Waning Friendships

I have written a few times about how shocking it is to be in the company of people you love only to realize what a fundamentally different person you have become compared to what you used to be, say, ten years ago. 

Even though you are not confronted every day by the implicit knowledge that you will undergo some degree of change over the course of a considerably large chunk of time, like a decade, you recognize this idea very quickly upon encountering a situation that demonstrates it for you. But, sometimes, variations of monumental proportions occur between two (or more) people within a relatively short increment of time, like weeks or months. While the gradual metamorphosis that you go through individually over a long period of time permits you to have compassion for both your past and the people bound to it, this new transformation is a different beast. It is rigid; when you push against it, there is absolutely no give. It is an alteration of the relationship itself. Something broke within it and it was neglected by both parties involved, you and the person sitting across from you at the other end of this damaged metaphorical relationship-bridge. All that's left between you is a vague sense of something lost, something that was once beloved.

For example, you find yourself in the company of people you loved completely not too long ago, and now they seem so detached from the qualities and quirks that you remember best about them that you are tempted to call them strangers. You go through the motions. You smile and nod, but essentially, your shared past is locked away somewhere, out of reach.

When it comes to relationships of any nature, I have very severe weaknesses, which I am quick to acknowledge. I love fiercely, but if my love is not reciprocated, I retreat with remarkable alacrity. I become silent, withdrawn, and sullen. I stop all contact with the person or persons who intentionally or unintentionally hurt me. I am unforgiving. This is a terrible and insufferable character flaw, and I am in constant conflict with myself over it. Is this attitude selfish and/or narcissistic? Or is it self-preservation? I suspect it is a strange amalgamation of these elements and maybe others that I have not been able to identify.

So what do you do, then, when you are in the company of people you once loved (and are afraid to admit that some remnants of this love may still thrive inside you, or why would you be compelled to think this way)? Do you behave like a cordial stranger, ignoring the dearth of feelings and conversations between both of you now, which contrasts starkly with the understanding you once shared? Do you tell yourself this new measured and feigned affability doesn't affect you? Do you remind yourself that you have a fulfilling life, you are loved and cared for, and you don't need the burden of languishing relationships? 

No matter which way you act, you tell yourself a little lie. Something happened that had a deleterious effect on the relationship. Maybe it was not as much your fault as the other persons', and maybe this is exactly what the other persons tell themselves. But if you were not still at least slightly regretful or nostalgic or wishful for the past, would you be sitting indoors on a fine California morning with a cup of coffee becoming cold, writing this, working through the entangled cobwebs of thoughts that you've ignored for too damn long?