“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”–Alan Watts
Winter is a wonderful time to think about letting go and letting things fall. Deciduous trees have lost their leaves, making way for the growth to come in spring. The snow falls and it provides shelter and becomes moisture for spring growth. We use the dormant stage to nurse and heal and come together again. For my own growth, spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, I must be able to let things fall. By letting go, it frees us to reach for something new. By letting things fall, we continue to move, but we are free and wise and light in our steps.
In the past year, there has been tremendous growth and change in my life. On the surface, however, things look the same. I live in the same town and continue to work for the same organization, but things are different in my heart, in my mind, in my body. I can feel more growth is on the way, but to make way for it and to prepare myself for it, I need to let things fall. In particular, I need to let go of a certain person, the one who has been the object of my heart’s affection.
This is what I am letting fall away: expectations, regrets, resentment, grudges, remorse, and worry all tied up in a one-sided love. Instead, I pick up a real and close friendship, true caring, honesty, a better glimpse of my heart, and love with no expectations.
We started a friendship this past spring. It has been a surprise. I barely knew you before this year. I knew you as a face in the hallways at school, as the high school boyfriend to a friend, as the older brother to a teammate, as a student of my mother’s in our small town high school.
We became friends on Facebook last winter and there was not much interaction. A quick message from you in early April changed that. You wanted to get in touch with my mother. Over the years, several friends and acquaintances have gotten in touch for the same reason. It always brightens my day to know that my mom as a teacher was inspiring and well-loved. I sent you my mother’s phone number and laid out the casual and generic offer, “We should catch up sometime.” It’s the polite thing one says, but to casual hometown acquaintances, there is usually not a follow up conversation. Somehow, though, we both followed up to talk. We exchanged phone numbers and made arrangements to call. A Thursday night in spring turned into a long phone and e-mail conversation. We caught up on twenty-something years and proceeded as friends. It was the best combination of getting to know someone new mixed with the rare combination of the old and familiar. There is shorthand with a shared sense of place. While we have common friends and touchstones, hardly any of our memories collide into each other. Our new friendship felt fresh and not just built on years of life-residued nostalgia.
Surprisingly, we found things in common that had little to do with our upbringing or wildly diverging careers. We both care deeply about spirituality and tend to wonder about the big questions. You teased me about being a tree hugger, but that we both care about the impact of humanity on the planet was a welcome connection. We both sprinkle sarcasm and silliness into our senses of humor. It was fun to zap and zing and trade jokes. You are very intelligent and I like to think that I am as well. It was fun to have a conversation as exciting as a really good game of tennis, with lots of back and forth.
You are handsome, smart, and accomplished. You like attention and you flirt. I am shy and want to find love close by, rather than having to go and search for it. I mistook mild online flirting for real affection and interest. I fantasized that perhaps love could drop out of the sky unexpectedly. This spring I was emerging from what felt like years of hibernation. After a couple of years of no dating, my heart has pent up emotion, pent up affection, pent up energy. I desperately wanted to connect.
You were there and I took it as a sign. We enjoyed each other’s humor. You laughed at my jokes and I marveled at how fun flirting could be. I enjoyed it, especially when I could type a funny line or whisper a joke on the phone, instead of worrying about my hair or being concerned I would spill my drink.
There were early warning signs that I ignored. I had fluctuating feelings based upon no real interaction, but based on any little signs I could find. How quickly you responded to my text messages, how many exclamation points you used were all examined and analyzed. I had spring fever and wanted to fall in love. And I did. With you. You were living more than 1,000 miles away.
In a genuine gesture of friendship, you responded to help me after my request for assistance in transforming my life. I sent the nitty gritty details. You responded with encouragement and support and exclamation points! The more you responded, the more I mistook that as growing affection. You began a relationship and I ignored that detail. I continued one-sided missives that I cringe to think about now.
Interactions became a bit uncomfortable in July. You had gently asked me to reduce the number of text messages. I responded with drama and defensiveness. We recovered and seemed to find a balance in communication. A summer of solitude, writing and running, on my end only intensified my affection for you. At times, our text messages were all the communication I had with anyone as I spent days writing and writing.
We unexpectedly saw each other in August when we both were visiting near home. I had anticipated the moment for weeks. We met for coffee. We hugged each other in greeting. We settled in for conversation. I was relieved to discover that witty repartee and mad texting could translate to real conversation. I thought my crush was in check, but after our visit the one-sided feelings intensified.
