Sunday, June 19, 2011

Abhor, adore? Tomato, tomahto?

Some words are sad to sing, some leave me tongue tied, but the hardest words I know are I love you, goodbye.

Thomas Dolby

There are times in your life when you have to say goodbye to the idea of something, or someone, you wanted. Times when you finally, finally realize it’s not going to happen, continuing to want it and feel it slip through your fingers just hurts. It’s always hurt, but it’s reached a point where you can’t take it anymore. The hurt no longer serves you and no longer defines you. Sometimes we really do let our wounds define us to some extent. We let the hurt serve the purpose of blocking us, keeping us from moving on. We let our fear guide us nowhere, it just holds us back. Could be the loss of a career, a lofty goal you had set, maybe a big purchase like a house, and often times it’s a person.

Recently I sent an email to someone with whom I had a very close friendship several years ago. Through changes in both our lives; marriage, divorce, children, no children, we have managed to both move on in separate directions and our friendship only lives in the past. I was looking forward to hearing back from her and hearing about her life now. She did respond . . . two weeks later . . . in a very polite and professional manner and signed her short email with her best and warmest regards. Best and warmest regards? I wasn’t applying for a job, I was reaching out to an old friend and for whatever reason her reach back didn’t have the same length. I don’t know why, it’s alright though. I’m sad, I’m hurt, but it’s alright. Did I offend her? I dunno, she didn’t tell me. Communication is key, who knows what it would have revealed? But she didn’t tell me.

A while back I needed to communicate some very strong and difficult feelings I was having to a different friend. I needed to tell my friend I was having feelings of childish petulance, feeling left out and unimportant, feeling jealous, feeling embarrassed about my feelings, feeling vulnerable, and finally . . . (deep breath in), feeling love. So many things bottled up for so long and I wanted to get them all out, I wanted to tell my friend everything I felt but when I reached out . . . the reach back didn’t have the same length. Communication is key, who knows what it would have revealed? But I got no response at all.

One of my closest friends and I exchanged life experiences today about moving on; the beauty of it, the bitter of it, and the better of it. Someone with whom she shared a life, a house, dogs and dreams is gone . . . and has moved on to another. She has also moved on to another. They were both relieved to finally tell the other and, of course, there were some loving, confusing, bittersweet tears. Eventually you wish the people in your past all the best, and you wish it sincerely, but even that has just the tiniest haze of glum and gloom in it. You think back on what could have been, and the picture you had painted in your mind. You think back on what really was there, the birthdays you shared, the song you loved and he hated, the times you laughed until you snorted, that one time in that one place and when you did that other thing, and the secrets you still keep. You dig in to touch the old scars and you wonder what happened. In these watershed times of life I often look back over journal entries, saved emails, saved text messages, and of course, pictures. It’s also good to listen to some sappy music that reminds me of this past part of life just to really add to the melancholy and drama of it all; throw in some alcohol and I’ve got myself a first class pity party, yahoo! Bummed out? Party of one? Your hari kari knife is ready for you, we can serve you now. As always though, time marches on and the wounds really do begin to heal.

One of the mysteries and glories of life is it propels you forward no matter what, and sometimes very much against your will. Many years ago a friend I loved and held so dear reached the conclusion that his troubles were insurmountable. He decided to shuffle off this mortal coil and took his own life. I remember waking up the next morning and dropping to my knees in the kitchen, broken and wondering “How can the sun rise today? Doesn’t it know the world is no longer as brilliant? Doesn’t it have the decency to hang its shameful head at least for today?” But the world really does know better (as does my dear friend Therese who was there to scoop me up off the kitchen floor that horrible morning). I am certain my friend has found his peace, and maybe that’s why the sun shines so bright. Maybe it’s his smile. I want tell you though, there were some times when he was alive that he made me spittin’ mad, times I could have absolutely rung his neck. It’s important to mention this because this story is about the two sided coin of moving on. Even with people you love, or maybe especially with people you love, there will be times when you wonder why on earth you allow this cretin in your presence. Here’s a little hint, it’s because you love them, against all odds and sometimes defying all logic, you love them. Life will always move you forward; you might walk upright on your own two feet, life may drag you by the ankles kicking and screaming, or it may have to pick you up and gently carry you, but it will always move you in the best direction for you. For a while I kept several pictures of my friend up in my house, until my house began to feel like a morbid shrine. Little by little, as life went on, as I forgave the sun for shining, and as I began to laugh again more than I cried, the pictures came down, allowing me to move on. I still keep one picture up to honor my friend, the brilliant star I once knew, and one picture is enough. Life has moved me forward.

And how wonderful is it that life moves you forward?! Whether you are willing at the time or not life refuses to let you stagnate. What if I was still breaking down in the kitchen every single morning? What if every morning for nigh on ten years now I still had a collapse? What kind of testament is that to my friend? To me? To the others in my life and to my divine maker who has bigger and better things in store for me? To not move forward is to slap all that is good in this world straight across the face . . . with your ring hand. (funny eh? I owe that bit of humor to my friend Jeff)

There are times when we hold on to the notion of something for so long because it just becomes habit, we don’t remember life without it. But even so, everything fades, and then one day, it’s just gone. In a puff of smoke all becomes clear and with no drama, no pipe organ playing, no parade down Main Street, and frequently no monumental epiphany, nothing . . . you just say to yourself “Huh, well that no longer suits me, it never really did, I think I’ll move on now. “ You turn your back so easily and walk on so blithely, leaving something that maybe as little as a week ago would have torn your stomach up. You dig in to touch the scars and you find . . . nothing, they’re gone. It’s a crazy miracle, but thank God it happens. All that time you clenched your fists trying to hold on so tightly to something, but it slipped through your fingers anyway, and when you knew it was gone you opened your hands wide and cried out to the great beyond “What happened? Why? Why can’t I have this?!”, and then, a while later, you notice that your open hands are in a perfect state of receiving. Wide and willing to accept what is new, and better.

Like every one of you I have lost hope, dreams, jobs, relationships, loved ones, money, and friends during my stay on this planet. Each of them has pained me and, at times, caused me to lose sight of who I am and sacrifice my dignity (don’t you give me that look, you know you’ve done it too). . . and just like you, I have survived each of those pains. And with each loss there is always that day, that magical day, when you can say “Life’s okey dokey. I think I’m gonna be alright”.

Keep those hands and hearts open wide so you can experience all the good stuff life has in store for you.

Love ya, mean it.