Just friends

‘So you’re really going to be just friends?’ my colleague asked, innocently cementing my hatred for an expression we casually use time and time again to talk about the art of going platonic.

If you had the misfortune to read my last post you’ll know I recently extricated myself from a rather confusing romantic encounter. We both accepted the onward trajectory wasn’t going to be relationship-ville. To me, in the past, this has always meant a parting of ways. No sexy time equals no time at all. If we bumped into each other in the street of course we’d stop and chat or at least acknowledge each other’s earthly existence, but the hang-outs, phone calls and texts stopped and there’d definitely be a Facebook break-up.

Except this time my ex-lover really, genuinely wanted to stay mates – and presented such a good case for keeping the friendship afloat I just couldn’t find a reason not to. Meaningful, stimulating conversation? Check. Guaranteed laughter and fun when together? Check. Mutual respect and support for one another? All present and correct. And, if I’m honest, having someone so intent on spending time with me purely driven by the belief I’m a pretty cool lady to be around, just feels nice.

I know what you’re thinking, oh cynical reader. And no, I can assure you I’m now about as attractive to this man as a venerial disease. He’s not still trying to get into my pants – and I’ve genuinely lost interest in going anywhere near his.

We even managed a very sensible dating post-mortem discussion in the pub without anyone getting thrown in the river – immensely impressive considering said pub’s proximity to the Thames. This was adulting at it’s finest. Practically dissolving in a puddle of smugness I relayed my newfound maturity to several of my nearest and dearest who were intrigued, supportive and offered varied insight into the idea of being ‘just friends’ with someone you’ve been romantically involved with. There it was, repeatedly, this expression I’ve come to detest.

‘Just’ friends – a word pairing I abhor because, actually, friendship is important. In fact I think it’s probably more important than romantic relationships – I’d be nowhere without the platonic connections in my life. To date I haven’t ever managed to stay friends with someone I’ve been involved with, but I’ve never actually tried particularly hard. And perhaps I should have.

Whether this time will be any different remains to be seen and I’m still not sure whether the brevity of our flirtation will help or hinder things. Is it easier to make friendship stick when the romantic foundation is weak, or harder because those relationship building blocks we so lack leave us with less to cling onto? Yes it was only a fling so it’s a smaller transition from lovers to buddies, but we really haven’t been in each others lives for very long. This, coupled with a few lingering feelings of confusion and resentment over the way things ended (on my part), might make the passage less than smooth.

However I’m a woman in her 30’s with increasingly fewer opportunities to connect and spend quality time with like-minded people who aren’t swamped with other life commitments and responsibilities. In these days of drifting friendships and spending far too much time in playgrounds with my mates who now have young offspring, I’m determined to at least try to sew the tattered threads of our romantic liaison into something new. Here’s hoping I’m up to the task.

 

Love hurts – but so does mental illness

heart

“Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiii mi corazonnnnn…” crooned the wavering falsetto. As the radio gleefully crackled and spat in the corner of the cafe I grimaced and slid a handful of coins across the coffee-stained table. The year was 2007, the location Honduras, Central America and, once again, I had lost the bet.

The game of chance my little travelling gang had been enjoying so frequently was simple – how many seconds into a song  would the singer last before uttering the word ‘corazon’. Heart. In this instance it was approximately seven – and although my Spanish was limited, even I could pick up on the torrent of grief and woeful tale of spurned love that followed. Latin Americans don’t take affairs of the heart lightly.

Back in England it was business as usual, and songs on the radio took on a less desolate timbre. But when those sad melodies crept onto the airwaves there it was, time and time again, that same word once more. Heart. And every melancholy tune cataloguing the destruction of this essential organ seemed to be about one thing and one thing only – the woes of amour gone wrong. I felt like the world was on the edge of despair and it was all down to romance.

But it’s not just romantic catastrophes that can tear you in two and I was starting to deal with a whole new sub-set of pain – of the mental illness variety. But no-one was singing about that.

I haven’t had much opportunity to experience tragedies of the heart of late; thanks to my illness my love-life has been barren as the Kalahari. However having spent the last four to five years on-and-off very ill and debilitated, I’ve experienced a different kind of loss – that of a large chunk of my twenties. While my friends have all been out adventuring, building careers and humping anyone with a pulse I’ve watched a lot of things pass me by while sat at home in a fatigue fog. I mean, I knitted a LOT of hats, but there was always a sense of something lost that I couldn’t quite process. How do you mourn the loss of opportunities when you can’t touch, hear or see them? How do you grieve for something that hasn’t even happened – that isn’t tangible, solid, real?

At least in the aftermath of a tragedy or relationship break-down you can off-set some of the pain you feel against the good times once shared with the lover you’ve parted with, or the loved one that’s departed this world. Mental illness presents a double edged sword – it can cause you insurmountable grief for seemingly no reason.

I think it’s this lack of logic and sense driving the arrival of depression in people’s lives that can prevent them from appropriately grieving for what they’ve been through, and what they’ve lost. But grieve you should. As with any traumatic event in life, whether romantically tragic or not, I think you have to spend some time wading through misery in its aftermath – crying out the tears that are trapped in your body – to get to the other side.

If this means weeping into a Doritos packet while listening to Michael Bolton, then so be it. Shriek, rant and rail, sob, claw at the walls – do what you must to feel what you need to feel when depression has stormed in and out of your life.

Then when the time is right you can move on. And perhaps write a song about how lost love isn’t the only thing that can rip your life apart and shatter your corazon.