Letting go is a familiar, yet strange concept for me. I’ve done it many times over the years, even more so in recent ones, but on every occasion, it has left me feeling a little uneasy and a little empty.
I had a conversation once, with someone I was dating at the time, about our previous partners. He revealed he was no longer in touch with any of his and once it was over, he never looked back. We went on to talk about our relationships with people in general, our friendships, acquaintances and colleagues, and he felt the same way about anyone he had fallen out with. To look forward, you can never look back. True to his word, after we broke up, I never heard from him again, even though we’d always promised to stay friends. In fairness, I didn’t try very hard either, but I did leave the door open to the possibility at some point in the future, of friendship.
Years ago, I was in a relationship with someone for 2 years on and off, with a year of ‘will we, won’t we?’ prior to that. Looking back, it was a case of both of us being too in love to completely let go, (me more so than him), but never really trusting enough or being grown up enough to sort things out like adults. We’d argue, break up, miss each other terribly and get back together again. It was a stormy relationship, with a lot of screaming, shouting and tears, which back then, I mistook for passion, but now know was just immaturity on both our parts. At first it was exciting, but eventually, we just felt broken and stopped trying. It had gotten to the point where there was no coming back for us. This was something we should’ve done the first time we broke up because the one thing I took away with me from that relationship, was the absolute certainty that no matter how long you leave it and how much you miss someone, seeing them again will always remind you of how they made you feel. This is perhaps the reason why we all turn into angsty teenagers when forced to spend any considerable length of time with our parents. It doesn’t mean we haven’t grown up or moved on, but they are snapshots of our lives that we can easily fall in and out of.
I’m not saying the love never goes away, I know it does, but if someone did something to make you feel wretched, that feeling never leaves you, until you resolve it. Or perhaps I’m just really good at holding a grudge, or really bad at pretending everything’s alright. When someone hurts you deeply, it leaves such a negative impact in so many ways, it becomes about a lot more than just that relationship or person. Of course I can only speak for myself and I know not everyone has a tendency to overthink everything, but while I admire those who can just forgive and forget without the need for a resolution or apology, a part of me also thinks maybe they just didn’t care enough.
I used to work in customer service and faced abusive and angry customers on a daily basis, but their comments never really touched me unless I knew they were right and I had screwed up. Mostly, it was just people having a bad day or venting frustration and I never took it personally. I was one of the few people who could go home at the end of the day and not give any of it a second thought, because those people didn’t know me and I didn’t care about them. Their opinion didn’t matter to me. Yet one look from someone I love could quite easily ruin my day. When the scars run deeper, it becomes a nightmare to fix.
That’s not to say that I haven’t made peace with people. An ex boyfriend from many years ago got in touch via Facebook a few years ago and we both agreed we were young and stupid and worked things out without raking it all up again. It was easy with him because I’d dated him when I was quite young, he’d been a lot older and I knew I had behaved immaturely and hurt him. Something I hadn’t understood at the time, but became clear when we spoke again. It was also fascinating to see how different and happier our lives had turned out for it. I’ve never wanted children and he’d told me he was fine with that, but he was now a proud father to 3 children with a fourth on the way, (which turned out to be twins!) and had we stayed together, he’d have resented me for it and I’d have realised that I didn’t even know what love was when we were together. It felt good to make amends, knowing we had both moved on. That situation is the reason why today, I never close myself off to the idea of friendship with someone I once cared about, but I’ve started to believe that maybe I’m a little naive.
I’m not a complete pushover. Certain things have to happen for there to be any hope of friendship. Both parties must listen, try to see the other person’s point of view, own up to mistakes, not be deliberately obtuse, have a real willingness to try, as opposed to just having a stab at it and one of you at least has to try to do things differently than you did before.
I’m often told I shouldn’t live in the past, but I don’t think I do. I just don’t believe in pretending it never existed. People say they have no regrets and life is a learning experience, but for me, regret is a big part of the learning process. I can’t behave differently if I don’t regret my actions. I can’t handle a situation any better, if I don’t regret how I handled it before. I always listen and I’m open to justified criticism and I like to think I’m a better person for it.
I can also hold a grudge for a lifetime, make no mistake.
I accept my decision never to block someone out of my life leaves me open to getting hurt again. It means I can build myself up and have someone break me down all over again. It involves having a lot of difficult discussions, raking up old memories and acknowledging my own mistakes. It’s painful, hard work and takes time, but if it means I’m open to the possibility of making peace with someone I once cared about, I’m happy to take that risk.
Should I just give up and be more ruthless or do you agree that it’s always worth a try?