The Bittersweet Reality of Watching Your Friend Fall in LoveMar 24, 2023
Recently, my friend Rochelle sold her flat, packed up her life and moved to the Sunshine Coast 1800 km away. And I pretended it wasn’t happening. I didn’t even say goodbye.
Our story started in a little Kundalini yoga studio that sat on the corner of a road, famous for prostitutes, pimps and drug deals.
The first I heard of Rochelle was when my Kundalini teacher told me a story about a student who left class one day and noticed a car pull up slowly alongside her. She walked over to the open window and asked “can I help you?” to which the driver offered her $50 for a blow job. The student was Rochelle and that story sums her up. She assumes the best in every situation, she wants to help anyone she meets and she gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.
My teacher then went on to suggest that Rochelle and I hang out, we were after all the same age, British and were both single at the time. I smiled sweetly as I often do when someone tries to set me up with a new friendship, my internal monologue screaming “I don’t need any more friends”.
And then the pandemic broke.
As the world was imploding the stock on the supermarket shelves was disappearing (remember loo-roll-gate?) and my favourite brand of tea became hard to find (my tea of choice at the time was Higher Living Cocoa and Chilli for my fellow leaf lovers!)
I took to my Instagram stories to share my dismay (because what is life without your favourite tea?) and Rochelle saw it. The following day, I got a message saying that she’d found some Cocoa and Chilli tea in a little known Woolworths and she’d bought me two boxes.
We met up to exchange the tea (she refused to take any money for it) and the rest is history. We fell in love. Not in a romantic way but love, of course, exists in many forms and why is it less important because it’s between two friends?
Rochelle will say she stalked and then bribed me into friendship but really, she’s just kinder and more open than me.
As the pandemic unfolded our friendship grew. We became each other’s single person bubble and spent that first long winter of lockdown in front of her open fire talking about everything and anything.
We were both homesick for the homeland we couldn’t get to, ambitious in the businesses we wanted to build and scared of our own imagined fears. Also British humour is very particular so we belly laughed a lot. I don’t know if I believe in past lives but if there is such a thing, we were sisters in a previous incarnation for sure.
Rochelle is the friend I thought I didn't have room for in my life, but as I’ve moved into my 40’s I’ve realised that you can’t have too many friends. There’s no such thing as too much connection and life only grows in its capacity to hold love. It is infinite in its elasticity; put simply, the more love there is, the more love there is room for.
Together, we braved 262 days of lockdown, we did our Kundalini yoga teacher training, we turned 40, we even did a podcast series about it (Unashamedly 40) and followed it up with a second series (Tits & Tea).
We cried tears of laughter in the changing room of Marc Jacobs when she got her knickers caught in the zip of a dress she then had to buy.
We chanted mantra together at the top of our voices into the night sky as we drove home along beach road after a two day wedding.
We ate untold bowls of acai at our favourite hipster cafe while people looked on as we threw our heads back and cackled at jokes only we would understand.
And then, one day, she met a guy. And it changed.
In our society we don’t talk enough about the crushing feeling of your single girlfriend falling in love and becoming your “in a relationship friend”. The cultural narrative tends to tell a story of jealousy, envy and simmering resentment: a tired rhetoric of the poor single friend being left behind on the shelf.
But I wasn’t jealous that she had a boyfriend. Okay, maybe just a bit. But mainly I was sad that I was no longer her person.
From the moment he arrived, I was the second person she would call with good news. Trips away were booked with him instead of me. Time to be filled was filled with him instead of me. I remain one of her best friends. Having a boyfriend didn’t make me less important to her, but he became the most important person to her.
Of course that’s the way it should be. But it doesn’t mean it didn’t suck.
So in my delight for her happiness, I was also grieving for myself.
It’s hard to articulate to someone you love that you are happy for them but sad for you. That the deep, honest truth is, you don’t want this change to happen.
You don’t want to sound like you’re anything but happy for her (because you are happy for her). And she doesn’t want to think about how her happiness might be hurting you (because she loves you). So instead it remains unspoken, masked behind exclamations of delight and “tell me everything” and a pretence that nothing will change. But everything has changed.
Luckily Rochelle and I have never shied away from difficult conversations with each other. And so we lent in and spoke openly about how we felt. We cried. We recorded a podcast about it. Unintentionally but perhaps not surprisingly, that was the last ever episode of Tits & Tea. It was also over a year ago and while our friendship has changed and evolved over the last year, our love, admiration and support of each other hasn’t wavered.
So when she told me that she and her boyfriend were moving up north, I responded like any good friend would by asking if I could have her winter wardrobe as surely she wouldn't need it in the tropical temperatures of the Sunshine Coast. And then I pretty much ignored the reality of the situation.
In the lead up to her departure, I didn’t give too much thought to the hole she would leave behind in Melbourne for me. After all, I have lots of other friends and WhatsApp is already our jam (we voice note a weird amount).
And then last week, the day came. I was off to a music festival and by the time I came home, she would be gone. And so the dance began. She was navigating the last throes of packing and removalists and I was running around buying sequined leotards and Hydrolite.
And somehow, in the chaos and the voice notes and the errands, we managed to miss each other.
I’ve been reflecting on why I let that happen. How two spiritual women who love connection and ritual didn’t have some kind of closing ceremony for this chapter of our friendship. We didn't even mark it with dinner. I didn't even say goodbye to her flat (I’m sentimental like that).
Was I trying to avoid the goodbye? Or did we not need one?
I’ve come to the conclusion that we didn’t need one.
Friendship, like everything, is seasonal. Nothing stays the same.
One of the reasons Rochelle and I became such firm friends is because we both live our lives by the principle of surrender. That means we change what is in our power to change and what we can’t, we surrender back to the feet of the universe.
I have learnt that suffering lies in the resistance of, or the attachment to, what is. We can’t hold on too tightly to the way it was, to the way we think it should be or to the way we want it to be. It’s too hard. We create friction. It’s like pretending that a new boyfriend won’t change a friendship, or being angry when he does.
Everything in this universe is transient and emergent and in flux. Including friendships. And I have found that the best way to live a life of freedom is to allow for change and not resist it. The more we do that, the more trust we get to build that we can handle the unexpectedness of life.
So I open my arms and I acknowledge the change. I miss her. And that’s okay. We know our love. And we didn’t need a final farewell because this is just the next bit.
And whatever that looks like, we’ll both be okay. Because we know how to ride the waves of change - with arms wide open.
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