The Ghosts of Friendships Past, Present and Future.

There will be new friends, yes, but no void will fill the void of that old time friendship. The Miranda to your spoilt-ass Carrie. We spoke about the guilt, the nostalgia, the need to ‘fix’ what went wrong, and the fact that a friendship gone sour is worse than the end of a relationship. (Call me cold but I have cried more after the girl whose hair I will never braid again, than the man who was meant to be the Vera to my Wang.)

#Life discusses friendships, what keeps them and what kills them.

I sat down for a drink which I had bribed my best friend into this evening. I told her I would be at the brasserie up the road from her workplace. The brasserie with an irresistible offer on food and wine. The brasserie which she needs to walk past on her way from office to home. And which, I would be seated outside with my laptop doing some writing should she happen to pass by and wish to join me for a drink of the irresistible, aged Italian wine I was going to order anyway. In short: I was (hopefully) giving her no choice. I didn’t mean to – you know, have to sell it to her – but I wanted to see her, so I created an environment which would glamorize the offering to her, with the odds favourable that she would concede. She did.

What I love about our friendship is that the minute we sat down together (she ended up arriving before me, getting the table herself and sussing out that my plan had been contingent on her accepting in the first place), we joked about how transparent I am. And that, for me, is what makes such nuances okay in a friendship. It is okay, sometimes, to sway each other in good humour. Situations which we coin as rooted in good humour are synonymous with “coming from a place of love”. It is so vital, that the actions within a friendship come from a place of love.

We spent the rest of the evening speaking about the ghosts of friendships future, present and past.

The ghosts of friendships past:

We concluded that a breakup from a friendship is worse than a breakup from a relationship. When you break up in relationships, the conclusive verdict is always that the person wasn’t right for you (whether we like to admit it or not) and the progressive verdict is always ‘onto the next one’. We recapped old friendships that had gone awry and the problem with these is that there will never be a ‘next one’. There will be new friends, yes, but no void will fill the void of that old time friendship. The Miranda to your spoilt-ass Carrie. We spoke about the guilt, the nostalgia, the need to ‘fix’ what went wrong, and the fact that a friendship gone sour is worse than the end of a relationship. (Call me cold but I have cried more after the girl whose hair I will never braid again, than the man who was meant to be the Vera to my Wang.) One thought that seemed to ricochet throughout the entire conversation, was that old friendships – those people who knew you before you knew you – well, they’re good for the soul. But if and when they draw to a close, you must understand why they have remained in the era in which they belonged. The friends we worship in all naivety at age 14, they don’t necessarily develop to be the people that the person who we’ve developed into can relate to, and that’s okay. Some people evolve together, but that’s only really if you lead similar enough lives for your circumstances to compensate for the nuances in your personality differences; if the binding factors become situations or every day occurrences rather than who and what you are. And there, just then, I suddenly understood why the young girl I would sit in starbucks coffee shops giggling away with, and even on the steps to starbucks crying over a boy with, suddenly felt so distant. She suddenly felt like someone I wasn’t sure would laugh with me, let alone cry with me. And that is because you are not your, and everyone else is not their, 14 year old self. They call them ‘irreconcilable differences.’ I call them ‘evolutionary spikes.’ We grow spikes that prod at each other as we grow and evolve and for some they fit right into their grooves. For others – they simply prod holes into a smooth surface that didn’t invite, and cant comprehend such an attack.

The ghost of friendships present.

My sisters and I were on our annual family holiday when I made the sordid mistake of laughing at a text message. “What are you laughing at?” “Who are you texting?” “What’s so funny?” There’s just no privacy on family holidays. “Nothing its just my friend *Alice and she said something hilarious” (*names have been altered before you get excited Alice.. you’re not that funny.) They then proceeded to ask if this was my “friend of the week.” “Oh is Alice your new best friend… Joanna you do go through friends.” Then turning to one another:

“Do you remember the Emily phase?”

“Yes, Emily was great, I miss her.”

“And then there came Joyce, she was nice.”

“What about the Shaunagh stage? That was my favourite.”

“Ha! Yes, that was a good one!”

“Hilarious.”

