Walking down past the primary school with Daisy a young man, face red and tearful trudges on slowly talking on his phone. I feel a sudden and profound pang of sympathy, then the moment is gone.
An hour later, when I’m walking home with a wet, happy and exhausted dog, he’s still there, pacing the same fifteen yards, still on the phone, his face now streaked with old tears. I pick up snippets of his conversation, his questioning and pleading, and his desperate attempts to avoid a painful breakup.
When someone falls out of love with us why is it we can’t see the futility of putting up a fight?
I could never accept a breakup. Instead, I would later look back with pity at myself, ashamed of my embarrassing attempts to make everything alright when all I actually managed to do was make it worse, pulling myself further down in the process.
Only relatively recently did I come to realise that I never much cared for endings of any sort. A fear of change is a powerful and dangerous beast. Not only does it prevent us from leaving behind what is best left, but it fools us into thinking that what we desperately hold onto is something we really want rather than an avoidance of an unknown which is just too scary to contemplate.
Breakups come hardest to those of us who doubted our value in the first place. Although painful they are no surprise because, most of the time, we find it hard to imagine that anyone would want to be with us anyway.
Rejected and dumped we set about the tricky business of working out where we went wrong. What makes this task even harder is that most of the time, our worst mistake was assuming we would be rejected and dumped.
If we were able to accept ourselves in our entirety more readily we would waste much less time trying to make apples into oranges and, instead, accept nothing less than the fruit we desire.
“I love you so much. You complete me”
This is dangerous garbage.
Our lovers do not “fill in” the parts of us we are missing. Nothing is missing. What they do is mirror back to us parts that have become obscured or pieces which we need to develop within ourselves in order to move steadily towards our unending potential.
Love comes easiest to us when we stop believing that we need it.
One of the hardest and, in some ways, most abstract conversations I tend to have with my client’s centres around the need to show love for themselves above and beyond the love they show to and expect to feel from anyone else.
Only when you can treat yourself the way you expect to be treated will you refuse to settle for anything less.
Hauling Daisy into the car and thinking about the sad boy I realise why I felt such a depth of feeling for him. I’ve been that boy countless times. Feeling as if my own emotion would crush me, my sadness weighing so uncomfortably heavy.
I wanted to walk back and tell him to let go. I wanted to assure him that as hard as he pulled his lover back towards him their decisiveness in pulling firmly away would strengthen, first through guilt, then pity and finally irritation. I wanted to say that all he’d have left was dust, the ashes not only of the relationship but of himself. Most of all I wanted to tell him to stop looking imploringly in the direction of the people who don’t want him and instead turn his gaze on himself and to start there.
But he’s young and he has time to learn what took me decades to understand. The reason why we can’t let love go is that, sometimes, in the reckless absence of sufficient love for ourselves, it’s the only love we can feel.