Reweaving the Tattered Threads

(July 23rd, 2011; revised April 4th, 2012)

Have you, or has someone you’ve witnessed, ever fallen out of touch with a dear friend, whether for obvious ugly reasons or for more subtle, gradual ones? I know I’ve seen this far too many times, personally. Thankfully it has not happened to me on so many occasions, but I can’t really say the same for most people in general. From what I’ve witnessed over the years, I think that so many people are too willing to let go of a connection that should be treasured as nothing else in this world has any right to be treasured. And especially in this day and age, with the advent of all this technological prowess, this needs not ever be the case. There is so much opportunity for communication, and friendly relations with fellow human beings brings so much vast, priceless beauty into our lives like nothing else can, and only the most extreme of unfortunate cases should have even the possibility of the power to sever such incredible connections.

So often people seem obliged to just sit around and proclaim that a certain person will call or text them if they “really cared.” But this attitude is woefully self-righteous, because that other poor person has every right to feel the exact same way. Does either person really have a more justified reason to be so stubborn? In some extreme cases, maybe a person has made a dozen calls or texts or emails or some other method of reaching out that have all gone unanswered—in this case they may have a strong point, if no reasonable attempts have succeeded in getting through. If a person is refusing all attempts at communication, then there’s only so much one can do. But this person could still keep on keeping on, if only because there may be some legitimate reason for the lack of communication. In the most dramatic cases it really might just mean that the other person is simply uninterested in any further communication—unfortunate, but it happens. In such cases the burden of reciprocity really does fall on this other person to make some sort of effort in response. You can only reach out so many times before the very act of doing so becomes such a burden that it begins to reduce your own feelings of connectedness toward nonexistence.

There should be a balance. If you want to converse with someone, you should be able to call, text, or otherwise make contact with them with a reasonably likely chance to be received and responded to. And if not in a reasonable amount of time, for some valid reason, then you should be able to expect a return call, text, email, or whatever other means of communication in the near future. It shouldn’t be a constant one-sided battle, and it shouldn’t boil down to a persistent stubbornness from both sides to be the one to receive the effort at some cryptic time of day. It should be a shared connection. I don’t think there is a more effective, efficient way to retain such a blazingly glorious of worldly appreciation. It takes two to truly effectively converse, and no party should assume the default “advantage.” Ideally, you would initiate contact with your friend just as much as your friend initiates contact with you (all other things being equal) and gender, race, age, circumstance, and the like should not have much of an impact on this ratio.

But yet I’m always hearing complaints from friends that other friends don’t ever contact them. And I usually ask “well, have you tried contacting them?” to which there is, most of the time, some half-justified excuse about having already tried some number of times, without some desired response, and in most cases this person, the self-proclaimed “victim”, is now just sitting around and feeling like they shouldn’t have to be expected to make any more attempts. Fair enough, I suppose, if you really are willing to accept the likelihood that most of the communication is now over—because that is the probable outcome with such an attitude. Your own attitude is likely to be reflected upon the other, and this is one of the many, many situations in which optimism simply trumps all other mindsets.

There are far too many potential factors that may be involved and may be able to explain in completely rational and understandable terms why a person has not been responding as promptly as another person feels they should be. Work, condition of phone or computer, available funds, family life, and random disasters are just a few of the more generic examples. But maybe you know, somehow, that none of these genuine factors are among the underlying reasons for their lack of response. In this case we are back to where we were earlier, where at some point the burden of reciprocity falls on them. And while they might just simply be ignoring you, this is not the most rational and reasonable thing to assume (and I am assuming that your closer friends would not, by definition, behave like this toward you). At this point things rely very heavily on how well you know this person and how they interact with others (with yourself, most importantly). If your judge of character is even slightly effective, then you should have already filtered out such troublesome people. But to be filtered out so early on is a hefty assumption that such a person is so blatantly obvious in their reckless relations with friends; most of the time you probably would not have seen this coming. And so this is an extremely difficult matter to puzzle out. In an ideal world this simply would not ever be the case, but, alas.

There is another similar yet very different problem, in which someone has not lost physical contact with a dear friend but has lost the emotional connection itself. Because there really are some valid reasons for a loss of contact with another—namely one or both moving or any number of significant lifestyle changes which may render the communication practically futile. This is where I categorize most of my own lost communications. Although I’m not proud of any of them, I understand that the factors of life just play out in such a way sometimes. I at least have never been in a fight that drove a friendship away entirely, thank goodness. They are not tied to any feelings of resentment or other harsh realizations. But the crucial idea here is that the communication should still be possible; regardless of the severity of the situation, although something as extreme as a friend moving thousands of miles away AND somehow losing all communicative resources does pretty much cancel all possibilities. Of course at this point it’s literally unavoidable, and so you really have no choice but to move on to those connections that you actually have some control over. This argument is, of course, not about those hopeless cases. If they ever did reach back out to you, as their situation improved, things would rapidly approach normal again.

And so stressed again is the idea that a deep, meaningful connection between two (or more) people is absolutely precious considering the insane complexities of any individual mind and the immeasurable factors of this far-reaching phenomenon of life and the thick, tangled mess of its intertwining vines of influence in and out among the billions and billions of the individuals which comprise it. The ranges of interests and mindsets and thoughts and devotions of the humans inhabiting this world are intense and wildly eccentric and so I find it one of the most incredible luxuries that any set of people can really connect on a level deep enough to truly understand and appreciate each other’s company. Don’t give this up! Don’t let petty disagreements and unbalanced responsibilities tarnish this most powerful and meaningful of pursuits. If you have to make the call four times out of five, so be it. If the other person comes to the same conclusions, and feel like they are making the call four times out of five, then this won’t even be an issue because you’ll both be grabbing hold of the reins of communication whenever a desire is felt and then the only concern that’s left to deal with is when you both try to call each other at the exact same time and only get set back by a busy signal (or straight to voicemail, as land lines lose their relevance).

This conscience entanglement with your fellow humans is perhaps the most valuable commodity on the planet. You can’t get it anywhere else, and its depth is typically in some way proportional to the time and intensity you’ve spent with the person. If you drop everyone from your contacts list who hasn’t independently contacted you within any prior week, or month, then you may soon find yourself without a single long-lasting friend. Obviously there is some filtering going on between those friends that don’t necessarily need to say something on any particular day to remain in your esteem and those friends who will be remorselessly forgotten after some arbitrary period of non-communication—so why the extreme differences? Clearly it’s because of the depth of the connection, and the expectations you have placed on their friendship, but just as clearly this very depth had to come from somewhere in much the same way these failed attempts did. And so it comes down to the details that set some certain connections apart from the rest, and this is where your own judgment truly comes into the equation, for you can set these parameters to whatever reasonable, considerable levels you feel are adequate to suit your desires. But be wary, because any drastic requirements are going to be exaggerated when applied to the real world full to its brim of unimaginably complex interactions among its inhabitants. Expecting more out of some people is only going to increase the likelihood that they will not live up to it. Perhaps it is better to just play it by ear, in a sense. The frequency with which a person contacts you is just the result of a complicated chain of causes and effects which somehow trickle down into their allocation of time and devotion they feel compelled to express toward you. Who is anyone to demand any more than this?

I really don’t feel like there is any situation in which a person should lose all hope in another’s eyes—because everybody has the capacity to better themselves, and not only has this capacity but also the inherent desire to do so. So when presented with the opportunity to reconnect with a distant acquaintance, no matter the extent of the distance, be it mental of physical or some combination of both, you should grant them at the very least the attention necessary to determine whether or not the prior issues have been improved upon. I like to think that in most cases this will indeed be true, but in the worst-case scenarios you will (hopefully) quickly realize whether this really is not the case. And if not, if things really are still so unfavorable, if the deciding factors have not improved in any substantial way, then it should be no difficult feat to simply revert back to the non-communication that existed just before the attempt. But the attempt itself is absolutely worthwhile. The possibility of a reconnection is priceless in the face of nothing at all. And you should be always on lookout for the opportunities to do the same thing—give an old friend a call. Take a browse through your contacts, and you’ll probably find someone you miss communicating with. What’s the harm in giving it a shot? They may be one of those people sitting around wondering why their friends are not taking it upon themselves to put forth some effort. Frustrating as it may be, it could make the difference between a friendship slipping away into distant memory and one rekindled by the simple act of speaking or typing a few friendly, heartfelt words.

I like to reflect upon the lyrics of Richard Marx’s gorgeous song “Better or Worse,” in which he sings “Everywhere I look around, it seems when things break down it’s easier to just throw them away. But a promise left to die can sometimes still surprise, and start breathing in the morning’s lighter day. And the hearts that learn to bend are the only ones who mend when they’re broken.” The song may be intended for a romantic couple, but I like to slightly twist lyrics so that they apply just as well to other similar things. It’s not much of a leap, really. The same fundamental appreciations exist between friends and romances; they just reside within different contexts and priorities. But they apply just as well. He later sings “And I am going to love you, even when it hurts.” because, well, it is going to hurt. This hurt can be used to some soul-searching advantages.

A similar idea is expressed in Don Henley’s beautifully written song “Heart of the Matter” in which he sings “I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but everything changes, and my friends seem to scatter but I think it’s about forgiveness… even if you don’t love me anymore.”

And Aaron Lewis sings his heart out in his first solo album’s song titled “Vicious Circles” when he croons “We run in vicious circles until we’re dizzy with disdain, and there’s miles and miles between us, yet we still remain.” Because once you’ve established such a connection, it doesn’t matter where in the world you move to, or what you do, or how much time passes between communications—your memory has recorded the companionship, and your lifestyle has been affected in some way so that the potential will always remain. Nothing but your own stubbornness or unwillingness will keep this from you, provided the other party returns the efforts in even the smallest imaginable fashion.

