The other day I was having a conversation with JB (via text cause that is how we have most of our meaningful conversations) about choosing to be emotionally vulnerable. Somewhere in the middle of this I typed the sentence, “Everybody leaves me at some point” and it was very true. Everyone leaves, either by choice or not. Loss is a normal part of life. What we do with the loss will determine what we have left.
At 41, I have tried many ways to deal with loss; avoidance, anger, blame, disregarding. None of them really worked. Then about 10 years ago I had an epiphany. I would focus not on the “gone” but on the “while they were here”. (Confused? That’s because throw pillow wisdom often requires further explanation.) See, what I realized was that I had to stop focusing on the fact that this person had left my life and focus on the things I had gained while they were there. By focusing on the most negative aspect of a relationship, the loss, I was missing all the good things that remained.
The first time I chose this route was when my boyfriend of 2 plus years broke up with me. B was my FIRST, and the love of my life (or so I thought at the time). When he left I was devastated and so broken. I wallowed in the hurt and the anger. I couldn’t get beyond the question, “Why did he leave?” And while this is a normal part of the grieving process, I clung to it like a lifeline. It would play in my head like a broken record…. he left, he left, he left. When a mutual acquaintance asked me about B, my answer was “Well, he left me”. I had become so consumed by that one fact that I had lost all the other pieces of our time together. I couldn’t focus on the fact that while he was in my life I had conquered my aversion (fear really) to working out in a gym, learned to rollerblade and had discovered a layer of strength I didn’t know I had. All my mental pictures of our time together were gray instead of full of the color and joy of the moment.
I had to find a way out of this mindset. So I began to retrain myself to focus on the good things and not on the eventual outcome. It was slow going and DEFINITELY NOT EASY. To be honest, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I did it. Every time the “He Left” record began to play in my head I would turn it into HE LEFT BEHIND….. and list off one of the many things I had gained from having him in my life. Over time it became easier and easier to do this. I began to tell funny stories about our past together and laugh at our verbal sparring. And now when I think about B I think mostly of things I have become because of our time together.
Each time I have had to say good-bye to someone it has been a little bit easier to focus on what was left behind. Allowing myself to move past the pain of being left behind opened me up to the possibility that when people return (cause they always do) I will be in a place to enjoy them without anger or recriminations.