I've been slapped in the face before. (I posted about that here.) So while this particular "slap in the face" is not literal, the pain is quite.
It is a well-known fact that as you grow up and move on, friendships that were extremely tight get pulled taught with the distance. My parents have been friends with a family that lived in Ohio nearly 20 years ago. They're still good friends, even though they don't see each other but once every few years. It isn't like they talk on the phone once a week or even communicate online. But still, the relationship remains.
I have a little bit of impatience for people who allow friendships to completely disintegrate because you happen to move across town from each other -- heaven forbid, one of you moves across the States or to a different country! With cell phones, email and Facebook, it's nearly impossible to not stay connected. It almost seems to take more of an effort to disappear from a person's life, then it does to send well wishes and a hello.
I'm not perfect. I still owe my friend, Kate, a phone call. She called me before Independence Day, and I haven't gotten back to her. Except, oh wait, we've emailed a couple of times. But even when I go months without talking to Kate or Sabrina or any number of people that have been my good friends, I find that the relationship remains strong. But I think that is because when we do communicate, you can still feel the love and concern we have for each other.
When you move, and the people you used to see everyday are not as accessible, it is then that you realize how important you were to these people. Some, it turns out, were just casual acquaintances that you had a good time with. Others are people that touched your life, did their part and are now moved on. There are the people who, like my parents and their friends, you will continue to keep in touch and want to know what is going on in their lives, but the hanging out and constant contact generally stops.
And then there's the true soul mate -- I'm not talking romantically. Just your best friend soul mate. The kind of friendship that you anticipate lasting until you're 90. The one where you just know that your kids will call them Aunt/Uncle, even though their are no blood ties. From the moment you meet them, the talk is easy, spanning topics from gossip to church to relationships, fears, goals, dreams, ambitions, weird confessions, the absurd... it doesn't matter what you are talking about, but the talking never ends. The fun never ends. When you are together, you laugh and giggle and it's just...enjoyable. You survive the "trip test" (managing a road trip without driving each other crazy). You argue and disagree, but somehow it makes your relationship stronger. They accept you for who you are, 100%, flaws and all. And you do the same for them. They become such an intricate and full part of your life. You miss them the second they are gone.
Which brings me to: the slap.
At some point, you may realize that this relationship was mostly one-sided. Whatever enjoyment and fulfillment you were getting, it is obviously not reciprocated. They move one, without thinking twice about you. About your friendship. The distance is deliberate. Not from the passage of time, but from a choice to move on and find new friends. You have served your purpose. And now they're gone.
That feeling that you had no effect on them at all, when they meant the world to you... it's one of the most inexplicably sad of feelings. After all that time, after all that shared confidence... it's all for naught.
My relationship with my best friend of nearly twelve years ended this way just before I graduated high school. I cried. A lot. I wanted her to fight for our friendship, so that it could last for another twelve years, and to her, it wasn't worth it.
I swore to myself I would never be in a relationship like that again. I didn't want to waste my time being in a one-sided relationship. But when you're having so much fun, sharing so many confidences and there's not much evidence that it is all one-sided, it's hard to get out before the pain. So here I sit, broken-hearted once again.
I'm trying not to hold on as hard as I did the last time. Already, there's no more Facebook friendship, I've stopped following on Twitter. Social networking is not going to flaunt in my face how this person has moved on. And I'm going to get over the fact that I am so easily replaced.