And so it continued as they erupted into raucous laughter at the friendships I hadn’t exactly sustained. I bit my tongue and kept my gaze at my phone as I contemplated how to respond. I could respond with all the many reasons and ways these friendships had failed – but why bother? I could recount how, my last and closest friendship had drawn to a close because I had been lied to and manipulated more times than is forgivable, but why stew over bygones? I choose to live in the present. One thing we are called to be is sociable beings. Be you shy, a social butterfly, or a muse of promiscuity. I have always maintained that there are 7 billion people out there in the world: why not go out and meet them? Many are quick to point out my ability to hammer the final nail in the coffin to a friendship which is going nowhere. However, when a woman can’t leave an abusive, uncommitted, or simply disinterested man in a relationship, we implore her to draw on all her power and walk away. Why then, can a girl not walk away from a draining friendship? Is that not too, a relationship which calls for your time and emotion and devotion? Does that not too, require judgement of who you want to spend your time with and be surrounded and influenced by? Is it then not noble and admirable to have the courage to stand up and say ‘enough’ and walk away from a friendship which is causing you harm? We lable friendship-barbarians as fickle. We call relationship time-callers heroic. I will never comprehend this irony.

That isn’t all to say, that you shouldn’t fight for a friendship, work out compromises, or a happy medium. But I believe that trusting in your intuition as to whether, all these differences and obstacles come from a place of love, or from a darker place in the friendship, can help you determine whether that shoe still fits. And whilst my real hope is that as many ghosts of friendships past, remain present, I know not all will make it into my future. I asked myself why I am certain of this – and I know it is because I have come to a stage where I know which spikes hurt me and what I do not want to be scathed by. These are the ghosts of my friendships future:

People who can not respect boundaries.

If you grow up in an Arabic family like mine – expect your sense of personal boundaries to be a little bit cloudy. Okay, expect them to be buried 1000s of miles below the earth’s surface. Little things like one day receiving an invitation from a parent to download an app called Life360. You send it to your friends and family, and it tells you where they are. I realised just how precise it was when Life360 would ping on my sisters phone (who’d been reckless enough to download it, at the peril of her freedom for evermore) as we sat on the couch, saying “Fekry is home.” We slanted forward on the couch and peered at the house door down the hall way. No one there. Dad had not come home; I’ll have you know, Life360! Nanoseconds later, a key starts turning in the door, shopping bags emerge at the doorstep, we look up and see our father standing there “Hi girls!”. We slump back into the sofa. Hell no. I was not downloading this human tracker. That, is my most bottom-line of a boundary. I want to be free to do as I wish, and go where I wish, without answering to others, and preferably without others having much involvement in my whereabouts if it doesn’t concern them. Oh sweet, naive, child. You whereabouts ALWAYS concern people, or so I’ve learnt.

A friendship past, involved someone who could not come to terms with the fact that I do not make advance plans unless I absolutely have to. I work in finance, and my hours are far from fun. Weekends and evenings are holy-time, where every hour is precious. I feel uncomfortable pre-assigning this free time, 6 days in advance, because, quite frankly, I might not be in the mood, may be too exhausted, or might prefer to be doing something entirely different, come that time. And because I am a creature of unpredictability, most of the time, my idea of weekend fun on a Monday will differ wildly, come the actual weekend. That right there is a boundary: please do not make me commit to a plan to ‘hang out’ in advance, and if the offer still stands come the time, I might take you up on it – if not – then that’ll be my loss. Such a boundary was observed by this friend. I would even recount to her all the horror stories of plans I had committed to out of pure pressure, and then needed to wriggle my way out of – it’s exhausting. Her response was: “challenge accepted.” As an over-planner herself, who couldn’t function without a full social diary, she would ask and ask and ask until I conceded. One of my ex’s once laughed that I would always ask the same question in different ways until I got the answer I wanted. I made a conscious effort to stop from that day, because thats pretty damn annoying. This was my belated karma. Here was someone who would monitor my every move and hold it against me in the history book of plans ive ever made with others, when trying to convince me to commit to plans in advance that I simply didn’t want to. The result? Everytime I was backed into a corner – try as I may to hold up my agreement – i would end up backing out in the end. It made me appear to always be letting the other person down. It made me feel guilty. It made me feel suffocated. It made things boil up till I imploded with the inevitable words that mark the end of a friendship in my eyes “I’M NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND!” And there it was, another one bit the dust.

