Goodbye, My Friend

As a child, the making and breaking of friendships is the very foundation on which we build our future. Our buddies are a reflection of the people we want to become — how we want the world to see us. The friends we choose in the playground define us, and in turn they mold us. The way we dress, speak, act; where we go out after school and where we take our life after school is over, is all very much determined by the gang we hang out with and the people we call our mates.

But eventually friendships become less about who we want to be but about who we you are and what we need.

As we move on from the petty squabbles, boyfriend stealing and she said/he said face-offs of our teens, we slip comfortably into our own kind. We establish the target board of friendship — the small closed red circle in the centre is those we have called friends for a long time and, regardless of what life throws at us, will offer us support unwavered. Then there’s the next ring of the target containing our friends that fit our life right now — the drinking buddies, mummy mates, those we meet on our travels and at each chapter of our lives. Lastly the outer ring represents our vast array of acquaintances and work colleagues, the ones that come and go — came and went — which we hardly even noticed adding to and building up our busy lives.

If you were to look at my Facebook page you would believe me to have hundreds of friends, but if you asked me to invite some people to your dinner party you would meet a handful of characters that are my true friends. My inner circle, the only ones that matter, my chosen family.

So what do you when someone from your inner circle no longer makes the cut?

We are adults now, we can no longer pass our friend a note in class saying ‘you aren’t my best friend any more’… but it doesn’t feel any less painful when you watch someone you once felt connected to slip away into one of the outer circles, with the threat of them vanishing forever. And what does it say about us and our life, when that person that once meant so much to us and served as a mirror to our many needs, flaws and perfections, just doesn’t do it for us anymore?

This happened to me recently, I finally had to admit that one of my best friends from back then no longer knew the me of now. She hadn’t managed to keep up. She no longer cared enough.

I pride myself on being a sociable person — perhaps too much so. My rich friendships span thirty seven years, dozens of countries and many a job. And I’m fiercely loyal. Perhaps it’s the Scorpio in me, but I if am your friend then I am a true friend — no fair weathering for me. It means I will drop things for you, I will answer my door to you at 2am no questions asked and I will be there for you regardless of what is happening in my life. Always, whatever, whenever. As we get older and life gets busier and more globally scattered it’s not so easy to keep in touch with friends (all hail Facebook and email) but it’s important. I’m no quitter, I don’t start something that I won’t finish, I won’t pick you up and add you to my menagerie of mates only to drop you at the first opportunity. If you are in you are IN, we may not speak for a while, but you are in.

It seems I may be alone in my views of friendship.

So what do you do if one of your closest friends is backing away, giving up, shrugging her shoulders? Now what? Do you relegate them from the centre circle to the outer one… or do you dump them, let them go, cut them loose?

But breaking up is so hard to do!

After years of ignoring it I have come to the conclusion that some friendships are not worth holding on to, that I don’t feature in the lives of others as much as I once did. That actually they no longer add anything to my existence, except for being a guilt-inducing addition to my mental Christmas card list.

So what are my options now?

1. Keep on going
 Perhaps I just get on with my life and let things get better or dwindle depending on the route that life takes us in? There’s a lot to be said for taking the path of least resistance…

2. Confront them
 Do I tell her that hearing from her is now irritating instead of a joy? (Was she always so annoying?) That her unwillingness to put any effort into our friendship serves as a reminder that a friendship that actually feels like an effort is a long overdue break up? Perhaps we should both call it quits and free ourselves of the obligation…

3. Freeze them out
 Do I take the weak man’s option of freezing her out? Connect less with her, involve her less in my life, let her slip away in the knowledge that she isn’t fighting all that hard to be part of my life anyway? She may not even notice…

4. Never give up
 Or do I salvage the last dying embers of what was once a great strong burning friendship and reignite what might still be there? Tell her I miss her, try and make time in our busy lives to meet up and keep her safely ensconced in my inner circle? I’m loyal but no one wants a bunny boiling bestie…

Perhaps none of the above.

Friendship isn’t a possession, something you own or manipulate. It’s an organic give and take of love between two people that benefit from one another and fill in the empty spaces of each other’s souls. And sometimes those gaps are filled in naturally, silently and unknowingly over the course of our life until we realise they are no longer there. We grow apart, we don’t fulfill each other in the same way, we don’t even please or entertain each other any more. What we once thought was endearing about someone becomes annoying; what we once saw as support becomes interference; what we once saw as inspiring becomes supercilious.

Basically, our old friend becomes someone we would never choose as a friend now.

So, even though I may never look her in the eye and say it, I shall say it here.
 Goodbye my friend. Farewell.
 It was great while it lasted… but it’s not really working any more. I wish you love and luck in your life without me in it. It’s not you, it’s me. I just don’t need you anymore and you are clearly fine without me. I’m setting you free. And don’t worry about the Christmas card, I still have our lovely memories — thank you.

Originally published at on January 14, 2016.