I’ve been thinking of friendships lately and so an essay, by Gemma Hartley, on the unexpected loss of someone she thought had been a good friend piqued my interest. Since that same sudden shock happened to me, I was struck by Ms. Hartley’s astute observation that our culture doesn’t offer a way to grieve such a loss.
The loss of the person I thought was a friend came so suddenly that it was emotionally gutting and a shock that is taking me a long time to overcome. The better side of that loss is that I’m learning to view all friendships as potentially temporary (if longer, that’s a bonus) and as lessons to be learned, including kindness in closure… a pox upon me if I ever leave a friendship, as my “friend” did, without a kind explanation and a door left open.
There are no songs to help you weep the loss of a friendship (only romance), so you’re left to absorb the deep sadness, sans musical overtones. Therapy can add insult to injury, in that those who have suffered have to pay to talk and, since the cause may never be understood, there may not be any resolution except to be forced to face feelings of abandonment.
From my perspective, there’s no reason right enough, nor season cold enough, to end a friendship in such a way. Lessons can and should be shared (on both sides of the divide) before and from the cutting without anesthesia.
The idea of lessons on both sides of a divide brings my thoughts to a book of essays by Max Hastings, on Vietnam (An Epic Tragedy: 1945-1975), that has changed my opinion of the war and hammers home the point that both sides need to be heard.
By denying access to reporters and photographers who were not “ideologically sympathetic” to the North Vietnamese regime, the North carefully crafted how their side was viewed at the time and historically. On the flip side, American democracy allowed for almost complete access to the South Vietnamese and American fighting.
What was happening (but neither reported nor photographed) by the North Vietnamese left only our side open to criticism. Balanced reporting and photography might have shown that South Vietnamese and American actions and responses were warranted and could have possibly changed the outcome of that war.
Instead, such one-sided prejudicial renderings led to (deferred) students rioting on college campuses here, hurled and undeserved anger at troops there who couldn’t afford such luxuries here (and so were drafted to go), and hastened a withdrawal, without honor, rendering the sacrifices of those troops, essentially, (and very sadly), meaningless.
Putting aside your thoughts on whether we should have been there, one-sided access led to very unpopular reporting and photography that made the US and the South Vietnamese appear more barbaric than the North.
It’s only with the benefit of authors like Hastings that we can begin to understand how one-sided self-serving narratives can lead to lost, rather than learned, lessons which might have constructed a better outcome and future.
Speaking of constructive learning, I read recently that the Dutch have discovered a sane way not only to dine with friends (Dutch Treat), but also, along that same (and sane) line of thinking, to be considerate of bike riders or other drivers while exiting a car as a driver. The idea, called the Dutch Reach, is simple and brilliant or simply brilliant!
After parking the car, instead of using the left hand to open the driver’s door, to exit, reaching over to open the driver’s door with the right hand will force the driver to turn his or her head around to see if another vehicle is coming. If a vehicle is approaching, the Dutch Reach will stop the driver from opening the driver’s door to get out of the car before he or she has all of the information needed to make a decision to exit.
On that note, I’ll end here with a wish for all of us to have only good lessons with the best people and to see all situations (including if it’s really necessary, a decision to “exit” a friendship) from the best Dutch Reach perspective.
Copyright 2022, Audrey Biloon