It’s been a good year for me overall, if I were to consider my work, my health, my home, my family and all the things I hold dear. But its been a year of spectacular disappointment in terms of people. I’ve broken and lost (some deliberately, some naturally/organically, some inexplicably) more relationships this year than I have in several years gone by.
Making and breaking, losing and rediscovering relationships, has been a common theme in my life, but this year I had a moment where I felt that maybe I’ve officially run out of the quota of energy and effort one gets to invest in relationships.
Yep, I believe we come with a limited supply of energy we can spend on relationships. That energy doesn’t come from a bottomless vat which never runs dry. It is finite, it does run out. And when it does, it becomes almost impossible to replenish.
I used to be a the sort of person that was equally emotionally invested in all the relationships I held dear. I took being left out, falling-out or losing relationships very, very badly. And since my adult life has seen a healthy measure of relationships, that have been built and broken along the way, I’ve seen my fair share of fall-outs that have left me sufficiently emotionally scarred.
But this year something snapped. I had an epiphany. Ever since I’ve realised I don’t have the energy for high-maintenance relationships, I don’t have it in me anymore to chase after relationships, or work at them, coax my friends into places of comfort and honesty, many things have changed.
Friendship used to be a source of a fair bit of angst in my life. But this year, I have realised I’m quite frankly, over it. I don’t seem to want to keep relationships that require an undue amount of effort.
I am much less troubled by a shaky relationship now than before. I walked away from an unhealthy relationship with almost zero remorse and heart ache this year.
I recognised a weak relationship, put my foot down and didn’t accept the dishonesty that came with it. I pulled the plug on it, rather than brush it under the carpet and continue to put myself in a vulnerable position.
I have become much stronger in sticking with what I respect in my relationships. Being a little uncompromising about wearing my heart on my sleeve, has meant that I lost a friend who couldn’t handle the honesty that is part of it.
As a direct result of this, I’ve been alone a lot. And the biggest development of them all has been that I not only enjoyed the silence, but craved and chose it for myself, even when opportunities to engage with people presented themselves. I have found a pleasant kind of comfort in my own company, that isn’t tinged with sour-grapes.
Because so many of my old circles and comfort-zones (in terms of people) were broken, I’ve found some wonderful new friendships, amongst people so varied and with whom I didn’t think I’d have a deeper friendship.
I came across this piece in The Guardian yesterday and practically every paragraph hit home. Particularly:
“Treading carefully is easier said than done. Part of a good friendship is honesty, and sooner or later one is forced to choose between being amenable and giving a friend the honesty you think the relationship merits. But honesty is always a risky strategy, whether it’s asking “Do you like my new dress/suit?” or “Do you like my new girlfriend/boyfriend?” — I’ve had the privilege of losing a relationship over my inability to accept a choice my friend made, and of experiencing a new friendship where we openly, honestly questioned our choices, thrashed things out, and came out at the other end. In peace. And said friend remains to be one of the nicest people I have bonded with this year.
“The thing with friends is that because they tend to be bit-players in one’s life – “let’s meet for drinks/a meal/a game/a movie” – it’s easy to build up a false idea about someone with whom you share a friendly relationship.” — I think I have been prey to this a lot. Moving out of Bangalore made me seek a social circle here, which quite naturally was based on doing things together. I have never been one for a large circle of friends, but even the small circle of trust and kinship was based on a false sense of togetherness. I suppose it is but natural for cracks to develop when you reach a point where you seek more than just dinner and drinks together.
“…think women sometimes struggle with friendship in the long run as they seem to have an unspoken pact that a friend should always be supportive. They just invest so much in each other. Men often accept a little grit in the ointment – one can tell a male friend to fuck off without losing his friendship. Female friendships can struggle when the faults in either party begin to surface.” — Without making a general statement for all women at large, I know this is true for me. I see the hugsband who has all of two best friends, he talks to them maybe twice or thrice in a year, at-best. And yet when they’re in town I’ve seen him leave the dinner table to rush off and meet them, and pick up exactly where they left off. I on the other hand, have always taken care to stay in touch, and make all the requisite moves friendship requires and yet struggle emotionally, a lot more than he does. He has never felt the need for a circle of people for comfort, doesn’t need everyday signs of love and togetherness. I used to balk at the idea, but this year I’ve seen some of it in me too.
“Friends, like marriage partners, love each other, but they must also be allowed to hate each other sometimes.” — Extreeeemely important and a big lesson this year: that it’s okay to hate each other in a way that fundamentally, nothing changes. Being friends with someone doesn’t mean loving everything about them all the time.
“In each of my closest friends there have been moments when the friendship has nearly foundered – but we somehow came through them to a relationship that was stronger than it was before the crisis. The nature of friendship changes, and you have to change with it.” — That last sentence — word. The friendships that have endured differences, time, distance between us have all been the ones that have gracefully morphed with the changes that have seeped into our lives, personalities and therefore our friendships too. I think it’s natural to discover the nuances of people’s personalities and ethics, as our own personalities and belief systems gets strengthened, thought-out and deeply etched. And relationships need to grow along with, rather than parallel to these changes.
“A good friendship, like a good marriage, ceases after a while to be a mutual entertainment society and becomes instead a sorority or fraternity of battle-scarred veterans. We are still here, we still enjoy being around each other, and we treasure our shared histories. This is something precious, even if it isn’t always a laugh riot.” — The relationships I dropped fairly painlessly have been in this category, where our friendship has been rooted only in a mutual-entertainment-society and a laugh-riot. It doesn’t take a genius to soon wake up and realise you’re craving something more substantial.
“Is there a secret to long friendships? Simply this – an absence of pride. Too many falter on stubbornness or the determination to hold on to offence. Successful ones rely on humility and the recognition of human fallibility. These are not merely useful attributes. They are the heart and soul of friendship.” — I have to admit this has been the hardest lesson of them all. That we all have an ego, pride and a good share of stubbornness. In some relationships, I have held on to offence, because of my own pride. And I also am aware of cases where a friend has been too proud to make any effort to mend things. It takes humility on both sides, and the relationships that have endured emotional upheavals have been those where both egos were put aside without much thought, and the mending happened effortlessly.
Which brings me back to my epiphany about relationships and effort. I started off saying this year has been disappointing in terms of people, but maybe the flip side is the realisation that the truest relationships have been those that fell into place effortlessly. They’re those that require little working-at, are healthy whether we’re having a giggle-fit, a fierce debate or going through a crisis.
It’s true, this year I have lost more friends than I have in a long while, but it is also true that this is the year I have made more friends, more willingly than before. My friends are varied not just in age, but in interest, in profession and the kind of relationship we share. And to have all of that with a minimum level of effort, feels good.