Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 20, 2014

Friends. Unfriends.

Today I had a meeting with my friend Dave, for whom I’m doing some bookkeeping.  We were chatting a bit before getting into the nitty-gritty of receipts and QuickBooks, and he happened to mention that he’d been talking with a friend of his in another city whose food forest, planted on land leased from the city, nurtured for years, was going to be bulldozed soon.  Ouch.  Dave remarked, “At least once the five-year persimmons are dug up, it will be interesting to see the root patterns.”  I said, “Yeah, that could apply to just about anything you have to dig up.”

Sometimes we have no choice but to dig, confronted with reality.  Might as well look at the root patterns.

I found myself in a state of sobbing agitation the other night.  There was no getting around it.  The most immediate trigger for this was discovering that I had been unfriended on Facebook by someone I love and admire.  If you, dear reader, are not a Facebook addict or even a Facebook user, it might be challenging for you to comprehend why this would be a problem.  Without getting into a whole disquisition on the meaning and impact of Facebook, please just accept, for now, that it was a painful experience.

I decided to start looking at the root patterns, seeing as I believed this friendship had been uprooted.  I was disconsolate; my mind began tracing.  I didn’t fight the crying and heartache, but neither was I swallowed whole, and I observed myself.  I saw that this one event was tied to many, many others.  My outpouring of grief was proportionate to accumulated losses, misunderstandings, feelings of abandonment, lifelong struggles with wanting to belong, to have friends, to have a sense of community.

I had been vaguely frustrated and uneasy all that day.  I had had a brief phone conversation with another person I had once thought was a pretty good friend, but realized that the rare times he contacts me now are when he needs something.  I had received another phone call from someone unknown to me, asking if I’d consider joining the board of his land trust, and he mentioned that he’d received my phone number from someone I have zero contact with now.  I felt jarred.  It reminded me that it’s uncommon for people to reach out to me for in-person contact, and uncommon for me to reach out to them.

That day was on the heels of a few weeks and months of lost friendships, some initiated by others, and some by me, all of which were painful.  It dredged up the memory of just how many people I had dared open my heart to, and how many walked away, emotionally, or threw stones, whether they knew those blows were landing or not.

The questions that come up for me are, do I have some kind of weird expectation that friendships should last?  What does it mean to be a friend?  If someone is truly better off without me in their life, shouldn’t I just accept their need to be rid of me and be glad for them?  What kind of martyr would that make me?  Why do I care so much?  Don’t I have enough friends? 

I’m thinking a lot, too, about the ways in which I find it difficult to show up, myself.  It’s an intimidating excavation, that.  Sometimes I’m appalled at my own social ineptitude.  I avoid the phone like the plague.  I don’t call people, ordinarily.  I lose track of people.  I often don’t know who I should be focusing on.  I keep thinking about Dunbar’s number and wondering, are there just too many people in my awareness to be able to cultivate deeper relationships?  Is everything shallowly rooted?

I’m not letting this pathological society off the hook, either, for chewing up and mangling the basis for sane connection between human animals.  I suspect that if I were living in a hunter-gatherer tribe of 150 people, the concept of friendship would feel entirely different, not to mention concepts like work, family, education, decision-making.  I don’t know if there would be a word for loneliness in such an arrangement.  It feels like a modern disease.

In the case of two recent unfriendings, including the one mentioned above, I’m pleased to say that I had it in me to write messages and discover that, in fact, the people in question did want to maintain a connection to me, and it made me very glad.  And in other recent unfriendings and/or friendship-unravelings, I’ve been gradually coming to acceptance that not every connection is going to last.

I feel certain that I’m not done with these inquiries, and that there will be a lot more digging.

Blessings on our excavations, loves.




  1. As the offending friend, I apologize. Left FB altogether, trying to clean up my act. Didn’t mean to leave my dear friend behind. Still have her.
    My advice: find friends in the flesh. This screen is too limiting.

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