#19. Abandon (Friend) Ship
If you happen to read my latest blog post for AWBW on Shadow Work/Play, you may notice that the alphabet soup after my name has acquired two more letters. That's because I'm now a Board Certified Art Therapist! This letter would have been F for Fail if I didn't pass. But I did! And so, this one's about friendship. I'd typically say that I hope you enjoy, but I'm not sure if enjoying is the exact vibe. Contemplating, perhaps. Whatever you choose, thank you, as always, for reading.
The captain is supposed to go down with the ship. That's just what she does. She devotes her life (and if needed, her death) to ensuring that everyone on board makes it out alive.
"All others above yourself!!!!!" is the not-so-underlying message. To abandon ship, while not illegal, is grounds for the penalty of dishonor, that gravest of societal gaffes.
Though I'm no captain of a maritime vessel, I can relate to the idea that we're supposed to go down with the ship. (And all I got was this eulogy that says I died before I let anyone else perish.) Most of us were taught, whether overtly or obscurely, to abide by the myth of loyalty, which asserts, very simply, that sticking things out is the most honorable thing one can do. The hope--the pinpoint of light at the end of some ambiguous tunnel--being that there's an other side, a side on which everything wrong has been righted.
I no longer believe--and maybe I never really believed--that abandoning ship is a dishonorable thing. Maybe I knew in my very depths that, sometimes, abandoning ship means saving the self. And not just in the literal way.
It's been an interesting year and a half for friendships. And it's not just me. It's other friends, my clients. It must have always been this way, for everyone in the history of this planet, a continual and sometimes painful shedding of that which ceases to align. One becomes oil and the other becomes water. There's no good and no bad; not one is better or worse than the other. Just different. And sometimes different becomes too different.
During a particular period of turmoil, one of my dear friends and colleagues told me what she'd learned. That in life, we go through many marriages, and that hopefully, they're all with the same person. It's one thing to keep aligned the ever-changes with one person. But all of the people? I drank my way through my statistics class in college, so I don't know much about any of that, but chances look slim.
And yet there's such pressure to remain same enough to each other and who we once were, because it's the only way we can stay here, stay us.
It's crazy, if you think about it, that everything needs to match up just so, in order to work properly. The odds are unimaginable, if you think about it too much.
I'm learning that some things don't last forever. Sometimes they end abruptly. Sometimes quietly. Sometimes things come back from the brink of hell to see previously unimagined harmony. Sometimes they take long periods of separation and then it's like nothing ever happened. Except for healing.
One of the most annoying things I tell my clients, with the disclaimer that this is probably going to be the most annoying thing I tell them, is that there is a lesson in everything.
Back to the ship. It's sinking, but I know there's a way out that circumvents anyone dying. Maybe the ship gets rebuilt in the middle of the deep sea or on some unknown shore. Maybe we find ourselves swimming in opposite directions, you in the direction of the sunset and me towards the sunrise. Who knows?
It's too much in the middle. But the middle's not a bad place to be.
The middle is an enigma, a place that's somehow both forever and temporary. It's the space where we try to make sense of things that we know will end, ending, despite our naive hope that it couldn't possibly.
Even a sinking ship has a fated course.
And my friend, there's nowhere to go but