The Darth Vaders:

The second feature of a friendship which can slowly poison it to death is the crime and punishment aspect. Holding things over each others heads. We have mothers for that. We do not need it from our friends. No friend wants to be told over and over again what they’ve done wrong and why that makes this person morally righteous over you. Of course, any good friend will point out our flaws, will guide us away from our irrational female tendencies, will tell us when we’re being a brat or being a psycho, and for our own and others’ protection, slap us out of it when we’re being both. That is not the same as holding leverage over someone. Again, it all reverts to whether it comes from a place of love. Are you reminding me of that time I lied to the cute guy and said I didn’t have a boyfriend, because you want to make me feel like Jezebel? Or because you can see me bee-lining for the one at the bar right now and I will thank you once the vodkas worn off for stopping me? On more serious notes, are you pointing out that I have a tendency to not be able to push back on people, or say no without feeling bad, because you’re trying to toughen me up? Or because it helps your argument against me right now?

This was what happened with a friend recently. We were bickering about an event which I hadn’t wanted to go to, and which she had understood to mean, I just needed a little persuasion (see boundary no. 1), I ended up going, but leaving early, and I hadn’t want to be there the entire time. To survive it, I dragged a good friend of mine, who requires zero effort to be around, and with whom you end up laughing like a hyena when all either of you have done is inhale and exhale. Friend A, was not happy about this. We argued why I had let her down by not agreeing until last minute, and once I had agreed, selectively committing to a given timeframe which would have made it difficult for her to come. Whilst these are all fair points, my point, was that agreeing to go at all, was my compromise. And a compromise was as much as I was willing to give. Phrases such as “I will not beg to see you” and “If you didn’t want to hang out with me you only needed to say so” ensued. None of them were true, and none of it was personal to her – it had been my issue, not hers. It wasn’t that I had any objection to seeing her, I just simply hadn’t wanted to go. I didn’t take any of these statements to heart however and replied in kind with my own reasoning against them.

But then came the final blow, the one statement which until today I can’t seem to shake: “Joanna, you yourself have admitted that you have a problem with saying no to people – in your own words. So I cannot be held accountable for knowing what you do and don’t want to do.” Um, how about my saying “I don’t want to do anything” being a brilliant hint? That aside, it was when this person dug up an old friendship, and how this issue had played a large part in the demise of that friendship, and used it to further her argument of why I was at fault here, that something stung absurdly. I suddenly didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel like this person had any good interest toward me, if she was willing to use my personality traits, and the history of another friendship, against me now, to break me down, to make me concede that I was at guilt here. It was an evolutionary spike, I hadn’t seen coming, and yes, it is an irreconcilable difference. I pointed out on the spot that this was a low blow and that I certainly didn’t want to carry on the discussion if my own personality was going to be used against me. When you let a friend into your very being – when you let them see the who you are, behind who you appear to be – one cardinal unspoken rule is that: they cannot betray that trust. Here was a friend who had pushed me over the edge on two counts: pushing my boundaries, and then punishing me for my crime.

I have been trying to move on ever since and leave that instance in the past, but it has tainted everything that happens now. Every time something occurs between us which doesn’t sit well with me, whereas I would have previously over looked or perhaps not even noticed, it now compounds the distrust. So safe to say, I will not be inviting her to download Life360 and I will not be braiding her hair. Will such people simply ghosts of friendships past? I hope not, and my objective is to keep them in my present, in the hope that they make it into my future, because no one wants to write people off – it is a painful and irrevocable decision to make.

However, it is a fine balance, a pendulum which you cannot let tip too far. Concentrate on those of the present. Don’t swing back into those of the past unless it is to draw upon lessons. Sway steadily and consistently – always from that ‘place of love’ – and you will see that pendulum hurdling wonderful individuals from the present into the future: and back and forth, it’s motion will continue.

SATC2

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