I could tell by the crowds on the platform that the train was late and I’d be lucky to fit on board once it arrived. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze in. As the train slowed at the next stop, I recognized someone waiting on the platform. A wave of relief flooded me with the realization there was no room for him. But then he crammed on board. There was nowhere for me to go. It wasn’t until our shoulders were touching that he noticed me. I felt the shift from his recognition that he was pressed against his ex-girlfriend, someone he’d spent over a year with sharing intimacies and love. Despite that, neither one of us acknowledged the other. We endured the awkward ride, painfully aware of the other, until I exited the train two stops early to end the discomfort. As I strode away, I thought how sad so many relationships come to such ends.
I’ve shared intimacies with many people who are no longer in my life. People who no longer know me, yet walk the Earth carrying my secrets with them, and I theirs. For a long time I struggled greatly with abandonment (and am told I still do at times). Rather than simply let people go, I struggled. I clutched my relationships with friends and lovers like water balloons, and as a result many of them burst.
Attachment is a human condition. If only I knew and understood from a young age that it was completely natural for people to come and go, I would not have suffered so in letting go of relationships. If only I’d known that a great many people aren’t necessarily meant to stay in our lives, I would have been far more grateful for my time with them, rather than mourn my time without them.
We cannot count on anyone staying in our life forever. All that we can count on is change. We adapt to it, or we allow it to hurt us. Change in our closest relationships is such a struggle, though because meaningful relationships are so intricately woven. Identities become linked together and it is easy to forget who we are without the other.
I lost my two childhood best friends, one of them twice. The friendships ended for good sophomore year of high school and it destroyed me. In hindsight, I hadn’t a clue in the world who I was except for the person I was with my two best friends and within our circle. The loss of my friendships in high school is my single greatest trauma for the sole reason that it either directly or indirectly led to every trauma after it. I was a dingy lost at sea without a paddle or an anchor…
As a result I viewed every future friendship and relationship like a lifeboat, to which I desperately clung. I gave meaning to meaningless relationships and settled for friends not worthy of the title. When the relationships inevitably ended, largely due to my neediness, I still mourned them. For anything was better than nothing.
Eventually, and not without great struggle, I matured and created a life for myself. I gained confidence and learned how to enjoy my own company. I even have friends of my very own outside of the amazing friendships I inherited from my husband.
I no longer settle in my relationships. The friendships I have now are a perfect fit and I truly believe I found them when the time was right. I am not at all like the person I was as a child or a teen. To expect all of our relationships to grow and change with us is an unrealistic expectation. If my friendships didn’t end in high school, they still would have ended eventually.
I could have said hello to my ex-boyfriend on the train. Instead I chose to follow his lead. There are some people I’d love to say hello to if I bumped in to them, but for most, there is no point. We no longer know one another, so why acknowledge we once did? For one reason or another, we have let go of one another. It is perfectly natural. And I know that now. People grow and change. We cannot expect all of our relationships to grow and change with us.
Being able to let go of relationships with a sense of love and gratitude is a gift. Seeing my ex boyfriend on the train brought back a lot of great memories. It was a wonderful short-lived time in my life and I am grateful to him and wish him well. I do the same for my two childhood best friends. And another I lived with in Philadelphia. And many others who have come and gone over the years…
I saw my ex boyfriend on the train again this morning. This time, having already written this post, I only thought one thing: how strange that we’ve lived within miles of one another for over a decade and haven’t seen one another and now twice in one week. Again, he ignored me and turned away in the aisle of the train. I smiled slightly to myself and went back to my book.
I had already let him go with peace and gratitude. Now he’s just someone that I used to know.