Here we are at the end of 2013, in the depths of winter, and like the cycle of nature and time, I find myself reflecting on the births, losses, deaths, rebirths and cycles of my friendships.
When Amy and I first began collaborating in 2011, we talked about friendship transitions in general as well as the ones we personally experienced. We discussed the importance of friendships to our well-being and in our lives but how the skills and tools to make new friends, deepen friendships or navigate friendship transitions are not taught to us. We talked about the ways in which we stumbled, fumbled, and learned along the way.
As we co-created events and wrote posts for this blog, we spent time reflecting on our own friendships and sharing our experiences with each other. I remember talking about what I wanted in my friendships, thinking about how I want to experience myself in friendship, and noticing which friendships lit me up and which drained me.
It was a “growth-full” year for me – a year of reflection, clarification, re-evaluation, re-defining and re-visioning what I need and want in my friendships. It was a big year for me as a friend, in my friendships and my notions of friendship. I discovered new insights, new possibilities, new edges and new boundaries.
It opened my eyes, ears and heart to noticing those friendships that enrich me and those which have been dissatisfying for a while but that I have not been ready to acknowledge or address. In the process of becoming aware, I have also made choices and decisions.
Once I realized that certain friendships were too distressing or painful I went through a tough decision-making process. Tough decisions because I love these friends. We had history and lived our lives together. Yet I knew I had to limit contact or spend less time with them for my own emotional health. I felt my energy and emotions signaling to me, telling me what I needed to do or say to feel at peace and re-energized.
As I did, some friendships faded away or ended while others deepened and became even richer. That adage “when one door closes another opens” also came true. As soon as I – with great sadness – made the decision to do something and experience closure for myself, there was space in my life and in myself for new people and healthier friendships. I opened my eyes to new acquaintances and created opportunities to deepen already existing friendships.
Still, ending or limiting contact with a friend is a sorrowful loss without any formal way to grieve. There are no common rituals, no ways to mourn the end of a friendship, yet it is a relationship that can be as, if not more, intimate as our love or family relationships. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that breaking up with a friend is an important loss and transition too.
Perhaps the best part of this learning journey has been getting to know Amy and building a friendship with her while making the significant decision to work together on this collaboration. As anyone can imagine, each type of relationship – friendship and business partner – requires a set of skills, a level of maturity, emotional and social intelligence. Being able to communicate about work issues, especially during “sticky” moments and continue to hold our friendship, or vice versa, has been powerful and positive learning.
The silence where lost or terminated friendships are suspended is a curious space. Sometimes it is unclear whether it is for now or forever, whether something specific happened or if the silence was born out of a vague uneasiness. That silence offers us an opportunity. Perhaps it is to reflect or to experience life without that friend or friendship or something else.
These reflections bring me at last to the nugget of my learning: how creating the space to be more conscious, clear and mindful about my friendships — by listening, sharing, exploring, and making the time — helped make them even healthier. And that has been great for my emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Copyrighted 2013: The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert