Inevitability

Years ago I befriended a widowed man. A couple times in my life I have met someone and knew they were going to be my friend. This was one of those. There was an inevitability in play. I even held off on it – this relationship I sensed was inevitable – because I’d fairly recently had complicated emotional experiences going on in my own life that related to someone’s death – the predominant of which was sticking very close to someone else in the months after his (ex) girlfriend killed herself and devoting my energies to making sure he was okay. I was personally grieving other deaths as well and was feeling, for want of a better term, deathed out. I wasn’t ready for a widowed man and dragged my heels for awhile regaining my equilibrium. As I say, I intuited that we’d be friends. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be, I just wasn’t ready yet.

In time, with my propulsion, we did indeed become very good friends. I felt like, given my own experience with death/grief (and here I don’t mean the ones mentioned above but another far more significant to me), that I had something to offer, something perhaps that wasn’t really available elsewhere. This man, whose wife had died after a very long marriage, was blown open. He had that shell-shocked look many bereaved people take on in the months and sometimes years, after a death. He had family and friends but as the new friend, someone who hadn’t known the couple, I was in a unique role with a different vantage. Bereavement aside, he wasn’t an extroverted jocular fellow and I suspect that while the people already in his life definitely cared for him, they probably didn’t know quite what to do for him after the earliest activity and commotion following the death of his wife subsided.

This was not if you are thinking it, a romance. I didn’t see him that way and that wasn’t the point, and while one can’t always know the future, I didn’t believe it ever would be. We were quite different. He was a lot older and had been the proverbial long-time family man. He’d had a long profession. I, on the other hand, had been much more footloose and independent, having a number of shorter relationships over my life and jobs of many stripes. He later admitted he initially thought I was much younger even, than I actually was. It was, though, a meeting of intellects, a conversation-based relationship. He was introverted, reserved by nature, bookish and a talker in the one-on-one sense. His physical appearance and demeanor could be seen as stern and unemotional to those who didn’t know him; they didn’t invite familiarity. His humor, not abolished by his grief, was dry and under-stated. A person needed to be paying attention. I was paying attention and breathed life back into his world. I’m certain of it. For my part, I got an intellectual equal, someone who listened to me, a man of depth. At the time, I considered him and our friendship the most grown-up I’d known. That was a lot.

Over a period of years the friendship changed. From here, today, I’d say it ran its course and accomplished its purpose. At the time, while I’d felt he had deeply, genuinely appreciated me, I also felt that by having initiated, and driven the engine of the friendship, I’d established a pattern and made things easy for him (which wasn’t entirely wrong given the state he was in when I met him). However, as I saw him gaining energy and strength, I expected the relationship to become more balanced and well, it didn’t exactly.

Further, as he began to emerge from the worst throes of grief, my friend became less recognizable to me, less empathy-warranting. I believed that I’d known a version of him after his traumatic loss and now the fuller picture was emerging. He had more energy, yes, and was putting it toward causes unrelated to grief. Whether it was good or bad is a loaded question and not essential to answer so much as to say that what was emerging wasn’t resonating with me. I chafed at what I was seeing. I told him, even during our friendship, that given how different we were, we’d done awfully well to have had as close and meaningful a friendship as we did. I still think that. Perhaps you could say the ending of the friendship was as inevitable as its occurrence. I know I left him better than I found him. I also knew I’d turned a corner in relationships and going forward would only have grown-up ones. 

 

 

18 thoughts on “Inevitability

  1. AutumnAshbough

    I’ve had some transitory friendships, too. And yes, it was often someone who needed to be seen–and seen to– while they coped with death or divorce.

    Like you, I made my peace with the friendship ending. And yes, I’m glad I left them better off than I found them.

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  2. Ally Bean

    This is a topic that’s been on my mind this week. Your post has made me realize that it’s not a bad thing to let some friendships go. It’s difficult to part ways, but when the time comes best to do it respectfully. Ever onward, eh?

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      In the moment it’s invariably not quite so clear as it may appear in the long haul. There’s often a feeling of having invested in someone as reason to keep at it and emotions can make things messy. And– both parties don’t necessarily arrive at the same conclusions (at the same times). I’ll be interested to hear anything more you think on this, whether here or if the topic turns up in one of your blog posts.

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      1. Ally Bean

        I’ve been musing on exactly what you said here. I wonder if I misunderstood the relationship to begin with because now I feel completely ambivalent about someone I used to consider a good friend. Or did we each change as time went on? No answers, just a reality that I can live with.

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          Sometimes pieces of the puzzle turn up later whether it’s something specific you learn from an outside source (the former friend or someone else) or just an insight that takes its time arriving. And sometimes you never know what the hell happened! I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned generally – not about this specific friendship necessarily – is not to push too hard or invest too much energy trying to whack square pegs into round holes.

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  3. Becky Ross Michael

    So interesting, when you say that you had “known a version of him,” which I suppose could always be said, especially when a person then begins to evolve after a life-changing event in their life. On the other hand, there are those who only show us the version of themselves they want us to see, which seems to be a much different issue. If you’re inclined to write stories, I think you’ve got a winner outline in this post…

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Ah thanks Becky. You raise interesting points. I tend to look very intently at the people I become close to and like to think not too much will get past me. Bereavement is a strange animal – I once read where a psychologist (I think) called it, without judgment, a form of mental illness. Having lived it myself, I can kinda see the comparison. Maybe it’s fair to say to know someone in grief isn’t to truly know them… or maybe it’s the opposite; the bereaved version is the truest self.

      People deliberately showing only parts of themselves IS another issue. Those people scare me. Most of us do a certain amount of image control – showing select parts – so we can be Nice Members of Society but there’s a smaller contingent who is manipulative and sleazy. 😐

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  4. Pistachios

    A very interesting post, and perhaps a timely one for me to read… It’s not really the same thing, but a few years ago I made a close friend because I supported a colleague through a difficult break-up. Sometimes I felt like I gave more to the friendship than she did, but I always figured I was just in a better position to be giving. Besides, it was always easy to talk to each other, and our friendship felt inevitable too. But now, in the last few months, I’ve been wondering if the friendship, which I honestly thought was one of the strongest ones I’ve ever had, is actually reaching the end of its course. In fact, just before I came on WordPress and read your post, I wrote this haiku:

    I know only this:
    You were so special to me.
    But now I’m not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Oooh Sharon, the haiku is potent. Your point about “having more to give” is a good one and I think that’s perfectly fine at times. But my sense is a friendship that starts that way probably needs to segue into something different eventually – or end. It is difficult & painful, no matter the type of relationship to go from being super close to “eh” (or worse). As someone with a number of relationships is the rear view mirror, I reflect on this a lot or have reflected.

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      1. Pistachios

        Yes, both difficult and painful. It was actually another friend who helped me realise that this other friendship was too one-sided, and really not so good for me (something I probably already knew but was in denial about). Well, we live and we learn, I guess

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