The science books tell us red blood cells have a life span of 120 days. Though new blood runs through our veins, some of us know memories that have flown through us for years.
And that’s okay.
I hear you.
The weary heart that is tired of all the voices telling you to just “get over it already.”
The disheartened heart that wonders if she can ever love anyone as much as she loved him.
The broken heart that mourns the loss of years of friendship.
And you, who keeps telling yourself “not this” – that it’s been way too long for you to still feel this way.
I hear you.
I guess as humans we naturally progress, and we always want to move on. We want to come to a place of learning how to breath like we used to, without that other person. Arriving at the place where we no longer care, at least that’s what we’re made to think. We’re told that to move on is to stop loving, stop caring, and enjoy that all ties have been severed.
The truth is, you cannot drain an ocean and when you have loved deeply, you cannot one day wake up and unlove. Whether a relationship or a friendship, when another’s name has been etched into our heart, our world is changed because of them, especially when we have discovered parts of ourselves through them.
Human connection is one of the most fundamental cravings and perhaps that is why it is unerasable. Perhaps that is why, like tree roots in barren soil, we take the mould of those whose lives are mingled with ours. Perhaps that is why even after countless months of silence, speaking to them again is like finding a place you forgot existed; like travelling for so long and realising they are home, with the same scent and laugh as they had all that time ago. A place with the front porch light on and an open door, greeted by a smile that still remembers exactly what to say and how to say it. A coffee cup with your name on it, coffee poured just the way you’ve always liked it. Home. Connection. Belonging. And it’s like you never left. And maybe the truth is, you haven’t. Because they are a place where you will always feel known and seen for all that you are.
And that’s okay.
Maybe moving on looks more like making space for the complexity of those “it shouldn’t be like this” torrents of missing them and learning that we don’t need to act on what we feel no matter how potent our desire or longing is. Sometimes every inch in our body bemoans and laments strong feelings for someone and having to silence it. So don’t silence it: write about it, pray about it, sing about it but know when it’s time to put the pen down and walk away. Peace is found when we allow the paradox to be just exactly as it is. Sometimes we expect total clarity with zero doubt, believing it to be an indication that we should stay in a relationship or go back when perfect resolution isn’t there. But that is deceptive, perfectionistic and not very self-compassionate. Then there are the times you realise love isn’t enough and you have to do hard things like leaving.
In the end remind yourself, that just because the space their love left is still hollow, it isn’t a sign that your lives must be intertwined. That means learning to let go of control and living in the tension – wanting but not having, missing but not making what you miss a reality. Our feelings should not surprise or scare us – they are but a glorious, devastating testament to the sheer power of connection.
So what does it mean to move on? I guess that looks different for everyone. For some people it may mean deleting their number or unfriending them on Facebook, for another person it may mean choosing to stop asking about them and for another it may mean going to the places that remind you most of them but making new memories there. Disconnecting the connection is a road overgrown and we must all learn how to travel down it.
Maybe moving on doesn’t look like waiting for change, hoping for that ‘I was wrong’ apology or the day they come back fighting for you. Maybe moving on will never just happen with time. Letting them go is letting go of more than memories and the photographs painted on the inside of your mind. It is letting go of the safety of arms you carved into your own, the sweet dispositions and wide-eyed gazes that only you knew the meaning of and the connection that echoed the largeness of life. Moving on is the daily choice to not carry that love, or loss or that person as your identity.
Maybe moving on isn’t about unloving, and moving on in this way can sound dangerous and feels like losing. But maybe moving on in this way is the bravest thing we can do: to not fear admitting how much love still remains, yet not pursuing that love anymore. Maybe moving on looks a lot like courage; believing that there is a greater cause to live by than our fears.
Maybe moving on is choosing not to shape the memories into our bones – not to live in the past, not to relive the past. Choosing ‘now.’ Choosing to surround yourself with those who can love you well, to remind you that all love is not lost because love is not that person.
And we’ll be okay.
“To touch and feel each thing in the world, to know it by sight and by name,
and then to know it with your eyes closed so that when something is gone,
it can be recognized by the shape of its absence. So that you can continue to possess the lost, because absence is the only constant thing. Because you can get free of everything except the space where things have been.”
– Nicole Krauss
Co-written with Sandra.