Sunday, February 28, 2016

When Friends Drift Away

A few years ago I was given some of the best wisdom I've ever received in my life. It was during my Reiki training, and the phrase and subsequent discussion came as quite a surprise because it seemed to go against everything else I'd been told.

The simple wisdom was, "When people drift away, let them."

I was going through a break up and at that time, did not want to let that particular person drift away. As a matter of fact, I fought against his drifting away like a caged tiger, and as a result, he came back into my life full speed ahead, which resulted in years of unnecessary drama, loss of focus, and what now feels like just a ton of wasted time. Here's a bit more wisdom - when you don't learn a lesson the first time, life kind of slaps you upside the head with it on the second go 'round.

However it's not just romantic relationships where the wisdom of allowing others to drift away applies; all of our relationships are fluid. People can and will ebb and flow in and out of our lives, sometimes disappearing completely, then resurfacing and reconnecting with us years later, and sometimes the disappearing will be for good. We can't know, and the reality is, when we feel a cherished friendship is slipping away due to life changes, a move, or any other myriad of reasons, we can't try and control what is happening. We can't hold on when we feel a connection slipping away; we have to step back and, hard as it is, allow the shift in this dynamic to take place. It's not about us, after all, it's about them - where they are and need to be on their own journeys.

In Reiki, this shift is considered energetic. Sometimes as we rise in self-awareness, whether it be due to life changes, dedication to new goals, or our own spiritual attuning, we find that we just don't connect on the same level with certain people anymore. Friendships that were once so essential become less and less of a priority. In life, this is simply called change, and it can be tough no matter what side you are on in the dynamic. When I moved across country twenty years ago, I was astonished at how few of the friends I was close to at that time made the effort to keep in touch. I'm an avid writer of real letters and had no problem burning the midnight oil in order to dispatch long missives to let my friends know what was happening in my life. I wanted to stay friends, to keep those connections that meant so much to me alive and strong. However, my mailbox disappointed me more often than not and in time I moved on, making new friends in my new state. When I moved back again, my first instinct was to rekindle those old friendships, but that, too, fell flat. The reality check was simple - we had lost connection, and we just couldn't find it again.

And that was okay. Everyone in our lives isn't going to be there forever. It's an important thing to remember in a society where the most cherished relationships are, for some reason, only thought to be the ones that last forever - best friends since first grade; golden anniversaries; co-workers for thirty get the picture.

But what about the college roommate you lost touch with, but who made those years a sheer delightful time? Or the whirlwind romance that didn't last but a few months, but in recollection, was a few months of sheer bliss? Are these connections less valid because they didn't persist for all eternity? I don't think so. I think we have to realize that not everyone in our life is going to remain in the same place with us. Our closest friend won't always be down the street; our favorite neighbor won't always be across the way; our most delightful co-worker won't always be at the next desk. Unless we live in a place where life completely stagnates, then it's likely that the same people won't always be available to us in the same ways.

A girl I know recently lamented to me that she felt she'd lost her lifelong best friend after the best friend gave birth a year ago. "Our lives are just so different now," she said. And she was right. She was in the difficult process of adjusting to a new reality. Her best friend's life now consisted of play-dates and other moms, of family time and kiddiedom. She was feeling left out of the best friend's life and more than a little hurt, but I assured her, from having been there myself many years ago (I became a mom later in life than most of my friends, so I went through this same scenario many times in my twenties),  it's a natural and normal part of growth to accept we're not always going to be able to walk every step of the way with everyone we've ever been close to. And while she could cherish and hold dear in her heart that friend and friendship, rather than fight for space in her busy friend's life, it might be time to look for what new friends and opportunities life might have to offer.

And this is all okay. Sometimes people slip our of our lives to make space for new relationships to come in. Sometimes they slip out of our lives but not our hearts, something I learned during the disaster of 2015. A friend I had grown up with and been close to for most of my life - I was in the delivery room when her son was born - sent me a large sum of money to help with expenses. This is a single mother of two who is currently putting the very son whose birth I attended through university; I knew it was a sacrifice to send me such an amount, especially considering that I hadn't seen or spoken to her in years. But her words were simple and to the point. "I know we aren't close now, but we were once, and I still cherish those years of friendship."

A Reiki master couldn't have put it better.

Allowing change, not holding on, honoring what was, allowing space for what will be. These can be difficult, but they are all part of our own growth and the growth of our relationships with others. We step in and out of many lives as we make our way. We'll have many chances to connect and reconnect with many people. Instead of fighting for space, allow space. Instead of holding on, let go a little. It's a tough lesson, but one worth learning.

1 comment:

Virginia ("Ginn") said...

From 1971-2011, my own life was pretty transient (because of a career path that made me quite a gypsy). Those people who nurtured and delighted me was an ever-changing cast of characters and yet I carried them in my heart and yes, shared missives in the mail from time to time. And I still do, on occasion, write a letter to a friend from another era. Some of those people re-emerge, like your lovely friend who sent the generous gift and the wonderful affirmation of friendship and love. I am grateful for those who have oened their homes and hearts to me, here in the Emerald City. I am grateful for your warm friendship. On my pilgrimage across Spain back in 2009, I met so many pilgrims who touched me deeply and then moved on in their journey, leaving behind the embers of a fire I continue to fuel, even though I will never see them again. The lessons I learned from them help me see what a privilege it is to have people in my life, to embrace the moment and not lament them when they are not present. They are, no doubt, out there in the world, creating beauty, sharing joy and living fully. I am reminded of the last scenes in The Little Prince...that book shares so many wonderful wise wrds about friendship and what is essential. Thank you for letting me share my rambling response. I hope we can share an evening again, soon. - Ginn