The setting sun was casting its final glow across the skies. I was sitting on a high chair, sipping on a beer, my eyes on the traces of crimson on the horizon. And my mind unsettled by the flash of a memory, which had caught me off guard.
Sitting across from me was my date. A wonderful guy. From the very start, our conversation had been flowing. The laughter was uninhibited. The camaraderie was strikingly easy for a first date. I hadn’t enjoyed myself this much in a while. In the midst of the conversation, I had said something with a smile and a head bob, and he had mimicked that. And all of a sudden, I was taken back to a different time with a different guy, where he was mimicking the same move of mine – and before I knew it, I was overcome with a strange feeling.
On the outside, I didn’t let it show. On the inside, I was flabbergasted. Why am I thinking of him now? What does this even mean?
Almost a year and a half back, I had decided to walk away from a relationship, and have stayed away ever since. Without an iota of regret or wishes of going back. And I have been genuinely happy. I was looking forward to this date because I had hit it off with this guy right from the first text. And it was going way better than I had expected. Then why did I feel this twinge in my heart at that moment, a sense of void?
In an earlier post, I had talked about not regretting loving someone and eventually going out there and opening your heart again to new people & experiences. Let me be the one to admit here that it’s not as simple as it sounds. The issue is not with wanting your past back. Because, if you’re a rational being, there’s no way you’d want to go back to feeling miserable. The issue lies with the assault of memories that makes you question yourself and holds you back each time you think of giving something new a fair chance.
Because, when it comes to ‘moving on’, we tend to have a very rigid idea about it. Moving on means you’ll never think of that person ever again. It means the thoughts of your past will never affect you again. It means a big chunk of your life will be obliterated from your memory for good. Anything less than that is not legitimate enough.
So once you’re confident that you’ve moved on, you go ahead and meet someone new. You start to really like them, even think about them in your idle hours. And then, without warning, your mind reminds you of a similar giddy feeling you once had at another point of time regarding someone else. Or it flares up old memories the moment you re-visit the places where you had made them. And you start questioning yourself – Is there still something unresolved?
Thing is, your past is not going to let go of you without a fight. Remember that void I mentioned above? It’s there because of the absence of something familiar – even if it was the unhealthiest relationship you’ve ever been in.
That relationship existed at one point in time and it took up a large space in your heart. You’re bound to feel a certain emptiness from time to time, now that it’s gone. But it becomes even more pronounced when you’re contemplating about opening the doors to something (or someone) new. The heart is skeptical because….remember how it went the last time? And the mind is skeptical because…this looks nothing like the last time. Believe it or not, it’s possible to feel hesitant about a good thing, just because it seems unfamiliar!
Familiar misery has a comfort of its own. When you’re used to associating certain feelings or experiences with relationships, it’s easy to feel unsettled by something completely new. Often, with new feel-good instances comes an inevitable pang of sadness. And you may mistakenly think it’s because you miss what had once existed – which then makes you second guess everything going on in your life.
What you miss is not the person, but your attachment to the idealized relationship that you thought you would have with that person. People are easier to let go of than disappointments.
After all, you had an entire future chalked up in your mind when you got together with that person. You had an idea of how happy you two would be – complete with little picture perfect scenarios in your head. They seemed to have the exact qualities you wanted (or thought you did) in your partner. And then, life went ahead and disappointed you.
You watched that happy-ever-after crumble to dust. The person you thought was a great fit, turned out to be anything but that. Instead of joy, your days were filled with tears. Until you gathered the courage to walk away from it all, thinking you’ve finally put an end to it.
But in some hidden corner, your heart has continued to nurture that ‘ideal’ relationship – because it’s still yearning for the happiness it didn’t get. So the next time you put yourself out there, it brings up images and memories, just to feed that old unfulfilled yearning in one way or another. It has nothing to do with where you are today.
We, humans, are sentimental beings. As much as we love our new beginnings, we can’t help but feel wistful about all that we’re leaving behind. Understand that you may have cut your ties with the past, but in your heart, there will always be a place for it. And you’ll still cherish what comes next as much or perhaps more than what you’ve left behind. What was does not take anything away from what is or what will be.
Because there really is no comparison. What you had experienced at one point in time was one kind of love (regardless of how it fared). That had happened with that one particular person, and will never be repeated again. And maybe that’s a good thing! I’ve never bought into the concept that there’s only one perfect person made for us. There are billions of individuals out there in the world, many of whom will be perfect for you and are capable of loving you in their own unique ways. Just because it’s not the kind of love you’re familiar with or the kind you idealize, does not make it any less special or real. There is no ‘standard’ way of loving someone or being loved. And that’s the beauty of it.
But to really give it a chance, you need to let go of the ‘ideal’ in your mind and experience your life (and the person in front of you) in real time. You don’t have to have your entire future chalked out right off the bat – because frankly, we don’t know where we’d be or how we’d feel even 1 year from now!
Also, you don’t have to get worked up if thoughts of your past appear while you’re with someone. All it says is that it was once a part of your reality, and you’re bound to remember it from time to time. It doesn’t mean that you’re still stuck in that place or that the person in front of you isn’t good enough. When the ‘right’ person comes, I’ll never be reminded of my past again – happens only in movies. You can’t just magically erase a part of your life that you have lived through. You can only make peace with it and not let it interfere with the life you’re living now.
Just focus on how you’re feeling today. If it’s good, then all’s good. If you’re happy now, then you’re in the right place. If the person is treating you well, then they deserve to be around. It’s really as simple as that. Take it a day at a time and the future will figure itself out. As they say, whatever will be, will be.
And meanwhile, if a stray memory of a particular face or moment floats up in your mind, flick it away with a steely resolve – not today.
So I brought my eyes back from the now dark evening skies to the bright as sunshine smile in front of me, my heart and mind completely in the moment. Where is this going? Who knows! Is he as nice as he seems? Time will tell. What if there’s no second date? At least I’d have had a really great first one. From then on, nothing would come in between the great time I was having. Later, I walked out with him, laughing, as we had been all evening, over something silly. And left that rogue memory behind, with the drained beer bottles and empty chairs.