These masters of poetic thoughts have captured the essence of this idea, that there are incredibly valuable factors running much, much deeper than one’s desire to be the center of attention in a relationship. Problems should be considered, addressed, and mutually sought after for correction. Trials effectively dealt with will help to weave the threads ever more powerfully. If some friends have wronged you in some way, as long as it has not been so profoundly horrible as to cause you to curse their name for all time, then forgiveness is always a viable option. It’s okay to hurt over somebody. It’s okay to miss their face, their laughter, and their joking mannerisms. It’s okay to long for the time when it seemed as if hardly anything was ever on their mind but to find out where you were and what you were doing, and to offer their company or invite you to theirs. These are positive hurts, because it reminds you of how much another person ever meant to you. And just imagine how many people might be feeling the same way about you.

If you are clutching the tattered threads of a dear friendship in your hands, realizing the damage that has been done before it’s too late, then before the connection is severed completely you have every reason and every opportunity to reweave the fragile, precious strands into an even more powerful bond. Do this carefully, and do it together, and the strengths of this connection have every right to be more deeply entwined and as stable as possible. Sometimes all it takes is a humble acceptance of a shortcoming on your own part (and perhaps also their humble acceptance of a shortcoming on their part), and the stage is set for the possibility of a revival of a truly personalized partnership unlike anything you can find anywhere else. The uniqueness of each individual means that every single such connection is remarkably valuable in its own right, and cannot be substituted in any other way. Each one is unimaginably precious and should only be discounted entirely under the most extreme unfortunate circumstances when nothing within reason can be done by either party.

I think that the nature of these connections—which require so much effort from all sides involved—simultaneously makes them extremely difficult to establish and maintain but by the very same nature they are luxuries far more valuable than any worldly possession you can ever get your hands on. So don’t let them go so easily. Fight to keep at least some strand of friendship between yourself and anybody whose companionship you have ever appreciated. You will never find the same connections again, but you can build up throughout your time on the Earth as many intertwining threads as you are willing to keep hold of and weave as intricate and as powerful a rope as you are willing to put effort into. This rope, signifying so many relations you hold so dear with our fellow members of humanity, will always be there to hold on to, to grasp when life takes one of its unfortunate turns, there to help you right yourself and appreciate the things that truly matter because they truly care about you. And your life will be demonstrably fuller and more meaningful and more rewarding because of your efforts, and by these efforts so many countless other lives will be just as demonstrably fuller and more meaningful as well. Because, of course, just as you will benefit from their devotions, so will each of these recipients benefit in kind, because of you and your efforts, and the incredible sum of joys and sorrows and memories that are yours to share together if you would only work together to reweave the tattered threads of a once-flourishing bond of friendship.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 5:57 PM


Nicolie Polie said...

Interesting points. There are some instances in relationships between people, whether romantic or friendly, where sometimes it seems one sided. You can try, and try to establish an equal thought in a friendship/relationship, but you just have a feeling that the other person's life would not necessarily be missed if distance ever came to be a factor. I wouldn't call that self pity or call people that have felt that way idiots (not that you did, just stating :) ). It is possibly a simple case where some people can expect more from you than you do from them (the irony), and once the attention is gone, the have proven to themselves be worthwhile enough that they can easily get it elsewhere. Which makes me wonder how important my companionship was to them cause it was sure important to me. And that can be painful feeling. What I mean by one sided is that some people will go out of their way to make the other person happy because they are content and happy with such actions and want a prosperous future for that relationship/friendship. Sometimes, though, the other person doesn't put forth as much effort. It can even come across that the other person may love all of the effortless attention but finds it silly if it is to be expected in return. For me, that is a case of how threads can unweave. I see that so often and I have personally experienced it. Doesn't mean I didn't try or blamed myself, I just wondered why I couldn't be worthwhile to another person to spend time with me. I feel that way about some of my girlfriends even. It is a reacher/settler companionship. On another note, It is beautiful when people can reunite. I know it was much appreciated when I felt emotionally lonely thousands of miles away to connect with people. Friendships and relationships take work and mutual understanding that distance shouldn't be an issue. It always made me cringe that people say distance can't work, especially in relationships (Maybe it is just the idea that once people are gone others seem attractive and are there, not a long ways away). In any case, whether friendly of romantically, even when we were kids, no one wanted to feel left out and ignored. That doesn't go away with age. But being able to reconnect is beautiful. And it can work! Like us for example. I never would have thought in my wildest dreams you would have given me a third chance. It still makes me wonder what changed your mind :) But my mind was opened to the idea that if it is a good and quality connection, you are never truly regarded as irrelevant. I enjoyed knowing that when I was at my worst so far away from home. But some people are genuinely seeking pleasure, not purpose. Although great for them, but they should be willing to express this to someone else so thought processes don't get tangled.

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