“A friend is the hope of the heart.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Pandemic life has radically altered or maybe made more efficient communication. Now more than ever we are made to be consistent in how we communicate lest we further our disconnection. There's something grave about getting disconnected now. Is it easier or does it feel more permanent? Somehow it just seems like the thing to do. In times past, letting go of connections friendly or otherwise seemed like a massive deal, and now it's common. We're just not that invested in one another, or the effort we're putting in to stay connected is unbalanced. That's okay. That's the reality. That's useful.
“Talking” these days is like a subscription. It starts to run out and either we have to renew by sending a text or let it lapse and never hear from one another ever again. The goal is a lifetime subscription with automatic renewal. Instead of renewing subscriptions we don't use in others we can just let them expire or better yet affirmatively cancel them. How freeing it can be to proactively decide to sever a connection that's not adding to our fullness. We don't have to wait, or wonder - we can take control and tell people that we're unsubscribing, give them closure, and make our own peace.
What are we afraid of in choosing to let go of people? This time spent video calling, sending voice messages, and paragraphs of text has forced us to recognize which our of connections are effortful in all the best ways, effortless in the simplest of ways, and too much effort in the worst of ways. It's ending a call and feeling refreshed, energized, connected. It's that "why don't I do this more often." It's that realization that you really do enjoy that person's companionship. Or "it's that felt tedious, like an interview, or like we were carrying the conversation." It's the difference between watching the clock and feeling like time doesn't matter.
The best people are those we are so comfortable with we can do other things while talking with them. It's being able to cook a meal, shop at the store, fold laundry, make our beds, etc. all while our people do their own thing that just works. Sometimes those connections can feel like a rarity and other times they are just right around the corner waiting to make our acquaintance. Then there are those we have to focus on in talking with them, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We can talk, they get us to think, and it takes energy in the form of presence. Both kinds of relationships have their place and merit.
There's this new place in life where people are fleeting. Without forging a meaningful connection people can easily exit our lives just as quickly as they came in. Sometimes that happens, and that's okay. That means we don't have to agonize over every detail of conversation or how we showed up. Sometimes people are just incompatible or unwilling to do the work of relationship. Relationships only work if there is energy, effort, and intentionality from all those involved. Relationships are about continual choice. We have to choose people over and over again. We have to want them in our lives. We have to preserve their place. If not, then we adjust their place or even let them go. There's been so many instances where we start off strong, feel excited about the prospect of new people, and then let them fall by the wayside. If we wanted to hold on to them with longevity we always have the direct ability to tell them that we need some time, are feeling whatever we're feeling, and want to get to know them. That's all it takes.
When we cannot muster up the courage or the care to say that's our subliminal way of communicating first to ourselves that we may not really care or have the capacity to do so, and to the other person the exact same. If its a mutual apathy, we can let it fizzle and move on. No need to acknowledge or discuss it. Sometimes we just fall flat. Other times when we notice that disappearance in others where there really should be connectivity we can name it so we can give them a chance to clarify and change how they're showing up (or not showing up), or decisively move forward. We can unmatch, unfollow, delete threads, block, etc. Why maintain just to maintain? The voyeurism of glimpsing into the lives of people we have squandered the chance to know is the most odd. It's okay to disconnect. Hit unsubscribe.
The rule that has governed my relationships especially those in questions comes from a pact with my best friend - always forward, never back. We know what we want or what we don't want. When people or thing don't work out there's no reason to return to them. People will pop back up, vie for our attention when we glow, and want to reenter. We get to give and revoke access to ourselves. What would be different? What changes have been made? Are we different people? Familiarity is just comfort but we know growth uncomfortable so we cannot settle for ease when the better for better resides in novelty. We say thank you and disengage. We can tell people we're not interested. We can shut it down.
We are not obligated to give connections another go when we know deep down it's not what we actually want or need. There's always exceptions, but more often than not it's a swipe left this time, acknowledge the message and move on, trade platitudes and disengage instead of opening doors to conversation. Insanity, as they say, is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Always forward, never back. We can break our problematic patterns of behavior. We can figure out who people remind us of, for better or worse. We can stop things before they start. We can pass, respectfully decline, or say no. We don't have to hangout, catch-up, go on a date, etc. when we can already tell it's not going to honor us in our entirety. There's no spark, no energy, no charm, no life. Let it die.
There is something profound about feeling safe, secure, and comfortable in the relationships/connections we've forged. Cherish the friendships most that do not need constant reassurance that we are in fact friends. We can go days, weeks, months - years even, and still know that we matter to one another - it may not be in the day to day, but we are forever etched into one another's life stories. There is peace of mind and no questions to be asked. We don't wonder or worry. We just are. We know that we are there if and/or when we're needed. We are confident that we would do anything within our power to support these well-established friends, and are sure they would do the same for us. These are the people that immediately come to mind as your forever friends because there is not one iteration of your life ahead that you can reasonably fathom without them.
We carry people with us wherever we go. We are ourselves, our identities, thoughts, experiences, and everyone who has impacted us. We carry the love, the way people have made us feel, and how they have seen us in those strikingly profound ways. We are never without them. They are never truly far away. The the things they taught us, what we learned about ourselves from there, and all that they are to us - hope, laughter, love, companionship, refuge, strength, support, etc. - we get to access those things readily just by recalling our friendships. That ability to make people feel mattered even when you're not with them, that is friendship. That irreplicable comfort, contentment, courage, and care that we get to make people feel - that's the lingering effects of friendship. Regardless of how long the pause is between us, recalling the words spoken and unspoken between us moves us. X