A Friendship “Blendship”
By A.D. Freudenheim  

22 November 2003

It’s when things change in one’s life that one finds out who one’s friends are. It sounds trite, doesn’t it? Sadly, yes – and yet all too true: small shifts in attitude can wind up causing major, life-changing movements.

In my case, what began as a relatively minor change in my outlook on life resulted in the complete reconstruction of the landscape of my friendships. Over two years of evolution – and I call it that because I think it was a positive development, in the Darwinian sense of the term – I went from being a “cruise director” with a boat full of friends often along for the ride ... to a more equal passenger among them. Instead of being the person whose responsibility it was to take the initiative and organize activities, I began to expect a more substantive return on my investment in other people. I needed something back from my friends other than the companionship they provided when we were able to get together. In other words, I stopped trying to run my life (or the lives of others) and started trying to live it. I started seeking out friendships based on a better and more equal degree of emotional and psychological investment, and not centered solely on areas of common, intellectual interest.

Since it was not as though I changed overnight, expecting people to adapt did not seem unreasonable. It seems that I was wrong. Many of the people who had been happy to be friends with me when I was responsible for organizing activities (or the friends who expected me to attend their events but rarely bothered to reciprocate or make other plans with me) have been dropping away, because I have pulled back. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and tried to explain what I was feeling, what was important to me, and what I needed from them; a few never responded or acknowledged what I had tried to tell them. That hurt, and still does, but it also made it possible to start moving on. After all, if my friends are not capable of listening to what I say and acknowledging what is important to me, then how can I call them friends? Of equal importance is that, as I changed and started seeking out people who would return as much in friendship as I might give, I found others looking for the same thing, among some old friends and in new ones. In fact, it’s still happening: I continue to meet new people, or re-engage with people I already knew – while other old friends do not seem to realize that I have changed, even as they have dropped out of my life.

I am revealing something so personal in this context because I think it has value: as a reminder of how fragile relationships are, and how even small personal changes can have a great, and sometimes unanticipated, impact – for the worse, or for the better. Friendships take mutual effort to keep them alive and healthy, even as they change and evolve. At a time of Thanksgiving, we should give thanks for our friends, be grateful for their support, and try to return that support in spades.

There is also a more important lesson, and a more difficult one to learn (let alone to follow): know thyself. I spent many years playing the role of “cruise director,” being the organized, stable friend to a spectrum of people who relied on me to remember what we were supposed to be doing or where we were supposed to be going. Many months after I gave up this assigned status, I still cannot say whether I merely tired of the job or if I was never happy with it in the first place. What I do know is that at some point I very clearly stopped enjoying it – and I stopped feeling pleasure at seeing friends only when I made the effort – and decided I needed to change the situation. Being true to the person I discovered inside was the most important, and ultimately more satisfying, thing to do.

  Copyright 2003, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.