Pockets in the Heart

I’ve seen and heard of many friendships ending, with no particular reason or provocation; just the relationship running its course, or discomfort from a minor fight gradually accumulating and reaching a point where the friendship just couldn’t survive. With disdain, I thought to myself – those friendships were probably not strong enough. Or the grounds they built it on must’ve been different, shaky. Probably, they weren’t great at resolving their issues. There must’ve been undercurrents and overtones of disquiet. Perhaps, they were just frenemies and never true friends in the first place? Sheepishly, I must admit to thinking to myself, I’d gotten a hang of friendship like nobody else.

Friends – strangers that you randomly encounter (and how they grow on you!); the people whom you grow up with or meet on your journey of self-discovery. You participate in the highs, you share the lows, and you hold each other back during wars. You pour each other uncountable cups of coffee, often forgetting that actually, you prefer chai (that’s something you only remember when another friend makes it for you, with an extra spoon of milk and less sugar, just how you like it.)

There are few truths deeper than the truths you discover about each other, some that you may never accept of yourself. There is little you’re afraid of sharing and there’s limitless faith that it’ll stay where it belongs. Friendship, that warm winter hug and that screaming that sets you right!

And then, there comes a time when you move from being roommates to friends, long-distance. Or you go from speaking three hours a day to barely a text in three weeks. And you wonder, what went wrong, where? You could, if you wanted, come up with a list of moments where things seemed different, situations where you both were just not on the same page, your energy clashing, almost finding it impossible to breathe the same air. Moments where you hurt each other more than you supported them, times when you wanted to scream at them for hurting you.

But is it really about those moments? Would everything have remained the same if only you, or they, acted differently (read: the same) in those moments? The answer is hardly ever yes. You move on from friendships, just like you do from most other things in life. And not because you wanted any different, but because you had little choice.

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The truth is – the very bitter truth (more bitter even than how friend A liked her coffee) – you’re going to lose more friends than you’re going to be able to hold onto. And while there will be those that you grow old with and with whom you share more than you do with anyone else, there will also be those whom you only ever see pictures of every now and then on a social media platform, or speak with only to congratulate them on an engagement or new job, even though the memories linger in corners of your heart.

As for me, I’ll never forget the moment I realised 15 years together don’t guarantee a forever (nor do five). I will always notice when someone adds too much sugar to their tea. I will continue to find familiarity in the smell of black coffee, and think up ridiculous jokes when I’m hangry. When I’m driving, I will always look for things falling out of the sky. I’ll remember to be less shrill when I speak, and not rant as much when I’m angry, all because someone at some point – a friend – shared it with me. But in all these moments of remembering, I will also remember to be okay.

I’ve had many conversations over the years that went something like: I hate goodbyes, I hate losing people I love, no more losses for me, please. Just promise me we’ll never have to deploy small-talk and suffer through introductions to strangers again. Promise me, we’ll never have to go looking for new friends and new places to hang out, promise me our coffees (or chais) and conversations will be enough to last us a lifetime.

Despite such conversations and promises of promises, I’ve also come to accept that no number of friendship bands and pinky promises can hold together a friendship that has run its course. Every now and then, I remind myself that it’s okay to cry and to be hurt, and I’ll allow myself to grieve this loss. For maybe, contributions don’t always need co-existence. Sometimes, the people that make you the most yourself, only have that limited time and role to play in your journey. Perhaps, the holding on was truly tougher than the letting go. Maybe, there is real growth in moving on – for each of us.

And the only way I know to let go, is to truly embrace the pain. So I shed my tears, I hold onto fleeting memories, I re-laugh at retold jokes, I write unsent letters and say thank you prayers and I remind myself that friendships end and it’s nobody’s fault. I may never be ready for another loss, but I truly know now that in the end, we’ll all come out of it, as we were meant to be.

Edited by Satvika Kundu.

Remanpreet Sandhu writes to make sense of life and shares it hoping to help fellow travellers on similar journeys. She is a lawyer, Research Fellow and Content Manager at Nyaaya, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

Featured image: Nani Williams / Unsplash