That respect, though not easy for either of us, is a true surviving gift. I offer forgiveness to myself and practice mindfulness until the feelings pass. As I reach my mid-thirties, I realize the importance not just of those who are on our “good side” but also acquaintances who teach precious lessons at the precise times we need them.
Similarly, be respectful and compassionate toward yourself. Paul and I have shared too many years to ignore that we care about each other, still we cannot continue in our old patterns any longer.
Here are the steps from disappointment to personal growth and healing: After years of feeling more than I acknowledged, I didn’t take it well when I learned about Paul’s new girlfriend. No more hanging around at the end of the day to chitchat. Yes, it was painful, after many years of chatting up Paul whenever I thought of him or wanted to know what was going on in his life, but I also stopped dwelling. Disappointment cannot be ignored and yet, like any emotion, it is a passing state, undulating like waves to the shoreline.
My roommate found me curled up on the sofa, breaking spontaneously into what I call “the ugly cry.” My appetite swan-dived. We are impermanent beings in flux, and we cannot expect either our relationships or those in our lives to remain static.
I’m not sure what flipped the switch for me, but I’d already cheered him when he ran two marathons, listened when his wife left and they divorced, and written while he lived abroad twice serving a medical charity.
We’ve raised money for causes and exchanged myriad e-mails about jobs, travels, and our families—my sister’s marriage, his siblings’ children being born.
If I could grow to love Paul (who I’d envisioned only as a friend for so long) and his kindness and intelligence, then there would be someone else with as much kindness and intelligence. We dated for three months, and while it ultimately didn’t work out after his move for a new job, my time with Brian taught me that my focus had changed from “Life after Paul” to life itself.