Friendships: Does the KonMari Method™ Apply?
I am doing a lot of thinking about my female friendships these days as I have new ones in my life and feel the distancing of some old ones. So much of the KonMari lifestyle is about finding what brings you joy so why not extend that philosophy to friendships? Seems easy, right? Not exactly. The simple buckets of “donate, keep, recycle” do not easily translate. It’s a lot of confused “maybes.”
What triggered this path of thinking for me was my sadness around the fading of some of my older friendships. Attempts at getting together seem to fall flat if they even get off the ground. It’s no one person’s fault; it is just sort of the way it is for some of us. I realize that when kids come into the mix and schedules get hectic, convenience becomes a really relevant variable in friendships. Most of us old friends have kids, but despite that commonground, we all have packed schedules, careers and 30 minutes of driving between us. It doesn’t sound like much, but when all you have is a free hour in the day, there goes your window for catching up.
I was the later one to the burbs from New York City. Upon moving out here, I fantasized about regular car conference calls as we all shuttled our kids around and had hopes of bi-weekly meet-ups at the diner that sat equidistant from our homes. I had visions maybe of a Friends-type cafe, though I guess we are a bit older than Monica, Rachel and Phoebe.
It gets me thinking: “Well, shouldn’t I just focus on the people that are in my life and emotionally and physically available?” A rational thought. Being new to my town and for the first time in a school system, I’m meeting lots of great people. Some of those friends are neighbors. Another from tennis and a few from my son’s Pre-K. There are inherent commonalities we have; we chose the same town for similar reasons –diversity, progressive attitudes, and creative minds. We have generally similar political beliefs, we have similar socioeconomic backgrounds and we are emotionally invested in our families– all while we also are trying develop a new type of “flexible” career. Sprinkle in a mix of convenience, similar time tables, and close proximity and it becomes fertile ground for friendship.
Glass-half-full as I strive to be, my new friends and acquaintances don’t know my history. My college friends and I saw each other grow from clueless, free-spirited teenagers to mothers trying to figure it out. Speaking of mothers, they knew my mom before she died. We know about each other’s weaknesses and strengths, family issues and career evolutions. We can pick up from where we left off with relative ease. Yet when so much time goes in-between seeing them, I feel hurt or upset or confused at why the gaps are so long. How does a simple text go unanswered? Yet, I’m sure I’ve done it. All it takes is one nagging kid to make you forget what you were going to type and before you know it you are cleaning up cheerios and good intentions become a lost cause. But, even with all this intellectual understanding of the “why,” I still go to a dark place and wonder if it is worth all the future and potentially fraught attempts to reconnect or if I need to just emotionally detach. I struggle with ambiguity and this is one of those murky spaces in my life.
I luckily don’t have any toxic relationships that I need to “KonMari” out of my life (I luckily did that about 10 years back). But, with these longtime friends, it’s like the old comfy sweater that you put on a couple times a year and ask yourself, why don’t I wear this more?
All of this likely has nothing to do with my old friends. My sensitivities around friendships stem from early childhood when I was betrayed and backstabbed in fourth grade. My “best friends” wrote mean things about me in the sand at the softball pitch and a “planned” matching outfit with my best friend turned into me being called a copycat. (Insert horrified emoji!) Fitting in (but with limited trust) from then on felt like a mission versus an organic result of just being my authentic self. A lot has changed since fourth grade and definitely since college. I may make friends very easily and I do feel true to myself, but I long for those really close girlfriends. Those relationships in which we feel mutually invested and genuine efforts are made to be there for each other consistently. Adding to the complex psychology of my past, I am surely longing for my late mother and projecting some of that onto my friends and expectations. Did I mention I was raised by a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist and have had my own fair share of therapy? Self-awareness is not my issue!
As I process this, thanks to the blank space I get to write in and the work I do on myself, I wonder if perhaps I should reframe how I approach these lapsed friendships. Maybe I need to get more comfortable in unpredictable future for our relationships but have a sense of gratitude for when we do get together. Maybe I need not force plans when they don’t happen easily. And, truth be told, I’m sure I am at fault for the emotional distance too. And then I had an epiphany last week…
Last week my son sang a song in Pre-K that I sang as a Girl Scout. It goes:
Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
A circle is round,
it has no end.
That's how long,
I will be your friend.
I always got stuck on the silver and gold part. Who gets to be silver and who claims gold? What color am I to my friends? Clearly, I missed the point of the song completely and saw these lyrics as hurtful and triggering. Three decades later, I realize that it just means (if it even goes this deep!) that not everyone has to be gold and that there is a place for silver (and bronze for that matter). Unless the friendship is a tarnished or faux metal of sorts, due to codependency, toxicity or destructive behavior– then definitely to be tossed in the “trash” pile of your KonMari™ sorting. For me, luckily, like the circle in the song, there doesn’t have to be an ending.
Perhaps, similar to my last blog post on transitioning my son from the crib to the bed, I sometimes feel the need to rush the “hurt” of change and force things into the next phase. But, that’s hasty and can come with regret. For now, I will bask in the friendship I have with myself, reflect fondly on the bond I had with my mother and embrace the new women in my life. As for the old friendships, should you be reading this, I look forward to the circle bringing me back to you when the time is right because we have what nobody else does– each other’s history.