20 February 2014

32 – The Time To Move On

I was nineteen the first time I broke up with somebody. I didn’t break up with a girlfriend however. I ‘broke up’ with my best friend, a boy who’d grown up on the same street as me.

I felt like I was doing the right thing. I thought I was doing it the right way. And I thought that I could simply move on. I was wrong.
 
I don’t remember exactly when Moses and I first became friends. We were either five or six years old. Specific dates don’t really matter. What’s important is that he’s the first person I ever considered to be a friend.

Myself and Moses started school together. We had to cross the same swamp behind his house to get there. Of course by swamp I mean a deep ditch filled with about six inches of mud and slimy water traversed by a couple of rotten planks. The swamp provided a close and useful shortcut for us both. He only lived down the road after all.

We embarked on an assortment of adventures over the next several years. We built forts in the woods and the snow, depending on what building materials the seasons had to offer. We played sports and games with other boys in the neighbourhood. We tormented our younger sisters. We tormented our older sisters. We laughed at things that probably made our parents question both our sanity and maturity. We even stayed friends when Moses moved to a different school in junior high. He only lived down the road after all.

Things changed during high school and our first years of university. What doesn’t change about a person during that time? Myself and Moses slowly began to drift apart. We were becoming different people with different interests and goals. I began disliking the kind of person he was becoming. A lot of this I now attribute to my short-lived obsession with trying to fit in. Our friendship was largely a casualty of that.

I ended our friendship abruptly. I wrote a short, blunt email declaring our friendship terminated. He wrote me an email in response. I didn’t even do him the courtesy of reading it. I sent it straight to the trash.  

I don’t know that we could’ve remained friends. I firmly believe now what I suspected then. Myself and Moses were becoming different people moving toward different experiences. Our roads were diverging in the wood. I may have seen the looming fork in the road first. The problem was I did a terrible job of announcing it.

I still saw Moses every now and then. We did still live only a few houses apart. It was always awkward. The way it is when there’s an elephant in the room and someone besides the elephant has farted.

I always felt we had things we wanted to say to each other. But we never did. That always bothered me. I knew I could have done things differently and that Moses had deserved better. It was the first time I recall experiencing genuine guilt.

The last time I saw Moses was during my Nan’s funeral six years ago. His parents were family friends and they had attended the same church as my Nan. And they only lived a few houses down the road.

Myself and Moses had a nice chat following the funeral service. We talked a little about what we’d been doing with our lives since we’d stopped being friends. I remember wanting to blurt out an apology the whole time. The hatchet still lay in an open pit. Someone needed to pick up a shovel and bury it.

Moses made the first move just a few weeks ago. He sent me a friend request via Facebook that I accepted. A quick browse of his page revealed that he’s now happily married, and that he and his wife have two children, and are expecting a third. Moses works in a hospital helping sick children every day and he’s very excited about that.

We found ourselves logged in at the same time a few nights later. We started chatting about what we’d both been doing with our lives. Then I said in plain terms what I’d wanted to say to Moses for years. I apologized for what I’d done to him. He apologized too, though I felt he had nothing to apologize for.

I felt better instantly. The weight of an old burden had left my shoulders. My heart felt a little less corrupt. And my conscience was unshackled from a guilt that had gnawed at it for far too long.

I never asked Moses how he felt. I was simply too relieved at his gracious acceptance of my apology. But I suspect he felt some of the things I did.

Sometimes the hard and dark things of life can be too raw or close to the bone to deal with straight away. Sometimes they need to left in shadow until we’re ready to cast a fresh light on them. And while time may not heal all wounds, sometimes it does make the scars more bearable to look at.

Yet sometimes we refuse to deal with the dark and hard things for lesser reasons. Sometimes we refuse to let go of our anger and bitterness. Sometimes we like knowing or believing that the other person suffers. Sometimes it simply scares us. Sometimes we do these things because we feel they’re easier than confronting the dark and hard things themselves. And they are.

But holding a grudge is like refusing to let go of a large stone after jumping into a pool: it’ll only drag you down. We don’t need to drown under the weight of our guilt and past mistakes. We can let go and move on. And we should, because it truly can be a breath of fresh air.  

I don’t know what part Moses will play in my life going forward. Nor can I speculate on the part I’ll play in his. After all, we don’t live on the same street anymore. And we've taken different roads through the wood. But I know a void I can’t express with words feels a little less empty.

It’s no small thing to apologize, forgive, and welcome someone back in to your life. It’s a humbling thing, and can be very hard to do. But it can also be absolutely worth it.

