It’s been years since you’ve been there

Do you ever wonder what became of the people you once loved? The ones who loved you back but are gone now, swept away with the currents of time, dispersed into this world which is so big yet small enough that sometimes we find each other.

Sometimes I think about this. I’ve gotten out of the habit of checking to find out. But I still wonder. The moment one of your old ghosts contacts you, it is an emotional experience. And not in a good way. You wonder why you feel what you do. Why it still hurts.

Here’s what I think about it. I’ll use two old ghosts from my own life. I’ll try to articulate my thoughts. Today has been a day for other reasons, so I’m a little off tonight. Unrelated to the topic.

If you had feelings for someone and they have moved on, you can be haunted by the unfinished business. The memories fade, the emotions roll in and out like the tide until one day those feelings are a distant line on the horizon. You’re over them. Until one day, you think of how they are with someone new. They are smiling at them the same way they once smiled at you. They might call them the same pet names. This new person knows their body, their laugh, all of it. And your name has probably never come up. If it has, it was a curse, a joke. That moment might hurt.

I’ve thought about this. Why it would bother you. Why those special moments are lost, and you feel crazy for being the only one to hold onto them.

This is a story of two old ghosts. Maybe you loved each one intensely, but differently. For their own reasons. No two loves are the same. But they are both gone.

My own old ghosts…I think of one who made a choice. The rest of her future is obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. I think it hurts because you can’t help but care, and when you see people you care about making the same mistakes over and over, you just keep seeing the wreck before it happens. She didn’t do the work. She put on that mask and jumped to the next guy. I try not to think of that because someone who held my heart…I want her to be safe, I want her to be happy, but it’s hard to know what comes next and how much it’s going to hurt when it all falls apart. Like watching someone walking wounded, but you can’t help them. Nobody can.

Now the other one…this is where it gets weird. As much as I miss her. As much as I love the times we shared and am grateful for what she brought to my life…to think of her with someone else, to think of how she is going places and doing things and having new experiences without me…it doesn’t bother me. The reason for this is I still trust her enough to know that anyone after me she chose to be with she did so with a careful, discerning eye. She paid attention to red flags. She took time. She did the work, and if she made a choice it was the right choice. When I think of that, I’m happy for her. The thought of her smiling, being in love, it makes me happy. So happy that the thought of it puts tears in my eyes. Happy tears.

I shared these thoughts with a friend yesterday. She told me that I must have truly loved her to feel that way. I still feel them out there sometimes. One is determined. She’s living her best life. She’s no longer afraid. God bless her.

The other one…she’s hiding under whatever mask she put on. I feel for her, but I can’t be there. Choices were made out of fear. A lot of anger to convince herself what she did was right. Coldness to seal the deal. She’s not the person now that I once knew. And maybe that hurt that I still feel between us tells me something too. If she tries hard enough, she’ll be happy. I just can’t bear to see it.

I’ll likely never hear from either of them again, and that’s probably what is best. One is likely happy, and the other is probably screaming on the inside, still.

Maybe they think of me. Maybe they check up on me still. Maybe they think I’m a bitter, miserable old bastard who can’t let go. They might be right. But I’m doing my own thing now. I’m not chasing. I’m not desperate to fill that void. I’m content. I’m happy with what I have. And sometimes if I need to dip into those good memories, I still can. I’m not screaming. I’m tired mostly. Ready to get on with the rest of my days, have adventures, meet interesting people, and reach the end of my days knowing I took chances. I lived.

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