As the year end draws near, it is time for some reflection…
Looking back on the past year, here are 12 things I have learned about myself, others, about human nature and the workings of the heart. What have your lessons been?
1. Sometimes you just have to walk away
Just that. They don’t deserve you, you know that. You don’t want to think badly of them because you believe in the good in people, so you’ve given them a second, a third or a fourth chance. But again and again they have let you down. It is time to close the curtain on that act and call it a day. You’ve tried, that’s what matters.
2. Lies people tell themselves are worse than the ones they tell others
An astonishingly large number of people live in denial of their own feelings: that their marriage/relationship is not working/making them happy, that they are with who they are with for the wrong reasons, or that they love someone else. I used to be one of those people too but I now live with absolute honesty all of the time. It is liberating.
3. Some people get stiff necks, others have stiff hearts
You can, at least temporarily relieve stiff necks and shoulders, by going to a good masseur and getting a deep tissue massage. Swimming is also a great exercise for unknotting those painful, hardened bits. Some people, however, have stiff hearts, and no amount of massage or exercise can soften them up. They may and often eventually do thaw out, and the moment it does is one of profound beauty. But it may take a lifetime. By the time it has happened, there may not be much of life left for them. Remember: that is their script. You have your own to live out.
4. People’s reactions are always based on their own experiences of life (and relationships)
You may tell the same story to 10 different people. People react according to what their own experience of what you are telling them felt like. In general, older people tend to be the least reactionary and most philosophical in their feedback. Younger, or less experienced ones, often hold an idealistic notion of human relationships. Many people, irrespective of age, view the world through a black-and-white filter and label people and events right or wrong, good or bad, open or closed. I find most things in life are neither one nor the other; most things stand in the middle of the spectrum.
This is why maturity brings suffering. We understand too much: that real life and real relationships are not fairy tales with a perfect happy ending. Humans are complex, love is complex. Sit back and learn to enjoy the complexity of human relationships.
5. Some old loves you can never let go; but that’s okay
Eric Clapton singing Old Love (you can listen to it on YouTube) makes my heart ache every time I hear it: “And it’s making me so angry to know that the flame still burns. […]. When will I ever learn? Old love…leave me alone.”
We all have an old love or two we cannot forget. I have previously written about letting go of one big old love, and it was almost like ‘growing out’ of it, as I myself matured and changed.
But some loves we can never forget, and they never get ‘old’ however much time passes. They make my heart melt every time I hear from them because I can feel the old warm affection behind every word, because I know time may have changed them but not the core beauty of their soul. My life feels richer just knowing they exist; they teach me that the human heart’s capacity for love is incredibly resilient.
6. Not everyone can cope with man-woman friendships
At every stage of my life, I have had very close male pals, with whom I spent a lot of time talking about intimate topics and sharing fun activities. I am able to make friends with a man as effortlessly and comfortably as with a woman, and it does not bother me one iota that we are not of the same gender. I can be as affectionate with a guy as with any woman without turning it into a sexual move. Friendships with men are wonderfully comforting, cosy…fuzzy, without all the emotional pitfalls of a romantic relationship.
Is it that unconventional to think there’s nothing wrong or inappropriate about loving a guy friend just as you would a girl-friend?
I have noticed most people around me have a hard time accepting male-female friendships. Every time I form a friendly bond with a male colleague, for example, rumours circulate that we “have a thing for each other” when the only “thing” we have is a relaxed mutual appreciation.
Some men can’t take it either; they fear they may be “betraying” their partners by being friends with another woman (even though there’s no sex involved) but, if you ask me, that says far more about their own insecurities regarding the relationship they are in than about the friendship on offer. They are probably nervous because they feel sexually attracted to me, even though they have a wife or girlfriend, and they are not entirely sure they can trust their self-control..because men are..well…men.
The funny thing is, I can. I can be friends even with a guy I secretly wish was my lover but knowing we should never cross the line because we would be better at being friends than being lovers. But that may be because experience has taught me not everything in life is black or white, and sometimes it is okay to appreciate the various shades of grey in-between.
I am a freak no doubt.
7. Always give the benefit of the doubt
Everyone has their side of the story. Everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about. Give them a chance to tell their story before you pass judgement or do anything radical. It is well worth it, I promise you.
8. Write as many angry emails as you like but NEVER click the Send button
I have a few of those saved in my Drafts. Emails I was up all night writing when I was drunk, or when the depression monster raised its ugly head, making me feel small and unloved and I wanted to blame this person for the way I felt.
Every time I wrote one of those, I made myself wait 24hs before deciding to send or not, and boy, am I glad I did. Things always look differently in the cold light of day. Remember: you can’t un-send a sent email.
Had I sent out those angry messages, I would have hurt them all right, but I would have hurt myself more. Most of the time you did not mean the spiteful, hateful words you wrote when your bruised pride was hungry for revenge.
What you wrote: “This is such a total waste of time; what’s the point of us ever talking again when you behave like you hate me. You are a selfish w***er who doesn’t give a s**t about other people’s feelings.” What you meant: “I was hurt by what you said/did but I don’t want us to be like that with each other; let’s talk again soon, have a cuddle and make it better.”
9. Social media’s Delete and Block buttons destroyed our need to communicate
On Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other social network, these days everyone uses the Delete, Unfollow and Block buttons to indicate they are angry and no longer wish to continue their relations with someone else. The ease with which we can delete people from our Timelines has sadly done away with the need for people to communicate with each other, explain themselves, say ‘I’m sorry’, or ‘let’s talk about this’.
You can block as many people as you want from your social media sites. But in order to nurture a healthy and strong relationship, you need to unblock your heart first and follow your gut instinct, be true to yourself.
10. I have an enormous capacity for forgiveness
I have discovered forgiving is a wonderful act of self-healing, no matter how bad it was what the other person did to you. When you let that anger go that imprisons you and weighs you down, you are also setting yourself free to love again.
11. Being single is glorious
Who said life after a separation had to be sad and miserable? I love my own company, I love my own space. You need to learn to be happy on your own before you can be happy with someone else.
Besides, being single means you are free to fancy as many men as you want; you can check out those cute guys on the train, in the street, in your office, at the supermarket while you pick up your weekly groceries, on your social media accounts. It means you are available for dating again. You can choose to get serious, or you can just play-flirt for fun. The world is an oyster. If that isn’t glorious, I don’t know what is.
12. I want an alpaca boyfriend
Click on the cartoon at the top of this blog post and read it. I can relate to that. Relationships are not the only things that can bring joy into your life. Right now I need a fluffy alpaca friend who can give me hugs, lots of cuddly-wuddly hugs, when I feel like crying but I can’t because I have run out of tears.
Because life was damn tough on me in 2013. Because my heart was broken so many times by so many circumstances, I can’t even feel the pain any more.
The only way now is up. 2014, bring it on!