By Elle Mason
A necessary condition of being human is the need to have connections with others. In fact, being alive depends on belonging; belonging to family, belonging to friends, or belonging to community. Deep and stable connections have been shown to increase longevity and happiness. They add delight, anticipation and joy to our lives. On the other hand, isolation or exclusion lead to varying degrees of depression and in extreme situations, to madness. Despite the necessity of belonging, I cannot help but wonder, why these relationships are so often filled with drama, angst and heartache? Aren’t we all looking for the same things in this life?
I have been chatting with a close friend recently about our experiences with friendships lost. For both of us, these relationships were and still are, highly valued, deep connections, within which we had developed intimacy of confidences and a soulful love nurtured by shared trust and vulnerability. Their loss is painful and perplexing. We find ourselves mourning their loss and seeking an answer to the question, why?
We cannot help but to take these losses personally. Lack of reciprocation is a blow to self-esteem. My friend finds herself ruminating over this loss and seeks out convincing words that might return the relationship to its’ former place in her life. This space, now vacant, fills with longing and sadness. Emptiness creeps in and out of her awareness. A periodic reminder that someone she deeply cares for, no longer chooses to have her in their life. She is stuck in a mental loop of searching for possible explanations, none of which eases her pain or gives her solace. Like a bad break up, she can’t move on without answers, without closure.
I tell her not take it personally, after all, we cannot control others’ choices. This doesn’t offer her much comfort, as only she knows the depth of their bond and what they have shared, solid evidence, for her, of the true nature of their friendship. Surely, she thinks, with all that they have shared, she cares for me just as I do for her? In anger she feels used, discarded, and now questions everything. Did it ever really mean anything? She holds herself back from reaching out. I warn her, what if there is no response?
I work hard at not taking these losses personally. I cannot know the state of another’s heart or the path upon which they are travelling. Assuming that I am somehow at fault or unworthy in some way is an assumption that overestimates the clarity of my intuition. I believe instead, that each of us has a limit to our capacity for connecting. The more deeply we are connected with someone, the greater amount of our connecting space that relationship will require in order to nurture it. As we move through life, we add and subtract friendships in a way that keeps our connections in balance. When new relationships are developed, we redistribute our space, and some in our lives may find their part reduced or eliminated while others will see it grow.
Depending on where we are in our lives with work or family or any other myriad of things that call our attention and time, the degree of connectedness with each of our relationships will evolve. If you can find comfort in your new place, you will accept that your role in this person’s life has changed. There will be times in the future where you will cross paths and your connection may reignite and you fall easily into the comforts and fondness you once shared. Does their fleeting nature make the friendships any less valuable? Does it have to be all or nothing? Should we grieve it’s loss or instead, be grateful that we ever had this gift of belonging at all?
When a friendship fades away, choose instead to open yourself to the possibility that you now have more space to connect with another. This new connection may be just around the corner and have all of the potential to fill up the emptiness and leave you whole once again.
Elle Mason is the nom de plume of this freelance blogger and writer who calls the Rocky Mountains of Colorado home. Published online and in print, the “Tell Me Mamma” blog topics of interest include ontology, or what it is to be human, how to be your best self and pubic hair (not necessarily in that order).