I’d say that most people I know maintain their friendships the way a gardener maintains pansies or roses:
If a pansy should begin to wilt, stick it in the sun and throw some water on it, and it will perk right back up.
Roses, though…they’re different. They need constant attention, lots of sunlight, pruning, et cetra, but if the gardener is consistently paying mind, the payoff is fantastic.
Lately, my friendships, seem to be the most comparable to the gardener and the tulip:
The gardener plants a bulb, spring comes around, and the plant grows extremely fast. The petals look strong and vibrant, and the colors are bright and happy.
Just when the gardener has gotten used to seeing these beautiful flowers everyday, the petals fall off and they’re left with nothing but the green stems. No matter what the gardener does, that tulip has a shelf-life of a couple of days and there’s no way to extend it. They pop up very quickly, and just as quickly, they disappear.
What a bitch.
My ‘tulip’ friendships began around the time I was 26 or so.
I never really had much trouble making friends in the past, but as I got older, it got increasingly difficult for me to find new friendships with staying power. The friends we make in college move away, people have babies, priorities change, and then we’re left in this late-20s rut. Gone are the days of striking up a conversation with the person smoking outside of a building at school between classes or lab partners. Co-workers are sometimes far too different to form a real relationship with outside of the workplace. So, how does one make friends with people in this semi-isolated state?
I was able to find that ‘rare gem,’ that wonderful stranger I found by happenstance a few times, and form a friendship with them over the last four years. About 90% of the relationships have died, and one is currently dying on the table, seemingly unresponsive to any attempt at resuscitation by my hand, or mouth, in this case.
When this first started happening, it really hurt me. To be blunt, it sucks to think of how nonchalant people are when it comes to dropping another person out of their lives. I’ve always seen every person I’ve ever known as a one-of-a-kind original…something that simply cannot be replaced. It’s always been a damn near inconceivable notion for me to just drop a relationship, as I believe there are ways of working our issues out. And there will be issues, as almost no two individuals will never have a misunderstanding or fight of some kind during their relationship. Nevertheless, people will loosen their grips on those with whom they have even the smallest of conflict.
The other issue I have are people who I get along very well with, who are too busy to include me in their lives. This usually happens with people who have children, and I have yet to find a way to break through this barrier.
Either way, I felt like the others were to blame.
After some reflection, I was able to break out of blaming and ‘victim mode,’ and tried to think critically about my role in these tulip friendships. Could I honestly be completely innocent? Could it really be that everybody else in the world is a perpetrator, just waiting to hurt me?
It IS me! It MUST be! If it were just one or two people who this happened with, then maybe I just found a few bad eggs, but it just keeps on happening! What if this is it? What if I never make any friends ever again? Is this my life? Oh my God…I’m a completely dysfunctional person! I’m too stand-offish! My standards are WAY too high! Nobody will ever care about me the way I care about them!
Once I calmed down, I thought about the last few friendships that the petals had fallen off of, one of them being a girl who lived a few minutes away from me.
Before she had a job, we spent lots of time together, but after she found full-time employment, every time I asked her if she wanted to get together (like on my birthday), she’d be busy, but she’d call me every two weeks or so at around 9:00 pm, on a weeknight, drunk, telling me to come over. She’d somehow make time for other people, was constantly throwing parties for her other friends…hell, I even helped her make Jell-o shots for a party to which I wasn’t invited, but I couldn’t manage to plan anything with her. She would do these things, then proceed to call me her best friend. I just couldn’t take the mind-fuck of it all, and I had to walk away from it. But, I tried, oh lord, did I try to make it work with this woman because I cared so much about her. Even now, I’m worried about whether or not she’s eating right or drinking too much or if her marriage is alright.
I had a choice to make: Hurt myself and endure, or hurt myself and stop more pain from happening?
I chose the latter.
Pain like that makes you want to go outside and dig up every single fucking tulip bulb in your yard. I swear, sometimes, I just want to hide, to run away, to stop trying anymore: To be frank, there are times I actually do.
Why even bother anymore? What’s the point? Everything turns to shit, nothing lasts, and people don’t genuinely care about each other. All they care about are people who can provide them with money or sex, and no matter how much of yourself you give to them, you will always be second fiddle to them. A throw away…do you want to be a throw away? No; you’d rather be alone.
So, what does it all mean to somebody like me?
What IS the point?
The point is that these people have taught me so many valuable lessons. Sometimes, they were to blame for the deterioration of the relationship, and sometimes, I was. Sometimes, the petals just fell off, naturally. Either way, there were always lessons for me.
Even though I was hurt by my friend, we had some really good and meaningful conversations and provided each other with the intimacy of a close friendship (for at least part of the relationship, anyway). She was there for me for a particularly trying time in my life, and if she hadn’t been, it would’ve been even harder. Most of all, though, she taught me that I do have the strength to walk away from a relationship when it’s hurting more than enriching me, and that is something I didn’t know I was capable of before.
I still want roses, though.
Hell, I’ll even take pansies. I think they’re both a lot prettier than tulips (and smell better, too).
However, the tulip isn’t all bad. The sight of the tulip signals the ending of the cold, lonely winter, and inspires the hope of warmer weather to come…the kind of weather in which roses thrive.