You stop waiting for them to come back by becoming profoundly uncomfortable. You move through the places where you wish they still were and you hold your own hand as you go. You don’t lie to yourself about how it is going to be easy and happy and new in a way that is wonderful- not yet. First you delve right into the deepest part of the dark, murky water of missing them and you let it envelope you. You feel their absence on a core, guttural level. You absorb it in exactly the way that you’re afraid of. You let it sink under your skin.
You stop waiting for them by letting things change. You cut your hair and know they’ll never see it. You quit your job and know you’ll never tell them about the new one. You let people into your life that you know they’ll never get the chance to love or hate or sit up at night discussing with you. You let the delicate pattern of the life you’d built with them dissipate and change form with the arrival of each new twist. You aren’t okay with it and so you let it not be okay. You brace yourself each time for the impact. You know that someday change will come naturally again and even that feels sort of sad.
You stop waiting by being vulnerable with someone new. You start giving your secrets away – the ones you thought were safe with them, until suddenly they weren’t. You realize that knowing you deeply isn’t an experience that was exclusive to them and you let that be as surprising as it is disheartening. You let new forms of intimacy enter your life and you let them feel unnatural for a while.
You stop waiting for them to come back by realizing that pain is an inevitable component of moving forward. You stop waiting for the chasm in your heart to close up and you take whatever steps you need to on trembling, uncertain legs. You realize that sometimes, that’s truly the only way to move forward: sadly and uncertainly and long before you are ready. That if you wait until you feel ready, you may just be waiting forever.
You stop waiting for someone to come back by choosing to go forward without them. And perhaps this is the saddest, simplest truth – that we must deliberately move ourselves away from the people we have loved and lost or else we will stay lost alongside them. That forward, alone, may not be the most desirable option but it is the only one we have. And we don’t get to trade in our hand.
The truth about ceasing to wait for someone is that eventually, someday, someone else has to show up to fill his or her place. And that person has to be you. You have to show up to your new life, your new world and your new way of doing things, no matter how painful and raw it all feels. You have face forward toward the future you hadn’t planned for and the life you didn’t know that you would lead. You have to stop showing up to the land of used-to-be’s and could-be-stills and show up to this world. The one where it hurts. The one that’s unfair. The world that is here, because it’s the only one you have left.
You stop waiting for someone to come back through a series of slow, deliberate steps that move you away from the life you thought you’d have and towards the one that’s waiting for you. It’s the life that shows up once you make the conscious, uncomfortable decision to leave the past behind. To learn from the people you’ve lost and to embrace the people that you have left. To embrace the life you have left. And to bring yourself back to it as fully and wholly as you wish that you could bring back someone else.