Friendship-maintenance social time is a reality that's been causing grief between Darkside and me for a while. We'd go out of our way to see each other twice yearly on his friendship maintenance schedule if it were up to him. We'd see each other at least weekly if it were up to me. And even though I know he cares about me -- I'd really like it better if he suggested an alternate time and activity that would be acceptable to him if my initial suggestion was not right for him, rather than just declining.
If he were anyone else, I possibly would have either walked away by now, or let his maintenance schedule set the pace. If he'd been someone else, the calls from me would have continued faithfully for a while, but then one of those months when he had something scheduled every day of every weekend, I'd have one day forgotten to call, and then another, and another, until months had gone by before I'd thought to contact him on a day I knew would work for both of us to talk. There's nothing new about that pattern for either of us. He learned to short-circuit the lingering months of missing people you'll like as not hear from ever again. If you know already that they'll never call back, why bother calling them? A few moments of contact a year, any time that you happen to think of them -- around a holiday, maybe -- it'll be fun to hear how they're doing again.
I have friends like that too. I don't think I've spoken to Ginger in over five years. The next time we run into each other, we'll be ever so happy -- but we won't go out of our way. She's not part of my daily life anymore. But it was a bitter fight, being used to her being gone...
I've learned how to take it, just as he did. So much of the time, there is really no choice. But is that really so? How much determination does it take to keep shouting into that void until long after you're sure there will be no response, ever? When do you fold yourself quietly back and decide that it's best to quit while ahead, and you don't want to actually lose the friend from being too pushy and obnoxious?
With anyone else, I'd have backed off long ago and let him set our pace. But somewhere along the line, he let me know enough about him to know where to see what is behind the mask. And what was behind the mask told me that as I loved him, I would never let go -- I would never abandon our friendship now that he'd invested so much of his scarce hope in it. There were many times when I reached out and called into the darkness. I could have let go. But since his friendship maintenance module is very, very broken and I know it (I apportion a large share of the blame for the initial damage to the US Army), I do this frantic jig around the safe parameters of stretching his limits and the safe parameters of stretching mine. Each time he delays, he stretches me a little. Each time I insist, I stretch him.
I know that if I did go with his maintenance schedule willingly and without a fight, he would be hurt beyond all belief. Somewhere along the line our friendship became a vocation that I pour myself endlessly into. He rebuilt me step by step. Can I do less for him?
I really want to meet the person who taught him to believe that to be strong, he had to pretend he didn't care.