Sometimes I believe we miss the moment of inflection, when things begin to break apart.
I suspect this is because we largely do not want to see such things. We are, on the whole, a species that likes to see things going well, not going poorly. And society certainly does not prepare us for such things: we learn very well how to fall in love and be a team mate and to "come together". We are not very well prepared for how things end and what signs to look for.
An example at this point might be helpful.
Way back in the yonder years (before this blog, even) I had a friendship that I had held - a close friendship - for over 10 years. This was the sort of person I spent a lot of time talking with and doing things with, walking miles and miles in conversation and dreaming. The sort of person that you envision one calls "brother", that one holds as a "friend for life".
But something changed. Our lives were beginning to move in different directions. I could feel the beginning of the pulling away, but saw it purely through a career lens: he was going one way towards what I believed to be a success, but which would cause our friendship to dwindle. I did not want to lose the opportunity - or the friendship - and so The Firm was born.
Fast forward 16 months. The Firm collapsed. In what seems like a sudden development, the friendship collapsed in a timely fashion along with it: within 4 months we never meet again, within 8 months we never communicate again (to this day, actually). When I look back, I suddenly realize that The Firm (besides being a business) was a way - perhaps only for me - to breathe life into something that was passing on. It merely prolonged its life for a while but did not stop the process from occurring.
The difficulty is that I saw the thing 16 months prior. I sensed that something was changing - but put it up to the fact that my friend was moving into a career field and was going to be a success and I was going to miss it (he has become a success, a very good one, for which I am glad). The reality is that things were changing and we were moving in different directions - but I had never really been taught or trained myself to recognize the difference between a breaking apart and a mere divergence of career paths.
I have become better attuned since then, I think. Early on it was mostly through mistakes on my part, misjudgments, a certain "tone deafness" to what people were actually saying. I believe I have become better recognizing such things as they occur now and am hopefully a little better about managing my own part in the matter.
The problem, of course, is that you come to see the signs in places where you either did not expect or not intend. You know the drill from that point, at least for yourself - although curiously you find yourself in the position of wondering if the others see the same sort of thing or are chalking it up to a passing phase or career change or something other than what it is.
I wonder, on occasion, what would have happened if I had recognized the signs on that February night and, knowing then what I know now, had been willing to step aside. Beyond just the issues of a failed business and failed friendships: how would I personally be different now if I was willing to accept that things break apart and simply moved on?