old friends/ Book ends
What is it about some friendships, that make them more emotionally fulfilling than any love affair? And why is it, that when they end, they do so with such roaring flame?
"I still look back on that time, and can't quite work out what it was that broke us - although I'm sure she could tell you in great detail..."
Down, Down, Down
Recently I was faced with seeing an old friend, someone I had worked with closely for a long period of time, who was part of my formative years in a very difficult time of my life. This friend was once a good friend, one of the very best, but times changed, life changed - and we had a spectacular falling out, a battle of almost epic proportions, where someone who felt as important to me, as another person who is not your partner in life can feel, was bluntly and instantly removed from my existence forever. I still look back on that time, and can't quite work out what it was that broke us - although I'm sure she could tell you in great detail about the incident and my many shortcomings. The truth is, the end of that relationship felt as complicated as any love affair I'd had before, as sad, as symbolic, as timely - a lesson learnt, that would make me, a different me. I'd like to say we left it on good terms, that I was mature and considered, that we walked away with no hard feelings, able to respect each other, even if it we weren't able to like each other very much. But again, truthfully, whilst there was all the pretence of an amiable end, there was clearly some feelings I hadn't quite digested too - and when faced with seeing her again, I found my heart beating hard, my emotions drawn, my not quite hatred but certainly disdain, hard to hide.
"Relationships, great ones at least, can not simply come to an end, without the slightest of struggles."
The Case Of The Ex
The symptoms were not unlike the last time I saw my ex-boyfriend - heart rate elevated, breathing shallow, a sudden intense desire to look as skinny, successful and happy as possible. I'm not proud to admit how I behaved, but it was a natural human reaction, and one I can't apologise for - it was honest, and a true representation of how I felt at the time, and had been feeling over the past 8 years. Relationships, great ones at least, can not simply come to an end, without the slightest of struggles. But that, is not the part I want to focus on here. What I found interesting in this instance, was the intensity of these emotions. The fact that good or bad, the effect this friendship had on me, was huge, special, a defining part of my life and who I've become. This was a person, who for good or bad, was someone that supported me through some of the most difficult times of my life - whose strength held me up, whose kindness kept me going, whose secrets I kept and who kept mine so faithfully. That the flame refused to burn out, even after all this time, that it reignited and roared back to life - is testament only to the importance of it; some fires are not meant to burn forever, but they will never be ashes.
"And just like my ex-boyfriend, life pushed me away from something that wasn't working, to something that did."
The Greek Word For Love
Friendships are effectively what the most important relationships are at their very core. As the Greeks knew only too well, love is a complicated business, no matter how we try to define it. People change. Life changes. I've grown-up and moved on, and honestly, I don't miss her, as I'm sure she doesn't miss me. We parted when we were meant to be parted, when we were no longer useful, or meaningful, or important to each other anymore - when we were both able to move on quickly and painlessly, as the Friendship Gods had always intended for us. But I do know that she was important to me once, that she changed me for the better, that she gave me what I needed when I needed it, and for that, I will always be grateful. And just like my ex-boyfriend, life pushed me away from something that wasn't working, to something that did.
Thank You And Goodnight
I may not be the best of friends, the one with the most time, or understanding, who's always there at the end of phone when you need her - because I might be working, or dealing with kids, or the house, or my husband, or my family; I maybe, frankly, just being a bit crap - but I do appreciate my friends, do know their value. I do see them for all that they are, and all that they do for me, whether we're friends still or not. Old friends, doesn't necessarily mean those in your circle you haven't seen or spoken to for a while, those who have always been there, in the background, a friend of the ages, a friend from a distance - it can also mean those that used to be your friend, those that may not be anymore, but who have taught you something, who have changed you. So, you may not like me very much, you may even despise me, but thank you old friends. In my own, inimitable, slightly broken way, I do know what you have done for me - and I'm here, should you ever need me to return the favour.