Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Key Ingredient for Friendship


I think that may be the one key, necessary ingredient for any long term relationship. There has to be reciprocity for a friendship to work. The reason I'm thinking about this is because I just finished a book by William Shatner called "Leonard." It's as much a memoir from Shatner's perspective as it is a remembrance of his friend of 50 years, Leonard Nimoy,

The book was good. The somewhat rambling story telling style fit the tone of the bio and it revealed quite a bit about Nimoy's career and his many and diverse avocations. Shatner also pulled back the curtain on the golden age of television and explained how they, when both of them were starting out, scrambled from job to job simply trying to make ends meet. Nimoy struggled for 17 years in Hollywood (never working in a project for more than two weeks!) before landing his first recurring role as Spock. He then spent the rest of his career alternately running from and embracing that identity.

What I found most interesting, though, was their relational history. Most of us know of the - at times - turbulent friendship between these two icons. But their deep, deep love for each other isn't as well attested, I don't think. And then, near the end of the narrative, I was struck and saddened by an apparent crumbling of their friendship which occurred about two years before Nimoy's death. The breakdown happened, seemingly without cause and, much to Shatner's disappointment and regret, never found resolution.

Shatner writes (page 268/269): "Essentially, he stopped speaking to me....It was very painful to me. As I'd never had a friend like Leonard before, I'd obviously never been in a situation like this, and I had no idea what to do about it. If I knew the reason Leonard stopped talking to me, not only would I admit it, I would have taken steps to heal those wounds. If I had done something wrong, if I had said something that was perhaps misunderstood, I would want to know it so I might make amends. But none of that took place. I have no idea what happened....I was mystified. It was baffling to me. I kept asking people, 'What happened?' But no one could give me an answer. It remains a mystery to me, and it is heartbreaking, heartbreaking. It is something I will wonder about, and regret, forever."

This is a poignant reminder that life is often like that. And it's sad. Without reciprocity, friendships fail.

True confession: I've had friendships crumble and can't for the life of me figure out why. I've reached out, I've tried making amends, but for whatever reason some people in my life who were once good friends have left me behind. That's what it feels like. And it hurts. Now I would gladly renew those relationships - as I think most of us would - but something is preventing it. A misunderstanding, a perceived slight, a misspoken word. Would that these relational potholes could be patched. But like Shatner, after doing my part to heal the brokenness and not finding any reciprocity, I'm left wondering what went wrong. And I'm left with feelings of regret.

If you're one of those friends who feels something is wrong between us, would you reach back out to me? I didn't want the relationship to crumble. I just don't know what to do about it anymore. Now if we're kosher, then I still want to hear from you. Let's do lunch. But give me a call - even if it's my turn at this reciprocity thing - and you can tell me it's my turn! Because maybe I didn't know.

Having said that, I do wish you the happiest of New Years.
Here's to reciprocity.
Here's to friendship.
Here's to 2017.