hard period for me. But it wasn’t as hard as what came next.
In the past two years, I took hold of the “friendship reins” in my own life for the first time ever. This was significant for a couple of reasons:
- In the past, I pretty much just was friends with anyone who seemed to want to be friends with me.
- This was because I thought I wasn’t very good “friends material” and I always thought I was lucky anyone wanted to be my friend.
By taking charge of my friendship life, I became more discerning and deliberate about qualities I looked for in a potential friend.
I actually made a list of desirable qualities – these same qualities being the ones I hoped to develop in myself.
- Positive and optimistic.
- Smart and witty.
- Engaged in their own life and the world.
- Open-minded and accepting (“live and let live”).
- A good conversationalist and also a good listener.
- Curious and fun-loving.
- Compassionate and caring.
- Respectful with good “social radar.”
- Able to open up and share without getting stuck in a rut of constant complaining (this is a big one for me!) or allowing me to do the same (which speaks to having a basically positive and optimistic nature underneath life’s hard moments).
- Supportive and loving and willing to be supported and loved.
There were more qualities on the list too, but these were the big ones.
I also expanded my concept of who qualified as a “friend.”
For instance – I included my parents. My mom and dad are two of my best friends in the world today. I also decided pets qualified – my parrot, Pearl, and my tortoise, Malti, are my daily life sidekicks and I can’t imagine life without them.
But some of my friendships hit the skids around this same time because they didn’t fit most or any of the criteria on my list.
Some of my longest-running friendships felt the impact most deeply, while some of my newer friendships experienced cardiac arrest in fits and spurts as I woke up to behaviors and experiences that just didn’t feel like anything I wanted to be a part of going forward.
This hurt. A lot. It still hurts.
This week I discovered a lovely little blog named Peaceful Dumpling.
A few of the posts focused specifically on what the poster called “adult friendships” – making them, ending them and all that can transpire in between. One particular post, titled “On Breaking Up With Friends,” caught my attention.
In this post, the blogger talks about how jarring it can be to realize the old cliche, “boyfriends come and go, but friends are forever,” may not hold water in every case.
(Interestingly, today my boyfriend is one of my best friends, although he didn’t used to be – we’ve had some rough years together (and not together).)
But not all of my friendships have weathered the journey from “then” to “now” so well as ours has.
The blogger also talks about navigating “end of friendship” challenges, such as when only one friend wants to “break up” and the other wants the friendship to continue.
And she touches on different ways adult friendships can end – such as when you just drift apart, when there is contention that blows you apart, when there is only one friend making an effort, and when your instincts speak to you and say the friendship is ending (whether or not you choose to listen right then and there).
All of these scenarios have occurred in my life since my big “aha moment.”
The toughest endings, however, have been those where the other person didn’t seem ready to transition out of our friendship. Those have also hurt me the most.
What I have learned is that I don’t stop caring when the friendship stops working. I don’t stop thinking about or praying for the other person. I don’t stop noticing things I might have previously chosen to share with them or experiences we might have enjoyed having together. And I don’t stop worrying about issues I am aware of in their lives and hoping they will receive the best of everything life has to offer in the future.
But caring is not the same as being able to be hands-on friends – I have also learned this.
This reminds me of another phrase I have often heard (and repeated) but seldom really understood, “Friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime.”
Now I see these three options as choices as well as conclusions. I see that I can have a say and play a part in which of the three it will be for any friendship in my life.
I guess I just never realized how important it is for me to exert myself on behalf of my own friendship life, and how much my choices can impact my quality of life and that of those around me. If I had realized this earlier in my life, it might have helped me avoid some of the friendship-induced pain I feel now.
Today I understand that when I deliberately choose positive, inspiring, mentoring friends, I enhance my opportunity to become this type of friend myself.
Knowing this is also what has given me the courage and perseverance to cope with the necessary endings to some of my friendships.
I have also learned where adult friendships go to die – in my heart. That is where they were born, so it is only fitting it is also their final resting place.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever experienced the “death” of a friendship in your adult years? How did the friendship first begin to end? How did the end of the friendship impact you? Do you ever hold out hope of rekindling the friendship again in the future?
Goodbye photo available from Shutterstock