So, I’ve moved a lot in the past few years. From the West side of Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks, CA (more north than the San Fernando Valley). From Thousand Oaks, CA to Northern Illinois. From Northern Illinois to Texas. All within 3 years. As you might imagine, moving has wreaked havoc on my friendships.
Most friendships are tested with a move. When I left Detroit for California, I had to work to keep connections going. Most of them didn’t survive, but with no hard feelings. Relationships sometimes fade away. Fewer things in common, fewer people in common, less to say. I learned how to keep friendships alive, too. The first step is to recognize that the connection is getting weak and then commit to keeping it strong. My girlfriend, Elizabeth, and I had that very conversation. It was hard. She could have rejected the idea of putting more time in, scheduling phone calls once a month, responding to emails in a reasonable amount of time. Thankfully, she didn’t. At times it was tedious. I didn’t always want to have a long conversation at the day and time we picked. But I kept my appointment, and our friendship bloomed anew. Today she is one of my closest friends and I don’t know how I would have gotten through many situations without her.
When I left California, a handful of friendships were already a bit on the rocks. For years, I volunteered with a large organization and so developed many close relationships through that. Then I had a child and moved out of L.A. I volunteered less and eventually left the organization. I couldn’t keep all the connections I made going as strong but a large handful seemed to be okay. But then life happens. Some friends had kids, some moved away, I moved away.
And now I am at a crossroads of sorts. I’ve got a few hangnail friendships, I call them. People I am connected with on Facebook, let’s say, and we used to be really close but now seeing their messages to others, or simply their picture on my profile page, makes me sad. Like a hangnail, I don’t think about it much but when I am reminded, Ouch! One person I specifically asked to be more active as a friend said, “Yeah, yeah, I will, I will!” Then nothing. Others just disintegrated even after I made efforts to stay at least somewhat in touch.
My practice, mostly, is to get complete with people. Getting complete means to say everything that needs to be said, without any intention other than to have what is said be heard. The people I am thinking of in this post know how to do this. But is it worth it? Is it worth it to call so-and-so and say, “Hey. We haven’t talked in 6 months and I thought we could just get complete.” That would be odd. And perhaps what I REALLY want is to say, “You are a bad friend. I’m through with you!” Which isn’t getting complete at all.
I know I need to feel centered about this. I’m not so good at letting go of friendships and yet I clearly need to snip these hangnails. What kind of rituals, practices or actions have you taken to move on when you are not able to or unwilling to speak directly to the person you are letting go of? I’m open and ready for that manicure…