I really am. The people-come-people-go theme of my life continues. The only difference I’ve come to notice is a decrease in angst or disappointment every time it happens. Earlier, I’d be very torn up about it, even the times when I consciously chose to distance myself or cut off ties with someone. But now, the blues come and go quickly. It bothers me, but doesn’t affect me in that lingering sort of way. Earlier, I’d see the end of a relationship as The End. Now, I see it as a timely intervention for a new beginning. A chance to either alter something in the relationship or just to move on and find something new elsewhere, with someone else, perhaps.
At some level, I think I’ve made peace with this pattern. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how deeply linked this is with my own growth curve. Every time that I’ve hit a situation that has caused me to either step back from a relationship, or retreat into myself, it has been a time when I have experienced a shift in my own growth.
In December, I spent quite a lot of time pondering over this, and I’ve come to some conclusions. I’d like to think these are fundamental caveats that I have taken way too long to arrive at. And the process was not without it’s share of rife and pain. But I think of what Glennon Doyle Melton says, and take heart.
The truth will set you free, but it will hurt so badly first.
This is what will help ease the pain every time I find myself at a goodbye.
Making friends, maintaining friendships can sometimes be intimidating, at times exhausting and seemingly futile. That’s normal. And completely okay. There are times when you need and deserve companionship and the company of people can be uplifting, but there are some experiences you have to go alone. I’ve been going through some changes myself of late, details of which I’d usually be very keen to unravel and discuss and share with my closest friends. But this time around, I’ve been unable to (also not very inclined to) do this, except for N and D, who really get this process and side of me, for obvious reasons. I was a bit perplexed at my own behaviour, but over time, I realised that there is a certain sanctity in the process of change that is best enjoyed alone. It doesn’t need an audience, or that extra boost of confidence that we tend to sometimes seek from sharing information with our friends, when we’re unsure and we need a pat on the back and someone to unabashedly side with us. Tell us we’ll be alright, that in a similar situation, they’d do exactly the same.
Every relationship/person will come with some disappointment. This is bound to happen, because no two people evolve at the same pace, or ever have circumstances so similar to keep the likeness going. Evaluating what you value in each relationship, at each of those moments, will decide what parts you’re willing to ignore and let slide, and what parts become deal-breakers. Consequently, what relationships remain thick, which ones morph and move to the fringes, and which ones are eliminated altogether.
There comes a point in every relationship when the way things are going will be a clear reflection of some aspect of your sense of self. This was a hard one to acknowledge. Because it means taking responsibility for things that you’d normally pass on to the other party. It means noticing that you get what you give. Most recently, I saw it pan out when I came face to face with an extremely judgemental and critical side of myself I didn’t like. It took noticing and feeling bothered by someone elses judgemental behaviour to see my own. As I tried to work this out in my own head, I found greater and greater dissonance with the friends in whose company I was indulging in said judgemental behaviour. Things became harder still when I realised that I didn’t need to or want to talk about the process of reworking or course correcting this behaviour anymore. Doing so felt like a lot of roundabout justification of what I had come to realise was just shitty behaviour coming from a place of shame. I needed to just shut it down completely and move on to doing something about it. Quietly, without a fuss or much explanation.
Walk the talk, minus the talk, actually. In fact, this is the first time I’m even articulating these thoughts in writing. I saw in that situation that the friendships involved had devolved into a lot of casual chit-chat that involved wide-swathe judgements passed rather casually, and seemingly harmlessly, but that involved thoughts that were deep and really telling. In these friendships, I saw a reflection of this aspect of my sense of self that needed alteration. For those of you suddenly reaching out to ask why I’m off Instagram — this has something to do with it. I felt I needed to eliminate the trigger first, if I were to honestly address the issue at the heart of this.
Your spouse/friends will very well not be the answer to every one of your needs. And that is okay. You’re going to have different people for different things. Someone for the laughs and the fun. Someone else entirely for the truth-telling conversations. Sometime you reach out to for strength and support. And maybe none of these people will be the one you want to travel with or think of when you want some lighthearted fun. This is okay. Your friends are not and cannot fulfil every need at once.
N and I have discussed this at extreme length these past few weeks (given the time zones we’re in, every time I find us deeply engrossed and furiously sharing away, I worry that it means one of us is awake at an ungodly hour usually meant for sleep haha!) and she put it beautifully, in words I keep going back to.
Everyone can’t go with you everywhere.
Every relationship will lack something. And that’s okay too. Because every relationship will give you a whole set of other valuable things. I am increasingly finding myself constantly evaluating this, and I realise how my equations with various friends keep fluctuating. When I moved to Bangalore, I came with huge expectations, looking forward to being in the same city as some of my closest friends. In reality, I didn’t connect with them nearly as much as I did with people from a forgotten past. I found that my family was there for me, far more than friends who promised they’d be. I inadvertently spent a lot more time with them, and by myself, focusing on things that really needed my time and attention. I saw myself enjoy the process of making new friends, when I realised the ones I had didn’t have the time or space for me. And that has been a wholly enriching experience in itself. I don’t feel the loss, as much as I have soaked in the gain.
Every time you hit a bump in a relationship, it is an opportunity to evolve. It’s natural for relationship to get old at some point or the other. These situations are inflection points that can be turned around positively if looked at as a call for evolution. Each opportunity is in a sense, a test of whether there is scope for evolution or not. Last month, I met a friend I was convinced I had put out of my life just three months before. I was over the moon thrilled to realise that over that period of complete silence and no contact, meeting again brought out conversation and experiences so telling of the growth we’ve both had in our time apart. No part of that meeting was reminiscent of our friendship as it used to be. It was utterly refreshing and in a sharp contrast to the time before, I didn’t come away exhausted and mentally drained. I felt uplifted. Nothing excites me these days as much as a kindred spirit who gets what I’m on about.
Not every goodbye, is goodbye for good. Yet, the truth hurts. It’s not easy to feel like you’re about to lose a friend. Because it means facing the truth about how much we want to be seen, known, loved and heard. How much we want to belong. But, I’ve realised that the silence from the frenetic activity of friendship presents crucial moments of pause. Moments necessary in cultivating a focus on belonging so wholly to yourself first.
Two years ago: Day 8: On waiting