Alan and I were having a serious discussion about friendship when I blurted out the line above. I was telling him about my long-standing friendships and how, despite violent disagreements or change in either or both of the parties, I have discovered that the ones which have survived through it all are those who do not treat friendship as something that can be switched “ON” and “OFF”. In short, it’s those friends who are ever reliable and dependable, come what may.
To be consistent is something that takes work to achieve. It means having the heart to accept another person even if what he or she says is not what we want to hear. It’s being able to speak one’s heart out in defense of your stand without fear of recrimination, because you know that even if you disagree, or if you say something that is not easy to accept, the one on the receiving end will not forget you are first and foremost, friends.
I remember during one of the rare times that Jonathan and I got together and I had just started seeing this guy I was so terribly fond of and who was equally very fond of me– I poured my heart out to him and asked him his opinion about what I was going through. The relationship didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and he told me point blank that it seemed to him that the relationship was just for fun. “See you when I see you.. ” he told me. I had to stop a while and my smile froze midway and almost disappeared, and then I softly said, “You think so?”.. and the look on my face didn’t stop him from reiterating and further explaining what he meant.
Jonathan has a way of being frank without being brutal about it. But he doesn’t mince words when I ask him his opinion of something or someone. We have known each other for more than 20 years now, and our friendship is punctuated with long absences and moments of silence. Yet we know the bond is there, no matter how life has changed both of us. And yes, we can still speak our minds and hearts freely.
I have learned to cope with the consequences of distance and time getting between friends. It saddens me when a friend chooses to stay away and put that distance between us because the opinion I expressed or the supposed truth I speak hurts or is unacceptable. I would like to think that I am the kind of friend who would not turn away from another who tells me he doesn’t agree with what I think or what I said. It’s a free country as bestfriend Fe would say. =) And isn’t that what friendship is all about? It’s not about always being in agreement. Rather, it’s going beyond the disagreements and the differences that makes for a solid friendship. It is heartbreaking when a friend opts to shut me out instead of telling me honestly that he didn’t like what I said. I guess in that instance, somebody flips the Friendship switch off — which brings me to the question, is that being a true friend?
It is also most disappointing when friends are nowhere to be found when their hearts are not aching. When all is well, they conveniently disappear — only to resurface when things start falling apart again. I have always distinguished between friends and boyfriends — it’s not an either/or thing — they exist on two different planes, hence, I have no problem having them exist at the same time in my life.
From time to time, we find ourselves taking stock of things and we look at the state of our relationships. Much as we would like to think that all our relationships get deeper through time, we have to come to terms with the reality that there are relationships that whittle away and fade.. and sometimes die. Like a lover who eventually learns to give up upon realizing that “sometimes, love just ain’t enough” as the song goes, a friend can grow weary of another friend’s fickle heart.
Sure, the friendship remains, but the dynamic of that friendship changes when the switch gets turned off and on… off and on… I know I don’t turn off my switch — because I don’t see it that way, I DO NOT have a switch to flick on or off. And I have enough friends who are there, come what may — and so at the end of the day, it’s not my loss. It’s a sad fact of life — but it helps us appreciate those who stand by us through it all, despite our frailties and imperfections. Those are the true friends we should surround ourselves with, because they will not turn off the switch when it’s convenient for them to shut us out of their lives. They are a constant presence – and that’s what friendship is all about.