When We Let Friends Go

When We Let Friends Go

I spent this weekend wandering around a city where my good friend lives. I didn’t see him while I was there though. I actually haven’t spoken to him in a few years. We’ve lost touch and reaching out at this point would have felt strange. I was there for a music festival with another friend and as we drove, I remembered him, this friend I’ve lost touch with, and I wondered how he was. I wondered where his house was, or if I would run into him. I wondered if his family was ok and if he still looked the same. We drove to and from the festival, and I wondered how the people of our past can continue to be a part of us.

Even when we say we’ve lost touch, do we ever really lose touch? Don’t the people we meet, however briefly, affect us in a way that changes us, and we carry that change with us?

I always hated saying goodbye to new friends at the end of summer camp, and the end of the school year and at graduations and after mission trips. I wanted to keep an email chain going with everyone so that none of us ever had to say goodbye. We could all just keep in touch forever. Of course by now I’ve realized this is impossible. What usually happens is you make promises to keep in touch, you sign each other’s yearbooks and then make 3 or 4 phone calls, write a couple of emails, send an un-returned text, and it’s done. You sort of putter out. And this, I’ve come to realize, is ok.

Because not everyone you cross paths with is meant to be on your journey for the long haul. My friend from above was pivotal for me at the time I knew him. We learned from each other and did our best to keep in touch and then years later I can drive around his city and smile and not feel bad about not texting him to let him know I’m in town. We’re living our lives. We remember each other. It’s enough.

Then, there are friends who stick with you regardless of your pitiful keeping-in-touch efforts. I have a wonderful friend I talk to on the phone maybe twice a year. We’ve lived at least a couple of countries apart for most of our adult lives, yet neither of us feels like we’re puttering out. We know we are meant to be on each other’s journeys for the long haul even if that looks like an annual, rushed “I’m running through the airport, just wanted to say hey” kind of phone call.

Some relationships stick, while others, even with the greatest efforts, just don’t. I believe this is for a reason. I believe friendship should be as natural as possible. If you’re struggling with maintaining a relationship you know is doomed to putter out, don’t beat yourself up about it. If we continued every friendship we’ve ever made, we would live an impossibly exhausting social life. Gently let go of the ones who you know are fading away. And gently, with gratitude, hold onto those resilient ones.

Why You SHOULD Get your Hopes Up

why you SHOULD get your hopes up

I’ve been doing this new thing where I allow myself to get my hopes up. I talked about it recently on Storyline and you should read that post first in order to fully understand this one. The problem with allowing myself to get my hopes up means I’m allowing myself to get disappointed. The problem with getting disappointed is that I feel disappointed, and the problem with feeling disappointed is that it doesn’t feel good.

Think about it, the last time you felt genuine disappointment. You had hoped something would happen and it didn’t. For me, now that I’m allowing this disappointment thing into my life, I’ve noticed that I’ll feel it in my whole body. I walk around a little slower, I actually “hang my head.” I reach for a cup in the cabinet at a glacial pace, fill it up with water, slink back to my couch, slip slowly. It doesn’t even taste good.

As I said in the Storyline post, Dr. Brene Brown talks about how living with disappointment is easier than feeling disappointment. I get this now. Because when I lived in it, I did not have the high of hope to come off of. There was less distance to fall. Now, I feel it when I hit the ground. But as hard as it hurts, I know that what I’m gaining is future joy. Because we can not selectively feel emotions, says Brown. When we numb disappointment, we numb joy. But when we feel disappointment, we feel joy.

So that leaves us with the question of what to do when we are feeling the disappointment as we sit on the couch with the cold glass of water that took us 8 minutes to fill up. This is what I’m figuring out now and I think the answer is to press in. Don’t shove the emotion away and pretend it’s not there. Allow yourself to feel it. Kind of like grieving. Maybe exactly like grieving.

The pain of disappointment is real and deep no matter how petty the circumstance may seem. I once ran up to my room crying when I was in high school because I had just discovered I had been wait-listed at a college I didn’t even want to go to in the first place. It’s just a real reaction and pressing in allows us to feel it, and somewhere deep down you know you’ve felt it before and it doesn’t last forever. It’s like a toddler. A two-year-old reacts dramatically when disappointed with tears and cries, but 30 minutes later he’s bounced back and happy again. Maybe the kids have it right.

We forget how buoyant we are. We forget that we’ll wake up, maybe tomorrow, and the joy will have crept back in.


