There are several people with whom I have long and complicated histories. Maybe it’s me; maybe I attract this kind of dramatic relationship. Maybe it’s just coincidence. Regardless, when you have such an emotionally charged relationship, as I did with these people, it usually ends badly. With all the layers, everything tangled up and twisted in on itself, it’s hard to straighten it all out by the end. For everyone’s sake it’s best to just leave the tangled mess alone, just let it lie. But we as humans – or maybe this is just me – just can’t leave well enough alone. We can’t bare the idea that it was all for nothing. That all that crying and fighting and caring and love didn’t amount to anything but the memory of when things were good, when you used to be close.
My own personal rule for myself is to not contact these people. No matter how tempting it is to check up on them, to test the waters just to see if it was real, what we had, and if it still exists in some form, I do not initiate contact. Little things are okay: a facebook comment here, a status ‘like’ there, but absolutely no texting unless they initiate it. No email, no phone calls, nothing that directly addresses them or our history. Unless something major happens, like a death or serious illness, I stick to these rules – because underneath it all, I still care about them, obviously, or these rules wouldn’t be necessary.
After a while, the urge to reach out lessens, until it’s just the ghost of an urge, like an echo, like a scar that’s healed but still occasionally itches.
I don’t need to know if the impulse is one-sided; I just assume it is. If they have their own rules about contacting me then we’re in unspoken agreement that we shouldn’t dredge up old memories, and if they don’t, well, then it means they’ve succeeding in moving on where I haven’t yet. There are people I used to feel this way about, who I don’t now. They slipped out of my life, and where speaking or not speaking to them used to be of the utmost importance, now I simply don’t care. I guess there’s a turning point somewhere where enough silence leads to indifference. But the opposite of love is indifference, and I still care, no matter how hard I try not to. I don’t necessarily care to speak to them or even whether they still care about me; but I care what happens to them and I care enough to still have to check myself every now and then. Is this crossing a line? Is this? I don’t think I’ll ever totally reach indifference with these particular people. There’s still too much there, even after all of the silence. And that’s okay. We all have our ghosts, right?
How to Care for Your Ghosts:
- Don’t blame them for your choices. It may be very tempting to blame them for your shortcomings, but it’s you who stalked your ex’s photos for hours on end last night and so it’s your fault you got to work late, not not your ghosts’. They may influence you while they’re around, but at the end of the day, they’re just reminders of the past, you’re the one living in the present.
- Don’t try to banish them. They’re there for a reason. You’re obviously working through some shit, and they’re just there to aid in the process. When it’s time for them to leave, you’ll know, but until then don’t be a jerk. Make them feel welcome; indulge them a little, maybe give them a snack – haunting you is probably hard work!
- Get to know them. You’ll never move on if you don’t understand your ghosts: why they’re there, what they mean, what they’re trying to tell you. Spend some quality time with them. Take them out to dinner and a movie. Ask them about themselves, really listen when they answer you. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself along the way.
- Appreciate them. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. You might find you miss them when they go. Don’t take them for granted while you have them around.Take time out to acknowledge them – it isn’t all about you. They’re here for you, after all, the least you could do is return the favor.
- You’re not crazy. Everyone has ghosts. Own it; listen, learn, understand. Just, maybe don’t talk to them out loud in public. That’s crossing a line.