What a difference a pandemic makes…

Friendship. Sometimes it’s strong, strong enough to weather any storm. Sometimes, though, it’s a tenuous thing, holding on by a thread, and you don’t even know when it snapped.

The pandemic hasn’t made much of a dent in some friendships. In fact, I’d say some of them have solidified even as the world scurried off to hide away at home. Other friendships, however, haven’t fared so well. Some that I previously thought to be solid have now faded into fog, slipping through my fingers as I try desperately to grab onto them. They crumble like a sandcastle kicked by a bully, and I’m left wondering what I did wrong.

It’s not like I only ever talked to these people in person. In fact, some of the friendships that have fallen victim to the impact of the coronavirus were with people I’d only ever met online. Not much of a change in those conditions, right? So why did our conversations thin to the point of evaporation?

Part of it is my fault, I’m sure. I suck at maintaining the connections I have with people. Some of it may be a bit of ADHD-like issues with object permanence: if I don’t interact with Thing/Person, I forget that Thing/Person exists. If they’re not in front of me and not on my screen to show me they’re alive and interacting, my neurodivergent brain tucks their file away for safekeeping, never to be seen again unless they initiate contact. I have to actively force myself to make contact sometimes, push myself to click that icon and type “Hi!”

The sadness comes when I finally make that effort, and I get crickets in response.

It also comes when the realization hits that friendships I’d previously thought to be well-founded turn out to be built on a rickety house of cards. Conditional friendships, ones where I didn’t know what the conditions were until they were no longer met. Stop seeing Person A or doing Activity B, and the friendship gradually disintegrates.

Why should I be sad at losing fair-weather friends? I don’t know, to be honest. Maybe it’s just a visceral, instinctual reaction to any loss of a good thing. A part of me mourns what once was, even if I had misinterpreted that once-friendship. Maybe I even mourn the illusion of friendship. Regardless of what it was, it’s now gone. Vanished. Poof! No more.

From an emotional standpoint, these losses have wrecked me. From an analytical standpoint, though, I find it interesting to ruminate on how these once-friendships will (or won’t) resume after the pandemic–if there is such a thing as “after the pandemic.” At this point, it seems never-ending.

I still have plenty of friends, and I’ll have plenty when I emerge on the other side of this reality. But for the ones I’ve lost? Yeah. I’ll cry a little bit more for now.

I’ll mourn, but then, like them, I’ll move on.