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nothing lasts

February 19, 2012

Any relationship I have that becomes stagnant is a relationship that will end. Because a relationship that can’t change is not really a relationship anymore; it’s a snapshot of a moment in time … that has passed.

I now know that the guiding principles I’ve been moving toward for some years now have a name: process philosophy, which asserts that Life is Change. In her book, She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World, Carol Christ writes:

For process philosophy, the whole universe is alive and changing, continually co-creating new possibilities of life. … The world is a web of changing individuals interacting with, affecting, and changing each other. The body is the locus of changing life. Not to be embodied, not to change, is not to be alive. (p. 45)

As I change and evolve, I need my relationships to also change and evolve, not necessarily in the same directions, but in compatible directions. Even happy and satisfied stability is not a place I want to stay very long. Oddly enough, equilibrium is not just kind of boring, but it’s actually enervating for me. Too much stability for too long, I get really depressed. Situations of emotional upheaval are when I feel most alive, and ready to meet whatever challenges I’ll be facing.

I’m most creative, and thereby most happy, when I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Having some idea of what’s possible is fine, but as soon as we approach something like 75% certainty of a certain outcome or defined set of outcomes, my interest in even bothering to move forward evaporates. If nothing is at risk, if there is nowhere for serendipity to enter the process, then what’s the point in doing it?

So relationships that have become stagnant, such that my certainty of various defined outcomes is 90-100% and I am rarely, if ever, surprised in a good way, are relationships that are moribund. I’ve been in this situation often enough that when I recognize all these symptoms are occurring, we are at a point of no return. That is, trying to change things drastically, hoping that will resuscitate the relationship and make it possible to go on, will not work. So at this point, all I can do is walk away. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to walk away, or that I won’t be looking over my shoulder for a while. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss the person or the relationship, because I will. But it’s time to move on.

If you knew me ten years ago, I’m not that person anymore. If you knew me when I first moved to Maryland (early summer 2008), I’m not that person anymore. I’m not the person I was a year ago, or six months ago. A lot of those changes are incremental and slow evolutions, but some have been quantum leaps.

Therefore, at any given time, I have very few current relationships that have lasted many years. I used to feel that loss as an absence that needed filling. I sought out old friends and tried to connect with them in the present. (That’s what drew me to Facebook.) But none of those attempts succeeded, and I no longer feel that my life needs someone who’s in it mostly because they remember what I was like when I was 15. That was 2/3 of my life ago, and I don’t see why it’s relevant anymore.

But I’ve always found it tricky to say goodbye to a place that no longer works for me if there are people still there that I would like to stay friends with. Because sometimes it turns out that the relationship really needs the place to work. For example, I have left jobs where I had several friends that I wanted to stay in touch with. But once our circumstances had drastically diverged, I found we had little in common anymore of the things that matter to me in a friendship. I wanted Facebook to deepen relationships I already had, or help me connect in a new way with people I didn’t know well. Instead, for the most part, my relationships became shallower. Or I realized that we no longer had things in common necessary for my idea of friendship.

I joined Facebook so I could feel closer to people that I already liked. And now I’m leaving it, a year and a half later, with a lot fewer friends than I had.

Which is kind of ironic because in general I like burning bridges behind me. I have often found it satisfying (if not always pleasant) to stand up for my current self by ending a relationship on my terms if it cannot be renegotiated. I like acknowledging that I need something different, and I’ve decided that I can only find that somewhere else. But also that I’m leaving open the possibility of re-engaging with this person in the future … as long as we start from scratch.

Ereshkigal is my patron, and she picked well when she found me. I have walked away from the person who was the bedrock of my childhood; my parents; my siblings; most of my relatives; all sorts of relationships that I eventually realized were toxic; and friendships that just petered out. I have walked away from college majors; schools; jobs; careers; professional associations; organizations, and volunteering opportunities.

For at least the last year or so, I’ve been trying to figure out how to put my past to rest, and how to metaphorically give birth to myself, so I could just be who I am now. I thought that effort was entirely separate from the whole Facebook thing, but now I see they were entwined. My Facebook experience was messy and painful and disillusioning, but it made possible something I hadn’t been able to manage on my own: the end of attachments I had outgrown but was unwilling to let go of.

I didn’t say goodbye to anybody on Facebook before I deleted my account because, I now realize, in most cases that would’ve been redundant. If our only connection was through Facebook, then we weren’t really connected. But if we did have a relationship outside of Facebook, then we still have that.

I don’t know who I am anymore, because certainty has less and less place in my life. I-am-becoming is sufficient; I am a work in progress. I am co-creating my self, in relation to the world, moment by moment. I can still surprise myself and the world, and I look forward to doing so.

 

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