I was recently talking to an acquaintance who was on her way to meet a friend for lunch. This woman and her friend were close in high school around twenty years ago but only see each other every couple of years now, even though they live less than thirty miles apart. The woman I was chatting with was giving me a few reasons why she thought the lunch was going to be a chore: her old friend has some undesirable qualities–what they are isn’t important to the story–that tainted their get-togethers.
I asked her, “Why are you meeting this woman for lunch? She sounds completely annoying and rude.”
She answered, “Well, we’re old friends. I mean, as long as I know that she’s like that, it’s not so bad.”
I replied, “Hmm. Life is really too short to waste time with people you don’t particularly care for, you know.”
She stared at me for a moment and smiled. “You know, you’re probably right…” Her voice trailed off and even though she was still heading out to lunch, of course, I hope that she thought about our conversation later that day.
It took me many, many years (like, thirty-five-ish?) to learn that friendships don’t always last forever–some just aren’t meant to–and that’s okay. I have been lucky enough to have had only one major friendship that ended badly. Once I came to terms with the loss, I realized that I could still be thankful for what the relationship added to my life while it was going on. These days, I don’t have a problem quietly backing off from a relationship that just seems like it isn’t working anymore.
There are other friendships that have just naturally faded into the background of my life, like those with many of my mom friends with whom I connected on a regular basis when our kids were in elementary school, or the people I used to work with. After the one thing we had in common dissolved, the relationships dissipated. I have a friend who stepped up to support me at an amazing level when the aforementioned major friendship imploded. We hadn’t been very close before that time, and I haven’t seen or chatted with her in ages. When I run into any of these people at the store or on the sidewalks of my neighborhood, we exchange pleasantries, catch up for a bit, and then move on, no awkwardness whatsoever. In fact, in most cases it’s like we just saw each other the day before and can pick up right where we left off. I have learned that even though I might not connect on a regular basis with some people, it doesn’t mean that those friendships are over.
There is a poem out there somewhere that talks about how friends can be classified in three categories that align with the length of time they are a part of your life: a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I believe that no matter how long friendships (or any type of relationship, for that matter) last, there is a reason for its existence. Sometimes it’s to teach a lesson, sometimes it’s to lend support, sometimes it’s to inspire. Always, a reason.
Some friendships are like the waves of the ocean, ebbing and flowing but always there in some capacity. Some are white-hot with intensity for a short time before cooling to a simmer. Some are a part of my daily life. I value each and every one of them, and thank my lucky stars for everything my friends have taught me, how they have supported me, and how they have inspired me.