Friday, December 9, 2016

When It's Okay To Let Go Of A Friendship

Generally at this time of year I find myself blogging about the holiday season; the twinkling lights, the decorations, the hustle and bustle, and the real reason for the season. I try to keep my topics positive and uplifting; there's enough sadness and chaos in the world as it is. 

I recently asked my readers online for some topic ideas. I wanted to get a feel for what people were dealing with, besides the obvious holiday things. I inquired about traditions and things they looked forward to this time of year. My sister replied that each year she tackles a 1,000 piece puzzle. She starts it at Thanksgiving and tries to finish it by New Year's. It's a goal she finds relaxing.

By December 1st I try to have my Christmas cards written and in the mail. People joke that I am usually ahead of the pack; but, truth be told, no matter what day I send mine out on I will always get one from a previous co-worker first. Darlene beats me every year! That's become our tradition.

For me, writing out my Christmas cards can be both good and bad. The good part is I enjoy it; at least the part that involves reconnecting with family and friends with pretty and festive cards. The bad part comes when I look at my last year's list. I review it and add in the change of addresses, changes in names because someone has gotten married or worse someone has died, and then there is the issue that presents itself ... friendships that have changed.

Friendships can be tricky, because they can often be seasonable. The thing about friendships is while we hope that they will be honest and true and last forever, they can also be outgrown. For friendships to work in a healthy way, there needs be some give and take. They need to be 2-sided and there needs to be growth. I've experienced friendships that were great for literally years. We were there for each other, we supported each other, we cried together, and we talked ... a lot. Then one day out of the blue something ugly and unsuspecting happened with one. It hit me like a 2x4 between the eyes. My first response was, 'What did I do wrong?' All communication came to an abrupt halt only to leave behind unanswered questions and 'what ifs'. Years later this friend approached me out of the blue and asked to meet. We did and we talked. Turns out they had had personal issues they were dealing with that they had never been able to share. They apologized and proceeded to fill in all the blanks. We don't talk much now, but at least we have clarity and they know that I am here for them IF and when they are ready.

I had another friend, who was a very dear friend for more than 20 years. One day, their life changed, and apparently they no longer had room in it for me. Unfortunately, there hasn't been the clarity of an explanation; I believe they just outgrew our friendship. Perhaps we just didn't have things in common anymore. Perhaps it was a work in progress and I missed the signs. Clarity gives us closure. Without it we tend to speculate and place blame, sometimes in the wrong spots. A true friendship takes work, genuine effort, communication, and honesty. When even one piece is missing the friendship can take a serious hit.

I may be a little older and a bit wiser now as I sit here and reflect, but I'm not too old to not still wonder what happened? or what might have been? I am aware enough that I can see many people struggling with friendships; from the young ones all the way up to aging parents.

Yes, friendships can be great, but they can also be stressful and hurtful. They can be the cause of some serious reflection. Do we want to put in the work to fix the broken friendship? Do we want it so bad that we're willing to let ourselves be manipulated? The truth of the matter is, in my humble opinion, that people change. Sometimes they grow, they mature, their wants and needs change, and often times they're just looking for convenience or something new. Sometimes the novelty of the friendship wears off. If it never truly meant much to them to begin with then they won't feel the need for remorse or any pain. But while they may not feel it, the other half of the friendship may. You may be the one who is left asking the questions of what changed or who? When did you no longer become important enough in their life to matter? When did your feelings no longer count? At what point did they think it was okay to treat people with such little respect?

It's been said that time reveals all truths and time heals all wounds, but that doesn't make broken friendships any less hurtful or disappointing; especially during the holidays.

People change ... every where ... every day, you and I included. Sometimes friendships will be lost. It may be difficult, but it also may be necessary. In the long run it is probably better for us to see people for who they really are.

So, as you send out your Christmas cards this year or birthday cards or anniversary cards, know that it's always okay to try one more time. Sometimes we're lucky enough to know what is going on in people's lives, but more often than not we don't and can only speculate. Go with the spirit of the Christmas season; try again, be forgiving if you can, show grace when you can, but know that you deserve two-sided friendships. You are a strong individual. You get back what you give. If you put effort and honesty in, you can hope to have it returned, but if it isn't then it's okay to accept it for what it was and allow yourself to move forward toward something better and deserving.

That is my Christmas wish for you.

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