Airport ponderings re: friendship

I’m sitting in an airport with an hour or so to kill. (How fortunate and environmentally irresponsible are we in Australia that jet travel is available to the masses- $38 to travel 900km!)

Nevertheless, putting aside my greenie guilt factor, I’m contemplating friendship, and the dynamic exchange of values. Rather like a tide washing back and forth. There’s a bit of intercontinental drift too.. Some of my friendships have just drifted away, without any active encouragement or discouragement- “that’s just the way it is”. Others are consolidating and as this happens it helps me to contemplate love. There’s much to love. I don’t understand it, but I’m enjoying learning more about it and myself.

So I’ve just had a few days with a dear friend whom I love. He’s a pretty chilled out guy. Quite different to me, so I learn a lot from him. And we have our differences which we exchange. Somehow I feel that if we were partners we’d get to a base level disagreement that would deconstruct or self-destruct our friendship, but the luxury of friendship is that you can actively make decisions to ignore, or tolerate, or learn from the differences. Why is this so much harder in our chosen relationships (which are often formalised by marriage, defacto agreement, whatever)?

Coincidentally, while spending time with my friend, I received a belated invitation from an another (“old”) friend to an event. He’s very like my current friend in a way, but it’s complicated. We spent a lot of time together in our formative years and we have so many of these experiences to reminisce about, but I feel I failed in my part of the friendship. There were some differences that I wanted to explore, and his “model” of friendship meant NOT exploring these. “You just tolerate these things quietly in friendships” (Not his exact words: I can’t remember them, but that the message was explicit). I miss this friend and I grieve not knowing what is going on in his life, but I haven’t made the steps to bridge the gap of time, and it’s widening. I haven’t had a meaningful conversation with him for many years now, so what to do?

Expediently I could say “We’ve just drifted apart”, but what is that? I’m a very social person, and I’ve “moved on”- I hate that expression.. look at the offence Julie Bishop has caused with invoking the good old “let’s look forward” after the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and I totally see why. Its reminiscent of John Howard not getting why an apology to our indigenous population was needed- when you are “moving on” you lose an opportunity to reflect and learn from the past.

So what have I learnt? Not sure, but I know I value my friendships deeply, and I feel that I’m too fickle- I love my friends, but I know that some of the “special” friendships have changed. Making someone special has huge spiritual benefits, but can also generate expectations and raise the risk of letting them down. (My greatest fear!) Then there’s the complex ingredient of their life choices of friends and partners- what to do with all the factors there? Loyalty, politeness, tolerance, jealousy, anger, bemusement, amazement and shock and awe are some of the experiences I’ve had watching my loved ones in their relationships. One thing I know about committed friendship is that the commitment process is wonderful self learning.. if painful. Makes me humbly ponder, and often overthink (more about overthinking soon). I wish I could just package it as “That’s just the way it is”. I’d be much more “chilled”.

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