Learning to let go

Cultivating friendships is important to me. I believe that good strong relationships take time and effort. In order for a good friendship to continue to grow and/or to stay strong there must be effort on both sides. There must be a willingness to open the dialogue rather than to dust off our proverbial hands and walk away. I believe wholeheartedly that maintaining close friendships does take an emotional investment and should never be taken for granted. I have worked hard over the years to continue all of my friendships because I believe that they are worth cultivating.

With time and maturity and with the help of friends I have realized that I may have been trying too hard. I know this sounds like a humble brag but it’s not. Over the last ten years or so I have lost friends. Important friends, people I considered to be as close as family. It’s clear that I have some culpability in this and in some cases I have discovered that I needed to work on myself and make changes which I have strived to do. Those discoveries were made because they were kind enough to tell me why they were moving on. As these friendships have ended I have tried to resolve issues by changing and adapting which I don’t see as a bad thing. I have reached out to ask for time and discussion to try to resolve our issues so I don’t lose contact with the other person. I believe that there is sacrifice required in inter-personal relations and I’m more than happy to learn, grow and change for the better. I know I’m not perfect and that there is room for improvement. I want to be better – a better person – a better friend. This approach is not without success, I have done this and I have maintained very close friendships with people I feel are important to me because we made the effort to talk through our differences.

I confided in a friend over the holidays about the losses I have experienced and the pain and frustration it caused me. Not only the end of the friendship but that they weren’t willing or able to talk through the problems and resolve them. In some cases I have literally begged my former friend to talk to me, take just a little bit of time out of her day to work through our issues. In most cases they simply had no interest. I was destroyed. I am each time. I don’t like losing people. I wanted to believe that my friendship meant more to them than that and that I was worth fighting for. When I asked my friend over the holidays why this seems to happen to me so often she explained that it isn’t that it doesn’t happen to other people, it’s just that other people don’t take it so personally and they just let them go. I’m not very good at letting go.

After the most recent parting of ways I made a commitment to myself that I would back it off. I would stop expecting the time and emotional investment of my friends. I would take a step back and try to become less intense. It hasn’t been easy for me but I’ve made some strides. I don’t expect a return call or response when I reach out understanding that, especially now, most people are much busier than I. What I’ve found is that I have a core group of friends who want to stay in touch and who want to cultivate relationships like me. I have determined that I need to allow some of my relationships to cull themselves and I need to learn to let them go. I’m not high maintenance and this is not a test. I’m not setting people up to fail but I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

I choose friends because they are like-minded, solid people. I value strength of character and kindness. I embrace differences. I have some social anxiety issues and I’m a bit of an introvert but many of the people who have stayed in my life for a long time are the complete opposite of that. They’re crazy and loud and boisterous and incredibly refreshingly gregarious and I envy them that ability. I love them for their differences and they love me for mine. When these relationships start to die which apparently to most people is a normal life transition I have to just learn to let them go and if they come back then we will be who we are until we aren’t. This is so hard for me. My heart breaks every time. It’s difficult to let go. I’m hurt and sometimes angry that these people who I have brought into my life don’t respect me or my time enough to stay in touch. I’m showing my insecurities here and making myself vulnerable and that’s not easy for me.

Just this week one of those friends who does make the effort asked me if I am expecting people to reciprocate. Am I reaching out and maintaining relationships with the expectation that I should get back what I give. Do I do nice things for people because I want them to do nice things for me. I said no, my frustration and pain is with the fact that I have wasted my time and energy – I have trusted people and I’m learning now that it was a waste of time. I’ve put a lot of thought into this in the last couple of days and I feel like I may need to revise that assessment. I have been somewhat selfish or maybe self involved and I have expected an investment in our relationship. I may have set my friends up to fail without really trying. I’m not completely sure yet how I feel about this or if there’s anything I should change. I’m processing this now.

I’ve read that there is a beauty and simplicity in letting go of people. I do feel that sometime, but then my old feelings of inadequacy rear their ugly heads and I’m back to blaming myself. “What could I have done differently? Where did I go wrong?” Wherein there are two sides to every story I need to stop assuming that a parting of ways is my fault entirely or anyone’s fault for that matter. I need to remember that sometimes things happen for no reason at all and that it’s okay. I’m a work in progress.

In the meantime I am striving to learn to let things go. I am not pushing people to stay in touch to my level of expectation. I’m telling them “call me when you can” or “let me know when you’re available” and then I’m letting it go at that. I’m not circling back when they say “I’ll call” or “we’ll get together” and it doesn’t happen. It is not easy for me but I need to just let go and I need to learn that a friendship that evolves out of my life is not a reflection of me but a natural organic part of this new and ever-changing world in which we live. I am learning that letting go does not mean caring less.

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