You never stop growing. Never stop marveling at how little you knew last year or ten years ago. I wonder if it’s just me or everyone feels this way sometimes. Like I’m so different now than I was a few years ago, if I went back in a time machine, I wouldn’t recognize myself. Who was that stranger? Why did she think the things she did and do all that was done?
I wrote a post, years ago about loving silently, about the agony of caring for someone who didn’t know or seem to care. One of my commenters remarked that perhaps someone felt that way about me. I scoffed, so supremely arrogant in my ability to read people, so confident in my own sensitivity.
I spoke to someone I knew years ago. I had a dim idea that he was a ‘nice guy’ who was generally nice to everyone and so also, to me. I also realized, equally vaguely that we were friends for awhile and then we weren’t. There wasn’t a fight, a grand parting of ways but I realize now that that’s not everyone’s style. Some doors shut very gently and it’s years before you realize who walked out of them.
He was in love with me. That thought should send me into a thrill of delight. After all, it is terribly flattering and comforting, knowing that someone gave you that precious emotion. But it doesn’t. It makes me uneasy, restless. It’s not that I treated him badly. It’s that I was so caught up in trying to get my life to go on plan, protecting myself from anyone or anything that could derail it, that I never realized what was right in front of my eyes, every single day for months.
I always thought of myself as a good listener, but it seems I must not be. I listen, when it’s someone and something and in a way that I’d like to hear. But real listening is unfiltered, nonjudgmental, unencumbered by ego, isn’t it? He let me know enough of times. Not in wild, flourishy strokes which may have been my delusional idea of love at the time (well, perhaps even till very recently). But in quieter but definitive ways. The message seeped in occasionally but since it didn’t fit my plan, I found a way to not make it be by focusing on what I thought of as his indifference and commitment-phobia. I don’t even know if he was commitment-phobic but should that have mattered? Knowing someone cares for you, even if it may not amount to marriage, is not the worst realization in the world. And I might have treated him more gently. I really should have.
I’m so determined, so focussed, so driven by what I want. The world tells me that’s a good thing and rewards me with achievement at most times. But I’m only now realizing what I’ve given up all the time I’ve been doing this. I don’t know how many people or situations or things I’ve missed simply because they got in the way. I have no idea how many emotions, dreams and gentle words I’ve run over in hobnailed boots because I was chasing something else on the horizon.
I told him how sorry I was but he just smiled and said it was okay, that he had enjoyed knowing me. Really, I asked him, I’m so bossy and compulsive, must have been even worse back then. He smiled, ever so gently and said, no I never thought so. Then he asked me if I remembered the walks we used to go on. Who was I back then, who was that girl and what made people fall so much in love with her?
Realizing you were wrong, that you’re as capable of cruelty is an uncomfortable realization. But it’s not unbearable. Perhaps that’s growing up. I also always imagined that growing older was like a race, where you ran to a definitive finish line and then there was no more left to run. Turns out, there’ll always be further to go on this and I don’t have to do it all running. Stopping to look around might be a good thing for me to do.
This is to slowing down. To the poetry of beautiful walks and the excruciating gentleness of people who preserved the memories I was too busy to remember. And to the richness of life, always learning, ever growing.