I’m decent at losing people.
Or at least that’s what my fear and my mind likes to tell me.
But the truth is nothing is ever really lost. As fickle as it may sound, life really is simply seasonal, and the reality is that very few walk with us from beginning to end. Very few.
I was sitting in my house under one October Sky. The kids were gone, and it was just me, my thoughts, and the glass of wine I was swirling around like I’ll do. And I looked up at the moon, which had become this symbol of love and connection and the power of the universe, and I wondered, “Will this home ever be filled again? Will there be the loud noises that come with happy? Infectious laughter and deafening squeals? Friends laughing and playing with me and my kids again?”
When life gets seriously scary, this is a truth I’ve come to know: some people stay with you. And some people go. And when our world becomes divided into the before and the after, a lot of people do, in fact, go.
In the aftermath of our divorce, I lost another dozen plus people I would consider close enough to miss losing. Some left swiftly, some left slowly, and a couple I would classify as moments of pretty decent betrayal.
Some to this day would never say they left, but they did. The time for them slipping from my life was forged in the moments when they couldn’t fully understand me.
This was another way, buried under the cloak of strength, I punished myself. I had lost them. The language was skewed. The reality is that they walked away from me, or at minimum, we left each other. People leaving is rarely one person’s doing.
Looking back on my life and friendships, I can track phases by the friends in the timeline. I always wondered why so many people seem to be in our lives for a moment, and then as if none of it meant much at all, vanished? Was it me? Was I that hard to love? Was I that difficult to be around? Was I some imposing figure in their lives they just had to inevitably shake?
And when those who are our closest, go…this is another pain. This pain is deep and damning, and the sadness that comes is dark and empty. It is the losing after already having lost.
I was sitting on my therapist’s couch, a new convert to this whole share your soul with a stranger philosophy, and I recounted these thoughts. The thoughts around losing. The thoughts around trying to fix it. To give enough so they would stay.
She listened. Nodded. And in her quiet way, she eventually spoke. “You know, it’s wise to question ourselves and to look inside. To ask what we do to the people around us. How we affect them. But to say in the place of your greatest pain, that you were supposed to keep them, these friends and family, in your life, is almost self-indulgent, Shaunna. They are supposed to keep you, now. It is their turn to reach out. It was never all up to you.”
Side note: She is a goddess.
Working with her, I learned the only question I should be asking myself was this: Was I authentically and genuinely loving myself and them? Was I expressing that to them? Was I giving my part of the relationship a chance to heal? And if the answer to that question is yes…then I am doing my part.
Giving inside of relationships must be done in pairs.
There is only so much you can love a person, so much you can try to show them. So much you can try to apologize, or offer, or comfort, or invite, or so much you can do to keep them.
They have to meet you in the place of the giving. They must be the other half. They must keep you. Giving must be done in pairs.
Everything else is unhealthy, and pulls you down to the deep again. True, unconditional love between friends does not require proving. Or so much showing that the relationship becomes a dance between two people, not leaving but not really staying either.
And the other truth I know about the before and the after moments? Everything in this world is a reflection of energy. And we all beat to a different vibration. We move through the world attracting and calling out to people, as we are now, in this moment. And as we change and others do, or as we all don’t, relationships slip away. This is natural. And it is part of living.
Somehow, on some days, this makes the losing a little less personal. Most of us are really just doing the best we can, with what is in front of us. And there are moments for people in our lives. Some moments are big and incredibly impactful, and others are quieter. The fading of big relationship moments is painful. The fading of the quiet ones hurts a little less, but it is a reality.
But this knowing: Is my love for myself and for them real? Am I showing this or did I show this? Did I truly try? This knowing is enough to know when it’s time.
When the pair of giving fades to singular, and you are the one left standing, wondering what went wrong, and you hold in your hand your own heart…this is when it is time.
Time to wish them well. Time to love them in a new way. Time to thank them for what they were to you, in that moment, and to honor what you learned about yourself and the world. To gently close your fist and take your heart with you.
To breathe deeply, and walk into the unknown.
To love yourself so much that you can forgive yourself and them for the fading in the first place.