The Humpty Dumpty Guide To Friendship….
by Pseud O'Nym
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Unless however, that word is ‘Fire!’ and it’s said by the captain of a firing squad that has gathered to make your morning go with a bang. Similarly, if your driving instructor says ‘Proceed!’ then it’s a pretty safe bet that he isn’t using it in the same way as it would be used in Midwest America in the early 1800s, just before a rope necktie is placed over your head prior to you participating in a novel form of stretching.
So you see, words have meaning, and that meaning is defined by the context in which they are used, and without a context words are utterly meaningless, unless of course you’re Humpty Dumpty in ‘Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There’ who famously said,
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”
I was just reflecting upon how my ‘friends’ have taken the advice of Humpty Dumpty to heart. Inasmuch as their definition of what constitutes being a friend doesn’t tally with mine. Most of their definitions go something like this’ “I’ll be your friend as long as it is convenient for me to be so. By that I mean as long as you remain exactly the way you are and are quite happy to indulge me in any of my follies or fancies and to provide comfort if and when they go wrong.” Since the accident their definition has become a painful reality. When I was in the coma quite a few people whom I thought of as friends, but who turned out to be merely acquaintances, took the opportunity to just sever all ties with me and not even visit me in hospital.In one fell swoop that amounted to nearly half of the people I had mistakenly assumed were ‘friends’.
A large proportion of the other half remained ‘friends’ until they realized that there wasn’t going to be a quick return to my previous state and that the new ‘worse’ me was not going to go away. They evaporated like a puddle on a hot day. This does no end of damage to one’s self esteem. Imagine pretty much everyone you’ve ever known abandoning you. It isn’t funny, but if it was, one might go all Joe Pesci on them, substituting ‘funny’ with ‘wrong’.
I liken gaining friends to how the earth was formed billions of years ago, and by the way, anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution should look away now or else bury their head in the nearest bucket of sand. Billions of years ago when there was no Earth there was an explosion, quite why and how this explosion happened is not relevant but the explosion created dust and this dust over time, formed into small lumps, which in turn attracted more lumps and got bigger until they formed one massive lump. This massive lump became the core of what was to become the centre of the Earth and attracted other smaller lumps of dust to it and thus the Earth was created. This whole process took billions of years.
In a similar way one is like the centre of the Earth and other people are attracted to you by your personality and your values, and over time and combined with shared experiences these by some weird alchemy, over time transform into friendship.
But when I had the accident this process stopped and speedily reversed. Suffice to say, that whilst it has been suggested that the fault lies with them and not with me, nevertheless it is hard not to disavow yourself of the notion that there was something wrong with me in the first place that people were just overlooking. This places an unfair burden on those friends that remain inasmuch as they remain my only link with the ‘me’ before the accident and anyone I meet now will only have the ‘me’ after the accident to base any of their impressions on. Given that such a grievous and profound loss has had on my psyche – leading me to question what was I really like if they could quickly find me superfluous to their lives, – those that remain become in effect de-facto custodians of any accurate memory of what I was like- and if I was indeed likeable – prior to the brain injury.
One friend who witnessed this dramatic loss of ‘friends’ said she couldn’t in all conscience criticize them for their behaviour. She lived in the same house as me and as she said, it was thus comparatively easy to maintain a friendship. Fast-forward a couple of years later, I no longer live in the same house as this friend. I see her infrequently, so it is no wonder that she was reluctant to criticize other people, as she had some idea of what was in her future regarding me. I can’t stress strongly enough how much this has contributed to my depression. Not that friend in particular but the cumulative effect of mass abandonment.
Nor do I delude myself about the way in which people can pass in and out of your life. I get that. But that happens gradually and over time, and you find new friends. Not suddenly. When I’m feeling particularly low, that’s when this thought introduces itself and makes itself comfortable and settles down for a long stay in my head. So yes, I’ve had a severe brain injury, but it was my ‘friends’ who have added the insult to that injury.
I don’t for one second imagine myself to be unique in this regard. Sadly, it is a rather unfortunate by-product of a life changing accident that many people have to contend with, aside from the main affliction itself. Many of my carers, when I’ve highlighted this to them have all said that this is quite common to others in a similar situation. One even told me about someone she used to see, who lived next door to his business partner and after he had an injury and had to sell his share of the business, his former partner never visited him. By now you are no doubt drawing a scandalized intake of breath. But ask yourself, is this out and out selfishness or merely a facet of human nature that you might decry but ultimately, if you found yourself in such a situation, how soon might a good deed turn into good riddance? I’m not angry. Anymore. I’ve come to accept this is the way things are now.
I’ve had to.
Next time…how George Orwell’s coffin is tunnelling towards the centre of the Earth…