Late August arrived and I packed up my notebooks of summer writing, my laptop, and my running shoes and I returned to Colorado. I helped my sister as she moved into her new place and I returned to teaching. One day I was consumed with butterflies and was certain that I knew the condition. It was full-on love. I worried about telling you, but a new vow of honesty and authenticity helped me make the decision to confess my feelings. I sent a long text message. You responded with grace and patience and wisdom. You reminded me that being “crazy in love” is not authentic love. You responded that you loved me, but as a friend, not as a romantic partner.
You continued to cheer me on as I made visible and lasting change in my life. We talked a couple of times on the phone and I talked about my journey to self-love.
September was weird. After my summer of solitude, a return to work and Colorado and “normal life” felt abrupt. One evening we had a long conversation that I was sure would turn our friendship into something more. I was encouraged that you were moving back to the state we both loved, New Mexico. In the spring, I had enjoyed a whole fantasy dream of a summer courtship in our hometown that might bloom into a partnership. Of course, I was wrong.
Texts and fairly frequent communication continued. Then the metaphorical brick hit my head. I realized this pattern I had fallen into, my whole self. I mistook friendship for love and encouragement for something more. If I was to make real and lasting change in my life, not just physical fitness and health, but self-love and self-awareness, I had to recognize the patterns for what they were. They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. I was lucky that the metaphorical brick broke through the mental clutter. I realized I was on a fragile precipice. If I wanted to move beyond one-sided love and to keep a friendship with you, I would need to make a change to my heart.
Knowing what needs to be done in your mind and heart does not mean change comes easy. I continued to run long, while I worked on my heart. I ran 14 miles, tears spilling down my cheeks with the realization that I needed to let you go, knowing you had never been mine to begin. I texted and you applauded the distance. I thanked you and wished for something else.
In October, we met in your new home town. We had coffee, we had breakfast, and it was good to see you in person. So good. I went with you to look for houses and for just a little bit I harbored the fantasy that must have come with the fumes of new plaster, new carpet, new tiles, new developments. I still had some work to do with my heart. Luckily, I had plans to meet another friend for lunch. You dropped me off at my car, and I felt strangely wistful. You found a house and sent me pictures on my phone. I ran the half marathon and we texted. On my last morning in town, we met for breakfast one last time. It felt good to have one last hug and to leave you in the bright light of an October morning.
In November, we finally seemed to hit our groove. Our texts were now not so centered around my transformation from couch potato to runner, but more about mutual friendship. They were not so frequent, but with more spontaneity and less obligation. In the midst of that month, though, I stumbled. After you expressed concern for me and one of my recent adventures, we texted through the night. I realized I was still harboring wishes that you might want something more.
Thanksgiving came and finally my heart made the transformation. Perhaps, the 99th time was the charm? I realized that I didn’t want to live with this kind of self-inflicted pain. Also, though, I didn’t like living with dishonesty. I said I wanted to be friends. I didn’t like that I was hiding things in my heart, a hidden subtext to our texts.
In December, our text frequency slowed to a pitter patter. This time, though, my heart did not beat with excitement or worry. Instead, it settled into realization, actualization, and something much bigger: peace. The holidays passed and I took a technology break and the peace was still there when I picked up the phone again.
In January, we emerge into a new space. I am seeking your advice and insight and perspective again. This time, though, it’s not so much about the mundane of food eaten and miles run, but looking at the larger questions of life.
How do we live with our thoughts? How do we emerge with open hearts? How do we live lives of purpose and joy? How do we find peace and live that ideal? How can we love with our hearts and not our egos?
I think you enjoy this role, as a friend with advice and lessons to share. Early yesterday morning passed in a flurry of texts, my questions, your pithy Yoda-like answers.
I am in a big clean-out mode, a bit of a life upheaval. I am getting rid of junk and clutter on the surface, but also getting the junk out of my heart and head. I am turning things upside down and enjoying the confusion that comes before clarity.
I do have some clarity, though. I appreciate your friendship. I like that we still share, even as life continues and the newness has worn away. I see you settling into life as you make choices and decisions that will define this stage. I like that you still ask me questions about ways to live lighter on the planet. I like that we have settled into friendship, real and true friendship. It will grow and change and evolve, just as we will.
Thank you for perspective and patience. Thank you for helping me in my time of waking from hibernation. Thank you for helping me to see that love is beautiful and should not be a shackle. Thank you for helping me to see that my heart does pick good ones, even if it is the wrong time. Thank you for helping me to see the evolution of love from heartsick to friendship to openness.
I like that you held on and I like that I did too. We found comfort, camaraderie, and at times closeness. I wish you joy and love and peace!
I will probably see you in a month or so. I hope that we will meet for coffee. I will bring you composting worms. We will trade notes. We will share stories and then we will get up and say goodbye. You will start your worm bin and prepare your new home for spring. Your heart will find love. I will drive north back to my own day-to-day, searching for my own light and love.