Missing is Part of Living
Sometimes the pang cuts sharply, like the loss is fresh and the wound still raw. Sometimes it strikes without notice, leering in the simplicity of a familiar place or favorite song. Sometimes it sneaks in stealthily, dancing in the complexity of the scent of the wind, evanescent and indistinguishable from the breath before it, but coating the world with a bulky, unwavering residue of loss.
I used to wear these pangs in shame. When I longed for a former lover or missed an ex-partner, I hid the ache from the world and shrouded it from myself. I carried a cistern within my heart, and in the solitude of darkness, if I listened closely, I heard the relentless plink-plunk of my unshed tears dripping into the ever-swelling abyss of emotion. Often I chastised the reminiscing youth within me: Be stronger. Forget. Move on.
And I tried. Despite my determined efforts, however, I did not know where to move on to.
How does one decide to not miss another? What does one do to erase a former love from her memory?
Recently, with no warning, I felt the familiar strangled longing. As I sat on my couch, the upholstery’s brush against my skin transported me to a time two years earlier. I recalled a time when I sat on the same sofa with a man who is no longer in my life. The flashback dripped with such reality that I almost reached for his hand. I felt his kind smile and the optimistic anticipation of what was to come for us. I missed how we laughed when his dog nuzzled between us and how he woke me up with freshly made French press coffee. Sitting there, in that memory with him, I missed him. Then, I did reach for his hand, but my fingers met only a sofa cushion. I longed for his touch.
My longing quickly gave way to guilt. I am currently in a relationship with a different person, and I felt in some way, that missing my former lover was cheating on my current lover. My impulse was to turn my back on this memory, to shut it away in a safe filled with forgotten factoids and embarrassing moments.
On that day, however, rather than shut these feelings away, I pulled them out and stared them down. I visited this past of mine. I relived the good times with my former partner, and I rolled my eyes at the bad. I thought of him, I admired his positive qualities, and I considered the longing that ensnared me.
A miniscule shift in my perspective changed everything.
This longing I felt was not for a current relationship with this man. Had he arrived at my door at that moment, I would not have been drawn into a romantic relationship with him. Missing him was – and is – a nostalgic gratefulness. I smiled recalling our time together and where I was at that point in my life. I appreciated how he taught me to believe in myself and how he gave me space to be exactly who I was. I missed him in the way one might miss last year’s fashion – recognizing its merits, but uninterested in moving backward.
We tend to believe that our hearts should be utterly and completely devoted to one love. We convince ourselves we should be happy in this one moment, independent of all moments before it. But as I came to terms with the affection I felt for this man, I couldn’t help but wonder if we have it wrong. Perhaps, a momentary fondness for a former lover or estranged friend does not always have to be squelched. Perhaps, contentedly recalling a previous relationship is not an attack on a current relationship, but an appreciation of where life has carried us. Perhaps this sea I’ve built inside me, teeming with memories and people I vow not to think of, perhaps this is actually a fountain to be poured out. Maybe the memory of love is the only way we know how to share love with another.
Missing someone is not wrong. It does not diminish our feelings for those currently in our lives. Missing someone, it’s just part of living.
I, for one, am grateful that I have been blessed with people to miss.