I’m glad you’re back, old friend.

6 comments:

  1. Bob,
    I'm really proud of you for writing this but more importantly for the follow through. I know what it feels like to be in "Moses" shoes and I can tell you if my old friend called me up and reached out I would put it all in the past.
    There's something about old friends that are more durable and forgiving. It may be because you go through so many changes together that there' a deeper level of understanding of one another that you rarely find in new adult friendships. As adults we are less likely to fully let our guards down and for that the friendship becomes more vulnerable.
    I said to Heather I noticed something more positive about you the other night after leaving your place and I think we found the reason why. Well done Bob, and where you're going..."Roads...Where we're going we don't need roads!"

    Take Care,

    David

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  2. Thanks a lot David! You've hit the nail on the head about 'old friends.' There's definitely a deeper understanding when people become close before getting corrupted by the world as they become adults. And then it's surprising how these things that just poison our minds have often, in reality, become very trivial things over time. Thanks again!

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  3. I read people's bios on fitocracy and try to interact with them in some way. In this case, I saw your blog URL and figured I'd read and see who you are and possibly have something to say to you. :) I hope you don't mind. My name is Alison, wtf on fito, by the way. This post struck a chord for me. This past year I went through an interesting experiment that came about from reading a book called A Year To Live, by Steven Levine. Essentially it's a book on wrapping up your life and living as if you only had a year to live. Some might think this morbid, but its also a very freeing exercise in thinking about what is most important to you and how to clear up some of the stresses that might be clogging your brain swamp. Anyway, I took the opportunity to make peace with various people who I had parted ways with on less than comfortable terms over the years, to apologize for things and forgive things that kept me unsettled. Like your post, one of the most meaningful reunions came about when one of my best friends finally accepted the sucking force-to-be-reckoned-with that is fb and opened an account, and then on a whim friended me, figuring that I wouldn't respond. Back in the day, we had played around with the idea that some of our close friendship could transition into a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, but because I was dating someone who was studying abroad, I chose to withdraw rather abruptly from our friendship rather than risk anything that might have greater ramifications. Things became awkward as we were in a lot of the same activities, having many of the same friends, and we parted having lost the close friendship we had carefully cultivated. This past Thanksgiving, as I accepted his electronic "friendship" request, I also found him happily married, a psychiatrist, with two beautiful children. We exchanged brief emails about the superficial goings on in our lives. About an hour later, I realized that I wanted to say I was sorry for the way I had acted and impulsively hit him up on chat to apologize and ask for forgiveness for the manner in which I had ended our friendship. It was like a weight had been lifted! I have never felt so relieved, so free from the conflict and so grateful for the simple act of kindness he gave me in letting things go. It was, as your friend David above wrote, one of those times in which I was able to embrace my vulnerability and I have never felt so very fortunate as this time when I was able to welcome the adult version of this wonderful person...and his wife and children and cats...back into my circle of friends. There is something so deeply rewarding in opening up to a friend and allowing them to acknowledge your fears, your failings, your weaknesses, and to have them accept you for who you are, a human. In any case, thank you for sharing this story, and opening up a private view of yourself in your writing. It is a beautiful thing to recover what once was lost, and even more so to open up about the experience in such a personal way. It is very nice to have met you, Bob. I look forward to seeing more of you online. ~Alison

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    1. Alison,

      I hope you don't mind a terribly delayed response. Thanks so much for sharing your own story. It's always good to tie up loose ends, your right, even the ones that do still sting. Thanks for the book recommend - I'll check it out. I like leaving as few loose ends as possible. Say hi on Fito!

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  4. When an ex and I apologized to one another (over fb, btw), it was a huge weight off too. It's not to say that we held a grudge (okay, maybe we did) but we were always cordial, friendly to one another afterwards, mainly because we saw animosity as a sign of weakness. If you show anger towards someone, that person is controlling your emotions and when you lose control of your emotions, you lose control of everything. So we were always at the very least, polite, to the point of friendly overkill. When we apologized, there was a breathe of fresh air and we kind deflated to normal. So you're right… burying the hatchet just clears up mental and emotional space that, frankly, none of us can really spare. Great post. I'm new here, and I'm browsing your essays.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your story Francis. I think you're bang on re: anger and control. Nasty emotion to hold on to! Sometimes it's the I'm sorry' that's fuelling the bitterness rather than what caused the bitterness from the start. Glad you popped by for a look. Have a good one!

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