New Year's has finally become just another day for me. (NYE is a boondoggle, but never mind that.)
Or ... has it? It's hard to shake all those years of socialization. It's been harder than expected to completely slough off that desire to be born anew.
I tackle all the usual suspects. The dust. The clothes that don't fit. (They never do. I'm a fat lady again, requiring another huge wardrobe change and several Goodwill trips. I'll probably have to do the same again in six months when I get either bigger or smaller. Irritating.) I have shelved the mysteriously- and constantly-multiplying books and sorted out my desktop and backups (finally). And I have culled my "friends". Is that harsh? To categorize friendships in the same was as I do books and clothes? Probably, but I do it anyway. I've written (on the blog) about this pretty extensively before -- about my preoccupation with the end of friendships and when and if it's right to let thing die. Click the "Friends and Foes" tag on the right and many examples will appear. So to some extent, I am probably repeating myself, but nonetheless, this is a perennial topic of interest for me, so I can hardly help it.
I am always actively culling people, online in particular. I have a longer block list than Nathan has actual Facebook friends, and I'm fine with that. Facebook isn't about strangers for me. It's about real people I actually know -- maybe only in passing, sure (I have acquaintances and elementary school cronies on there, just like the next person) -- but it's primarily about people I like and people who, even if we don't talk much, I feel comfortable letting in to some extent. And for me, just like in real life, if I feel like the relationship is entirely one-sided, or like I'm the only person who brings anything to the table, I don't see the point. I don't see the point of a hollow friendship. You know what a hollow friendship sends back at you? Echos. That's it.
Friendships can be delicate little flames, yes, but is it so hard to keep them going? Especially when you interact primarily online? It's not exactly a lot of work. And if it feels like it is a lot of work, is the friendship even worth it?
I think of my tendency to cull as harsh, but fair. I have a system. It's not just arbitrary. If I have fond feelings for someone, but am feeling distance or pointlessness, I first try to make things better, and if we don't really interact beyond the occasional "like" or comment, that might be fine, just so long as I continue to feel positively towards said person and just so long as I feel like the relationship is relatively equitable. If I feel, however, that a close online friendship has withered, or as though I am at all resentful, I start a little process to test the waters. (This is the fair part.) And then, depending on how it goes, I either feel better and the friendship is renewed, at whatever level seems right, or I feel the same and/or shitty so I cut it off. I delete. I block. Goodbye. That's it. (This is the harsh part.)
As 2014 fell away, I initiated this process several times and things went both ways. I wrote a message to a woman I haven't seen since I was a student in 2001, and her response, while not overly-familiar or friendly was warm enough and balanced enough that I was left feeling like we were on the same page. We don't really interact, but remain Facebook friends. Win.
I sent an email to a woman who was once a very close friend (she's not on FB), but whom I rarely talk to and she replied with a very short message, but one that nonetheless felt authentic. We still don't talk. She lives far away, in California. She's busy with a new baby and a demanding job. I haven't seen her since 2008. But we're okay. I think we're still friends. There are physical and practical barriers that limit our closeness right now, but no resentment. Win.
Just a few days ago, I tossed a line to a man I used to know when I lived in Vancouver. He was one of the few people I met on my own -- not through my ex, not because of university. Between 2004 and 2007, I felt like we had something real. We connected. We exchanged long emails. We met for coffee and lunches. He talked to me about his plan to propose to his girlfriend before it happened. I was at his engagement party. I knew what was going on with his work. We were, I think (or rather, thought) true friends. But then I wasn't invited to his wedding. Okay. No problem. It was in Australia. I couldn't have gone. Nonetheless, it felt a little strange. We kept talking a bit, at least online, as he moved across the planet. The talking stopped late that same year. I sent the last message. It was relatively long. He never responded. And for the seven years that followed, we existed only as "friends" on Facebook. I watched as he had children, moved to yet another country, got a big-time job with a big-time company, posted photos of the his-and-hers luxury cars he bought (clearly we had less and less in common), but we didn't interact. No likes. No comments. Nothing. (At least not from his end. I tried for awhile, but tapered off in embarrassment when my efforts weren't reciprocated.) And slowly, I started to feel resentful. So I started my process. I went something like this: "Hey! It's been such a long time. Seems like you're doing amazingly well. Wanted to say hi -- test the waters, that sort of thing. How are you?"
He replied with one-liners. "Hi," he said. "Yes, it's been a long time. I'm doing fine. You?" I pressed on. I didn't ask a million questions, but I did leave a couple of short, nostalgic comments meant to open the door and to give him the opportunity to tell me something, anything, real. I mean, after all these silent years, I was hardly going to chase him a full speed shouting, "Be my friend! Be my friend!" Not after I had sent the last, ignored message. So I was subdued, but I made the effort to start the conversation. (I so often find it's left to me to do this sort of work, but I do it, because it's what I can do. At the same time, it is sometimes a source resentment.)
He didn't engage. He didn't tell me anything. All he sent back was a sticker. A Facebook "thumbs up" sticker. No actual words. Nothing real. What was I supposed to do with that? What was I supposed to say? "Haha," I wrote. "A thumbs up sticker." Pretty depressing, really. I guess those will be our last "words" to each other. At the same time, if there's nothing there, there's nothing to fight for, right?
Not with a bang, but with a whimper, right?* I don't think that is how the world ends, but it's certainly how some friendships do. It makes me sad, but it's possible that it's for the best. That's what I tell myself. If I cling to things that don't matter, or to people who don't care about me, I won't have any energy for the things that do or the people who might.
And the good news is, here we are in a new year and things feel tidy. I feel like there's more space in the world for the good, and that feels better than any resolution.