Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Honoring Friendship

My book characters, Dave and Sara, have an unusually close friendship. They work together, they practically live together, and they have been through extreme adventures and traumas together. They love each other more than most couples do, but they are "just" friends.  Their friendship is certain, familial, and in spite of any other circumstances in their lives, unchanging. Dave begins dating, Sara is kidnapped, both are rendered helpless and permanently injured by a crazed stalker. But they can always be sure the other one will have their back.

Real life can be more complicated, or at least seem more so day-to-day. Friendship waxes and wanes, and sometimes ends. Lovers have expectations of each other. In all but the most dysfunctional love affairs, once the relationship is acknowledged on both sides, each one expects the other to continue to acknowledge and honor the relationship until it is formally pronounced dead. There may be anger, there may be divisions, there may even be violence, but until they say they are not a couple, romantic partners are considered together.

Friendship does not have such official recognition. Friendships can start abruptly, and end without warning--indeed, without announcement. Two or more people can bond over a shared circumstance or a common interest, or a common emergency, and remain friends for life. Or they can drift apart just weeks after feeling as close as family.

Somehow, it doesn't seem right. I have few truly close friends. Like Dave and Sara, once I give real, familial-style friendship, I am in it for life. When I grant someone that level of access to my life, I expect the friendship to last for a lifetime. The hurt to be cast aside, sometimes without even an acknowledgment that it is happening, is acutely painful. 

But friendships don't just end. As a more voluntary, less formal arrangement, they change. When you move, or go in or out of a romantic or work relationship, your friendships change too. Sometimes your time changes, and friendships don't pay bills or require the time investment of a marriage. So when something has to give, often it is the friendship that falls aside. My history has been to resist this change--strongly. To have the closeness, or time spent in a friendship diminish feels like rejection. A rejection rendered more painful because it may be completely unearned. The left friend may have been as loyal, as giving, as open-hearted as ever. The leaving friend just has had a change in priorities. They may regret changing the parameters of the partnership, but have no choice. They may not even realize it is happening.

Perhaps we cannot all be close friends forever like Dave and Sara. But perhaps we can honor our special, close, forever-friendships. When they need to change, we can talk to each other. Perhaps we can have a special meal, or event, to honor a friendship that may not be able to survive changed life circumstances. Like the end of a romantic relationship, an end or change to a friendship deserves the time to discuss. Friends need time to cry on each other shoulders, remember old times, and honor the times when their relationship meant the world to both participants. 

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