This post is kind of related to the one I made yesterday about ghosting and temporary connection.
My cousin S was at that family wedding shower I went to a couple weekends ago. We used to be really close. I shared stuff with her I didn’t tell other people, because she always used to seem genuinely invested in me and she understood some things about me without me having to explain them ad nauseam, because we have so much shared history and reference. She’s approximately my age; grew up in my area; we share family…
But in recent years (after marriage and parenthood…so marriage and parenthood aren’t the reasons), we’ve grown totally apart to the point we haven’t spoken even in casual passing or social media interaction for a few years. There are a WHOLE BUNCH of life events and insights and funny anecdotes, etc. I’d have normally shared with her, but we just don’t share anymore. And when she saw me at the shower, her half-hearted (or quarter-hearted…or maybe completely heartless), ‘How are things?’ was answered by my equally lacking in heart, ‘It’s been a day.’
Whatever we had in the past is totally gone. She doesn’t know I’ve published any books or that I have a blog. And I’ll never tell her at this point.
I had a dream Saturday night (J was gone, and it was fitful, restless sleep anyway because of that) about old friends of mine, J & B. J & B are married to each other (I still THINK they’re married, anyway…we haven’t had any real contact with one another in a year or two either, and a lot can change in adult life in a year or two). I was there when their relationship went from ‘just friends’ to ‘now we admit we’re soul mates.’ I gave them personal handmade gifts when their babies were born. J read at my wedding to MY J. We used to talk on the phone regularly (which is a huge deal for me because I totally hate the phone, but not when I was talking to J or B). I stayed at J’s place (and later J & B’s place WITH MY J) on vacations. We used to get together as couples and later, as families with our kids, about once every month or two. We chatted on text fairly often and kept in touch. And then a few years ago, a mutual acquaintance whom My J and I thought was our good friend did some things to deliberately hurt ME. And My J by extension. J & B knew this person treated me (us) this way. And they still hang out and communicate with this person all the time. They haven’t spoken to me and My J for more than a year. Not even a Merry Christmas. Not even a Happy Birthday. Not even a ‘You ok?’
So even though I think about them a lot…I had a dream about them Saturday night…I don’t reach out to them either. It’s clear they don’t want to hear from me.
I know people have busy lives and sometimes time gets away from us and we have to prioritize the necessary over the luxury (what a shame to live in a world where friendship is a luxury, but here we are). We have to focus on our kids and our careers and our spouses/partners and homes and parents and siblings and and and and. Emergency situations seem to crop up constantly in everyone’s lives. I understand those things. And I also get that relationships are reciprocal. There is this meme I’ve seen that reduces every modern social problem to this simplistic solution like, ‘Miss someone? Call. Love someone? Tell them. Unhappy? Change.’ Like the effort involved in doing those things is as simple as typing out the words. And like most of if not all of those things don’t involve other people and their own free will and desires and needs and consent and agency. Like…yeah, if I miss someone, I should just give them a call…super easy…except, even if I didn’t have social anxiety that made me afraid to call and overthink calling, what if they really DON’T want to hear from me? After all, using the same logic…if they missed ME, wouldn’t they be calling me? Reciprocation is a necessary thing for me in my relationships and so is consent.
I have friends whom I don’t speak to regularly that I don’t feel neglected and abandoned by. A and A and D and S and K and D and B and S and E and M and T and L. I mean, my old group of friends from school and college and previous working life is scattered around the country…Illinois, Arizona, Tennessee, Florida, California, Colorado…and my new friends are also scattered…Washington, California, Virginia, Illinois, Utah, Florida, CANADA…and a couple I don’t even know their locations, but they are somewhere around the world. A few I don’t even know their real names. I can go days, weeks, months, sometimes YEARS without hearing from these folks and it doesn’t feel forced or awkward when I do speak to them again and I never feel like they ditched me. I hope they never feel like I ditched them either. But with my cousin S…and especially with J & B…I feel like I was actively chosen against.
Those three people in particular are people I truly believed would always be a part of my life. I read something somewhere that if you are friends with a person for 7 or more years, they’re almost certain to be your friend for the rest of your life, but…J & B are no longer my friend. Not in any sort of substantial way. Hell, I don’t even think if some terrible tragedy befell me they’d even care. They wouldn’t show up for me, not even at my funeral. And S? She’s ‘family.’ But she doesn’t know me at all. I thought once that she did, and maybe in the past she did know me. Now though? Now we’re strangers.
Well, I’m a stranger with memories. I’m not even wholly sure they think of me enough to have memories. And that hurts. But I’m trying to focus on people who want to be in my life and know me in the present instead of people who have chosen ‘strangers,’ for whatever reasons.
I promise I’ll get cheerful again after J’s home for more than a day or two, and the new month rolls around and I get past all the heavy awkwardness.