I once went on a 10-day silent retreat in the mountains outside of Cape Town. I’d never felt ready for it even though it had been on my radar for years. After coming home from living in an ashram in India for 7 months, where the beginnings of a complete life overhaul were being experienced, I felt a silent stint would be a fantastic homecoming.
But my mind behaved like a major arsehole for 10 solid days.
Backstory: I’d had a friend who I had known since I was 4 years old. I’ll call her Sam. We hung out a lot as kids, less so as teenagers and then again as young adults. We went away on the occasional holiday together, and we enjoyed each other’s company. Sometime in my mid-twenties, I started to really look at this relationship that had basically just always been there. I had started to feel weighed down by her, finding her energy heavy and draining.
Life kept going, I moved cities, we stayed in touch.
Sam would visit often, her visits always preceded by a detailed email about arrival times, length of stay, available dates to meet up. These emails filled me with dread and made me feel pressured. I’d find myself making excuses to see her less, and always having somewhere else to be in order to cut our meetings short. By the time I was in my early thirties it was pretty unbearable and I knew that I had to end the relationship.
The idea of how hurt she would be put me off and for six years I drew out this painful farce of a friendship.
Working and living in the ashram for months on end had really helped me see a lot of my patterning, habits, and behaviours for what they were, and when I left India, I felt ready to confront Sam. A short silent retreat, homeward bound, break up with Sam.
Tick, tick, and tick.
Like a Staffordshire terrier who will not let go of a stick, my mind OBSESSED about Sam for the full 10 days of the retreat. I would wake up and she was there in my head, I walked to the meditation hall, there she was, I’d sit in meditation, hi Sam. Try as I might to follow the retreat instructions, the mindfulness exercises, the body scans, there she was. We’d have the break-up conversation over and over again, I’d feel liberated, she’d look at me confused and hurt, I’d feel bad, I’d redraft the conversation in my mind, and the story would loop all over again.
At the end of the 10th day, I was exhausted and completely strung out.
Very soon after the retreat, I had made a plan to go away with friends. Sam was in town and popped round whilst I was sorting through camping gear trying to get things ready. She’d always wanted kids and was busy telling me that her brother was expecting and she was so miserable as she told me this otherwise exciting news.
I just lost it.
Ten days and many many years of stewing thoughts flew out of mouth in a garbled vomit of abuse and nastiness. I found myself shouting at her, attacking her, saying truthful things but without care, without kindness. It was so awful. She looked at me stunned, the hurt in her face far worse than my mind had imagined.
I quickly stopped, apologizing profusely, scrambling to try and explain how this was all coming out wrong, and how we need to properly talk and how sorry I was. She left soon afterward, and the damage was done.
She wrote me an email days later, talking about the quality of our friendship, the history, what it meant to her. She said that she had lots of wonderful friends who all loved her for who she was, and that if I didn’t feel the same way then I must say so and we should part ways. So I said so, and we parted, and I literally haven’t seen her since. She recently got married, and I emailed her to express congratulations. It felt good to know that I do still genuinely wish her good things.
Little did I know that my break up with Sam would be the first of three friendships I would have to consciously end. The fact that I have now done this three times BAFFLES me. A friend recently asked, why can’t people just let things naturally run their course? Stuff naturally changes. Relationships fizzle out. I completely agree with him. Why can’t we just allow things to change and shift as they will? Surely the other three parties could feel the changes happening, could sense differences, and could feel inside themselves that they too were changing?
Why do people feel the need to cling on so tightly to what they know?
I guess this question is part of the answer, indeed for breakup number two. We had such a history and had been through so much, it was not conceivable to not be in each other’s lives. But we had stopped talking like we used to, and I stopped feeling satisfied or fulfilled after hanging out with her.
Was I really the only one feeling this way?
Breakup number three happened two days ago, hence this blog entry. This was a relationship that has had many, many personalities over its 15-year lifespan. We’ve been colleagues, lovers, enemies, friends, all of it. I have agonized for far too long on how to end this one and can admit that I hung on for a lot longer as our connection served a purpose for me in some respects. Maturity and caring less about the other has certainly helped, but it was still very tricky.
I have stepped many paces back over the years, and if we see each other once every 5 months it’s a lot. In a strange WhatsApp and then email exchange I finally found the words to say what I needed to say without blaming, being nasty or self-righteous. It felt liberating and it feels rights, but I am completely unnerved by his response. He knew! He could feel it too. And yet here I am again, doing the breaking up.
If I hadn’t said anything would he have been OK with things carrying on as they were?
The only thing I can do is look at the common denominator in all three scenarios: me. I’ve grown up a lot since my twenties and of course, this means I gravitate towards different people and offer them what I feel is more of my true self. With expansion and personal growth comes awakening.
Once you start really seeing yourself – developing an awareness of how you tick, how you relate to others, what energies you give off – you’re unlikely to feel comfortable with being anything less than authentic no matter what relationship you’re in. Letting go allows for more room, further expansion and deeper seeing. If I have to end another relationship to stay on my truest path, so be it.