I was confronted with an issue late last week. A week whereupon I was on the stage for 4 of the 7 nights and loving every moment of it. The stage life is one that I struggle to know whether I want to do it every waking hour of my existence. At once I love every second of it and hate what it does to my body. You live in limbo, knackered in the morning but exhilarated in the evening with little control over your diet. The nerves start off as your enemy but you begin to embrace them as something that comes along with the ride however they certainly take their toll on your energy stocks. Oh, I do love the theatre.
However, there comes a time when you step away from the dream that you stumble across reality. A phone call from a friend telling you that your friendship is on life support. Your friendly banter has slowly morphed and degenerated into snide bullying and the trust has eroded a formerly special relationship. The day you realise that what seemed like a lifelong relationship has become one that is barely a friendship anymore is the day you step back and reflect what you are doing wrong as a friend and person.
It begun a couple of weeks ago when one of my best friends refused to come to my show. It wasn’t an open refusal, more coming across as someone blatantly ignoring their responsibilities. Slowly I became more and more frustrated with his inability to address why he wasn’t coming. In the back of my mind I had sort of figured that one of the reasons could be that I had neglected to return my side of the friendship bargain but I kind of avoided that in order to feel like I was the one who had been subjected to such a slight on my person. Another friend of mine told me to speak to him. I ignored that as well. This was my week! My week and here was a friend who flatly refused to be a good friend. Resentment plagued my mornings. Then I made the phone call to him. He didn’t answer. I was still frustrated but it had become apparent in my own mind that this was not a person who would ignore my invitations. A selfless friend he had proved himself to be over the years. The mirage was merely a front. I knew I had committed a friendship sin but I could not accept it. He called me and immediately asked the question ‘Shall we do this now?’ I sharply asked him what we were ‘doing’ but then accepted. He begun to list my indiscretions, my friendship faux pas’ and after initial protestation I found myself holding my tongue and then inevitably not needing to hold it at all as he reeled off my indiscretions.
Sadly, my disposition rattles between the prototype of a brilliant friend and that of a distracted lover. The distracted lover who ignores the calls of the one he committed himself to. I treat friendships like intimate relationships for I have rarely entered into the mind frame of a person who is involved in a ridiculously intimate facade with a member of the opposite sex. I usually commit to those with only one eye open. Friendship is enough of a commitment for an innately selfish man. However, in recent months I have begun to accept that I cannot take for granted the art of relationships on the whole. Alike a garden, they need to be tended to with more than just the approach you would take with an android without distinct feelings. Or your teddy bear. Actually my teddy bear was brought out of the cupboard for the first time in 6 years a few weeks ago. He now sits atop my desk and stares at me when I sleep. As creepy as this could be it has become a reassurance. A reassurance that I know my identity and I know what I am. I don’t know why, maybe I’m mentally unstable and still in the ‘imaginary friend’ phase but it reminds me of old friends.
As a person who thrives on meeting new people, I constantly need to remind myself that every person I meet is another relationship I have to provide upkeep for. The excitement of meeting a new and exciting person or group of people only lasts for a certain time before it enters a new phase. The new phase ranges on a scale of 1-10. 1 being a simple acquaintance. Maybe someone you met on a overseas trip or someone you met in a club. Perhaps they will become a friend on one of the many social media websites we frequent, perhaps not. 10 is the new friend you meet who you are completely compatible with. The one you need in your life for it to be satisfying. This would be the position a new lover would probably take if the relationship relied on more than simply the act of le intercourse. And then there is the position that a few new friends may take. It is a position that many people cannot handle more than a handful under their wing because over a few years you will need to dedicate hours, days and weeks of your life to them. Most positively, to your joint enjoyment but also to their own lives, their own commitments, to their extra-curricular life and their own problems. Because you cannot truly call yourself a good friend without giving thought to their own existence.
Thus my problem reared its ugly head. I had given little to no thought to the life of my good friend. Within a few months he had begun a thesis, stuck at his sporting ambitions, met new folk himself and encountered new romances. Of course I had paid them attention but not enough and too many times with a cynical and dismissive flick of the hand. I am ashamed to admit that it isn’t the first time that I have let a friendship erode to the point of not giving it more than a passing thought. Some have eroded to the point of becoming poisonous and toxic. Others have been restored to their former glory. The issue is at once my desire to find new friends who excite my senses and committing to the many people I feel are friends. Thus being uncommitted is not the word I used to describe this phenomenon. I’m not uncommitted but rather inattentive, distracted by shiny things and I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for me as a person but at times there is little doubt I am being unrealistic. I cherish friendship but alike intimate relationships it is a two-way street where one party can be destroyed by another’s actions.
Similarly on stage, you can become that character for a night and embrace the role to the point of being so immersed in it for a couple of hours that you completely forget your own world. But once it is over, you realise that it was the same humble canvas you were painting on that is still there providing the foundation for your transformation. At the heart of it, it is those friends you have had for years and years who know you like the back of their hands no matter how hard you try to become a new character.
I walked away from the stage with a heavy heart and a room full of new friends; some of whom will become good friends, even great friends. Firstly though, I have a job to do. Ensuring that I do not lose a best friend.