The dust has settled over the Birthday, yet I keep going back to a conversation had over the family dinner Monday night (at favourite pizza eatery) with my son. It has taken a couple of days for the details to percolate through my brain, but I think I’m ready to take a stab at what his words, and circumstance, have helped me conclude. He lives in an age where communication is instant, and the lack of it damning. It makes me realise a lot of things, but most importantly is the sense of why talking matters more to me than maybe anything else that I do.
This is my life, laid bare for all to see, and yet many friends ignore it.
Friendship should not be an effort. Relationships are not simply what you define them as being. When someone stops making an effort, a couple of issues could be at play. Either, the person is lazy and does not care how their actions affect others. There’s also a possibility that the person is no longer interested in being your friend. With the speed of current communication methods, I could e-mail every single one of the people who forgot it was my birthday on Monday and point that out. However, that’s just petty, could be considered as selfish and ends up largely pointless. If those people read my social media, the various blogs I write and the places I proliferate in, they’d know this. They don’t.
That’s a third possibility in all of this: the weight and significance these people put on events are different to mine. They have lives that do not include the places I hang out in or the things I do. It is perfectly possible to be friends with someone and have nothing in common, after all. Except, in most of my cases, that’s not true either. There comes a moment in everybody’s journey when you become aware that the direction you want to take will, inevitably, end up alienating someone. How that’s then dealt with becomes a measure of your ability as a person to explain yourself.
This year, I’ve cut ties with a number of people, and am infinitely happier as a result. I don’t feel guilty or sad about these losses either because when I look at what happened to cause the breakdown of trust and care, I realise I was the person at fault. In one case, it really wasn’t them, but my inability to make them realise that their definition of friendship did not mesh with mine. When you keep trying to communicate with people but realise that, all along, they’ve only ever needed you when it suited them can sometimes be a hard truth to grasp.
My problem, and I grasp this now pretty much completely, was my inability to make good friends for the best part of 35 years. There are less than five people who remain from before that time period… no vast list of old school friends like my husband possesses. In fact, nobody at all from either school or college has been kept in contact with. I really was a horrible, shitty person back then, and now I know why I don’t really feel the need to go back and explain myself. The past really is better off left where it is.
Having shed most of the baggage, this (reasonably) clean slate might seem at times a bit daunting, but the friendships that are being forged now have a lot more significance associated with them. I really do feel as if this is the second half of my life, beginning from scratch. I know what to do in an attempt to avoid fucking everything up for the second time, and it has to be the intent to ensure that doesn’t happen. That will show, I hope, that I really have changed for the better.
What has amazed me, and continues to do so, is the number of people who feel it’s perfectly okay to do nothing to keep friendships active. This goes back to the speed of communication that now exists, that issues can be discussed and dealt with in an instant if you choose to do so… and yet many people won’t, or can’t. I’m not beholden to social media. I’m too busy to write an email. No, you’re really not too busy. You just don’t want to.
If it matters enough… if the person is significant? Stop procrastinating and make time.
Somebody this year read something I wrote in public and found the time to send me an e-mail, pointing out multiple errors in my perception. This wasn’t written as a sympathetic, caring response, but as means to ensure that their reputation wasn’t besmirched by my clearly erroneous remembrance of events. Except how they saw my life and what really happened were as far apart in accuracy as it could have been possible to get. This year, I didn’t get a birthday card from them. I’ll live.
The person I’ve always wished would be there, that I’ve kept hoping will turn up regularly to ask how I am after spendings several years doing the same, isn’t my best friend anymore. They never really were, they’re just a friend, and maybe this is the time I stopped deluding myself that I can get them to understand what matters most. They remembered last year it was my birthday (well it was important,) but not this, and I doubt they’ll miss the Christmas card this year.
To the others, who still live in this digital world with me, can reach me at the press of a button but choose not to? It is probably time to write some emails of my own and finally explain that if our friendship really matters, then maybe it is time to start putting in some work. I’ve proved comprehensively that it is possible to talk to people, every day, and have a rich, enjoyable existence away from Facebook. Text messages are worth their weight in gold, especially to someone struggling with bouts of depression.
I think it is high time to start putting my personal house in order.