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The Haunting of Bly Manor and the Redemptive Pain of Friendship

What is my best friend doing? How has he been? Is he thinking about me?

These questions grew louder in my head month after month since he had slowly pushed me out of his inner world. My numerous attempts to rekindle that flame were always met with curt speech and a cold shoulder. The consistent, impassioned interest we shared in each other’s lives went out on his end of our conversations—or the lack thereof.

When I had visited him before all of this, I hugged him on the verge of tears, saying I had needed him so desperately in my life because I would’ve been in a worse place without his edifying presence and influence. I thought we were emotionally moored in each other, but he had so easily lifted his anchor out of me, whereas I had to painfully rip mine out of him. I came to discover he was baffled—even blasé—over my confessed impressions of his overlong, uncharacteristic behavior toward me. It was then that I knew our relationship could never be the same because my friend had largely moved on from it, and he hadn’t even noticed. I resented him for it, so I hoisted my anchor and sailed away.

All of life’s joys are decreased, our sorrows increased, and our very being lesser, when we have no real relationships with others.

Problems like this can permanently end or temporarily weaken a relationship, or they can eventually make one stronger than before. Either way, I always turn inward when these things happen, asking myself why I spend so much time and love on people when they feel like more trouble than they’re worth. When their behavior toward others or me breaks my heart, I’m left hating how much I want to be in deep relationships, which is why I’m often caught between the beautiful peace of an undramatic existence being alone versus the fulfilling warmth of an interconnected life. Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor tackles this very internal conflict.

The TV series revolves around the fears and tragedies over love’s uncertain, risky nature. The eponymous manor’s past residents experienced this, and they linger beyond death to affect several characters in the present facing the same issues. One particular character is Jamie: the mansion’s charming yet oddly aloof groundskeeper. When Dani arrives, Jamie takes romantic interest in this mansion owner’s new child caregiver. Once they have a night to themselves, Jamie takes Dani out to a secluded part of the property’s forest to show her a moonflower: a plant that takes a lot of careful effort to cultivate yet lasts for a short while. Jamie says, “That’s what people feel like to me. Exhaustive effort. Very little to show for it. All of them. Even you. Even me. Especially me.”

Despite liking Dani, Jamie knows she comes with a lot of baggage. She’s already been burned by people letting her down and showing no signs of change after investing all that she has into them. That’s why she took to the literal and figurative fruits of tending plants instead. Jamie’s reservations eventually succumb to her love for Dani even though the horrors of the manor threaten to make her worst and prescient fears true. They eventually do; broken people and a broken world constantly create and stoke relational turmoil in Bly Manor.

Jamie’s self-imposed isolation from getting too close to others makes sense, and I see her rationale in my life as well with friends. Why don’t I walk away from people when I’m content in myself? Why don’t I focus on the tangible certainty of and control over developing my own skills, or helping others at a personal distance? Why don’t I avoid the inevitable pain of involving myself in the mess of other’s lives? 

Relationships should be accepted for what they become rather than what they were, and that’s why giving my best friend the “door slam” was wrong. He is now a friend, and while I wish we were as close as we once were, I am glad to have accepted where we stand.

As Drew Hunter wrote in Made For Friendship, the reason why is because God Himself is a relational being who longs to share in His creation with others, so His joys are our joys with relationships, and His sorrows our sorrows “because God planted this glory deep in our hearts. We long for more because God made us for more” (53). All of life’s joys are decreased, our sorrows increased, and our very being lesser when we have no real relationships with others.

Later in life, Jamie has no regrets with the commitment and time she poured into Dani. Her fear was real and practically reasoned, but she didn’t let it stop her from living life with someone she loved. Even if it wasn’t forever, she treasured it forever.

I’ve had to endure disappointment after disappointment in friendships that have made them hard or impossible to maintain. I know some people have shown the ability to change for the better and, conversely, I have changed for the better when I have been at fault. My soul has benefitted from the wisdom and memories I’ve gained with friendships that have since cooled or died off. I know I’ve been a positive influence on those who have moved on from me, too. It’s only natural that some people are only present in someone else’s life for a season of life, yet this inevitability shouldn’t deter us from the joys found in the overwhelming good that friends can provide. 

What I experienced with my best friend was not betrayal, but my own controlling selfishness despite good intentions. Relationships sometimes are best when accepted for what they become rather than what they were, and that’s why giving my best friend the “door slam” was wrong. He is now a friend, and while I wish we were as close as we once were, I am glad to have sailed back to him, accepting where we now stand.

Whether for a time or all time, we must live as though all our current, treasured relationships can last forever. When they don’t, that’s okay. If so, one alone would be worth all the effort poured into every relationship. Each temporary and changing relationship is of eternal significance for developing and nourishing us into loving each other and ourselves better. No horrors around the corner of life, and no darkness in the hearts of people, should deter us from seeking out relationships. We need to fearlessly love each other, and walk side by side to truly combat those horrors and dispel that darkness from each other.

Associate Editor
Joey Thurmond is a dragon in disguise. Other than that, he has two degrees in communication and English. He loves quiet rainy days with tea or coffee. Games of the shooter and survival-horror variant are his favorite, and he's a living repository of Star Wars and Bionicle lore. He writes for Common Sense Media and has bylines with Game Informer and Push Square. His own content can be read and watched on saveasdoc.com.

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