All we are is a composition of our experiences. A brilliantly flawed collage of the people we’ve loved and lost, and the lessons we’ve learned — or ignored — along the way. Inevitably we all will let someone, or several someone’s, into our hearts and souls and we won’t be able to get them out again. They’ll linger as an echo of whom they were to us and who we were for them. These people often teach us about that fine, blurred line that exists between love and hate — and how, sometimes, you can feel both for the same person at the same time.
They teach us that we never truly forget or let go of anyone who’s really emotionally touched us — we just move on, carrying them with us. We learn that love doesn’t always last and that people, who were once as close as two people can possibly be to one another, can grow so far apart they are practically strangers. But the memories… the memories remain. Some people call this ‘baggage,’ but I call it life. I call it experience. I call it having courage enough to let someone close enough to do damage and having strength enough not to let it unmake you. Anyone can keep people at a distance – I would know – but the brave thing is to let them in. To let them see and know you and to see and know them.
When a relationship ends, however ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ it may have been (the heart doesn’t give a damn about labels and Facebook statuses), everyone will tell you that time eventually erases the hurts and sweeps clean the slate. Until one day you won’t wake up with them on your mind, or find yourself wondering if they still think of you too. The years will pass and they will prove everyone right… but you will also find that, in some ways, it had proven them wrong. You’ll go weeks, months, maybe even years without thinking of them, but someday, out of the blue, they’ll be there, the ghost of them still in your heart for better or for worse. You’ll have forgotten a lot of things – most of them petty and superficial anyway – but the small moments will always remain. Life is made up of the small, simple moments. The little idiosyncrasies that create a person, like their soft early morning sighs, or the specific order they washed themselves in the shower. Maybe, if you concentrate hard enough, you can remember the press of their hand in yours, or that vulnerable, tentative smile they seemed to save just for you. Time hasn’t erased them; it’s given them a gentle, sweet clarity. They are a part of us, and they always will be.
I think many people try to bury or ignore these emotions, convincing themselves it’s the only way to move on — either on their own, or with someone else. I believe that the truth lies in the knowledge that we will always love those people who managed to find their way into our hearts, to some degree or another. People have an enormous capacity for love in all its many diverse forms, and just because a part of you will always love someone who is gone doesn’t mean it can’t also love the one who is there. There is no shame in loving the memory of who someone was to us, and in being in love with who someone is for us. These are the people who have shaped us, who have helped us to grow in and through love. By accepting them, and what they were to us, we are essentially accepting ourselves. All relationships hold both the good and the bad, just as we ourselves hold light and dark.
It’s important to understand why things didn’t work in the past in order to make them work in the present and future. People, especially those who love us, provide us with an outside lens to focus through, giving us the opportunity to see life, and ourselves, from a different angle. It’s the people we let close to our hearts that show us who we really are, even if, ultimately, it’s not who we want to be.
So don’t let go, hold onto what love has taught you. Grow and move forward with the strength of character to love again. Have the wisdom to know what you need and want, and to tread lightly on the hearts and emotions of others. You don’t have to pretend past loves didn’t matter to you, of course they did, you just have to develop the self-awareness to differentiate between ‘hung up’ and fond, wise remembrance.
You don’t have to let go, you just have to move on. Move on toward love, laughter and light.