No Deposit, No Return

Times change, things change, people change, everyone is so busy nowadays, blah, blah, blah. People can use whatever cliché phrases they want, there is no mistaking how difficult it is to be a part of a once-thriving friendship or relationship that seems to be operating on life support.

You don't want to see it go or even acknowledge what it has become, so you keep calling, sending emails, trying to connect in person. But the interaction becomes less frequent, the conversations less meaningful, and eventually you feel nothing but hollowness where once there was great joy and anticipation.

You begin to realize you have more depth with individuals you see much less frequently or even with people who may have entered your life only recently. The vast accumulation of trust, interest, understanding, and community has been wiped away by years of slow erosion. Because it was there once, wasn't it?

It must have been because the memory of it now lingers like a ghost who won't go away … or maybe more a squatter who long ago should have been forced to new territory. Well after years of letting it overstay its welcome, I recently found a way to exorcise myself of my own ghost in this regard.

A friend and I were having one of our less and less frequent and less and less satisfying "catch up" calls and had worked our way through the pro forma checklist of mundane topics: work, home, and travel. Just when I felt he was metaphorically gasping for air, he turned to the one topic left: apologizing for not being in touch.

Now I've been down this same well-worn path many a time, and I know the response I'm supposed to give to keep the script moving, but this time my mouth said different words: "No need. The silence helped me put things in perspective."

His reply perfectly cemented the futility of trying to maintain what had once been so important to both of us: "Well if you want to try and connect more I'm open to all that, but you'll probably need to be the one to do more to make it happen." I felt like someone had slithered off the seat of a teeter-totter while I was suspended high in the air. It was a perfect symbolic resolution capturing the lack of balance that had been present for far longer than I have ever wanted to acknowledge.

While little voices inside my head said "What the ____?," the adult one that controlled my mouth calmly replied, "No. I don't think that's going to happen anymore.  I'll always value the memories of our time together, but we're in very different places now.  Let's not make keeping our relationship alive yet another thing on our packed to do lists.  Let's connect when we are excited to do so, but let go of the expectation when or if it will happen."

And that's when it hits you. No matter how much we ever create with another person or with a group of people, if the relationship is not at least periodically nurtured or stoked by all parties involved, like any fire it will eventually consume the fuel that once drove it and only ashes will remain

Relationships are indeed a renewable resource, but not when they are reduced only to recycling memories of the past.

What are you doing to renew the relationships that matter most to you?


Sylvia Dresser said...

Jeff, this hit a nerve for me, both personally and professionally - thanks for writing about this in such a way that it helped me crystalize my own thoughts and experiences.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

It was difficult for me to write, so I am glad it was helpful for you Sylvia.

Colleen said...

Brave and true (and mature!) - thank you for sharing this.