While visiting my hometown over Easter last week, a high school friend said to me, "You know what's crazy? We've been friends for 11 years." My eyes glazed over as I counted. He was right. He continued, "You know what's even crazier? More than half of our friendship has taken place after high school." My eyes darted around as I counted, again, in disbelief. That couldn't be right.
"Wow," I said, ever the intellect.
"Yea, we've had good times. And bad, but I'm glad we're still friends."
The next day, probably not coincidentally, I found myself quite moved by Justin Timberlake's video for "Mirrors." It tells the story of JT's grandparents' relationship: the initial flirting, the breakup, and the happy ending. Eight minutes of neatly packaged, heartwarming retrospective self-awareness. And later that night, I watched The 5 Year Engagement. It tells the story of Jason Segel and Emily Blunt's relationship: the initial flirting, the breakup, and the happy ending. Eighty minutes of needless -- but heartwarming -- rom-com clichés (It's Mom's favorite movie night formula, and Mom loves movie night when her Jimmy is visiting. And, no, you don't have permission to call me Jimmy.)
(It's so good!)
Framed in this context, I started to consider the longevity of the relationships we form. As my friend said, 11 years is a long time. But it's not that long; I presume that we will be friends for another 50 years before one of us dies or succumbs to Alzheimer's. So even though half of our friendship up to this point has been defined by teenage shenanigans ("Remember that night we threw a 2 liter of Pepsi at each other until it exploded?"), those times will eventually be outnumbered by our adult shenanigans ("Remember that time we stayed out past 11pm ... on a Tuesday?"). And, perhaps more importantly, the lump-sum of good times -- adolescent to elder -- will more than outnumber the bad times; it will undo them.
"I still think it's funny," he said, "that you thought we'd never see each other after graduation."
"I really didn't," I recalled. "I hated you that summer. I can't remember why."
"Oh, Jim, is there anyone you haven't hated for a summer? I've learned that if you care about them, you've hated them for at least one full season."
Laughter and retrospective self-awareness ensued.
That retrospective self-awareness is the key. It allows JT's grandparents to forget the tear-stained mascara and focus on cinematographic metaphors for love. It allows Jason Segel and Emily Blunt to ignore a donut's staleness and appreciate how tasty it is regardless. It allows us to overcome the fights we thought had torn us apart for good. It allows us to laugh and disregard them as frivolous accidents in our timeline. We forget how final and heartbreaking they once felt.
Maybe I'm just giving myself a public pep talk, trying to convince myself that the tension in a relationship or two of my own will fade in favor of an even stronger bond. But even it's all for comfort, it's easier to fall asleep to that thought than to a feeling of indefinite emptiness. Personally, I have forgiven and been forgiven too many times to believe in said indefinite emptiness. Yes, loneliness happens, but I respect it as a product of a relationship that isn't working at that very moment. I try my best not to question if or when it will ever work again. It might, and it might not. Neither will be definite, but either will be for the better.
In the long run, we don't measure our relationships in summers of hate, but in seasons of love. Oh, crap, I just cued the piano chords.
Who or what is breaking your heart right now? Are you thinking about what you could have done differently? Conversely, take a moment to think about who or what you want nothing to do with anymore. Are you thinking about what they could have done differently? If so, I say don't. We never know if or when our worlds will align once again, perhaps stronger than before.