The Importance of Grieving Everything

The Importance of Grieving Everything

A friend of my sister’s once told her you must grieve everything. Anytime you have to say goodbye to something, someone or some place, grieve it. When you’re in a transitional phase in life, like say, your twenties and maybe your thirties too, this can mean a lot of goodbyes. To things like: college, your first job, your apartment, your hometown, another town, another job and before after and in between, relationships. Lots of relationships in all forms. People are in and out of your life before you can blink and get their phone number.

So when you find something in your transitional life transitioning yet again, you have two choices: avoid saying goodbye, or face the goodbye. For a long time, I was an avoider but didn’t realize it. For example, if I broke up with someone, I hurled myself into a new hobby. I trained for a marathon or joined a volleyball team. One time when I moved away from one of my favorite cities in the world, I immersed myself in my new job and tried to ignore the big, city-shaped hole in my heart. I’ve avoided literally saying goodbye, too. To one of my best friends in that city, I rushed through a quick goodbye conversation on a busy sidewalk in the freezing cold. He handed me a parting gift and I took it and said thanks and hurried away.

It’s like the fight or flight reflex, and I always flew. But this is harmful to yourself and others. What running away from goodbye does is prevent you from grieving. What grieving does is allow you to move on. If you don’t acknowledge that person, place or thing is gone, you live in a suspended denial and have a harder time being without person/place/thing than if you had just acknowledged the goodbye in the first place. What you are running away from ends up following you for a long time. How can something really be gone if you’ve never admitted it is?

On the other hand, if you address the goodbye, you open the door to the grieving process. It feels harder at first but in hindsight you will see you are a healthier person. You won’t be shoving sadness so deep down that it eventually bubbles to the surface at weird and inopportune times. Trust me, you want to avoid those bubbling emotions.

So how do you do this grieving thing when it’s not actual death we’re talking about? I guess it’s different for everyone. For me, that time I joined a volleyball team I had a couple of friends call me out and tell me I needed to sit in my sadness for at least a few weeks because I was the type that ran from sadness. So I had their accountability and I told them I would allow myself to cry when I needed to and I would journal and I would make sure I was conscious of my grieving a couple of nights a week. This really sucked and those journal pages are dark and never to be shared with anyone, but after those few weeks, I noticed the weight of being sad had begun to lift and I began to see the journal pages reflect hope again. And after a little longer, I even felt joy creep in in an unexpected way.

I think that’s the best part about grieving. It makes a crack, and joy seeps in.

How Do You Grieve the Non-Believer?

I had this whole post ready about the role of women in the workplace. That’s what I’m supposed to be writing about right now: women’s roles and questions I have about it. But I can’t stop thinking about this: Peter Hitchens’ In Memoriam article for his brother, Christopher Hitchens, the renowned writer, thinker and atheist who died on Friday. And now the real question I’m asking is not so much about my role as a woman in the workplace and much more about how Peter is grieving his brother right now. Tonight, even as I write this, I wonder what he is thinking, what he is wondering, what type of sadness he is feeling or confusion or, even, anger.

Peter (left) and Christopher (right) as children photo taken from this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2075133/Christopher-Hitchens-death-In-Memoriam-courageous-sibling-Peter-Hitchens.html

Peter is an evangelical Christian whose relationship with his brother has been, as he describes it, publicly complicated. He says in his In Memoriam that the correspondence between him and Christopher for the last several months was better than had been in the last 50 years. Amazing what one’s impending death can do to all parties involved: the big arguments and fights are not worth it until the end. We want to be remembered for good. We want to say goodbye on decent terms, loving terms, if possible. Once it is over, the real thoughts settle in. The real feelings you didn’t have to turn off so the one slipping away didn’t see them on your face.

I don’t want to have a discussion on the existence of hell right now. That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking how to let go of someone you loved who did not love the Jesus you love. In the little experience I’ve had with the deaths of loved ones who were Christians and deaths of those I knew who were not, my grieving was very different. For one, I find solace in their life outside of earth. For the other, I find solace in restraining my thoughts to memories of them on earth. The types of sadness are different too, as well as the conversations you have about him/her afterwards.

I think, perhaps, we grieve them before they’re gone. I wonder if Peter did this with Christopher. Did he feel he lost his brother years ago? Though I have never used this word for it, I think I have grieved friends and family who have denied a faith they once had. And I think that grief was extremely similar to what I feel when someone physically dies.

I don’t know the right answer to this one or if there is one but I know I certainly agree with this statement of Peter Hitchens’: “Much of civilisation rests on the proper response to death, simple unalloyed kindness, the desire to show sympathy for irrecoverable loss, the understanding that a unique and irreplaceable something has been lost to us.”