Life is like a maze of hallways full of closed and open doors. The same is true within the chambers of our heart, soul, and mind. Some doors have windows that we may peek into before we choose whether or not we want to turn the knob and walk in. Others are solid, and it is a crap-shoot as to what we will walk into. Some doors are locked, and we are denied entry. Sometimes, there are no doors at all. We wander through these corridors, and sometimes we are discovered, sometimes we are lost, and sometimes we just ‘are’. And then there are those who ‘people’ our journey.
I think I’ve said a thousand goodbyes in my life, to family, friends, lovers, pets, and even parts of myself. Some goodbyes took longer than others, some were only temporary, and some were permanent. I know what it’s like to witness the last breath of someone I love. I know what it feels like to have someone take my breath away and what it feels like to fall in love. I know what it feels like to have that same breath taken away from me when it’s time to say goodbye to them.
For every hello and goodbye, I have forever given a part of myself away with all of those exchanges. Sometimes it is only cognitive (headspace), sometimes at a much deeper level. Sometimes in those partings, I am relatively unscathed, while with others, I am devastated. No matter the circumstances, I always learn something about myself in those farewells. We are creatures that thrive on human contact, and without that, we soon wither. Many studies on how infants react to this have been done, and it seems that adults develop in much the same way. Healthy relationships depend on an even, fair, and balanced exchange. We are designed to form an attachment to others, as it helps ensure survival, better mental and physical health, and is meant to keep people together, foster stability, whether a couple, a family, a community or a nation. We have a deep need to feel safe and secure and do so when we are near those we love.
With each farewell, I learn something more about myself. As some doors close, new doors open in that process. People leave, and others emerge and become a part of my experience and journey, whether it is temporary or not, time will tell, and the door remains ajar until then. Consequently, new parts of myself also begin to emerge and my awareness of the role that I play in this space and time shifts in preparation for a new lesson. Sometimes I am the teacher, sometimes I am the student, and sometimes I ‘just am’.
“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.” – George Eliot
Years ago, I had come to some realizations about my patterns in relationships, and have learned many things about myself and why I had drawn the type of people into my ‘space’ that I had crafted for myself. First and foremost, I needed to learn how to distinguish the difference between walls and boundaries. I will not deny I’ve had a wall built around me for as long as I can remember. The reasons I built my wall are not important now. In my mind, I rationalized it to be a safe place, and would most assuredly keep out what I felt I needed it to. Ironically, this pattern did quite the opposite. What I thought I was keeping out, was actually what I was attracting to me as far as people I’ve been in relationships with go. A wall, what I learned, was something that imprisoned me and kept me vulnerable with limited perspective, undeveloped judgment, self-defeating, unreachable, and preventing myself from being able to receive anything comfortably. It is difficult for me to trust. I was afraid to ask for anything. And when you don’t ask, you don’t get. And when you don’t get, you feel empty. It is something that did not serve me well, and something that prevented others from seeing and experiencing a more ‘whole’ person in me.
I’ve been breaking down the wall for years now, brick by brick, and learning how to set healthy boundaries instead. This is with a cautious intention of keeping myself safe, yet makes me capable of participating in the exchange of giving and receiving with other people, and I am still vulnerable, but with limitless perspective and possibilities. It places them and myself at the same level. The perspective is different here; the vision is clearer, while my irrational fears begin to slowly fade.
Another problematic lesson learned is that when it comes to love and relationships, it does not always mean the same thing to everyone. I drew to me what was necessary to learn this hard truth. It doesn’t mean I failed. It doesn’t mean ‘they’ failed. It is what it is. I had a tendency to ‘over-give’ in the relationships. This was due to my issues with self-esteem and lack of self-worth. I had no boundaries, and it felt safer for me to give and give until I was eventually drained.
Feelings of anxiety and feeling like I needed to be strong all the time was a recipe for disaster. Trying to keep up such a pace does not work, and is indeed not healthy for anyone. My disappointment came from the expectations that were not met. I felt I would get in return the same investment that I made, and sadly, this does not always work out in the end. Do I have regrets? Hell yeah! I regret the pain this caused me and whoever was with me. I own my part in the dance I participated in. I regret that these people were in my life temporarily, but they were in my life, and I will be forever grateful for the sharing of myself with them and wish them well on their journeys with my compassion and love.
These doors, in the corridors of our lives, swing both ways. Sometimes what we think, is not what is and vice versa. Sometimes what we find out, is that we overthink, expect too much, instead of ‘being in the moment.’ We become frozen with misconceptions and distorted views about ourselves and those who people our experiences. Perhaps, having learned these lessons, there will be fewer farewells in the future as I continue to close the doors to my past.
© Literary Remains