What does it mean to have a best friend for life? That's a question I've pondered a lot recently. I still don't have an answer, perhaps because the answer is different for each individual. As an introvert, I've always thought that it meant I may know a lot of people but I am only close with a few and those few I keep forever.
Sometimes a relationship is simpatico and it doesn't matter if you see the person once a month, once a year, once every five years, and it doesn't even seem to matter if you talk in the interim. You meet together and instantly it's comfortable and like you've never been apart. Those are my favorite relationships because they are easy -- the bond is so strong that there's no (apparent) work involved.
Sometimes there is a bond that seems simpatico -- and may in fact be that for years -- and then something happens, life happens, and bonds dissolve.
For me, it's easier to let those bonds slip away when I am separated geographically from someone. Honestly, I'm such a home body and like taking care of what's in front of me that the extra effort to keep in touch with someone hundreds or thousands of miles away is just too draining. My energy is needed at home. This does not necessarily mean that I stop thinking about that person, but chances are we'll drift apart and generally speaking that ends up being okay.
(As a side note, social media like Facebook has really changed this, or at least facilitated an easing of the guilt: "Sure, I know what's going on in so-and-so's life -- I 'like' her posts on Facebook all the time!")
I am not sure how to change a relationship when I am not separated geographically from the other person. What happens if you realize that life was wonderful with a friend but that it's now time to go your separate ways and yet your lives at this point are so intertwined that you can't even imagine how to do that?
Sometimes close friendships are like marriages (or maybe I should say, more often than not). It takes time and effort on the part of both parties to maintain the friendship, but more than that it takes commonalities -- similar goals, purposes, ways of approaching life. In a marriage, especially one that starts very young, there is a real possibility that people will grow up differently and no longer be really compatible. Honey and I agreed, back before we were married, that if that happened we would do our best to split amicably. Now, ten years into a marriage, we have talked about how lucky we are that even though we have both changed dramatically in the past decade, we happen to change together. That cannot be said for the close friendships I've had over that same time period.
Yesterday, I went to speak with a woman I really respect, to share with her what was on my mind. It was so nice to hear her message: It's okay to grieve for a friendship and It's okay to acknowledge you've grown into different paths and let a friendship go. When I returned home and prepared dinner, this song played in my head:
I am not saying this has to happen all the time. But there are times when a friend has chosen behavior that is personally destructive and sticking with that person would bring the destruction into your life. That's when it's okay to say goodbye.
But I still don't know how to do that. And so I've got to sit and ponder a while longer.