I’ve come to realize that friends and our friendship with them generally impact our lives as much as we would want them to.
For some time now my circle of friends seems to have shrunk and some have become more acquaintances than friends. But I wasn’t too concerned. Why?
In the last 13 years, we’ve relocated cities thrice and each time, I’ve either made new friends or cut ties with many others. Long distance friendships do work but require a lot of commitment and investment of time, energy and effort. It’s a two-way street. Friendships that develop mainly because of regular interactions (like work buddies or gym friends or neighbourhood connections) generally start drifting away after a few months. It’s a natural process and there is no one to blame for it except perhaps life itself :-p
Recently I sat down to count the number of friends I had. Mostly they were people I knew from work or the apartment complex where we lived or mothers whose children are either my daughter’s classmates or they play together or attend a common after school activity. Interestingly with the mothers, the conversations apart from revolving around the children were also about our lives and aspirations. It helps alleviate some of the loneliness of the motherhood journey.
But what struck me as odd was that the absence of interaction with any one of these friends didn’t really unnerve me. I didn’t miss them. Somewhere these friendships seem to have become need based! When we’re together or connect on a call or text or social media, it’s fun. The conversations are meaningful, informative and sometimes challenging but soon after they’re gone or the interaction is over, it doesn’t matter.
I feel emotionally connected when I’m discussing things with them that are important to me. And yes, I can pick up the conversation from where we left off or feel those same emotions when we reconnect again. Yet when they’re gone, there’s nothing!
When I really feel in need of a friend or a shoulder to cry on or someone to vent to, they’re not my first choice. For that I always reach out to the handful (literally) of close friends who truly understand me for the person I am. After almost 15 years I recently reconnected with an old-school friend. When we met, we saw each other, hugged tightly and started crying. We didn’t really need words to say how close we felt. These friendships are an important part of my life and will continue to be so.
But the others, they’re my momentary friends. And this definition works for me, just fine. It takes less investment of my time and effort, they hurt me less, annoy me less, and more importantly, bind me less. I feel free. In their presence, I enjoy myself and in their absence life carries on. In fact, even with my daughter, I no longer try to instil the concept of a ‘best’ friend. She’s free to define her friendships as she pleases.
Momentary friends make me feel at ease simply because I have limited expectations from them. And it’s a proven fact that low expectations mean less complications in life. The knowledge that I’m not entertaining thoughts of a long-term relationship with them also eases the pressure of having to meet regularly. With them I’m simply present in the moment and that’s what matters.
It’s quite a change from the value I’d learnt to attribute to friendships growing up. Yet today I’ve come to seamlessly accept this new definition. I believe it’s easy because this change isn’t a knee jerk reaction to being hurt in the past but one that has gradually and organically developed over time. I’ve come to redefine my need for people in my life. I’ve taken control over how much access I’m willing to give them with respect to my life. And I’ve chosen to decide how much of what they say should influence my way of life.
It’s such a liberating feeling. I’m happy.
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