As part of my practice in letting go, I recently discovered a resistance in myself.
The closer I get to letting go, the more I seem to want to hold on.
It’s a tug of war that I didn’t anticipate and wanted to explore in more detail. So I sat down and wrote out what it feels like to love and miss someone I’m starting to let go. May it be of benefit.
In case you were wondering, today I didn’t miss you.
It comes as no small surprise that I made it through this day without the all-too-familiar ache of missing you. In fact, I even saw your face in a photo on my phone, and I felt something hollow, but I did not long for you.
I didn’t miss you, and I didn’t feel that sharp pain of your leaving.
Just a pause, an empty space, perhaps an air of wistfulness that we couldn’t be more than what we are now…which is nothing to each other.
You are still my unwilling muse. And the truth is that I didn’t want a muse at all. I’d much rather have had a friend, a lover, a partner. Instead, you’ve become this person I write about as I work through the feelings left by your leaving, your sudden absence. Maybe I never thought we’d have forever, but I had hoped for a few months more than what we ended up with.
But you were not made for a woman like me.
It takes a strong man, a brave man, to stand beside a strong woman. And you were neither. So you’ve transformed into a muse, only. My lesson in letting go. The person who opened up a Pandora’s Box of feeling inside of me—from love to hate to fear. And I found inside that box all of the things that I had been avoiding and shying away from. Now that it’s been cracked open, all of those dark things are spilling out into the light.
So what else could I do but pick up each dark thing, examining it closely in the light as I tried and failed to put it back inside? What else could I do but open up to all the love and all the hate and all the fear? And how amazing it was to learn that I still had the capacity for love and trust (however poorly placed it may have been, at times). I found that as much as I love you, I can still hate you, which is comforting, somehow.
And even though I was afraid to love you and hid it like a secret, and even though I was afraid to lose you and lost you anyway, I now know that my fear is just one more small thing that was packed inside the Pandora’s Box you opened. And I’m so much less afraid now. See what you’ve done?
I’m unfurling, stretching wings that were tightly bound up. You see, I thought my life and all its challenges had broken them. I thought I was somehow irreparably damaged. That I would be unable to love again, to trust. And I find gratitude in knowing that my capacity for love is so much stronger than I had realized. That I’m still capable of great emotion, incredible amounts of love.
Had you chosen to stay for a moment longer, perhaps you would have witnessed the transformation. Instead, you became two-dimensional, a picture on a screen, my muse when the mood strikes us—until it no longer strikes us at all.
I’ll sit around with gloved hands holding hot cups of coffee with my girlfriends, leaning in and telling them the story of us. Of days where honey dripped from every word, and I scooped it up in a honeycomb and brought it to my lips, making it a part of my story. Of nights where we ignited, fire raging, until we were spent and empty of everything but each other. Where worlds fell away, and we lay in the gray morning light talking quietly, your eyes always on mine.
And then one day, I’ll sit with my girlfriends, perhaps in a garden with daffodils just coming into bloom or beside a swimming pool under a glaring sun and your name won’t fall from my lips. Or if it does, only in passing. A part of my history that means so much less than it did. A quick frown, a wrinkling of the brow, and then forgotten.
Sometimes I wonder who I will be when that day comes.
Who you will be.
How far our paths will have strayed from one another. And I wonder if, when that happens, I will no longer feel your presence, if that last tie will finally be severed.
Because every day, I am more secure in myself.
Every day, I see you with greater perspective, given the distance placed between us. And I see that you were in no way prepared to handle someone on the verge of a sea of change. I was transforming, gathering my power, and you…you were heading back to the safety of the shore, building up levees to save yourself from being touched by anything as strong as this.
And as I grow stronger, more secure in myself, I find myself unwilling to be held any longer by the shadow of you. By your memory. By the siren’s call of your skin touching mine or the temptation to open up doors better left closed. And as I let you slip away from me like sand through my fingers, I feel a shifting inside of me, a resettling of who I was when your eyes held mine and who I am now that you’ve retreated to higher ground.
I begin to free myself of you each day that I miss you less, or miss you not at all.
It’s funny how I can love you, and also—perhaps for the first time—imagine what it will be like to be free of you. To love you so much and to be free of you at last? It seems a curious thing. And one day my heart will love a heart strong enough to stand with me. And I will love you no longer, or perhaps only in a vague, indefinable way, like I love the memory of an old toy I can now hardly describe.
I’ll continue to transform, caught up in this sea of change and moved by the abundance of love in this world. Perhaps I’ll lead many lives and will have known many hearts when the day comes that you are relegated only to our history, swept away, one grain of sand among many.
Until then, there will be days when I miss you. Just not this one.
I’ve found letting go to be a practice, and an imperfect one at that. There are days when we feel strong and capable and on the cusp of being free from our attachments—and days when we feel defeated, lonely and twisted around the pain of an absence we never wanted.
As I’ve processed my own sea of change, my own awakening, I’ve spoken to so many people who, like me, struggle to let go. Even when we know it’s best. That tug of war is there inside of us, and it can be hard to tell if we’re doing more healing or hurting.
So how do we know when we’re making progress in letting go, even when we feel mired in the past?
1. We have more good days than bad ones. As we come closer to letting go, the difficult days come less frequently. We begin to feel stronger and more resolute in the choices we’re making.
2. We begin to make peace with our past and learn to embrace the love that’s gone, even as we begin to release our hold on it. We start to feel less angry and become more able to view the relationship as a whole and not just the small parts we miss.
3. We can own our role in how the relationship played out. I don’t mean assigning blame to ourselves or anyone else. We just get to a point where we can see that the relationship wasn’t ours to keep, regardless of who ended it. We come to understand this, even when there are days we have trouble accepting it.
4. We keep trying. We know we’re closer to letting go when we continue to try. And not just to talk about it, but to actively process our feelings and work through them without avoidance or denial.
Change is powerful. So is letting go.
And letting go is a process that doesn’t always have a linear path from beginning to end. Oftentimes, it’s more like the tide coming in and out, sweeping our shores with memory, longing and regret before heading back out to sea, leaving with us the knowledge that we’re better for our experiences.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Alena Getman at Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman