Some say old habits die hard. I could not agree more with that statement.
Letting go of past habits, past people, past anything can be quite difficult. There is a genuine comfort in things we already know. Even if people disappoint or hurt us, even if habits are destructive and unhealthy, even if the past is not where we want to be, it's known. In other words, letting go of the past means drifting into unknown territory; what a scary thought.
Mustering up the courage to let go of people we once loved (or still love) in favor of a possibly brighter yet somehow murkier future is no easy task. I recently was talking about the idea of letting go of old friends with a close friend of mine. She asked me what I thought about her holding onto a friend who wasn't putting in the same effort into their relationship and to be frank, was no longer honoring her happiness and needs. Should she hold on to the past and let this newer and now constant behavior go, or should she let go of this old friend who still means a lot to her?
I had this to say:
I believe people come into our lives at different times for different reasons. Some people come in to let us try new experiences. Some people come in to bring a healthy dose of fun. Some people come in to make us grateful for what we have. Some people come in and screw us up a little bit but ultimately make us stronger. In other words, people come into our lives for some reason or another, but they serve a purpose. The purpose might not be apparent right away, but there is a purpose.
Not all people are meant to stay in our lives forever. That doesn't make our time with them less special or less meaningful. The bottom line is people change. Or maybe over time, you just discover a different side of someone that no longer can align with your values and needs. That's okay!
I think the idea that you have to stay friends for life, for forever, till death do you part is a little extreme. I think most people want the fairytale friendship/relationship/partnership; however, in my short time on this earth, I have found very few of those sorts of relationships.
Sometimes you have to remember that it's not about you. Your changing relationship is no fault of yours. It's about someone else.
I find it much more healthy to choose and treasure the wonderful times, adventures, and memories I share with people for whatever length of time they are in my life. I don't like letting go of people. I don't like letting go of friendships. Change is frankly hard for most people, and it's hard for me. But change is often necessary in order to progress as a person.
To my friend who was struggling with a disappointing friend who no longer honored her happiness, I said, "If you have talked it out, if you have been open and honest, if you have given her chance after chance, if you have given all you can give to this person, it might be time to let go."
Ironically enough, my friend's problem paralleled many problems of my own.
Do I try and hold onto people who once meant something to me but no longer put work into our relationship? Do I hold onto a false idea of someone who once made me very happy but now makes me feel sad and glued to the past?
At the start of the summer, I made three goals for myself.
1) Put your health and happiness first.
2) You deserve friendships and relationships with reciprocity and respect. You don't need to chase people. You have enough friends.
3) Be kind to your mind. Be kind to your body. Remember that you are a work in progress, and perfection is not possible.
With those goals in mind, I realized rather quickly that while the idea of letting people go still scared me, sometimes letting go was really what I needed to do in order to love myself and move forward. I didn't love these people any less. I could still think fondly of the time we had spent together. But they didn't need to have such an active role in my life anymore. It was time for closure.
Now, I don't mean closure like in the movies where two people meet up for coffee or at a favorite restaurant/park/museum that bears some sort of symbolism one last time (I sort of tried something like that- it didn't work). I mean the kind of closure that isn't wrapped up all neatly. I mean the kind of closure that feels abrupt and awful at first but fades with perspective and time. I mean the kind of closure that stops making excuses and just shuts the door.
I like to think of this as a closure that is filled with love and respect. A closure of nothing but the bests. It's not dramatic or self-serving. It's just healthy, mature, and forward-thinking. It's not Oscar worthy closure. And it's definitely not cheesy Lifetime movie/Days of Our Lives closure. It's just good old-fashioned goodbye (without the loud goodbye).
Moving forward is rarely easy, but you can't hold onto the past forever.
“Letting go doesn't mean that you don't care about someone anymore. It's just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” - Deborah Reber