I have been in a phase of examining my interpersonal relationships these last weeks, considering which ones I’d like to nourish more and which ones I should let go. So, naturally, when I confirmed some plans to meet up with an ex-partner I got thinking about what my relationship with him should look like. We were friends for two years, then a couple for five. After a somewhat disharmonious parting, we didn’t really speak to each other for about a year. We had met twice over the last year, the first time to smooth things over and communicate the appreciation we have for each other, and then months later we caught up over a coffee when he was in town on business.
I found our last visit with each other very dry; I listened with eyes glazed over as he went on and on about what he had been doing since our previous meeting. Although the content of what he was saying was interesting, he wasn’t leaving space for me to engage. It was his typical way of relating; talking incessantly with no awareness that I had reached my capacity of what I could take in.
I expected our interaction this time to be more of the same. I was curious to hear about the exciting things he had recently been involved in, but I wasn’t expecting much of a connection. As I was assessing our relationship, I had labelled him as a mere acquaintance. I try to be very clear with myself who my friends are and what our friendship is about. My friends are those with whom there is mutual support, encouragement, honesty, and potential to help each other grow. He didn’t feel like one of those people to me now. Even though we had many rich experiences in our years together, I know that not everyone is meant to stay in my life forever. Sometimes people grow together for a while, and then it’s complete. I was sure it was complete regarding our growth and that now it was more of a friendly exchange out of courtesy, respect, and sharing of ideas.
I felt that the things we can share with each other were just on the level of information. Since we are both into healing, spiritual practice, and personal development, we tend to talk about tools and ideas that we find interesting or useful in those fields. Even though we may talk about evolving when we are together, I didn’t think we could still evolve together. He’s an information acquaintance, I proudly expressed to myself, feeling like I was making some headway in clearing out the interpersonal “clutter” of my life.
As I thought about meeting with him I was looking forward to hear about his latest adventures. Had recently returned from an intense month in Brazil where he attended a Tantra Training course and also visited the spiritual healer John of God. Both were things I would consider doing, so I wanted to see if what he had to say about them resonated with me. I have to admit, I wasn’t that interested in the impact either had on his life. I honestly didn’t expect there to be much of an impact on him; during the week I had been reflecting on how I believe that most people don’t change all that much.
Well, as usual, whenever I think I’ve figured things out, I realize I haven’t. He was so different this time; slower in his pacing between words and trains of thought, expressing his stories and experiences with sincere feeling, not just retelling events – he wasn’t the mental robot I once knew. There was a real heart connection as he shared with me rather than told to me about his recent experiences.
He had done a lot of work to get in touch with his emotions, an aspect of himself that was always a great mystery as he typically lived in his mind, analyzing life rather than feeling it. He explained that he hit a ceiling with his mind – that there is only a certain level of achievement that can be reached, whereas, with feelings, the opportunities of what there is to experience are limitless. If one makes an effort to notice feelings, they have the capacity to add layers and layers of richness to an experience, something which cannot be achieved by the reasoning of the mind.
I wasn’t prepared for that kind of interaction between us, not only was he was more aware of himself, he was also completely present with me. Before he even got into his stories, he checked in to see how I was, asking how I was feeling about my sister’s death and the other important unfoldings of my life since we last met. I found I wasn’t able to answer him from a deep place because I thought our conversation was going to be just about what I had been “doing” since we last met, not about how I was feeling about all of it! I was relieved that we didn’t have much time to go into those things, he was only in the city for a brief visit before moving on to his next adventure, a Journey of Transformation, a workshop that he attends almost yearly and even coaxed me to on three occasions.
What I thought would be a few hours of enduring time with my ex, turned out to be a few hours of endearing time with him. It seems there is an opportunity for us to have a fulfilling friendship; there is still a lot of love between us and much that can be learned from our interactions together. The level of connection that was possible surprised me and made me realize that I’m sometimes too eager to label what I think my interactions are going to be.
I am learning to be more humble in my relationships, not assuming I know why certain people are in my life. Who am I to say when something or someone is done? Of course, there are situations where cutting ties to certain people is necessary. There is value in letting go when things really are no longer serving my life, but it takes some tuning in to determine if it is actually time to close the door. Things are not always clear, and if there isn’t a completely valid reason to let someone go I need to put aside what I think a situation should be to allow space for what it can be.
Leaving the door open allows for greater possibilities to unfold. We are here to show parts of ourselves to each other, but nothing can be seen through a closed door. I am slowly learning that there are things to be offered in every encounter; refusing those gifts before they can be presented limits the potential of what can really be learned when with another.