There is a person in my life who entered as a co-worker and has become my mentor, one of my best friends, my family. She says “relationships aren’t disposable”. This is the truest of truths. If we were once close, that never totally dissipates. The heart is a red and beating thing– unable to calcify into something harder. This is corny and gushy and cheesy and cliche, but I don’t want my heart to harden. I love that my heart is a kitchen table, and even if I can’t save you a seat, I’ll always make room for you.
Despite sputtering every thought (and many a thirst trap) on to the internet, I am guarded. Not private, but guarded. The difference is that privacy is a retention of information. Guarded is a retention of vulnerability. I don’t let people see me when I’m sick. As a caretaker, I respond to being cared for with defense. So, if I felt safe enough to unwind with you, that’s the highest compliment I can give. Because even when smiling, I am all latches and locks– a performance of jest on a stage of scared. I’ve unlocked before. I was sure I could exhale, drop my shoulders, relax my jaw and serpent tongue. “I’m here!” I’d think. But I wasn’t. My softness wasn’t met with the safety I hoped but another magic trick. I was at the receiving end of behavioral sleight of hand and a disappearing act from them. It’s a peculiar thing when someone cannot look at you for something they did. A lot of people do this. Plenty of the population runs from things they did in moments of desperation, frustration, and hurt. We aren’t our actions, but the ability to take ownership for them, the humility to correct our behavior moving forward.
I don’t mean to sound like a victim here. I am flawed, too. My confidence is no blinder to the cracks, blunders, breaking, and shortcomings I carry. When I say accountability is love, I do not excuse myself. I love myself and see where I was too intense, irrational, a blowtorch to a blister when I didn’t need to be. I love myself enough to hold myself accountable for every regret and mistake and do better. You were never any obligation to stay and witness that.
Other times, it was no one’s fault. A lack of fault doesn’t indicate a lack of hurt. Time splinters relationships, changes people.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t wonder if you think about me, if this silence is a consequence of something I did. Or maybe evidence of my defectiveness as a person– we both know I am a detective hungrily hunting down evidence of my own worthlessness. I can’t be so egotistical that I inflate myself into something so influential in someone else’s life. Shit falls apart. Time scatters us in directions we never anticipated, and we change. That isn’t about me. But I suspect that many of us fear returning to burnt bridges because we spend years scoping out thew right words, awaiting the perfect time. The words do not have to be perfect. The time is always fine. The choice is our to make until we are gone.
We lord no ownership over each other. We aren’t jailers to the people we care for. Love is a free-flowing thing. On a podcast I listened to, the guest said, “a lot of jealous in relationships in an identity issue. The jealous party views the relationship as their identity, and they don’t know who they are without it”. I’m not a jealous woman. For a long time, I felt like I belonged to no one, that I was a miscellaneous piece floating in the ether. A middle child in a family of five kids, single for the first 25 years of life, a misfit throughout adolescence– it’s understandable why I felt this way. While lonely, the benefit of this a strong sense of self independent of labels and cliques and significant others. I’m not the people I love. I get to love them, but they are not the definition of me.
What I’ve learned about the grief of the living is that love and hurt have to live in the same container. Love is the only way out sometimes. It must guide the hurt from its hiding place and into the light of healing. That doesn’t mean there isn’t resentment. That doesn’t mean averting your glance from the heat of a silent iphone. Filling relational absence demands swelling with grief, and when that dissolves to a minor sting, your own wholeness greets the gaps. I don’t want you to think of love as rag doll, always one blunder away from being ripped away forever. Love is not a thing, but an invisible and invincible tether.
So, this is to you (friends, exes, people who I once held close)– if we’ve lost touch, if something severed our attachment, if close was a distance too painful to keep. This isn’t an eraser taken to everything transpired. I’m not even saying it hasn’t been weird. Few phenomenons strike stranger than talking to someone every day and suddenly not at all. I want you to know that I still root for you. I wish you well. Truly. Because you aren’t a piece of scrap paper or rotten fruit. You aren’t something discard-able. How could I make garbage out of someone I once considered gold? I can’t. I’m not asking you to do the same. Not everything is ok, and not everything has to be. I don’t expect anything of you. But I think about you. I hope you sleep well at night and things worked out with your folks. I hope your job is nice to you, and your car is running fine. We don’t have to talk. I’m still grateful for you. I’m still rooting for you. Sincerely, Marisa