Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big J

What do you do when a friend stops to care? What do you do when you can tell that this friend is drifting, and that they aren’t even honest with themselves or with you to explain what’s going on? The problem is that you know this friend so well and you understand their every move, and their motivations and you can understand that they’re drifting away.

It’s just the little things you know. They may forget my number after a while, forget which floor I live on, forget things I’ve mentioned about myself. They’re very small things, and inconsequential, but they point to a distance that is growing within them. They can choose to act casual or forgetful by nature, but the trouble is that I’m not. I remember that during our close friendships they remembered very specific details that I could have mentioned in passing. They remember events and remind me of them. But when they’ve drifted, they act like it’s normal to forget these things, and they believe it too, because they don’t even remember that they used to remember.

When friends drift, they ask about you more casually than before, you sense it in the tone of speech and their facial expressions. Sometimes you’re not even consoled by a pathetic effort to fake interest. It’s just a drift that starts slowly and takes on a form that they might not even identify but you can clearly see.

I recall once a very close friend asked me how old I had become a few days after my birthday. A year earlier she had celebrated my birthday on time and sent me a card and bought me a gift. You can imagine the message it sends out when I get a brief phone call many days after my birthday with a question of how old I’ve become. The call meant nothing to me and I wish she hadn’t even bothered. It was more painful to be wished a happy birthday carelessly and so late, than not to have been wished at all.

It’s not that I want people to remember things about me, not at all. I’m not the kind of guy who takes birthdays, events, information too seriously. I don’t keep track of a lot of it personally, and I’ve never seen this as a big deal. I’m not into blaming people for not remembering details or events, but the inconsistency of care is what can hurt sometimes. To see someone you care about drifting away and shifting their care away is a bit like that slow painful stab at the end of Saving Private Ryan.

The way I see it, you have no choice but to let them go, only that I wish they’d drift away quicker. You have no choice but to let them go their own way, and feel their own feelings and do what they need to be doing. Friendship is mutual, and it’s based on both sides giving. No amount of giving from one side will force the other side to give again sometimes. What can you do when you can no longer get what you always wanted from your friend?

Your hand is forced and you have no choice but to let go. I’ve been accused of being cold or without emotion, and yet one of the strongest feelings I’ve had was towards friendships. It’s rather unfortunate that I’ve experienced a lot of friendships breaking. Do I need to get all emotional and broken up over someone who decided to break a mutual bond?

I adapt, and that’s all there is to it. I try to keep my face expressionless and isolated from an aching soul. I try to be strong because being weak helps no one. It’s not that I’m pretending to be strong or that I’m naturally strong by nature, that’s not it, it’s that I’ve discovered that I have the potential to be very strong in my character and all I’m doing is utilizing that potential. Needless to say that having the potential and using it are entirely different things. There’s sometimes a choice not to be strong, and it has it’s own set of returns.

I know why people call me cold, because I can hide what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling. And why should I show feelings of being hurt or troubled when it will be probably at times where the person in front of you couldn’t care less. People do reach this cruel state sometimes when they are unable to sympathize with what you’re feeling or understand what you’re going through. Friends can sometimes become less sympathetic with you than a total stranger, and you can become more pitiful than what remains of the friendship is worth.

So to all those who say I’m cold, I say, I’d rather be cold than have to deal with the mushy bullshit that comes along with expressing exactly what you feel to exactly the wrong people. I’ve seen too much psychological bullshit going on with people to believe that you should allow yourself to be vulnerable with just anyone. I was talking to one of the few remaining very good friends of mine Big J and telling him about Hisham and how our friendship was suddenly and magically severed, and then I thought I’d test him. He’s a stable solid guy who has a good vision about life, and he’s a realist, practical and easy going. So I asked him if our relationship can someday be severed in that same odd dramatic manner, and his answer attested as to why we’re still very good friends. Big J said, “In this life, anything can happen. I don’t think we can ever say that something like this can’t happen with us because we never know what life may bring.”

Thank you Big J, that’s the right answer, that’s the real one. Too much can happen that we can’t foretell. Life’s just that way, it’s full of surprises in its own mundane way. Who knows what can make people change? I try to fight it, but I do accept I can change dramatically through something I just can’t anticipate. I can end up being exactly what I’ve resented being. I can be a liar, I can change my beliefs, I can change to believe that all I had wanted to be was not worth anything.

It’s the tough equation, to care enough about a friend to be a good friend to them, because I believe that being a good friend means something, it’s worth something; and to be able to let them go when they choose to end the friendship. It’s an odd contract, friendship that is. It’s a contract whereby both parties get great benefits but any one side can unilaterally end this contract or amend it or change it.

I think we all lose people along the way, it’s not like I’m cursed or anything, but perhaps I feel I lose more because of how much I’ve valued friendships and how strongly their loss has impacted me. I really hope I’m not making it sound like marriage or the love that comes with a relationship, because unlike what people seem to want to believe, love exists outside that realm in a very strong manner that gives great returns.

3 comments:

LouLou said...

When a friend stops caring, you stop caring too. You do whatever you need to do to achieve that.

I learnt that the hard way. Don't ever get trapepd into a situation where you are offering your friendship to people to whom it is no longer a priority.

Do you know why? Because your emotional energy is - like everything else - a finite resource. When you squander it where it is unrequited, you are simultaneously taking it away from people who could appreciate it and probably need it.

Everytime I've lost a friend in the way you refer to here, I've been surprised by someone else who was there all along that I've been neglecting or keeping at a distance because I felt secure that I had enough close friends. Someone who was there all along that I simply wasn't giving a chance to because I was too preoccupied with the older friends.

I am constantly ending up in a position where I'm kicking myself for being there for someone who doesn't want it or deserve it and not being there for someone who does.

Will E. said...

You know something loulou, you've expressed it very well... but sometimes it's hard to do what we need to even when we know there's no other way... but therein lies the strength perhaps?

insomniac said...

i liked how loulou said it...

and i really liked ur post...

i don't think ur cold, i think you preserve yourself that way... i usually get too worked out when something similar happens with me, even when i know it's useless and it won't fix anything... i do it when i know that in a short time i will stop caring too because i believe i'm incapable of caring for people who do not care for me... yet i get too emotional about it; so i think you're doing the right thing, ur you're doing fine :)))