Author’s disclaimer: this is *not* a post about closet space that is filled from the floor to the ceiling and from wall to wall with unwanted and mostly unused items. During this early part of the new year, 2019, most, if not all, of us probably would benefit by conveniently losing some of the excess baggage that we have cluttering (overflowing) in our lives (closets). By the word baggage I’m referring to those who we call “friends” even though we’re loathe to spend any amount of time with them.
I’m honest enough to openly and publicly admit to having some in my own life. I believe that most of us do. But do we really need them if we have to go out of our way to avoid spending time with them? Even better, that we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid any contact with them, period.
My good friend, Jamar, and I were walking on the sidewalk near DuPont Circle in downtown Washington, DC, just before the Winter holidays. He spied an acquaintance of his walking toward us on the same sidewalk from one block away. He grabbed my arm and practically dragged me across the street, through six lanes of traffic, dodging cars and irate drivers, all in an effort to avoid having to see his oncoming friend and maybe having to interact with him. This was his friend, not mine!
The extremes that some people will go to avoid an unpleasant or unwanted situation.
Jamar isn’t the only man to find himself in this curious circumstance. I’m fairly certain that most of us have been in Jamar’s shoes (figuratively) and are too ashamed to admit it. We allow older friendships to become stale, useless and toxic.
Rather than being completely honest and confessing to not wanting to “hang-out,” “be around” or “spending time” together, we avoid the person and not the issue. We go to ridiculous lengths to not face the other person and telling the truth.
Case in point: Jamar, and I love him dearly, risked not only his health and safety but also mine when we fled from a possible encounter with his friend. Running blindly through traffic is not conducive to a long life and happiness!
Then there is the proverbial person who will sit at home in complete darkness in an effort to “pretend” not to be at home when a particular neighbor comes knocking on his door. Why bother to subject ourselves to all the inconvenience and the deceit? A simple conversation would solve the entire dilemma.
It’s only fair that we not waste energy and time in maintaining (saving) our cluttered “closets” (lives). We should put that effort into being honest with ourselves and our friends by having a simple, respectful conversation with our friends.
One peculiarity about friendships is that sometimes, what one individual maybe feeling is reciprocated by the other. Thus, if we’re trying to explain the reasons for no longer maintaining a close friendship, the other person might be feeling the same. In letting go of such a relationship, we not only free ourselves, but the other as well.
As people, we are constantly changing – evolving. I am a completely different man from the one I was as a university undergraduate. I hope that I am now better than what I was back then. I know that I’ve changed quite a bit since I first met Aaron, my spouse, more than 9 years ago.
These evolutions or changes make us different from our earlier selves and enable us to adapt in an everchanging world. As these changes happen, we naturally need to change our relationships with our friends. Some of those whom we may hold dear are able to adapt and others are not so easily adaptable. These are the ones that I’d like to address in the remainder of this post.
Those interpersonal relationships that become stale or stagnated are the ones that we need to assess or examine closely. Here, I’ll incorporate a personal example. Donna and I became close friends early on during our teenage years. She was the youngest of five daughters (no brothers) and I was the middle of eight sons (no sisters). From the beginning of our friendship, we vowed to remain friends for the rest of our lives.
I came out to Donna as same gender loving (gay) almost as soon as came out to my identical twin brother, Alex. Initially, she seemed to accept this as “no major” offense and we proceded on our path together through life. Later, during her college years and my time at university, she made several remarks about my “thinking that way” and these I took as just Donna being Donna and gave it no serious thought.
I graduated university, began graduate studies and we remained friends even though Donna had to end her college career and start working without graduating. We remained close even though we no longer shared similar experiences or even worldviews. I believe we both realized that we were both evolving into different people but neither of us recognized that our commonalities were no longer as strong or as binding as they once were.
Our friendship continued minus the “spark” we once both felt during our times together. By now, I had permanently relocated to the Northern Virginia area, away from our shared neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. The distance and the disparity in our lifestyles meant that we no longer experienced the frequency of one another’s company. The vibrancy of our platonic relationship lost its luster, slowly and fatally.
By the time I received my doctorate, Donna had at last completed courses for her undergraduate degree. I entered into academia and she struggled to find her way in the corporate world hierarchy that often overlooked her achievements (or so she felt). Our friendship no longer progressed. Rather, it limped along with us.
Once the relationship failed to grow, the negativity began to materialize. Donna resented the fact that I’m same gender loving. I started to resent her failure to accept and acknowledge that I had confided this information to her years before. Her politics changed and mine continued its left-of-center course. We no longer had mutual friends and she constantly berated me for being involved in the gay community and for continuing to “think like that.”
The last five years of our pseudo-relationship became a burden. It was no longer fun for either of us and finally, in 2015, we both knew that we were overdue for a serious discussion. We tried to end the friendship as amicably as possible, but by that point, we were both emotionally drained. It ended badly with her accusations of a “gay agenda” and deceit. I sat there through it all and refused to comment. There was nothing left to be said except “goodbye.”
In retrospect, the final conversation that we had should have occurred ten years earlier. It would probably have spared the both of us anxiety, guilt and frustration. However, both of us stubbornly refused to consider this and held out hope for a change; one that would never come.
If we, in our friendships with others, constantly assess our relationships and honestly evaluate them, perhaps an ending such as ours could have been avoided. People change and Donna and I certainly did, but our relationship didn’t keep pace with our evolution through life.
I continue to enthusiastically “Jump for Joy” on this Second Blogging Anniversary!