How do you let go of someone important to you who no longer wants to be in your life?
This is a tough subject for me. As a founding member of the anti-social social club, I keep my inner circle air tight. To be considered for entry you must first be an exceptionally noble person, refined in every way. Yet, your presence should feel cozy like a pair of worn-in sweats.
You’ll have to make it through a process of unspoken vetting, trial by fire, and incremental trust exercises. You should be open to eating your weight in pizza with me on a moment’s notice, while making a conscious effort to save room for gelato. You will use “hahahah” not lol in text messages. The more hoops the better, I say.
Perhaps this will seem extreme to some, but that’s precisely the point. My inner circle is not for everyone. Making it in should be an honor. Not because I think highly of myself, although I’m aware of my value, but because when you’re in, you’re in for life. You’ve entered my unconditional love layer where I care about you so much nothing you say or do can or will be held against you. I see past your humanness straight to your soul. I will help you bury the body.
It’s a sacred place. These are the people I go to when I’m hurting and confused. The ones I trust to keep a secret or remind me who I am if I’ve forgotten. I can be around this rare group of people for weeks on end without getting sick of them (because they’ll know I require lots of alone time to recharge and won’t hesistate to leave me to it). We can laugh together until our sides hurt. Tears can be shed with no judgement. We do life together.
So when someone exits that circle it can feel like a major disruption, a betrayal even. It reminds me of a nucleus dividing (a bit codependent of an analogy, I’m aware). But really, it feels like anaphase. Take your chromosones and be gone then! Who needs you anyway?! I’m kidding, but also totally not above that thought process. What can I say? I love people hard. Not a lot of them. But, the ones I do, I really do.
That circle, for the most part at this point in my life, is unchanging. A couple people have been in it since they were babies because we grew up together. Some I met along the way by sheer fate. But I think you get the point by now it’s not a revolving door. Once we’ve made it to that safe place with eachother we’re too busy knitting or trying to Netflix and chill to think of an exit strategy.
Albeit, some do. Exit, that is. And my, is that a painful process for me. For anyone, I imagine.
I’m learning, however, that losing a best friend is a part of life sometimes. When it happens, my instinct is to try to fix it. I attempt to talk to that person, understand where they are coming from, figure out if I screwed up and to what extent I need to apologize… (send a card? Or buy them a house?).
Most situations approached with a humble spirit and a forgiving stance are get-throughable. At least from what I’ve found. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, yet, if one has good intentions, it’s forgivable that they inadvertantly paved our way to hell. I’m all, well, we’re here now, no sense in arguing. Let’s stop, drop, and roll our way back out. Solutions for days, this one.
Nevertheless, sometimes there’s not really a problem or anything that needs to be fixed. Sure a few careless words or actions on one or both parts may have led to a bit of separation, but that’s not enough to break a bond that strong. When an issue isn’t the issue, perhaps it’s just the fact that the person in question has grown or changed and having you in their life is no longer something they value.
Ouch. Hence the pain.
When this happens, we have no choice but to accept it and start the process of letting them go. It might take a minute, or a million minutes. There’s no timeline that I know of for this process. At some point you just realize that trying to be in someone’s life who doesn’t want you in theirs is a lot like pushing a rope. One day it occurs to you that it’s fruitless, so you set it down, and walk away.
In the aftermath of setting it down, you may deal with some guilt for losing that person. You might think if you were a better friend or a nicer human, they would have kept you around. This is where you have to give yourself some grace. Their not wanting you in their life is not a reflection of you and your worth, it’s just their decision, one that they have every right to make.
Which brings me to my next point, we can’t control other people and their choices. This is a tough one, even for the least manipulative of people, because when you care about someone, you want what’s best for them and you tend to think you might know what that is. You’re like, here, I brought you some water! Drink up! They’re like, I’m not thirsty. And you’re like, I think you might be, have a sip!
The horse ain’t gonna drink unless it wants to drink. You can only be in someone’s life to the extent that they want you to be. It’s okay to surrender.
You ever see that graphic that floats around on the internet? It says, “You are gold, baby. Solid gold.” Well, you are. And if you haven’t seen it I suggest visiting Pinterest for a daily confidence boost, it’s worked wonders on my ego. Anyway, if this particular person doesn’t feel like winning the lottery, I hope the door doesn’t hit them on the way out.
Having you in their life is a gift. As is having them in yours. Gifts can be accepted, but never expected. We have to hold relationships so lightly in our hands that a breeze can always get through. Friendships need a firm foundation, yes, but also enough space for people to grow. Sometimes there’s not enough room in the relationship for someone to grow, so they need to go elsewhere to do so.
This is the point where you sincerely wish them well. You forgive them, even though they didn’t ask for it. You forgive yourself for not being everyone’s cup of tea at the present moment. And if you’re Christian, you pray for them. If you’re not, you send good vibes. And then you carry on with your life, and focus on the people that do want to be in it.
Yet, every once in a while, you’ll stumble on something that reminds you of them.
A polaroid you took together. The pieces of your vision board they helped bring to life. The Christmas tree when you took it down. New York. Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. Her Red album on a roadtrip. How you have no one to talk to about how bad her new album is and how you still listen to it every day. And the fact that you just discovered Gilmore girls and you’re Lorelai and she’s Rory. (#teamjess)
And then, you’ll smile because that’s what thinking of them makes you do. You’ll quietly hope they find their way back to you one day, in their own time and on their own terms. And then maybe together you can rebuild the road to that safe space you used to share.
But before you know it, the void of losing them will become bearable because you’ll have filled that bitter space in your heart with love. Which, as it turns out, creates the perfect environment for you to grow, too.
Photography: Sara Kiesling
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