Friendships are affirming, challenging, confusing. They are a dance of projection and reflection where we get to try out new ‘selves’, testing out what we think we know about ourselves. They are a place where we are transformed.
We are drawn together initially through a twist of fate, but what happens next relies on that uncanny flash of recognition – part-intuitive perhaps, part-reflective – that sets up an attraction borne of expectations, aspirations, inspiration, unexplored potential. We begin weaving ourselves into the fabric of each other’s lives, making patterns of influence and experience. Sometimes this process is constant and steady, the changes gradual, slow and incremental, affirming and deepening what has gone before. But every now and again a new friendship dramatically picks up neglected or unrecognised threads of belief, self-knowledge, working new pattern into the surface of our existence. These are the friendships that mark a very tangible shift in our behaviour and the way we see ourselves. They may uncomfortably challenge our beliefs and our habits, but they can also allow us to see clearly exactly what is possible or why it is that we have been doing things a certain way for some time. We must recognise these friendships as a gift sent to us for an important purpose. They can only be fleeting in their intensity, and once their inherent challenges have been addressed, it feels inevitable that the friendship, if not the friend, must move on. When this happens, and our friends choose a different path in life, for a while we find ourselves a little lost, bereft, unstable. We examine the changes our friends have left in their wake, look back to the self we thought we knew ‘before’, and realise we will never return there. We acknowledge the new texture of our lived experience as lasting evidence of a profound exchange, yet we find the patterns we made with these friends harder to wear alone. We may not continue to inhabit them, recreate them. But it is like intarsia* – we leave the unfinished ends of our friendships hanging under the surface, ready to be worked into our lives when the time arises. This is perhaps why it can be so hard to convey in a moment, a goodbye hug, the meaning of all those things that have been shared, lost, given, accepted. There is length left in the thread: Our friends, although they might come and go, never really leave us. They have patterned our past, continue to colour our future.
*intarsia: a knitting term – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intarsia_(knitting)