“You took me riding in your rocket, gave me a star, but half a mile from heaven you dropped me back down to this cold, cold world.” -Stevie Wonder
Cutting a friend loose sucks. It’s akin to cleaning out a closet that’s been jammed packed for years…you avoid it for as long as possible but you end up sucking it up because you can’t get new clothes until you make space by getting rid of the old. You have to decide what stays or goes, then if you decide to hang on to an article of clothing, you run the risk of it eventually turning into clutter and making you regret keeping it around when you had the chance to free up the space, or, you worry that six months into the future, you’ll think that you shouldn’t have gotten rid of that old faithful dress that was clutch for so many years before you hastily dumped it in the frenzy of purging. You know it’s necessary, but the thought alone makes your stomach hurt.
I spoke to a close friend recently and she was feeling down because she had to break up with a friend of hers that had disappointed her one too many times. Listening to the defeat in her voice got me to thinking about just how painful it really is to break up with a friend. We’re absolutely conditioned to navigate the ins and outs of breaking it off with a romantic partner, but not really a friend. I know that I’ve had more than one friendship that felt like a toxic marriage that, at the time, I couldn’t free myself from for reasons that ranged from pure loyalty for the person to fear of getting rid of someone that held true value in my life. In a couple of cases I just didn’t want the person to think badly of me afterward or to be hurt by my desire to let the relationship go. I was just never prepared for a situation like that, or was I?
What makes ending a friendship any different from breaking up with a significant other? As I’ve come to discover, absolutely nothing. If the relationship is unhealthy, no matter the nature, it must go. In the past, I would get stuck in the pattern of trying to see the best in the person and ignore the shortcomings, but I’d always come back to scheming on a way to cancel that person only to start the cycle again. I know I know, it doesn’t feel right to want to stop being friends with someone that’s been there for you during tough times. To just check out on someone that’s been around for a long time and you have a long history with is just not cool. I get that. But if the only reason you’re “still together” is time and history, then all you have is time and history, and that doesn’t ring as a valid reason to continue occupying space in each other’s life when those slots could be filled by a more compatible person. It’s not an easy thing to do, but after coming to realize that I need to feel reciprocity and edification in any relationship I participate in, I have to honor my requirements for the privilege of offering my loyalty and dedication to being the “ride or die” for one of my counterparts. Gasp…did she just say that her friendship is a privilege? Yes she did because it is. I put my all into it and I’m proud of that. Friends are family for me and I love my family and I put a lot of energy into what I love.
But Simone, do you have to cut the person out completely? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It just depends on if the person can be reoriented in the pantheon of friends. I had a wise person tell me, “Some friends are meant to be around forever, but they sometimes, have a specific purpose and it’s up to you to honor their position.” That statement helped me to understand that cutting someone off is not the only way for me to be relieved of a less than desirable dynamic. For instance, I have a friend that’s always down to ride, but not really around for the heavy life stuff, while I have another who gives the best advice but has no interest in assisting me in reliving my college days. I had to consider that it’s not fair to expect one friend to be all things to me. That fact alone points to the major lesson of my life…I have to take care of me and not look for someone else to fulfill my personal voids and to expect someone that’s not built for it to take on that role and execute it efficiently is flat out wrong and it makes me the asshole. You don’t ask a plumber to put a new roof on your house and really expect that the job is done right. It just doesn’t make sense.
To end or reconsider a friendship is not an indictment on anyone in the situation. Sometimes things just run their course and it’s time to evolve into the next phase and you can’t take everyone with you. It’s a proven fact that growth and evolution are truly real when there’s discomfort and some pain are attached to the process. I choose evolution every time. I have my moments of back tracking into feeling guilty, but I always think of it as tending my garden and removing the weeds that threaten to take over my peace of mind and my right to be balanced; I need my balance to make it through life and, as my fellow conscious peeps say, to vibrate higher (shoutout Andre 3000).
Here’s where I’ll drop the mic, but before I do, check out the song that inspired the title of this rambling.