Letting go is not failure


“Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon coeur?”


Years ago, in my youth, I spent a few years with a man who was considerably older than me. Now I find myself older than he was when I first met him. The time that has passed between our entanglement and now has been so full of ups, downs, aches, pains, losses, triumphs – all the stuff that fills a life – and mostly things that have nothing to do with him. I write him birthday and holiday cards that have not been met with any kind of response in well over a decade now. I don’t think there are any hard feelings (?) – we remained friends after we split, and while he might (have) harbor(ed) some kind of resentment about the things I planned to do – that he was actively helping to underwrite (things I never actually finished), I would not imagine that he went silent for those reasons. I figure that, like most people, he moved on, as I moved on. We didn’t have anything left to say, and the more time passes and more experience occurs, the more like strangers these characters, once intimates, become.

(And my failing to follow through on goals I had then … well, I am not terribly proud of it, but I am happy that I made the hard choices that led me to where I am now. I cannot imagine how unhappy I would be if I had stuck to my original plan. It is not as though every moment or even half the difficult journey of the last 15 years has been happy or hopeful, but I have taken the path that has given me the most valuable challenges, the most happiness, given me the most opportunity for personal development and the road that enabled a more secure future given all the things that came to light about me in the years after we split up. He was fond of telling me what I did not know because I was, in his somewhat condescending words – which infuriated me at the time, “just a little girl”. It turns out, he was right. I was in my early 20s. I knew a lot of things but not nearly as much as I thought I knew. I was trying to make decisions for a life and life path I didn’t end up actually wanting. I would hope if he had any lingering resentment about anything, he would consider my youth and the fact that he could see, as I learned, that I was unformed and immature.)

Long ago and far away. Years of silence. Most of these years have passed without my thinking much of him at all, other than to be grateful for all the things he did for me and taught me or to wonder what and how he is doing today. Yet, lately he has appeared in my dreams all the time, and this has been going on for months. This makes me feel a strong urge to talk to him.

I think he springs to mind because I believe he was in a phase when we split in which he was hoping to meet someone with whom to have children. I don’t know if that ever happened, but it would be sad if it hasn’t. I never thought I wanted any myself, in part because I have always been under the impression that I could not have them. Now, after roller-coaster-esque years of tempting fate and enduring more losses in this realm than I can (or want to) count, two (runaway) trains of thought run parallel in my mind.

In one, I consider where he might be in this journey since he had seemingly wanted this outcome for himself (children). (I make it sound so scientific, writing “children” parenthetically as if I am adding detail to the information about the control group in a clinical study.) If he has not reached this stage, does he consider it a regret or, worse, a kind of failure?

In the other, I consider whether he imagines I am a failure (for failing to follow my original path to its end, i.e. law school in the US). I never felt like a failure for choosing to give up on something that made me miserable and would set the stage for a lifetime of future misery. At the same time, I find myself, especially at the tail end of this gloomy and grey year, beating myself up and feeling like a failure for my biological failures — and yet these are things over which I have no control.

I had to toil to finally conclude that I cannot put myself through it any more, and to forgive the fact that I finally have to let go (and accept that it is not a failure).