It is a sad thing when a friendship ends – and such is the nature of the world that all things end. One can, for so long, hold out the prospect that what at the time seemed like a misunderstanding can be redeemed. But that too must pass, it seems, that too must die and the past is recast anew in the light of that passing. I’m done, we say, but are we really? I have tried to engage in useful work of mourning. But when I say ‘I’m done’, I have clearly only just begun to think over and over about words said, about moments and choices made, about responsibility, blame and recrimination. The repeating is like a death grip. Endlessly I revisit those moments. I wonder what I might have said differently, I torment myself with those possibilities. If only .....
The ending of a friendship draws one’s attention to the gut-wrenching fragility of them all, to the vulnerability of our social bonds and their endless hopeless devastating volatility. If there is anything to be done it is, it seems, to assess the extent to which a friendship can be repaired, and the extent to which one is prepared to prostrate oneself before the alter of that friendship, humbly taking on the responsibility for what is always already radically shared. To take on the responsibility for the end of a friendship is sometimes the only way to bring it back to life, but at what cost? Is the friendship more important than a truth that will all over again destroy it? Is the friendship more important even than one’s own sense of self-worth? Ask yourself this: could you prostrate yourself before it knowing that you have no reason to take on the burden of the friendships’ ending?
Determining that also brings with it questions as to the ‘original’ nature of the imagined friendship. Was it based simply on mutual self-interest? Was one agent of the friendship more inclined to set aside time and effort to help the other? And was there ever a time during the friendship when mutual care and mutual investment were really even-handed? Is such a thing ever possible?
It might just be that friendship is a kind of masochistic impulse in which one allows oneself to be continually taken up and used, not, necessarily in those grand earth-shattering ways, but in the tiniest of ways. And the fantasy work of the friendship is what allows one to put the smallest of injuries aside, to make sense of them only as anomalies, as small glitches in the free-flowing balance of the friendship. And we do this over and over again. We allow the small injuries, we explain them away.
But we do not accept them. To do so, I think, would be to change fundamentally, and, perhaps, productively, all our social relations. It would be, perhaps, to find the key to being more than one. A key therapeutic question arises in this moment: do I destroy my friendships because I cannot stand to be more than one? Do I destroy these social bonds because they always hurt and I cannot make peace with that hurt?
We might also ask this: is the most intimate arena of friendship an arena of vulnerability that points to the always-already flawed nature of the social itself? And would recognising that flawed and mutable nature be an opening of ourselves to something new? Perhaps the greatest lie under which we have been forced to labour since the advent of mercantilism has been precisely this: when the surplus care of any friendship remains hidden, the friendship continues to function.
The move I wish to make in trying to reclaim this friendship, then, is going to be this: I will no longer attest to a false mutuality but will bear witness to the mutability of the social bond. Once I have done that work, I can begin the mourning work.