This morning I remembered something I wrote about two years ago about friendships, relationships, and isolation. It was before I started writing in this space. The style is different, it’s really a journal entry, not something written for publication. It is also rather maudlin in places. For that I don’t apologise but ask that you understand it is a portrait of a moment in time. Is it true? No, in that it contains a lot of lies I told myself. Yes, in that it is how I felt. I was interested in a girl and she was not in me, I had had some struggles with my friends. And I was alone for a day in Spain. I have not edited it apart from grammar and spelling, it is what it is, it is a portrait of pain.
The words that would soothe this troubled mind, The ones I hunt for, search for, long for. The words I think will take away the pain, all the hurt. The words that will bring clarity out of confusion. The form of letters brought together in phrases and fragments and rarely, carefully, composed sentences that stop short of extended prose but lacks the beauty and grace to be poetry.
But it’s not the words that require attention. But the troubled mind. Torn between dreams of grandeur and doubts of inconsequence. A mind that won’t stand still. Not for a moment. That will not settle, that refuses to be stilled. A torment of thoughts and emotions meshed together. Thoughts that refuse to leave and emotions that I am not sure are there.
Dangling in my mind. Taunting my solitude. Tempering my calm, peaceful, afternoon. Beneath the trees in Girona’s historic quarter. As I ponder why do I need both isolation from people and affirmation from them of my worth? If, in fact, it is their approval I want. Because I am not certain that I am able to receive it. I am not sure that I have the capacity to believe that anyone would recognise anything of worth in me at all.
More likely, I convince myself, that my company is merely tolerated, my presence noted but never missed. My words ignored and my thoughts impenetrable. All in all a burden and never a blessing.
What value I can imagine I bring is only ever of the functional variety. The skills I possess and use to ingratiate myself to unwilling company. The talents that I contrive to suggest that I have something to do. The very words that I write, used for their art and illustration. For their information, divorced from the soul behind the nib that scratches through fibre to etch its mark in distinctive forms. It is as though the pen matters as much as the author.
Maybe I engage in creative hyperbole to emphasise my point. But only a little.
Much thought goes into the decision of who to become romantically entangled with, not least within the church. We consider whether a certain girl is the right one for us, or if a guy is the one that we have been looking for all along. And when it doesn’t work, when they let us down or favour someone else, for it is invariably with them that the fault lies. Unless we want to use the excuse of ‘it’s not you but me’ when we break up.
Relationships become clearly delineated by their ending. But it is never that simple. A relationship does not emerge out of nowhere and disappear with abrupt certainty. It is messy and complex and tears at the emotions and wrenches the soul. It leaves us stranded and confused. As though the story we were walking is only half told, left dangling in conversation.
And it gets a lot more complicated when romance is excluded. In a romantic relationship, with its messy prologues and painful endings, there is a sense of intentionality about it. No such clarity exists in broader friendships.
If I thought that I was bad at relationships – i.e. I avoid them – then perhaps I am starting to think I have lulled myself into a false sense of attainment with my friends. My problem is that I want it all to happen automatically, and preferably without too much conflict. The idea of being intentional about friendships conjures up playground images of asking someone to be your friend. And with it the pain of being left out of the games they choose to play with the more popular kinds. And the sometimes harshly spoken words of exclusion.
Friendship is harder than it looks. It takes honesty and intent. It takes love and conflict. It involves messy beginnings and sometimes difficult separations. But I never give them any such thought.
While I contort my mind in endless webs of emotions, thoughts and perceptions when it comes to romantic attraction, I never so much as consider the dynamics of my friendships. It is usually enough for me to be in the company of other people.
Maybe because too often I am not. So I am grateful that people would condescend to deign me with their company.
When I do stop to consider how friends relate, as I do now in this novel experience, it frightens me to think of the complex web that exists. A group of friends is never the same as the sum of their individual characters. Each person is moulded by the impact of the others around them. This I know in theory but am only belatedly understanding in my life. And I’m still not quite able to see how I am changed by those I surround myself with. And it is incomprehensible that anyone is affected by my presence.
What I do see with alarming clarity is that the people around me have an impact on each other. And by extension, surely affect me.
Friends are also honest with each other. Something else that has yet to feature in my practise. I might voice my opinions with certitude but when my emotions or views are inconvenient they find a recess of their own to hide in.
Until it all becomes too much. And then I may be honest but I am not loving. It happens very rarely – at virtually all times I manage my emotions by repressing anger and distorting my views, opinions, and humour. I become the model of grace best exemplified by the door mat you never notice.