In life, nothing is ever certain. You could drop dead at any moment, or live to see 100. Life can turn on a dime, and there is often no way to prepare for or alter the direction a path takes. This is never more true than when it comes to the people we walk those paths with.
Whether it’s a friend, a lover, a life partner or even a family member, nobody is permanent. This is something I’ve learned, and re-learned the hard way. All our lives are a series of places, and who we share those places with. The sad fact in all of this is that everyone you love will leave you eventually. Everyone. There might be irreparable damage from an argument or you may cease having anything in common and grow apart. Perhaps they’ll die or you lose touch when one of you moves away. Maybe one of you will hurt the other in a way that can never be forgiven. Perhaps they will leave without ever really saying why.
People come in and out of our lives all the time. Some for 5 minutes and others for 50 years. Logically, I guess it makes sense to keep your heart locked away, so that the pain of loss is never too great. It makes sense to remain cold to those around you so that you never truly get attached to their presence in your life; so it won’t hurt when they inevitably go. Life is so much easier when it’s all a blur, void of detail or familiar faces. Yet, as hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to live that way for very long.
Turning my heart to stone after Dave died was the easy part: Avoid interaction; reject any advances; make excuses to stay home. Keep people at a distance; keep interactions short (and digital, where possible) and avoid asking or answering too many questions. Soon you’ll have yourself convinced that your heart is bulletproof, and it might stay that way for months and even years. For as many walls as you put up, however, there is someone who is apt to break them down.
When someone comes along with just the right weapons to break through your barricades, it’s terrifying. Terrifying because you’ve forgotten how to react. Terrifying because you realize it’s something you want. Terrifying because if you let yourself hold it, you won’t want to let it go. Terrifying because you know you’ll have to, sooner or later.
I’d rather feel pain after having cared for someone than to feel nothing at all. When someone breaks through the walls I’ve been guarding for so long, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a lover, I will place them into a tiny pocket in my heart. There they will remain for all of my days, and whether they were in my life for a few months or several years, I will look back fondly on the memories we shared and the gift of their company. I no longer carry the romantic delusion of “forever” that a younger me believed in so passionately. It makes it easier to appreciate what you have, when you acknowledge that it could be gone at any minute. A steady hand holding your heart long-term is a beautiful thing in its rarity, but expecting it will likely end in disappointment. Appreciate the people in your life for as long as they’re in your life, know that the experiences you have with them will remain in your memory until your last breath, but never hold on too tightly.