14 Dec Some Friendships Are Like Elastic Bands
Heartbreak means a lot to different people. It could be a sudden, sharp, thumping pain in the heart as you feel your whole world crumbling down. It could be a slow, dull chest ache lasting hours, days and months. It could be no appetite or an unsettling feeling in your belly. It could be emptiness.
For many, heartbreak is an all too familiar emotion in the arena of relationships and other great expectations. For me, heartbreak is synonymous with friendships. There is a certain level of openness and trust I attain in friendships that tend to be missing in most romantic relationships.
When I was in primary school, I had a best friend. She was pretty and quiet, and for some reason I always felt the need to please her. I never felt like I was enough and I watched myself get replaced. Then I met two other girls who made me laugh. We wanted to be actresses and would come up with silly names, stories and games. It was fun till my buck teeth and ugly nails became their open joke. I have never been the girl to have many friends, so despite their actions, I held on to them. They realised this was my weakness and used it to taunt me. Do this, give me that or else I won’t play with you again. It was hell. I felt relieved, and also a bit guilty, when we drifted apart as we moved on to secondary school.
In secondary school, I met some girls with great banter but things got ugly real quick. I made a mistake that I apologized for, but they were hellbent on making me pay for it. It resulted in bullying and public humiliations that took a huge toll on me, my self-esteem and having a red x placed on my forehead. It was through these girls I became aware of certain physical flaws. I was traumatized. I also saw an ugly side of me because I wanted revenge, but I had to learn the hard way that it made things worse. It was one of the hardest years of my life, but also a preview of what the next six years were going to be. The entire period broke me physically and emotionally, but it also made me.
I hung on to a few of these girls out of some lost sense of loyalty, which I never quite understood. They apologized and things were expected to return back to normal. They knew my insecurities and weaknesses, and from time to time this was the punchline of their many jokes. I always hated that about myself- the fear of letting people go, especially those who have wronged me, and being alone. So, I felt like I was always walking on pins and needles, one misstep would bring a year’s worth of torment. I was trying so hard to appease them that I started to lose myself in the process. My schoolwork and self-esteem suffered. As soon as I started talking to another girl and noticed how warm and kind she was, I cut most off. I refused to surround myself with such negativity and I watched myself flourish academically, and socially as my self-esteem improved.
We can call her Sharon. I experienced a true form of platonic intimacy with her. I was 12 and she was 13. We were also classmates. We talked during breaks and after school, then we would go home, and times when I was not sneaking off with my mum’s phone to call her, we would stay up to make free midnight calls to one another on weekends. We would be on the phone till 3am, sometimes 5am. I got in trouble one too many times with my parents but I never regretted it. We talked about everything humanly possible. For the first time, I was not bending over backwards and trying to mould myself into who I thought she would like. We shared secrets, crushes, pains and stories. She had my back always and showed me true kindness. I wanted to call her my best friend so badly, but I was scared that meant giving her some power over me and at the end of the day, she would leave and I would have to start all over again. She also had a best friend and I respected that.
Things were calm till we started senior school. We both grew in many ways and had been through a lot over the extra long holidays. We got separated because she was placed in science and I, in arts. Eventually, I made new friends and began to prefer their company. She became too serious with her busy timetables and new obligations, while I had more free time to get involved with new mischiefs. This strained our friendship, and she constantly hung the fact that I was “changing” over my head. I felt like I was constantly being criticized and judged, so I pulled away. We were always fighting, but I still felt like I owed her something. So I lingered- never too close to get criticized but never too far away to be completely out of her life.
Over the next few years, our friendship repeated this cycle. We would get close till we had a huge fight and then one of us would pull away, but never completely. This happened while I waded my way through other toxic friendships in my final years in secondary school. I had gotten myself two good friends that remained constant. But I had also gotten myself involved in a larger group where it was all drama, and each one with damaging consequences. After this, I realized that there was no security in numbers. I had to choose quality over quantity and I realized some of these friendships were baseless. There was no point hurting each other by constantly turning against one another. By the time I had settled into my foundation year at Uni, I had just a handful of friends left, including Sharon’s and it was exactly what I wanted.
Fast forward to three years later and I am still bawling over the same issues and insecurities I had from primary school. I watched my self-esteem plummet once again in the latter half of 2015. Before then, I thought I had a decent support system and was quite disappointed when I could only lean on a few people during that period. It was an emotional roller-coaster of getting angry at everyone else because I could not seem to grasp why no one was helping, then feeling guilty and disgusted for being so self-absorbed and attention-seeking.
Nothing stays the same after that. You constantly feel like a burden, like you are inadequate and overly sensitive, and you withdraw. An extrovert becomes introverted and people do not seem to be quite bothered about this. You start to question everything and pick at threads, unravelling a lacklustre fabric of friendships left. You resolve to isolating yourself but that never works. It never heals the pain, and on those nights when it creeps in like a burglar and catches you unaware, you feel ill-equipped to handle something you never dealt with.
Over the years, I observed that some friendships are like elastic bands, the more you pull the further apart you both get, but when you eventually let go, you two snap back in place- like nothing ever happened. Other times, the more you pull, the more it wears at the sides and one final pull spells doom. It snaps completely. It is over and you are left with one weak string at two separate ends.
It is an endless cycle reminiscent of many relationships. At first, it is all rosy- you connect with someone, or some people, on an emotional, spiritual and intellectual level. For a long time, it just keeps getting better and you cannot imagine what could possibly go wrong, like what could possibly make you fall apart? And then it happens. The awkward vibes, cold shoulders, the silence when you walk into a room and you watch with much envy and longing as they create that exact relationship with someone else. You suddenly feel like you are the stranger, intruding their personal space. You just cannot get along without it being forced and you try to remember a time when it came naturally. Then it ends, from staying up all night talking about everything and sharing secrets to awkward hello’s when you bump into each other.
The worst are the ones you cannot explain. No major thing happened, no argument or fight, but only that sudden, maybe gradual, withdrawal from you. You try to get an explanation and nothing is forthcoming, so you accept it. You have to accept it, deal with the pain and heal your wounds. There is no closure, so you vow to never let anyone get this close again. But then you do; and then it happens.
This really is not to be ungrateful of the friendships that have stayed and built me up. The ones constantly feeding me the energy I need to thrive on. This is to mourn the ones I have lost, or in the process of losing. This is to understand that thirst for more – the need to find the special bond of ‘best-friendship’ with someone who actually stays.
Read more about the 2017 Friendship series here: http://www.lucidlemons.com/introducing-the-friendship-series/